Data Magnets Help Consumers Find That ‘Needle In A Haystack’
Unconstrained by considerations like physical space, the shelves in a digital shop offer an endless choice of goods for consumers to purchase. But unlimited choice all on its own isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and it’s more likely to overwhelm the consumer than delight them.
Simply adding more choices isn’t a solution to digital shopping problems any more than adding more hay would make it easier to find a needle in a haystack. The solution to a needle in a haystack is a magnet, something that makes it easier to draw the wanted object out of the things that are obscuring it. And eCommerce needs that same sort of solution when it comes to helping consumers navigate boundless digital shelves.
Attempting to step into that role of magnet in the eCommerce haystack is The Yes, an eCommerce marketplace designed to connect with all types of fashion brands to provide what CEO Julie Bornstein described as a one-stop shopping destination for consumers. With around 250 brands on the platform and the second-largest assortment of online fashion goods today, The Yes offers cutting-edge technology that enables consumers to navigate that supersized assortment in a way that aligns with their actual needs.
“The idea is that we make the entire world of brands available to the customer, but we also have an algorithm that allows each user’s specific experience to work for them,” Bornstein told PYMNTS. “And so, it’s an eCommerce infrastructure with an [artificial intelligence (AI)] layer on top that allows us to understand each user, both by asking upfront questions when they first log on and then continuing to learn from each user as she shops by ‘yesing’ and ‘noing’ products that she does and doesn’t like. And we have this one-to-one neural network that’s been built with each user, so the site experience adapts to each user over time.”
The net result is that the more the user shops and offers feedback, they better the system gets at pursuing those infinite aisles for them, and only showing the things they will actually want to buy.
While The Yes is new to the market, its CEO is not. Before The Yes, Bornstein got eCommerce up and running for Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Sephora, and she came to the game ready to upgrade the online shopping experience by streamlining the process of slogging through an infinite aisle to find desired items.
Perhaps just as important, the system makes it easy for users to give “yes” or “no” feedback on the items they see, further training the system to curate the selection of goods displayed to the consumer, and over time showing them more of the things they want. It’s that extra feedback from the consumer that really sets The Yes apart when it comes to customizing and curating product assortments, Bornstein noted, because there is a lot more to understanding consumers’ wants and needs than simply seeing what they buy.
That has become especially true in the last year, where the company has seen a real divide between the kinds of goods consumers are buying outright and the kinds of things they are “yessing.”
“I would say what a lot of people have been buying and what they’ve been yessing are two different things,” Bornstein noted. “During COVID, in a world where people have been at home all of the time, most of the things we’ve sold have been very logical — mostly comfortable clothing and casual clothing. But people have been yessing all sorts of things. And in the month of March, we’ve seen kind of a shift in what people are buying. This has been sort of a sign of the end of the pandemic, as people buy things that are more occasion-based. Things that people have not been buying but have been yessing — like dresses and heels — are starting to sell again.”
Consumers are price-sensitive, she noted. For all the attention given to building great experiences and beautiful product displays, the consumer is looking for good value.
“I think the vast majority of customers are looking for value to feel comfortable making a purchase decision,” Bornstein said.
That can show up in many ways. For example, The Yes is able to offer a best-price guarantee because it works directly with brands.
Shopping is different than it was a year ago as stores and consumers are reorganizing their priorities around seeking and securing value in their shopping journeys, she said. The goal for The Yes is to build something that can develop a lot of scale and bring many benefits to the brands that are part of the network.
Bornstein noted that brands have been very excited about what The Yes is building and about what will happen next. They are excited to experiment with new ideas and modalities for reaching their customers.
“I do believe that the industry is going to bounce back,” she predicted. “I think there’s going to be pent-up demand among consumers who want to spend on fashion and are excited to get dressed up to go out again.”