Consider the convenience of online shopping, add a personal shopping assistant who is also an experienced stylist, and the result is close to Boon + Gable, which debuted in 2016. Co-founder Diane Loviglio sees her startup as a tech-enabled, in-home channel for established bricks-and-mortar retailers.
Loviglio is both techie and entrepreneur. Before founding Boon + Gable, she was the first qualitative user-experience researcher for Mozilla. Prior to that, Loviglio started Wattbot, an online recommendation service to help homeowners save money on energy bills. She conceived Boon + Gable to help shoppers solve the inefficient and frustrating shopping process by combining algorithms with mobile-enabled stylists who come to shoppers with hand-selected fashions.
In addition to Loviglio, Boon + Gable’s co-founders include Chief Operating Officer Nicole Chiu-Wang and Chief Technical Officer Gilman Tolle.
What was the inspiration for Boon + Gable?
Understanding that my time was more valuable than money when it came to shopping for clothing. I’d fallen in a rut of wearing jeans, a plain T-shirt and sandals, but when I went shopping, I would get super frustrated. I had tried working with local in-store stylists, but that really didn’t go anywhere until I met stylist Nicole Chiu-Wang, who helped me at my home.
How does Boon + Gable work?
The customer downloads our app and fills out a style profile. This is where they enter their sizes and the price ranges they’re comfortable with. The profile also captures style preferences, plus the brands the customer likes and dislikes.
We extend the reach of bricks-and-mortar clothing retailers by sending a personal stylist to the client’s home with 20 items of clothing with a good mix of high- and low-priced items based on their style profile. They book a home visit on our app, so the customer has the comfort of their own home for a one-hour appointment where they can buy the merchandise right then and there.
The stylist is able to pull items from the customer’s own closet to help them figure out how to wear the new things we brought. Available brands range from Alexander Wang, Ted Baker and John Varvatos to Paige Denim, Vince, Madewell and more.
The concept seems like a throwback to personal shoppers, when traditional retailers offered this type of service. But there’s also the tech piece that makes it possible to cross-sell.
We think Boon + Gable is the best of both worlds. It’s convenient because we come to you with a curated selection of clothing. It’s personal because we learned about your preferences through our style profile and then actually style you in that one-hour appointment in your home.
You can buy whatever you like, and we handle the returns. We do charge a 15 percent service fee on items, but we also pass along sale prices when we find them. We’re helping physical retailers sell more products because we’ve taken their merchandise to the client’s home.
We think customers are more relaxed at home and better able to make smarter purchasing decisions than they would in-store. We’re bringing an edited assortment that helps the customer understand what’s out there without having to spend hours in stores or online, where the offerings can be overwhelming.
What more can you say about the technology?
We built a recommendation engine called Clark that uses your style profile to take the universe of clothing available in local stores and filter it down to a few hundred pieces that fit your style, size, budget and need.
Every night, we crawl 150,000 products that are available in that customer’s local area from bricks-and-mortar retailers. We know what’s available in what brands, colors and sizes. Our algorithms use the data from the style profile that the customer filled out to get that list down to 1,000 products and shown to our stylists in a [separate] app we’ve built for them. Then they filter down the final 20 items they want to bring on their visit.
Our operations team gets the requested merchandise and bags it up, so the stylists come to one pickup location and never have to enter the physical stores.
How is Boon + Gable different from other similar services?
A couple of things make us different. First is that we send a real human to your home for a one-hour appointment, and we style selections made for you. With other services, they send the items, you try them on and keep what you like, but then you return the rest.
That brings us to the second point. With Boon + Gable, we can incorporate the new clothes we brought with the clothes from your closet and give you style advice in person, which is a great service we bring right to your home. (And you can buy them right on the spot.)
Third, we don’t own any inventory, so if it’s not a perfect fit, we don’t try to push it on you. We are building a relationship with you based on service, not trying to push you to make a purchase of our goods. Our stylists are available seven days a week from 9 in the morning to 8:30 in the evening.
Since your launch in 2016, what have you learned about sales and customers?
We now have thousands of customers. Of those, 60 percent return to us every eight to 10 weeks. Our average order size, which is around $700, is six times that of traditional ecommerce. And our repeat rate is very high because, again, we are building a relationship with our customer through expert service.
As I mentioned previously, we pass [savings] on to our customer since we are shopping every single day. We know exactly when and where all the sales are.
What can you tell us about partner brands and retailers?
Since 2016, we’ve sold more than 850 brands to our clients, so we have a very wide diversity of price points and aesthetics that we can choose from. We work with small boutiques like Karen Millen all the way to large department stores like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s. We’re able to make hundreds of brands available, including the ones I mentioned previously.
Janet Groeber has covered all aspects of the retail industry for more than 20 years. Her reporting has appeared in AdWeek and DDI Magazine, among others.