Retailers are gasping for air: Neiman Marcus is seeking a buyer. Macy's just suffered its largest quarterly sales decline since the Great Recession. Nordstrom is buying a stakes in software to boost sales.
Retail businesses are yet to grasp the ins and outs of tech. The latest from the digital side of things is the chatbot hype and forward-thinking brands are jumping on board to stay afloat.
One such player in the space is NYC startup Fynd.me, which is connecting shoppers to retailers such as Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom. Since launching its personal concierge online shopping site in May, Fynd.me also released its very own chabot and it's driving serious sales. Fyndbot is able to chat with users via Facebook Messenger on the fly to help them find exactly what they are looking for from big-name retailers.
We spoke with Fynd.me’s co-founder Charese Embree about the way brands are using this emerging technology to differentiate among competitors.
Hi Charese! To start off, can you tell me a bit about your background?
I have a Merchandise Marketing degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and have been working in the retail industry for the last 15 years. For the past 10 years I’ve focused on luxury retail and worked for companies including Agent Provocateur, Valentino, Chanel, Stella McCartney, Neiman Marcus, Tory Burch and DVF. I spent my days helping others find their perfect item. I’d learn their shopping preferences by showing my customers a few items to better understand what they were looking for, and started to identify what they liked when they saw it. I founded Fynd.Me to bring my personal shopper experience to the online space and to create a fun and seamless shopping experience.
How did you come up with the idea of Fynd.Me?
My co-founder Adam Juhasz and I developed the idea when we lived together in San Francisco. I worked in luxury retail, and I would tell Adam how frustrating it was to compete with online retailers. After many months of brainstorming over glasses of wine, we knew we needed to change the way people shopped online. We started thinking of ways to bring my background in retail fashion and his background in computer engineering and coding into one forum.
So how does the service work?
Customers can start with a general category like “dresses” or a very specific search like “red evening gown with a cap sleeve.” The customer then likes items that are similar to what they had in mind. For example, she might “like” only gowns with cap sleeves, even if she doesn’t know the term “cap sleeve”. Once the customer has found her desired item, Fynd directs her to a retailer’s site to complete the transaction.
The Fyndbot is a Facebook Messenger bot that serves as your personal shopper. With the use of machine learning and natural language processing, Fyndbot quickly and efficiently helps you find the perfect dress.
Do you have an ideal customer in mind?
Our ideal customer is between the ages of 20-55. She has an idea of what she’s shopping for and does not have a lot of time to browse page after page after page of search results from multiple retailers’ websites. The Fynd.me shopper loves the idea of working with a personal shopper in store, but does not necessarily have the time to do so.
What are the trends and emerging customer behavior you’re observing in retail and the way people shop today?
People are overwhelmed by the plethora of retailers and products available online. When there are too many options available, it can be hard for people to find what they’re looking for. Bringing multiple retailers into one space that is easy to navigate and making the online shopping experience easy and personalize can really help brands stand out.
Fynd.Me's chatbot has already sold $25k for retailers like Nordstorm and Bloomingdale’s. How do you think such technology will affect retail in the long-term?
This chatbot technology will only help retailers in the long-term. It is meant to aide retailers’ sales and help with customer satisfaction. A chatbot brings the attention and personalization of working with a personal shopper to people who might not have time to go into a brick and mortar store.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?
Right now, we help customers choose dresses from Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s. We are in the process of adding all categories of women’s and men’s clothing to our site and Fyndbot, so we will have the full breadth of options that you would find in a department store. Once we expand our product categories, we will add more retail partners to the site. We are excited to find new partners who are ready to push the limits of today’s chatbots and embrace this better way of shopping online. Just get in touch with us!