The app on a mission to change shopping for good

A new artificial intelligence-powered app called The Yes is set to drastically change the way consumers shop by building a virtual store around the individual needs of each user.

Yesterday, after a year of teasing the launch of their new startup, e-commerce veteran Julie Bornstein and her technical co-founder, Amit Aggarwal, finally launched The Yes, an exciting new shopping platform they’ve been quietly building for 18 months that’s on a mission to save retail. ‘Since the pandemic began, we’ve felt more and more compelled to get out there to help our brands, all of whom are feeling the impact of the retail stores closing, or orders being cancelled by their retail partners. It’s an interesting time because we all need a bit of levity and escape, and The Yes is just that.’

Courtesy of its Silicon Valley-approved sophisticated algorithms, The Yes aims to streamline and personalise online shopping, creating tailor-made experiences for each individual user. Amidst the huge changes the fashion industry has undergone in recent weeks, from major brands and struggling small businesses filing for bankruptcy, to designers and top executives calling for an overhaul of the traditional seasonal structure, fashion’s future may be in flux, but Bornstein is betting on this new way for us to shop.

‘To be a shopper online these days you really have to be a pro,’ she says. ‘There are so many sites, so many brands, and it’s just completely overwhelming. It’s also a one-size-fits-all approach, and the truth is, every time you go to shop, even on sites you’re loyal to, you have to look through tons of crap that’s not relevant to you no matter how many times you’ve been there.’

With the primary goal of hyper-personalising every product choice to the user’s specific taste while also relieving decision fatigue, ‘no two people will ever have the same experience on The Yes,’ she says — it’s the ultimate definition of segmentation. ‘What we’re doing is providing an opportunity to stop scrolling and start shopping. This idea that when I want a black dress and you want a black dress and we both get served up the exact same results, if you actually think about it, it feels antiquated.’

In many ways, The Yes takes a page from the Netflix and Spotify playbook. By removing the hassle of having to sift through too many dizzying choices, it has a key competitive advantage. Combining the many options of the department store experience with the personalised attention of a local boutique, it offers the best of both worlds and is essentially like having a personal shopper over your shoulder who’s taking notes on what caught your eye and what you grimaced at.

So, how does it work?

Once you’ve downloaded the app (which for now is only available in America), you’re immediately directed to a survey designed to learn more about your general aesthetic. With questions ranging from sizing preferences and what kind of tops/bottoms you usually wear, to favourite brands and your ideal colour palette, the answers you provide will help curate an entire shopping feed unique to you. Nobody — not even your best friend, sibling, roommate, or the person you tend to share everything with — will have a similar style selection. What’s more, every time you then go to open the app, you’ll be presented with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option alongside whatever pops up that provides even more data so the app can renew and refresh its offerings. And you won’t even need to trawl through the web to ensure you’re getting the best price either because it comes with patent-pending price-match tech that takes you to the most affordable items out there.

As for the 150 brands currently on board, from indie favourites like Cult Gaia, La Ligne, and Staud, to mainstream names Acne Studios and Everlane, to high-end labels such as Balenziaga and Bottega Veneta, to selection is incredibly far-reaching. ‘We really run the gamut of helping customers fill out their entire wardrobe and not really being fixated on one level of the price point spectrum or another,’ says Bornstein. ‘We worked tirelessly to refine the list to ensure that we launched with an assortment of fashion-forward brands from luxury to DTC to cool new ones representing price points from high to low. Our lens is fashion, our price point is democratic.’

The rise of direct-to-consumer brands online has, for a long time, meant that many consumers have developed a habit of gravitating towards a specific set of brands or they like and ignoring the opportunity to explore others as the might in a brick-and-mortar store. ‘Discovery is an important part of the platform,’ says Bornstein. ‘We want to introduce you to new styles and new products that you may not have encountered otherwise.’

What The Yes does so right, is provide the kind of range we find ourselves naturally expecting from e-tailers like Nordstrom and department stores, but without the incessant filtering and scrolling (or running around). And with all photos on the app directly sourced from the brand’s own websites, you’re also able to see items exactly the way they were intended to be seen.

As we emerge into a changed retail landscape post Covid-19, The Yes might just be the new normal, a genuinely simple shopping experience with the added benefit of being a community-like platform where you can share what you like with others. This is also a strong social and viral component that’s particularly appealing to Gen Z. It’s a fresh approach to shopping that brings a deeper understanding of what consumers are truly craving and one that’s bound to succeed as a result.

So, if you’re bored during lockdown and as style-obsessed as I am, why not take a look? It’s a no-brainer really, especially considering that for every app download, the company will be donating $1 to Good+Foundation and its efforts towards helping families facing hunger, poverty, and unstable housing during the crisis. I’m just hoping it goes international soon.

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