Stitch Fix CTO Polinsky Says Its Style Shuffle Game Makes Data Fun

When Cathy Polinsky became chief technology officer of Stitch Fix in late 2016, she knew one of the San Francisco-based company’s key challenges was continually refining its core software algorithm to make sure customers received the right tailored suggestions in their monthly wardrobe boxes.

So, she made it into a game.

Style Shuffle is a Tinder-like game within the Stitch Fix app that encourages Stitch Fix customers to evaluate clothing items and accessories. (Shoppers hit a thumbs up or a thumbs down instead of swiping left or right.) Each signal gives Stitch Fix more data on the user, as well as additional information to back feed into its algorithm. And that translates into more personalized suggestions for shoppers going forward, which Stitch Fix hopes results in more sales.

It already has, says Polinsky. While she wouldn’t provide numbers, she says “we’re seeing clients are keeping more items when they’re playing the game and they spend more with us over the course of the year.”

Companies like Stitch Fix need accurate, up-to-date data on what their customers want, and don’t want. And with newer, smaller competitors popping up—some specializing in certain market segments—refined data is especially key.

Data is what helps Stitch Fix straddle a space that is neither pure e-commerce, nor traditional retail, Polinsky says. “E-commerce is for things that you know you want to buy; it’s not great for things like apparel where you need to know how it’s going to look on you,” she says. “That’s hard when all you see is a flat image on a screen.”

Stitch Fix, which was founded in 2011, offers monthly “fixes”—boxes of clothing and accessories chosen for a customer through a combination of software and human stylist judgment. There isn’t a monthly subscription fee but the company charges a $20 styling fee per box that can be applied to a purchase. Over the years, Stitch Fix has added a service catering to men’s clothing and plus-size clothing and plans to launch a kids program this fall. Stitch Fix (NASDAQ: SFIX) went public in late 2017, and its stock has since performed fairly well, especially in the month of June.

Polinsky, who previously was an executive at Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) for seven years, says she spent her first year or so beefing up Stitch … Next Page »

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