Welcome to our new series introducing you to the New York Fashion Tech Lab 2016 class–a smart bunch of entrepreneurs with a bright future. In our first post we’d like to introduce you to CLAIRE. CLAIRE is a fashion tech startup that does A/B testing for brands and retailers. We spoke with CLAIRE co-founders, Misha Laskin and Marta Jamrozik, to learn more about their company.
CLAIRE is an A/B testing platform for fashion products and price points. She provides brands and retailers with clarity on what to sell next and how much to charge for it. Deciding what to make or stock in a retailer’s store is the single most important decision a retailer has to make–pick items people want and they succeed. Otherwise, retailers fail. For example, when large department stores make poor buying decisions for a season, they lose billions in revenue. The stakes are high. And yet, it’s hard to believe how much uncertainty there is in the buying and merchandising process. Often, critical decisions come down to someone’s gut feeling or intuition about a product. CLAIRE is the data companion that helps buyers and merchandisers ensure that people want what retailers decide to sell.
What was your inspiration behind starting CLAIRE?
Before we started CLAIRE, Marta was thinking about price optimization in retail as she set up the Strategic Pricing department at a $35B retail company, and Misha spent a lot of time analyzing data sets during his PhD in theoretical physics. We were retail and data experts, so retail analytics made sense for us as founders. We wanted to form an analytics company to help retailers make better product decisions. When planning for a new season, it’s hard to predict which pieces will perform the best, and which will perform poorly. If everyone had this figured out, inventory would be perfectly allocated and optimized – but it’s still a large problem today. At the end of the day, there are two big issues: retailers can make too many of the pieces that their consumers don’t want, or they can make too few of the pieces that their consumers love. This mismatch causes a lot of stress in the industry.
Tell us about your customer feedback games.
We believe that consumers are an important part of the production and buying process, and that their voice can lead to better, more informed decisions. Consumers may already play a role today, whether through small-batch surveys or focus groups, but there’s no scalable way to engage with a brand or retailer’s consumers to: 1) find out what they love, 2) do it in a fun, engaging way, and 3) draw accurate results.
The question we get asked most frequently: do consumers really know what they want? Not all consumers are equally good at predicting what will perform well, and what won’t. That’s where we come in: we isolate those consumers who are most predictive, and give them a stronger voice in the sample. Our games can also be used internally, e.g. to get the feedback of sales associates, who can provide valuable feedback on what they think will sell well in the future.
Tell us about your journey to get to New York Fashion Tech Lab Class of 2016.
We pivoted. We applied to the NYFT Lab with a different idea and different value proposition, and by closely listening to the feedback of brands and retailers, were able to create a product that companies in the industry really responded to.
What value does CLAIRE have that makes it stand out against other startups in the space?
CLAIRE is focused on brand- and retailer-specific insights, instead of market-level insights. You might see that tulle skirts are trending in the market, but that doesn’t mean your specific user base will respond to them. That’s why our games focus on tapping into a brand or retailer’s current user base, to find out what will perform best in that specific brand or retailer. In addition, we’re focused on making a scalable and engaging product. Surveys are boring for the consumer, and that’s why many have a low engagement and completion rate. We wanted to create a product that engaged consumers, and was a fun way for them to spend some of their spare time.
What has been one of the most challenging parts of getting started? How did you overcome this and what did you learn?
Before we pivoted to CLAIRE, one of the most challenging parts of getting started was proving out our value proposition, and showing that we were providing a valuable solution to the industry. After a few months of selling our value very hard, we realized that maybe our product was not something the industry wanted or needed. That was an important lesson for us to learn: talk to your customers, and make sure what you’re making really adds value.
We now make a point of speaking with current customers and potential customers on a frequent basis, to really understand where they’re coming from. If we had to articulate the two goals that Claire goes after on a daily basis, they are: 1) talk to customers, and 2) continue making the product better.
What can we expect next from CLAIRE?
We named our company CLAIRE because she provides clarity on what consumers want. We’re starting off by helping answer the question “What do consumers want in the future?” which can help with buying and production decisions, but we’re also collecting large quantities of data on individual consumer preferences. This allows us to move into personalization and localization–from targeted emails, ads, and social media content, to geographically-specific assortments in brick and mortar stores. In addition, there’s the option to expand into other verticals–fashion is the industry we’re starting in, but our solution applies to any company that makes physical products.
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