When Cell Phones Become Magic Shopping Wands

 

Article by Jane Stringham | 715 words

The rise of the Internet has revolutionized many aspects of our lives, including shopping. Hour-long trips to stores have been replaced with visits to websites that can last just a few minutes. Some brick-and-mortar stores have gone the way of the dodo thanks to this technology. However, clothes stores continue to thrive for the simple reason that it’s nice to try things on yourself to make sure the style and fit are perfect. But what if technology could allow shoppers to figure everything out from home?

Websites like StyleMint, ShoeMint, JewelMint and even IntiMint, which sells undergarments, aim to personalize the online shopping experience by offering style surveys to consumers. These sites ask shoppers to choose which image of a shoe silhouette or earring size best fits their own personal style. Based on the answers, they generate digital “showrooms” of designer-quality styles tailored to the buyers’ tastes. Each site falls under the umbrella of Santa Monica-based fashion and lifestyle company BeachMint, which was founded by Josh Berman (co-founder of MySpace) and Diego Berdakin.

ShoeMint

Websites in the BeachMint line promise to break down personalized shopping into a few easy steps. Credit: ShoeMint.com

IntiMint, founded in 2012, is an outcrop of JewelMint and ShoeMint, which launched in 2010 and 2011, respectively. It encourages users to get started on their site by answering “a few fun questions” to build a “Style Profile.” The site’s prompt seems to downplay the work involved in generating a “Style Profile” by promising an enjoyable, non-invasive set of questions to users. The questionnaire is not billed as a quiz, a survey or an exam, and the only word that suggests effort is “build.” After the questions, online shoppers can “discover” their showroom. Unearthing a slew of boudoir-wear should thus feel creative, skillful, and above all individualized. Discovering treasure from your computer or smartphone screen is a simple way to feel like the Aladdin of lingerie.

But what if the style quizzes that seemed so innovative and seductive in 2010 have become too demanding for online shoppers accustomed to faster and faster fashion? What information might an e-retailer glean from something simpler, like a shopper’s selfie? ThirdLove, an innovative app and a strong example of how technology is changing the way consumers consume, provides the answer to the latter question: the “perfect” bra size. The free app claims that users can bypass uncomfortable trips to blazer-adorned, measuring-tape-toting saleswomen in lingerie departments by informing shoppers of their ideal bra size and style from the comfort of their own laptop. All they need is that selfie.

ThirdLove requests that shoppers upload two photos of themselves wearing a close-fitting camisole, and then they can leave the rest to technology. According to the app’s website, “the ThirdLove app transforms your smartphone into a virtual measuring tape.” Online bra-shoppers are promoted from Aladdin to the Genie when their smartphones transform into magic shopping wands.

ThirdLove

Credit: iTunes.Apple.com

More specifically, the app utilizes vision and image recognition algorithms that measure the size of your body in relation to your phone; these algorithms are proprietary and unique to ThirdLove. On her site, founder Heidi Zak explains that the iPhone essentially replaces the stranger of a salesperson, rendering the whole bra-shopping process considerably less awkward. And popular women’s style magazines have already jumped on board. Vogue, Lucky and InStyle magazine each issued positive reviews of ThirdLove within the last year. As of now, ThirdLove is only available to iPhone users in the United States, although the site promises that international shipping and an Android version will be available soon.

Like the Mint family, ThirdLove offers designer, boutique-quality products at affordable prices. Also like the Mint family, the San Franciscan e-retailer is based in California. And, in the case of both sites, the tactile and social aspects of a shopping excursion are brushed aside in favor of ease. Shoppers ask for the opinion of an online database rather than for that of their best girlfriend, so perhaps the sites depersonalize rather than personalize the entire online shopping experience, as is one of their aims. Many consumers don’t seem to mind, however. The analytics that allow e-retailers to gather customer data result in well-stocked sites tailored, almost eerily, to a shopper’s preferences—and in the end include something quite personal: her very own bra size.

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