Montreal-based startup Frank & Oak has made good progress since its launch in February 2012, quickly ramping up to over 700,000 users in total, with around 75 percent of that business coming from the lucrative U.S. market. Today, it’s launching its personalization platform, dubbed StyleScape, which fulfills the longtime goal of founders Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani to reduce the headaches associated with online shopping.
“In the last year, we’ve tested and asked ourselves a lot of questions around how guys wanted to shop, and a lot of the answers had to do with personalization,” Song said in an interview. “So this is sort of like taking all these learning lessons and really delivering product that’s very simple on the outside, and very complex on the inside and heavy on data but makes the experience [of shopping] much easier for most men.”
The StyleScape platform uses information including answers provided by a user via a questionnaire, and style preference choices put in by shoppers, as well as past purchases. But it goes beyond even that, according to Song: Frank & Oak monitors what kinds of styles are trending in each shopper’s home market, and also pays attentional to seasonal climate changes via geolocation information to improve recommendations. A year’s worth of successful operation has helped the startup create a very intelligent recommendation engine, serving up suggestions to reduce the need for endless catalog browsing.
“What we’re able to do with our algorithm is we’re actually able to take all the data that we’re capturing on our site, from style relevance questions where you’re directly expressing these things,” Song said. “And we take your shopping history, along with what products you’re viewing and combine that to deliver the most relevant information at that moment as you’re shopping. And it keeps updating itself in real-time as the experience progresses.”
Other new features that StyleScape offers bring a light social touch to the shopping service. New StyleBoards allow users to curate collections of recommendations that can be viewed by other shoppers on the site, and collections from curators and so-called “Brand Ambassadors” (read: sponsored contributors) can be followed just like Pinboards.
Song also notes that unlike other online players in the space, which include Thrillist’s JackThreads, Frank & Oak is both supplier and retailer, so it will be using social feedback provided by users as well as insights gained from its personalization and recommendation platform to drive the creation and design of new products.
Frank & Oak offers both direct sale like a standard e-commerce platform, and the Hunt Club subscription plan whereby users can select a crate every month for free at-home try-on with no obligation to buy and free returns. The mixed model appears to be serving it well, and Song anticipates that StyleScape will help it increase average cart value further, too. Nailing the recommendations will be key to that goal, but the startup at least has a good year’s worth of shopping behavior experience to build from.
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