Can My Virtual Style Be Rewarded?
I don’t know about you, but I HATE clothes shopping and I never feel like I have time. Occasionally I go to the mall and scour the racks, tables and bins of clothes looking for the right style, right size and a price point that won’t melt my credit card. I begrudgingly enter the hot, fluorescent-lit fitting room, with those carnival mirrors accentuating the negative rather than the positive. If only I had a fairy godperson who could find the most becoming fashions for my body, my lifestyle and my budget without needing to leave my house. And what if I could be rewarded for buying the things my fairy godperson suggested, as well as my feedback and referrals?
I may not be Cinderella, but I may have found my own “bibbity bobbity boo” in the many virtual stylist and wardrobe services popping up. However, with this recent trend, what’s to incentivize me to choose one service over another? So far, it seems most online apparel and wardrobe services have yet to join the ranks of brick and mortar retailers who offer loyalty membership programs to their customers for purchases in-store and online, as well as social media engagements and referrals. Most of the new services companies are limited to refer-a-friend discounts, where customers receive credits or discounts when other customers use a custom link to make their first purchase, but they don’t seem to have very rich engagement campaigns that makes them a compelling choice. Instead, they focus on subscription fees and encourage recurring auto-shipments with some tiering, tied to number of items and subscription price, but few benefits and very little brand interaction, engagement or partnerships.
Trunk Club and Amazon Wardrobe have both bridged the gap between loyalty and virtual stylist/wardrobe services by incorporating each into their company’s highly successful and robust loyalty programs. Trunk Club, acquired by Nordstrom in July 2014, offers a virtual styling option, where a personal stylist ships a curated trunk of clothing to customers’ homes based on the customer’s style, fit, and lifestyle preferences for a styling fee of $25 (which is applied as a credit toward the purchase of any items in the shipment). Trunks can be sent on-demand or as recurring shipment, with no penalty to cancel, hold or reschedule and come in a resealable “trunk” with a free pre-paid UPS shipping label for easy returns. Unlike some stylist services, Trunk Club allows customers to preview, comment and select or reject pieces in their trunks prior to shipping to help stylists further personalize the shipment. Customers receive a personal note from their stylist with recommendations on how to wear the collection, along with a price sheet of the contents and a pre-paid UPS packing label. Trunk Club has definitely created a more engaging experience than most of their competitors and offers the opportunity to earn points on purchases through the Nordstrom Rewards loyalty program.
All Trunk Club purchases made with a Nordstrom credit or debit card are eligible to earn 2 points per $1 dollar spent and the $25 styling fee is waived. Once a member earns 2,000 points across all the Nordstrom brands, including Trunk Club, points are converted to a $20 Nordstrom Note reward, redeemable at the following brands: Nordstrom, Nordstrom.com, Nordstrom Rack, Nordstromrack.com and HauteLook. Nordstrom Notes are not currently redeemable on Trunk Club subscriptions or purchases, however Trunk Club customers are eligible for a number of other benefits, including returns and alterations at Nordstrom stores.
Amazon Wardrobe is one of Amazon Prime’s latest additions helping to expand its fashion vertical, along with the Echo Look. Amazon Wardrobe is currently in beta and due to be one of the newest Amazon Prime benefits. Unlike Trunk Club, where a responsive stylist selects items for customers, Amazon Wardrobe allows Members to self-select clothing, shoes and accessories for men, women, kids and babies from Amazon’s vast inventory, with no upfront charge, allowing 7 days to try on and decide what to keep. Shipments are sent in a resealable box with a free pre-paid UPS return shipping label for a hassle-free return experience. Members can also save up to 20% off their purchases when keeping a number of items. That’s in addition to all the other Amazon Prime benefits that about half of US households already enjoy.
Then there’s the Amazon Echo Look, which is Amazon’s version of a virtual stylist. It combines the ease and versatility of the Amazon Wardrobe service and an even more robust styling experience than Trunk Club and services like it. Amazon Echo Look is an Amazon Echo device that connects to the Alexa cloud-based voice service that integrates with a host of Amazon Prime benefits and services. Echo Look allows users to take full-length photos and short videos with a hands-free camera, see themselves from every angle with the companion app, build a personal lookbook and share their photos and suggests new brands and styles inspired by their personal lookbook. Men no longer need to fear the “Does this make my butt look big?” question. With its Style Check service, machine learning algorithms along with advice from fashion specialists can provide a second opinion on which outfits look best–your very own styling team in the privacy of your own home. It may lack the personal touch of a human stylist, but the end result is definitely personalized convenience.
As an Amazon member and a Nordstrom shopper, I’m excited to see the addition of virtual stylist and wardrobe options to their already rich loyalty programs. With the expansion of online and subscription fashion options I hope to see more companies implement loyalty programs with purchase and engagement incentives, as well as dynamic content and personalized experiences. I’m most apt to choose a service that also offers a loyalty program, but I no longer have to dread the traditional retail shopping experience and can reap the benefits of personalized service and a loyalty program from wherever I am.
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