Stitch Fix is scaling its Live Styling service, which it has been testing for a while, the company said via email on Wednesday.
The service, which entails real-time "one-to-one video styling sessions" with customers as opposed to the written exchanges that most of the company's stylists use, is one reason for staffing changes reported by Modern Retail Tuesday, a spokesperson said.
As of Aug. 15, the company will require stylists (hourly employees who work from home) to work at least 20 hours per week, some time between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in their time zone, the spokesperson said.
In the age of big data, just about every apparel retailer relies on a balance of technology and human intuition to sell clothes. As an e-commerce company, Stitch Fix has long boasted about the power of its algorithms.
In a blog post on her first day in the top leadership spot (Aug. 1), CEO Elizabeth Spaulding emphasized both, describing the company's "core DNA" as personalization, "improving each of our clients' lives through creative human touch plus data science."
Now the humans' role is expanding. On a conference call with analysts in March, Spaulding described live styling as 30-minute video call sessions that over time would "improve client retention and deepen client trust." The way it works now, customers and stylists communicate via "Fix Request Notes." A customer describes what they want before a box is sent, and the stylist leaves an explanation regarding how they curated that box.
The company has long touted itself as a styling service, so real-time interactions with its customers was likely inevitable considering that's long been an option at other retailers offering styling as an amenity, like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Stitch Fix's new work requirements for its stylists mean their availability will be more convenient for customers, the spokesperson said. Another change entails grouping stylists in regional (Midwest, Southwest, Central, East) rather than metro-based hubs. The shifts also support the company's diversity, equity and inclusion hiring goals, according to the spokesperson.
Since the staffing changes were announced internally, there has been some anonymous grumbling on social media among Stitch Fix stylists, many of whom do the work as a side gig that they fit into their day. For those unable or unwilling to work within the less flexible scheduling parameters, the company is offering a $1,000 "voluntary exit payment," the spokesperson said.
Once video styling can be scaled, it could provide a new revenue stream if it were offered as a premium service. At the moment, Stitch Fix makes $20 per box of clothing, which is curated by stylists with the help of algorithms that take into account the results of a style quiz and customer feedback, and from sales of clothing (including some direct sales, as subscribing clients can shop the site beyond the boxes they're sent). Customers, who receive boxes at a cadence of their choosing, surrender the $20 as a styling fee if they return all contents of a box, but can apply it to the total if they buy anything from it. Shipping each way is free.
Retailers are increasingly making money on services beyond the sale of goods. Amazon famously makes billions through subscriber fees, Prime memberships, services provided to its third-party marketplace sellers, advertising and, of course, its AWS cloud services. Walmart recently partnered with Adobe to offer its pickup and delivery capabilities to thousands of small- and mid-sized businesses.
Stitch Fix declined to comment on whether any scaled real-time video styling service would be offered for an extra fee.