Former Nordstrom Exec Launches Behold, an AI-Powered Retailer Focused on 'Outfits'
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
Terry Boyle, co-founder of startup retail site Behold, believes fashion ecommerce is broken for customers.
"It gives them too much choice they don't want, it's not truly personalized and it's too item focused," he told dot.LA.
Consumers don't wear 50 to 80% of what they own, said Boyle, the former president of Nordstromrack.com, Trunk Club and HauteLook. So, Boyle's company packages mostly designer outfits for shoppers hoping that it will make purchases more attractive.
Behold raised $5 million and Tuesday launches its tech platform, where customers can browse outfits recommended to them by artificial intelligence (AI) and a group of professional stylists.
The funding round was led by L.A. investors including Upfront Ventures, Greycroft, Troy Capital Partners, TenOneTen Ventures and Zillow and dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff.
While most people are buying sweatpants and comfy clothes, Boyle thinks the consumer market will shift back to dressier clothes, outfits that tend to be more expensive.
"Just because you can hang out in sweats and a t-shirt doesn't mean you should," Boyle said. "How you dress affects how you feel, so you're starting to see more and more people, as you walk around town, dressing up even if there's no real reason to."
Behold's website is set up like a personality quiz for clothes. Users can click through a series of outfits, ranking them on a scale from ones they'd wear "Never" to "Often." After "training your stylist" by adding measurements, your budget and a few favorite designers, the website generates a curated board of outfits using its "Smart-Collab" technology. The idea has been embraced by subscription box services like Stitch Fix and Frank and Oak.
Every Monday, Behold stylists send seven to 10 personalized outfits to each registered user who can then choose to adjust the outfits or purchase pieces individually. Consumers can choose clothes from a range of prices, although most are designer brands. A quick review of the site by dot.LA found the the tool steered customers to higher priced items even when asked for cheaper ones.
As the pandemic moves retail shopping online, the L.A.-based company sees their model as one that makes discovering new clothes more personalized. Boyle said it's also a smart move for wholesale companies and designers struggling to make money through traditional retail marketplaces like department stores, which have seen a wave of closures.
"The pandemic has made brands more open to understanding that their future channel partners may look different than the ones they had in the past," Boyle said.
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