Today, Brian sits down with Julie Bornstein, former COO of Stitch Fix, currently launching the personally curated shopping app, The Yes. What is The Yes? How does an AI-integrated shopping app differ from traditional retail or eCommerce experiences?

THE YES AND THE NEED FOR TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION

  • Julie has been working in the industry since the beginning of eCommerce and has always seen new ideas and opportunities which are now finally possible through technology. 
  • The Yes is an AI-shopping app which makes a consumer’s shopping experience more efficient, personal, and relevant.
  • The Yes features a conglomerate of products from different brands, asking consumers questions to find and personally curate their own personal style and experience in-app.
  • Think of Spotify, but for shopping. There’s not one style that’s preferred or featured more than another - it’s an experience in which anyone can find their own specific niche. The Yes does this by focusing on user experience while supporting brands and their relationships to their consumers.

OFF-BRAND, NAME-BRAND, AND A PERSONALIZED EXPERIENCE

  • There is a lack of trust in off-brand clothing because of its variance in size, style, fit, etc. 
  • The Yes is focusing on name-brand products and helping brands to establish trust and alignment between brands and consumers - an example of this is in The Yes mixing DTC brands and traditional brands all within the app.
  • Every product has its own very intricate taxonomy that relates it to other products.
  • Launching during COVID-19 helped the Yes to sit with their initial product and spend time adding features that originally were not going to be included in the initial version. 
  • “Adversity spurs innovation and adoption of that innovation.” During COVID, the physical retail experience has become non-existent so eCommerce has had to shift to becoming a more immersive experience. The Yes fits that needed role as a fashion curation by blending AI and human facilitation. 


BRANDS MENTIONED:

The Yes

Stitch Fix

Good+Foundation

Mythology

Amazon

Spotify

Brian: [00:00:07] Hello and welcome to Future Commerce, the podcast about cutting edge and next generation commerce. I'm your host, Brian. Today I am so excited because speaking of next generation commerce, I have a guest on today that is really what I would say at the forefront of commerce right now. Julie Bornstein who is the former COO of Stitch Fix, who is now launching a new concept called The Yes. Welcome, Julie.

Julie: [00:00:43] Thank you.

Brian: [00:00:45] So excited to have you. The Yes is really, really interesting. Tell us a little bit about what The Yes is, how you came up with the concept for it, and what... Well, obviously you just launched a couple of days ago, this is a crazy time to be launching a business. We'll get into a little bit further down the show. But just tell us a little about your background and how you came up with The Yes.

Julie: [00:01:10] Yes. Well, I've been in eCommerce basically since it started. I have loved shopping since I was a little girl, spent lots of weekends in the mall. And in 1996, I remember when Amazon sold its first book online and my brain exploded with all these opportunities to use technology and the Internet to make shopping better and easier. And so I joined Nordstrom in the very early days of eCommerce and helped build the first generation of Nordström dot com. But it was interesting because technology was still quite limited. And so everything that we tried to build was fairly painful. And we had lots of ideas that we couldn't yet bring to life. But it was a great way to really understand all the ins and outs and really personally connect with the user experience. I went on to help Urban Outfitters create eCommerce and then Sephora, and I was at Sephora for about eight years during the time that mobile and social became things. And so loved that experience and met the founder of Stitch Fix, Katrina Lake, really loved what she was doing, joined her board and then came in as we were trying to scale the company as COO and really loved the experience, both of being part of a startup and also working so closely with the data science team and understanding how so many of the things that in theory could be done were now starting to be done in this service that Stitch Fix had created. And so basically, you know, my brain kept spinning on all the things that as technology advanced, we could do. I picked my head up and thought, what do I want to do next? I want to lead a company that I think is going to be the future of retail. It's my passion. I've spent my whole career in it, and I realize that company didn't exist and that it needed to be built from scratch. And so with the help of some great investors, Kirsten Green from Forerunner, Tony Florence from NEA, Scott Friend from Bain Capital, and ultimately John Callahan from True Ventures. In my next round of fundraising, I raised the money. I also did a broad search on a CTO co-founder and met an entrepreneur in residence named Amit Aggarwal, who was working with Bain Capital. And he had been in technology from a machine learning, personalization and search standpoint his whole career. And we joined forces and started The Yes. So it was the culmination, really, of so many ideas and things I had wanted to do over the prior decade. And ultimately, technology had caught up with all of the possibilities. So that is what led to the start of the company, and you asked me what it is. So I'll keep talking. Really it is kind of the modern day version of shopping. It's if this device, in our case, we're starting in IOS, so it's your phone can pay attention to the things that I'm doing and understand me and ask me the right questions, it can really build a store around me that's much more kind of efficient and personal and relevant. And so what we needed to do to create sort of this dream store was sign on a lot of brands because obviously you need a very broad assortment to be able to serve my fashion needs, build algorithms to really understand fashion, which, by the way, started with about a year long project of building the most extensive taxonomy that exists in fashion because fashion is very nuanced, and so to make recommendations and figure out what someone wants, you need to understand every element that goes into it. And so we built this very extensive taxonomy and then trained really the machine to understand how to interpret every new product that comes into our system. And then we had to build a a system to really integrate with the brands in a way that is very seamless for them, because, as we know, brands have a lot on their plate. They're in the business of designing fashion and not of building technology. That's what we wanted to do.

Brian: [00:05:49] Yes.

Julie: [00:05:49] And so, yes, we launched just two days ago.

Brian: [00:05:54] So exciting. And so many questions that I have now. Talk to us a little bit about the experience as a shopper. And then I do want to talk a little bit, you mentioned that most extensive taxonomy you could ever imagine. That's super interesting to me. And I want to get that a little bit further as well. But just let's start by talking about what it would be like to go shop on The Yes.

Julie: [00:06:15] Yes. So it's IOS only right now. We'll expand over time. So you download the app if you have an iPhone. The first thing that happens is you're prompted with a Q&A. So we ask you very pointed, but sort of fun and easy to answer questions that help give us a broad sense of you. But we spent a lot of time figuring out what data points we need to collect to make even your first experience in your home feed personal and relevant. And so you answer a series of five questions around your brand preferences and your style, likes, and dislikes and your color preferences and your size. And we don't just ask you what size you are. We ask you what's your primary size and what's your secondary size? Because you could be a six who sometimes wears an eight or a six who sometimes wears a four. And that means you fit differently. We have many more questions over time we'll be asking you. But those are the primary questions. And then what happens is the system computes all this data and information and you land on your home feed and then everyday your home feed is updated. And it's a mix of trends and themes and what's new and brands you like that you've told us you like and brands we think you'd like, as well as we go back to the things you've yessed in the past, and we surface that again in helpful ways. So what happens is you yes and no products you like and don't like. You don't have to yes and no everything. But if you yes something it's both a signal that you like this, and helps us learn further. We also save it for you in an organized list. And if you know something that's also equally helpful because we start to learn about what to remove from your home feed and what to rank lower in your search. So you have a home feed that is constantly providing new ideas. And it's really fun. And then you have search tab, which both prompts you with ideas about where you might want to start, gives you a full list of the brands if you want to go and yes and no more brands, because we only ask a subset in the onboarding Q&A. And then you can search whatever you want. So we've made search natural language friendly. And what happens when you search? If you're searching Bermuda shorts, you're going to get Bermuda shorts in the rank order of what's most relevant to you based on your price point and brand preferences and what's available in your size. And we actually recommend a size in every product. So you don't need to select a size or debate which one to get. Based on how the brands fit and how you answered the questions we do the calculation for you and let you know what what size to get. And then it's literally as easy as, you know, Apple Pay One Click or you can use your credit card or you can add it to your basket. We show you alternative image view, so you can see it in outfits. If you like the shirt that's with it you can also see that. And so that's the core experience. We also allow you to invite friends, and you then have the ability to see your friends' things that they are saying yes to. And that shows up in your home feed, too. So it's a really fun way to actually get some inspiration outside of the core recommendations for you. And we have a lot of ideas that we're going to build on top of the friend piece, too. So this is just the beginning. We have a mile long roadmap. And we are going to continue to build, you know, what we think is sort of the most effective and fun way to shop. We are insanely focused on user experience. We have the benefit of the brands really providing all of the fashion for us. So we're not dispersed in our thinking. We're not trying to build our own private label. We are solely focused on how to build the most excellent experience to shop that is not frustrating. It's effective and fun and efficient and fresh.

Brian: [00:10:25] That's so cool. Yeah, that's such a unique experience. It's effectively what I hear you're saying is that you've built almost a social network for shopping. Working with friends, telling them what you like and you don't like, and then having updated this sort of content area that's being served to you by the platform. It's so cool. It's like a personalized news site, but for shopping. Really, really, really cool.

Julie: [00:10:56] I have to admit, Spotify and, you know, the news sort of aggregators are definitely inspiration. Yeah.

Brian: [00:11:03] That's so cool. So cool. And then, of course, you're working with a ton of brands as well, which is really, really interesting. Talk to me a little bit about how you're working with the brands. Is this something that you're holding all the inventory or are they holding inventory? How does the interaction with the brand actually work?

Julie: [00:11:26] The brand holds all the inventory. So we're not sort of you taking an extra step of shipping something from the brand's inventory to our inventory and then to the customer. We're kind of cut out that one step. And the truth is, what we want is to be able to provide customers kind of the truly the full assortment and then surface the best things for them. And so it's really great to have the full line from the brands. I've been a brand lover since the beginning of time. I still have such a strong memory of how excited I was for the first day of fifth grade, not because of school, but because I finally got to wear my new Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. And we are really, I would say, very supportive of and careful for our brands. And so we have one hundred and forty five at launch and that number will grow quite a bit over the next coming months. Our goal around selecting brands is really having it be a brand that stands for something. So in the world of like Amazon knockoffs, you know, we sort of feel like, "Oh, God, you never know what you're getting when you order something with some fake brand name." And we really feel like, as the department stores close, now they're reopening thank goodness. And as sort of the traditional channels really shift, the brands are looking for how to find new customers to discover and love their brand. And so we are very pro brand. And we even... Each of the brands have a storefront within the app. And each of those store fronts are really ranked to each user. So what you see and the Everlane store front or on the Frame store front will be different than what I see. But it's all there. It's really just a matter of sort of the ranking of those brands. And if you want to... If you discover a new brand, we have lots of cool small brands, too. You can follow a brand direct Instagram through our platform. You don't even need to leave. You can sign up for their newsletter. And so we want to share the love with the brand. The product comes to you shipped directly from the brand in their packaging. So you get to experience that brand. We're really not trying to interfere with the relationship between the brand and the consumer, but rather both help consumers by pulling all these brands who have never been together in one place because we have DTC brands and department store brands and specialty brands. We have a Aritzia. We have Ralph Lauren collection. We have, as I said, Everlane and Quiana. So it's a really cool mix of High-Low, which is how we all shop.

Brian: [00:14:12] Right.

Julie: [00:14:13] But we want you to understand and know that brand. That's part of the experience.

Brian: [00:14:19] Yeah, I think that's so cool. First of all, you're bringing the traditional brands together with some of the new DTC sort of model brands and the sort of modern brands that we've experienced the last few years and have seen quite the explosion of that are picking up a lot of traction. And I think this is also really interesting. It seems like you're 100% in many ways a technology play. Because what you're doing is you are exposing brands to people and helping people experience them in new ways and sort of providing a platform for them to be able to reach new customers and interact with customers in a new way and maybe even play into other brand stories as well, which is really interesting all unto itself. And you're giving them the space to represent their brands well. You mentioned early days of Nordstrom dot com and what that looked like as a shopping experience. And I'm thinking back to when brands used to even request logins to retailers sites, so that they could go in and make sure that their stuff looked the way that they wanted it to look. I think marketplaces are a much more modern way to look at that. And so  as you look around at the current landscape, you look at the different places where people are shopping online right now. And there are many. We're in the middle of a pandemic. And I want to talk about that in just a second. We're looking at directly on brand sites. We're looking at shopping on Amazon. We're looking at shopping on some of the big fashion retailers out there. How do you sort of see yourself fitting into the market? Where do you say people maybe like choosing The Yes to shop over what? What's sort of the alternatives? And where do you fit into their shopping patterns?

Julie: [00:16:28] You know, I just want to address one thing you said, which is that we are a technology company and the answer is yes, that is what we are. And I think that we are a technology company whose sole focus is on making the consumer shopping experience really great and helping support the brands through that experience. We are, I would say, a replacement for the other places that you shop in a multi branded way. So if you know a brand and you love that brand, and you shop from that brand site, that's not going to change. And that's great. We hope that we help raise the brands' direct business while we also grow our business. But we will really be, I think, ultimately the replacement for the other multi-brand sites. So whether it's a department store site or it's an online only multi branded site. When you're looking for fashion... I mean, the benefit of us is A) we're quicker. It's much more streamlined. It's more fun. It actually feels like time well spent as your shopping and browsing because we're getting smarter. And so instead of going to, you know, a traditional eCommerce site where you go through a whole experience, you have to go through 13 pages to find the item you might like if you're looking for a mini dress. And then the next time you come back, you continue to see all the same stuff that you did like the first time and that you would never wear. We're much more efficient, and we're learning as we go. And so I really actually think that people will end up feeling after they shop on The Yes that the experience is so much sort of more dynamic that it feels almost strange to go to one of these traditional sites and realize like there's nothing changing. It's just the static experience, and it's one size fits all. I mean, what you're seeing and what I see are exactly the same, and that makes no sense. I've been a huge online shopper for 20 years. I go to these sites where I've bought literally thousands of items and they have no idea who I am or what I want. And the experience is one size fits all. So I think that people will just start to realize not only can they get all their needs met, especially as we continue to add brands, but even with an amazing mix we have today. And it's just a much more relevant experience for them. So our goal is to make the shopping experience is as best as it can possibly be, the best shopping app on the planet. That's my goal, so that it can be a fun experience, and you can ultimately get the product you want and feel good and look good and love the things you're wearing. And it really feels fun. And fashion is all about how you feel and your mood. And it is a representation of you. It's the only thing we put on our body, right? And so we want that experience to not only be great when you're showing up wherever you're going looking great, but also the process. Make it fun.

Brian: [00:19:39] That's really, really interesting. Now, let's talk about something. There's so much I want to talk about with you, but let's talk about something that I think is just such an interesting thing, which is launching a completely new company, a completely new concept in the middle of a pandemic. Give me just a little bit of that experience. Like, what was that like?

Julie: [00:20:02] I mean, you know, the interesting thing is we've been working on this for two years and this has been such a labor of love. And it's very unusual to... We raised more money than the average startup. Certainly nothing compared to these companies that are raising hundreds of millions or billions before they even launch. But for, you know, the sort of a new eCom concept, we raised enough money that we could really build this the right way the first time. And we went into stealth mode, and we worked for two years. So we set March 25th as our launch date. And that was, by the way, I'd say we originally thought we probably would launch in the fall of '19. And it was clear that to get this product to the level it needed to be and make sure it was really working for consumers we needed more time and we built a ton of technology. We have twenty five engineers and they're amazing. And so we've been really focused on sort of a number of different technologies that needed to come together. So March 25th was our date and of course, in early March, and then by mid-March, we knew we were in the middle of a global crisis with just... It was so confusing that we just realized, like everyone is so distracted, ourselves included, what is going to happen that we couldn't launch. We were going to get no press and just felt really tone-deaf. And so we said, all right, let's pull back. Fortunately, we have enough runway that we can take a little time and see what's happening. We had a team of thirty five people. Everyone felt very lucky both to have a job and also very committed to making sure that the product we were building was great. So we decided to... We work in sprints. So every month we sort of assign ourselves some features from a roadmap that is sort of ever-changing, and we go out and we build those. And then the brand partnerships team, you know, spends time meeting new brands and integrating brands. And so we said, let's take advantage of this time and do some of the things we were sad that weren't going to be in the initial product and just heads down and we'll see what happens. And so we built the social feature because we didn't have it in our first version. And we did some more work to be able to have price matching, which is something we really wanted to promise our customers that we can always offer the best price. So they don't need to shop around. And we started building this outfitting feature. So three really big things that were on our roadmap we decided to dig into. It was almost a real silver lining because we had gotten all the core parts of the product right to the point where we felt like it was good enough. It was good to launch. So it gave us the freedom to focus on some of the next generation things we wanted to focus on. Meanwhile, I think we all had this mix of both huge gratitude that we were safe. No one got sick. We had jobs. We had something to really keep us focused and distracted from the sadness and the scariness and a little bit of guilt, as survivors always do. Right? But we also thought about how do we do this? We're watching our brands lose their traditional forms of distribution. And the department stores were canceling orders. And so that was happening.

Brian: [00:23:25] Right.

Julie: [00:23:25] We also kind of were like, how do we do something that feels helpful to people in need? So we've always loved, and I had done some work with in the past, Good+, which is an amazing charity that helps families in need in general, but had built this COVID fund for getting essentials to families in need. So we decided when we launch, we wanted to do something to help them. So all of this was going on and we were kind of watching what was happening. And I think we realized there're pros and cons to launching now. I mean, certainly everyone is distracted and people aren't going out and shopping in the same way that they normally are. They don't have events to go to on one hand. But on the other hand the brands needed support and consumers need some form of levity. And we definitely had... People were a captive audience in that they were sort of home and waiting for life to resume normalcy. And so we felt like, you know, we have to do this. We're also a venture backed company, like we got to get out there and launch. We'd been waiting for two years. So we sort of said, let's target late May. Hopefully by then, people will start to see light at the end of the tunnel, and we'll be ready with this next set of features. It'll give us a chance to... We decided to do for every download, we'll give a dollar to Good+ Foundation. And we want to just get out there for the brands, if not for anything else.

Brian: [00:24:59] That's great.

Julie: [00:24:59] And I think also because this time we've all started sort of forming some new habits. Lots of food related delivery services. And so we thought it's a good time for people to play in, even if they're not ready to buy or if they want to buy a pair of cute sweats or whatever it is, you can tune the app to you. So it's fun to play with even if you're not ready to buy. We automatically save everything you're interested in. And so we set May 20th and the day came. And it's turned out to be an okay week. We got some really bad news from Fauci last week. So I think everyone's heads were spinning. But we're also seeing that people really... This is almost... COVID is like a new normal that we all realize we need to live our lives. We have to do it in a new way and in a really careful way. But I think it just it's OK. It's been OK. You know, it's certainly never anything we expected. And we have enormous compassion for everyone that's been affected, both healthwise and financially. And yet, at the same time, people are looking for this and brands are great partners and are excited about this. So we'll see. I'm guessing that whatever our trends are early on, both in terms of what's being bought, but also in terms of conversion rate and those kinds of things will not necessarily represent life a year from now.

Brian: [00:26:25] I think that's a really good point. And I think that you have absolutely captured... What you're launching really is a new way of thinking about how you're shopping. And so I think you're really smart to go ahead and launch now in that people are resetting how they're doing things where we've seen just an explosion of online purchasing. And I mean, I see your app as sort of an all out assault on the traditional department store in many ways, and that's actually not a bad thing. That's a good thing in that we've been using the same method for shopping for almost 100 years. And we have the technology to create new experiences. It think that people are ready to adopt them. So this is interesting that now is when you were building this. We've talked a lot about technology for the sake of technology on the show, like something we didn't really want to do. But in many ways, I think the technology that we were building in the past where we were saying, let's do buy online and pickup in store. Let's create new purchasing and discovery experiences. We all knew that technology was going to play into the future in some way. It just wasn't quite as clear how people were going to respond to that. And now more than ever is the time to be building these kinds of experiences. And I expect that department stores will have to respond in kind. Oftentimes adversity spurs innovation and adoption of that innovation. That's the other thing I think that is really interesting here is people that are creating things innovative, like The Yes, it's actually good. It's important. It's necessary to have those right now because otherwise people would be stuck at home with absolutely no way to continue to do the things that they enjoy or find the things they enjoy. Let's talk a little bit about that, actually. So you're creating sort of the ultimate guided shopping experience, right? And you're using AI to create that experience. It's almost a form of, you know, almost like clientelling. How do you see your relationship with your customers? So obviously, they've got a relationship with the brands that you're putting forward. Maybe they don't have one. They're finding and building new relationships. They have that relationship unto itself. But what do you see your role in the relationship with the customer in the long run?

Julie: [00:29:19] Yeah. You know, I think that I love the customer first and foremost. I mean, that is the experience that we are really focused on. And one of the things we're doing is we're providing the customer service layer. So even though the product ships from the brand, we take care of... We let you know where it is. We notify you as it's shipping and as it's arrived. And any problems you have, you contact us however you want. And we will take care of it. The name of our company is The Yes. And I said to Liz, our head of customer service, that is totally the mantra for our customer service agents who really are there to just take care of the customer. So whatever they need, there are no rules. It's really about the customer. I think that we are really excited to learn what's working and what's not. We have gotten a ton, in the first few days, of customer feedback, and it's been so awesome. And I think our goal is for them to feel understood. It's really all about you understand me, you get me, you give me suggestions, you introduce me to new things, you understand my go-tos. And so the experience is definitely one of being able to make each person feel like they have their go-to place. You know, I think about Spotify. When we were working on branding, I was thinking about I really don't want this to look like a certain type of fashion brand. When you look at most companies, they pick a look and that's kind of the look of the brand. And when I think about Spotify, I think everybody... You may love country music and someone else might love pop and someone else might love rap and whatever your... And no one loves just one thing. We're all a blend of many things. But everyone says Spotify as kind of their place for music that they love. And I was really sort of challenging our team. And we worked with this awesome guy, Anthony Sperduti at an agency called Mythology.

Brian: [00:31:28] Oh yeah.

Julie: [00:31:28] It was The Yes, the name, was his brainchild. And at first I was like, what? That's such a weird name. Like, I had all these other names and he totally sold me. And as we were talking about it, I just kept coming back to, you know, I was like, yes, there are multi branded sort of stores. There are Target. There's Sephora. There's all the department stores. But we want our brand to really stand for something, so that consumers connect with it on an emotional level. But we also want to make sure it doesn't stand for one look, you know, or one sort of type of fashion. And so Taylor Tomasi Hill, who is our creative director and fashion director, brought on a team of people she knew and had worked with. And they really just did a phenomenal job of bringing the brand to life in a really fun, high energy positive way, but so that it's clear we're really whatever that mix for you is, that's what we are. And I think we want people to feel connected to us and to our brand because we're there for them. And that's really how I think about it. And, you know, any time I get a note from a customer, I respond. I immediately send it to the whole team and make sure that they're reading the feedback and understanding it. And I'm a little bit kind of maybe overly obsessive about this. But I mean, there isn't sort of an input that I don't take and either, say here's what we need to change or what we need to do about it or what we need to do for the customer. And, you know, I think the whole team has really adopted that attitude. I mean, it's just an incredibly sort of customer centric orientation in the team, and everyone has been... Part of the reason we wanted to launch so much was we're so hungry for customer feedback. And we see ourselves at the very beginning of something that we are going to evolve quite dramatically. What we know is that whatever the experience is today will look very different in the future. And, you know, part of the way we'll do that is by having great ideas for the customers. But the other part of the way we'll do it is by really making sure we're understanding what works and what doesn't for customers.

Brian: [00:33:30] Yeah that's really interesting. So you see your role with the customer as a facilitator, but also as a curator.

Julie: [00:33:39] Yes. Very much so.

Brian: [00:33:43] I think that's really, really interesting. And you're using AI to generate that curation. So that's sort of the secret sauce behind what you're doing is that you're not necessarily building one to one relationships in sort of a traditional clienteling sense. You're using technology to create an experience that's personalized, and then allowing customers to sort of engage with your technology to help make that experience better.

Julie: [00:34:14] Exactly.

Brian: [00:34:14] Where do you see the role of people in this? So you mentioned your head of customer service. You mentioned getting feedback. As you sort of advance and you grow as a business, I think that relationship is people driven, of course. And so do you see, maybe not right now in this moment, but where do you see kind of people fitting into that role of relationship? Do you see there being an element of human interaction involved in this down the road? Where do you see them fitting in?

Julie: [00:34:50] Well, so it's a great question. The first piece of your question was sort of started with the algorithm. And what's interesting is we use really a combination of humans and machine learning to build the platform. So I'll talk about that for a minute and then I'll talk a little bit about the human and the service side of it.

Brian: [00:35:15] Yes.

Julie: [00:35:15] So in order to build really powerful and effective algorithms, you need to understand the category really well. So part of the reason why Facebook and Google and Pinterest and all of these amazing tech companies are doing lots around algorithms and recommendations, and they're all trying to get into shopping, but they're looking at it very broadly at kind of all categories. And so they're not necessarily going anywhere near as deep as we are in the category of fashion. And one size fits all recommendations don't really work. So unless you understand every dimension about an item and how the consumer thinks about shopping in a certain kind of category, and you understand enough about the consumer within this category, it's very hard to make good recommendations. And that's where I really see our opportunity is we've just gone super deep in women's fashion and we will with men's in the future. And so to do that, you need humans in the beginning and then the human input, which is this taxonomy that we've built, is basically... Data is only good as the inputs that it gets. And it's interesting if you talk to someone from Pandora or Spotify, like the way that they built their original algorithms is they had musicians listening and identifying all of the elements of music, so that they could then actually build on top of it and understand the relationship between all the elements of music. And so we did the same thing for fashion. So any given item may have five hundred attributes, and the attributes could range from the length of the sleeve, the color, the construction, the price, the brand, the fit. All of those things are really important to understand as it relates to an item as well as the occasion it could be worn for. Is it dressy? Is it casual? Is it good for spring? Is it good for nighttime? You know, all of those things matter when you want to build basically both a search engine and a recommendation engine that are really smart. And so we had a team of human fashion taxonomists building the input, and we continue to add to it. So it's amazing. I mean, as we're getting into new seasons and as there are new trends, it never ends in fashion. So you have to continue to add to that sort of taxonomy. Then what you do is you use machine, and you train, and you build vectors. And so every item basically has a vector that sort of says this is what it is, and this is how close it is to this other thing. So you understand relationship. So if you're someone who likes cold shoulder, you're probably someone who likes off the shoulder. But if you don't like turtlenecks, you probably won't like mock necks, and you probably won't not like sort of high ruffles. And so you just need to understand the distance between all of these sort of fashion elements in order to be able to make sure you're... Our goal is not to show you exactly what you told us you like. It's to show you all the things that we think you might like related to it and help you explore, too. So then the human comes into play at this sort of last layer, too, where Taylor Tomasi Hill, as I mentioned, who is our fashion director, works with a small team to identify all of the trends that are happening. And then basically we can collect all these styles into relevant categories as a way to surface to users. So we know what the trends are right now. We can surface the right trends for you, and then the machine actually and the algorithm are recommending the items within the trend that are most likely to be relevant to you. So there is a whole mix between humans and machine that is happening in our recommendation system. So that's, I would say, the one way that humans are deeply involved in what we're building.

Brian: [00:39:16] That is so cool. Yes. You're building tastemakers. It's like this combo of like people and AI as the tastemakers for fashion. It's so interesting.

Julie: [00:39:26] Exactly. And you know what's super interesting is... So I am a crazy shopper. And so my friends and my sisters have always come to me and said, I'm looking for this. Can you help me? I can't find it. And I'll go to the 15 web sites that I know will have that and find it for them. But it's a lot of work. And you kind of have to have an expert to, you know, as the world gets sort of more and more web sites out there and more brands and more product, it becomes really overwhelming.

Brian: [00:39:51] Yes.

Julie: [00:39:51] And it's really the onus is on kind of the end user to be able to sort through that. And that's a lot of what we're trying to solve. But it's funny because I think I really understand, you know, my sisters and my friend's tastes and I have probably a 50% hit rate. And it occurred to me, there's so many nuances to it that, like, if AI could really understand and work... It's a bit of a black box, AI. And so I really think it's an area where if you can understand someone sort of fashion taste... If an algorithm can understand better than a human, you can have this like super power recommendation system that is even better than a personal shopper. And so that's the journey we're on. Obviously, we are starting with what I would say is a much better algorithm than anything out there, but it's only going to get better over time.

Brian: [00:40:43] Wow.

Julie: [00:40:43] You know, it's funny. Every day I open the app and I would say, I mean, my team is like, "You are a crazy shopper." But I mean, every day I find new things in our app that are surfaced to me that I'm not looking for. I'm like, "Oh, my God, I love that." And it's so easy to buy that so far I'm probably the biggest shopper on The Yes, but hopefully... We have some new early shoppers from even our first few days who are competing with me. So that's exciting to see.

Brian: [00:41:08] That's amazing. It's interesting you talked about shopping is work. That's actually a big theme that we've talked about on the podcast and at Future Commerce. I wrote an article about how I see shopping is basically our job now. It has kind of become that. And it's interesting, you talk about how you go to like 15 different sites. It's very, very true. Like, you have to go look around to find what you want, even in these these days of Amazon. Like especially when it comes to buying clothes or fashion items. It's very, very... I think Amazon has hardly played even into that ultimately. Like, it's still just another source that you have to go look at. And so  when you talked about...

Julie: [00:41:57] Could I just add one thing to that one?

Brian: [00:41:59] Yes. Go ahead and do that. I have a thought that I want to get into, but yes.

Julie: [00:42:06] What's super interesting about Amazon. Amazon is. I mean, you know, nothing has ever sort of done what Amazon has done. It is just unprecedented and amazing. And I'm in awe of Amazon, but shopping for clothes on Amazon is a nightmare.

Brian: [00:42:20] Nightmare. It's a nightmare.

Julie: [00:42:23] I was looking for... This is really random. But I was looking for a white bikini. I kid you not, there were four pages of basically like three items that kept resurfacing with different...

Brian: [00:42:33] Yes.

Julie: [00:42:34] They were all like $14.99. I'm a high end shopper. I mean it was crazy.

Brian: [00:42:38] Right.

Julie: [00:42:38] It was like someone threw up on these pages. It was unbearable. And the thing that's interesting with Amazon also is because they're becoming really such a big revenue source from like promoted ads and promoted products, you actually don't even trust the results anymore because you're like, who's paying for what? And so to me, it's like Amazon has become the opposite of what we need, unless you know exactly what you want. Sure. If you know exactly what you want and they happen to carry it, it's amazing. And, you know, so don't let me pretend I don't use Amazon on a weekly basis. I use it for things for replenishment, for things that I know I need. The basics.

Brian: [00:43:15] Yes.

Julie: [00:43:15] And the fact that they're ever going to a get into fashion to be able to make that experience great for you within their current infrastructure and protect the brands, which is just not the business they're in. They are the best at knockoffs, which is great. Go do that.

Brian: [00:43:30] Yes.

Julie: [00:43:31] Amazon is not the answer for fashion.

Brian: [00:43:35] I love that. It is not the answer. I totally agree with you. Yeah. I think my point in saying all this is that we have all these quote unquote tools out there and yet it's still so much work. And so that's why we preferred it in the past, we preferred IRL shopping for fun shopping experiences. When we wanted to go have fun and shop for fashion, in-store was the ultimate. But now, in-store is also work. It was already becoming work, I think in many ways. In many ways, department stores sort of lost touch with clienteling and modern experiences that people actually wanted to enjoy while they shopped and got a little bit stuck in their ways. It there was starting to show through the cracks the past, you know, three years. The problem was the economy was doing so well, it was sort of artificially propped everything up. People were still spending money, and so this sort of like dissonance that we were feeling between churn in retail, but actual retail spending in aggregate... There was like this weird confident dissonance between what we felt and how we saw shopping changing and actual spending in retail. And I think that now that we've hit this moment where the economy is in a tough spot. And now it's actually kind of nerve wracking to go out and shop. Or you might not even be able to yet. It actually has become work. So pretty much any way you look at it, whether it be shopping online or shopping in stores going forward, it's actually a big pain. It's something that we don't enjoy anymore. And so this is a horrible use of this... But The Yes... Let's make shopping fun again. Like, let's make shopping something that we can enjoy as a group, as a society. And consume brands and what they've put together as content all over again, both while we're shopping and then when we wear it. That's I think what The Yes does. And I am so excited about it. Thank you, Julie. So much.

Julie: [00:46:15] Couldn't have said it better myself, Brian. {laughter}

Brian: [00:46:21] {laughter} I would love to hear, just as we're kind of running out of time here and we're going into the next hour. Do you have any advice for brands out there? Being in this period of time, for our listeners, do you have any final thoughts before we head off?

Julie: [00:46:39] I mean, I do think that the whole sort of world of fashion and shopping is never going away. I think it will evolve. I think it will change. But I am extremely optimistic and even about stores. I mean, to be honest, I do agree with you. I feel like stores got a bit sterile and lost their way. But shopping in the physical world is a human pastime and entertainment. Since the beginning of mankind there were markets. And so I really believe it's going to come back. Obviously, it's going to change, and it's going to be a weird period when we're all nervous about touching things and being near each other. But that's going to go away. And I do have faith that both sort of physical shopping and online shopping are continuing to get better and will evolve and will remain a human pastime and source of enjoyment. I don't think anyone needs to worry in the long term. There will definitely be some hiccups in the short term.

Brian: [00:47:40] That's so true. What great words end on. Thank you, Julie, so much for coming on the show. It was a pleasure talking to you. I think you can hear I'm quite excited about The Yes. I look forward to shopping the men's section when you release it. I'll be passing this on to my wife. She will be very, very excited to shop on The Yes.

Julie: [00:48:03] Thanks so much, Brian.

Brian: [00:48:03] Yeah. Thank you. And thank you to our listeners for listening. We appreciate you tuning in. And we'd love to have you join in on this conversation. What do you think about the future of browsing and shopping and learning about new brands? And we'd love to hear your thoughts on this conversation, so you can reach out to us at FutureCommerce.fm or on social media, whatever channel that you like to use. Reach out to us there. So reach out. Drop us a line. We want to hear your thoughts. And let's continue to look at how we can shape the world and build a future that we're proud of. Thank you so much for listening.