In Silicon Valley, innovation usually means piling on the tech–better tech, smarter tech, tech that lets you go farther, faster than the competition. But what if that wasn’t always the case? What if you could sometimes get ahead by kicking it old school?
That’s what Moxsie, the online boutique that features independent designers, is betting on. This week, it launched a personal shopping service that’s using good old-fashioned humans to peruse the company’s catalog and suggest items–via email–to the site’s most valued customers.
“[In traditional stores], you have people who keep an eye out for new things and call customers up when new stuff comes in they think they’d like,” CEO Jon Fahrner tells Fast Company. “There’s still no equivalent to that in the online world.”
Here’s how Moxsie’s service works: The company’s merchandisers review a customer’s order history and, based on their knowledge of the store’s inventory, draw up a list of items they think the customer might like. This gets bundled into an email, along with a short video of the merchandiser showcasing the items and explaining why they think they’d be a good fit for the customer.
Moxsie dispatched the first set of emails this week to the site’s top 30 customers–those who had placed the most orders and spent the most amount of money. It’s a test run, Fahrner says, and if it proves to have legs, the company could roll it out to their 500 or so most avid shoppers.
Moxsie’s approach constitutes a meaningful twist on the search for the personalization Holy Grail. Many online retailers are diving into algorithms to locate formulas that can predict, for example, that because you bought that blue sweater you might also be interested in these duck boots.
But Fahrner, who learned a lot about making customers happy in his previous life at Zappos, where he was employee number three, thinks there’s merit in exploring the benefits of the personal touch.
“[At the beginning], we didn’t know what we were doing at Zappos, and yet we raised the bar on what the online experience could be,” he says.
Plus, he adds, the strategy could also boost shopper loyalty, and not just among those already at the top.
“A lot of [online] retailers give you loyalty rewards, but the premium consumer rarely gets that extra treatment,” the kind they experience in the offline world, Fahrner says. “We want to make it something that motivates people to keep shopping with us, that prompts them to ask, ‘How do I qualify for that?’”
They could be onto something. Moxsie, which features over 100 designers and has “tens of thousands” of customers (Fahrner declined to be more specific), has pioneered innovative approaches to online retailing. Back in December, we wrote about how the company had created a crowdsourcing system to identify designers worth carrying.
And so if personal shopping reaps dividends in the brick-and-mortar world, who’s to say it won’t have legs in online, especially as more and more of us consummate transactions in the ether.
“I’m sure there’s going to be an evolved personal shopper experience online that’s not automatic,” Fahrner says. “I just don’t think anybody’s doing it right now.”
Read also: The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Retail