Several startups have tried to disrupt the fashion industry, and the way consumers find and purchase clothing. From Stitch Fix, which sends stylist-picked clothing directly to shoppers’ doors, to Chicago’s Trunk Club, which provides personal styling advice to shoppers, consumers have options for creating a wardrobe tailored for them.
But Chicago startup Style545 aims to optimize the process even further. The startup’s B2B software for retailers lets shoppers save time by picking out styled outfits before they even head to the store to try them on and purchase them. As a result, the startup’s method helps cut down on the amount of time shoppers are spending in a dressing room. On average, it’s 5 minutes and 45 seconds, the inspiration for the startup’s name.
Consumers typically shop in one of two ways—online or in brick-and-mortar stores. But both have inefficiencies, said Style545 Founder and CEO Disha Gulati. While shopping online is quick and can be done from virtually anywhere, it doesn’t give consumers the option to try on clothing before they purchase it. Since sizing is inconsistent across different retailers, consumers end up returning much of what they purchased because it doesn’t fit how they thought it would. And aimlessly browsing a store can be a waste of time.
“We’re trying to take the best of both channels and optimize the shopping experience,” Gulati said.
Style545’s software is integrated onto a retailer’s e-commerce platform, and generates entire outfits for shoppers comprised of available merchandise in the retailer’s nearby brick-and-mortar location. Looks are generated from information the app collects on a users’ size, budget and style preferences.
Users choose looks in a Tinder-like manner, swiping right for outfits they like and left for those they don’t. Using machine-learning algorithms, the platform will suggest outfits based on what the user has liked and disliked. Once users have chosen outfits on the platform, they can opt to have the retailer’s brick-and-mortar location set them aside to be tried on in person. But if they choose, they can order the items for delivery right then online.
Gulati said Style545’s ideal shopper is someone who is short on time and needs a convenient way to find outfits that match their personal style preferences.
“They don’t have the two hours to go into a store and [sift] through a bunch of racks,” Gulati said. “And they also don’t want to be shopping for stuff online that may or may not fit them.”
Style545, which has five employees and works out of tech incubator 1871, currently has seven small retail clients, including Cinnamon Boutique in Logan Square. Gulati said as the company grows, she hopes to onboard bigger regional and national retail clients like Macy’s, J. Crew or Bloomingdale’s. Gulati said the cost for the platform depends on the size of the consumer, explaining that bigger retailers with larger inventories will have to pay more.
“We want this to be another tool that the retailers have in their tool-belt of various services that they’re offering,” Gulati said. “Shoppers are walking in with an intent to purchase and they know exactly what it is they’re going to see.”
Of the Style545 users that took the style survey and made an appointment to visit the store, retailers saw a 100 percent conversion rate.
“If they actually made the time to come into the store, they bought something,” Gulati said.
In the future, Gulati said the startup has an opportunity to sell its user data to retailers to help them identify consumer shopping patterns and even what particular consumers want.
“We’re trying to disrupt the in-store shopping experience,” Gulati said. “If Nordstrom knew exactly when [a shopper] was walking through the Michigan Avenue doors, what they were coming in to buy, and how much they wanted to spend, all of a sudden you can customize that shopping experience.”