Movers & Shakers Q&A with Sarah McVittie + Donna North co-founders of Dressipi

Movers and Shakers 2014 Front Cover

Brought to you by Retail Insider and K3 Retail

Sarah McVittie and Donna North, co-founders of Dressipi

1. What is the greatest opportunity for your business?

For Dressipi it is about creating a truly portable Fashion Fingerprint. Over time we are keen to ensure that every woman has her Fashion Fingerprint at her fingertips and can use it every day whether in-store or online to help her make the best shopping and dressing decisions.  We are keen to ensure that the Fashion Fingerprint will be accessible on any device anywhere at all times.

For the fashion industry it is about delivering true personalisation. Customers create their personal style profile (Fashion Fingerprint) which identifies key characteristics about them. Dressipi then combines this concrete information with their purchase and behaviourial data to get a very clear view of what matters most to them when it comes to buying clothes or getting dressed.

Once a style profile has been created, Dressipi’s technology can then identify the perfect products and combinations of products (outfits) that best match the individual’s style profile and the occasion for which they are dressing.

Each item is also recommended in the customer’s perfect size. We now work with a number of retailers and typically deliver an increase in net revenue per customer and a reduction in the overall number of returns.


Donna North and Sarah McVittie

2. What is the biggest challenge to your business?

From an internal point of view, having wrestled with all of the challenges of how to make truly personalised recommendations at an individual level and then how to combine five of those recommendations into awesome outfits, our next challenges are around how to better capture and take into consideration the emotion of a customer’s fashion decisions. Thankfully we have a very strong team of stylists who sit alongside our technical team to ensure the nuances of fashion are captured.

Partnering with retailers is currently our core business but this also presents its own challenges. As large businesses they have processes and structures in place that mean they work at a different pace to a business like ours and so sales and launch cycles can be longer and less predictable.

3. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently so far?

Personalisation in areas like fashion is very complex and it has taken a number of different attempts to get the recommendations working correctly. As a result of its complexity we have often over complicated things for ourselves. So, in hindsight we would have kept things much simpler from the start making it easier to add in complexity rather than take it away.

4. What is the future of the physical store?

We think the future of the physical store is an exciting one. There will likely be less of them but they will still exist and will likely be the place you go to experience the brand. It’s certainly not going to happen overnight however. Initially just removing some of those customer pain points by using all the available data to join up the customer touch points so all communication is both helpful and personalised.

For a customer to walk into a store, have some guidance on what products to look at, be given confidence in a purchase and then receive useful follow up information is a great step in this direction.

In November we launch our first connected in-store product that will enable a customer to take their Fashion Fingerprint in store, be shown the best products in that store and ideas on how to wear them (both with new and previously purchased items) and then, if they buy it we will follow up with an email with useful dress up and dress down ideas.

5. What will the high street look like in a decade?

The high street will lose some of the physical retail stores as people get more and more comfortable with buying a lot of their products online. The high street will be about experiences and sharing social experiences (entertainment, bars, and community centres)

6. Will mobile devices be the primary sales channel in the future?

As technology continues to evolve, the size required for reasonable computing gets increasingly tiny and consumers demand instant gratification for most of their task so it stands to reason that other devices such as iPads and mobiles become the primary sales channel in the future.

7. What other retail businesses do you admire?

Any business that genuinely has service to their customers at the heart of what they do – or work towards greater efficiency. Both set the bar higher and move the industry forward.

It is difficult not to admire Amazon and all that they do – they just leave their competitors in the dust. Inditex and particularly Zara do a brilliant job really understanding their customers and delivering good quality product. Customer service (including their online and multi-channel experience) and the range and quality of product at John Lewis are also impressive.

8. If you hadn’t been a retailer/service-provider-to-retail what would you have liked to do?

Tricky to say as this was an area that we were both very passionate about.

9. What marks out of 10 do you give yourself so far for achievement?


10. Who would you place in the Top 25 Multi-channel/e-commerce Movers & Shakers?

Of the people that we have worked with / come across:

Rosie Snow at M&S – a rising star for sure.

Beverley Imerie at Wallis – for the way that she works so closely with the retail team and really takes time to understand what the customer wants.

Jennifer Day at Shop Direct Group – her vision for personalisation is impressive.