How This Personal Shopping Startup Is Trying to Stand Out
Allume launched its new, on-demand personal shopping service — a personalized, one-on-one experience that uses data to match women with expert stylists with similar tastes. Stylists get to know their clients and shop the entire Internet to find clothing and accessories that their clients love.
Founded by e-commerce veteran Mauria Finley — whose last startup, Citrus Lane, a subscription service for young families — was acquired by Care.com, Allume addresses a major need. The Internet has disrupted traditional retail, but the explosion of new brands and shopping sites makes it difficult for customers to find items they love on their own. Current subscription services automatically send customers boxes of clothing chosen mostly by algorithms, but many items are not a good match for the customer and are returned.
Each customer using the Allume service is connected with her own personal stylist who conducts an introductory consultation on goals, style, body shape and budget and then shops the entire web to find clothing and accessories. Stylists creates a virtual Lookbook to share with the client via text and email. The client is free to purchase what she likes, and the items ship directly from the retailer. She can continue working with the same stylist whenever she has another shopping need. Clothing prices are never marked up, and the service is essentially free — customers pay a $20 fee that is refunded with purchase.
"Professional women with regular budgets want help with their shopping needs," explains Finley, who previously led the home and fashion divisions for eBay, and also serves on the board of directors of Fossil Group. "But every woman is different. Allume uses data to match each customer with a stylist who 'gets her' and can serve as a long-term shopping partner. Our platform helps stylists quickly find and share clothes that could be a good fit, and we believe the direct human communication dramatically improves customer satisfaction with the experience and the clothing they buy."
Allume's marketplace business model provides unique benefits for customers and brands. Stylists can shop for their customers at virtually any store on the web, and are not limited to private labels or items in inventory. They can source clothing from top retailers across a variety of price points and brands. The Allume platform provides brands with new customer acquisition, repeat sales and valuable data insights.
Allume received $3 million in seed funding from early stage investment firm True Ventures. "We believe Allume is creating a new business model in the $350-billion U.S. market for apparel by using its platform to align shoppers, stylists and brands and deliver a better experience for the many shoppers who are not satisfied with dragging friends around the mall, searching the Internet or receiving mystery subscription boxes," said Ann Crady Weiss, venture partner at True Ventures.