NEW YORK (
) -- While traditional e-commerce retailers like
tout their massive catalogues with millions of products as selling points for consumers, a host of new start-ups are looking to do just the opposite: make buying decisions easier by limiting choice.
Rather than display an endless list of products for consumers to browse, these anti-Amazons, most of which sell their own designs and solicit the creative help of celebrities and stylists, show just a handful of items that are suggested based on users' tastes. The technology is known as the push shopping e-commerce model.
, a two-year old start-up out of Santa Monica, Calif., asks users to take a style personality quiz, and every month selects five pairs of shoes, handbags and jewelry for a customer based on her survey results. The company touts actress Kim Kardashian as its chief stylist, and employs nearly a dozen other fashion experts who help choose ShoeDazzle's picks for customers.
While a computer algorithm helps narrow down which products the site should recommend to users, the company's stylists are responsible for the final selection of items that end up in a customer's showroom.
"If I'm looking for a black pump amid the hundreds of thousands being carried, we say we have a good understanding of you, we know what your fashion profile is and here are five shoe options," said Deborah Benton, ShoeDazzle's Chief Operating Officer. "It avoids having this massive fishing expedition."
ShoeDazzle operates as a subscription model, charging customers $39.95 per month to purchase an item -- if users don't like the goods that have been picked for them, they can skip the month without being charged. The company designs its goods in-house and manages all of its own fulfillment and customer service operations, which helps reduce overhead costs.
ShoeDazzle declined to specify the total number of items it has in its inventory but said it ranks "in the thousands." The company also won't say how many customers it serves, but boasts a huge following on social networking sites like
, started last year by
co-founder Josh Berman in Santa Monica, Calif., operates in a similar monthly subscription model via its jewelry site, JewelMint. After signing up, users take a quiz and the site recommends several pieces of jewelry -- designed by actress Kate Bosworth and her stylist, Cher Coulter.
"We've created a curated experience that's like having a personal shopper," said Patricia Nakache, a partner at Trinity Venture Partners, which has invested in BeachMint. "It understands your taste and makes a decision easier every month."
While ShoeDazzle and BeachMint have attracted attention because of their celebrity backing, other less-known push e-commerce start-ups, including
in El Segundo, Calif. and U.K.-based
, have flourished as well, offering customers shoes and bags hand-selected from tastemakers like top fashion editors and wardrobe stylists.
The model has also moved outside women's accessories and into beauty (
in New York) and men's clothing (
The Trunk Club
While a host of e-commerce start-ups have begun to adopt the push shopping model, some industry analysts believe these types of businesses may run into trouble by limiting consumer choice.
and other accessories are so personal and the chances that they'll find a product that you like every time is a tall order," said Sucharita Mulpuru, an e-commerce analyst at Forrester. "You have to think, 'wouldn't it be better to pick out my own things at
Not so, said Jeremy Liew, a director at Lightspeed Venture Partners in Menlo Park, Calif. and an investor in ShoeDazzle, who sees the model as the future of Internet shopping.
"The first generation of e-commerce was about making shopping functional, then shopping comparison engines came along and then review sites," he said. "This new generation is about making shopping fun."
--Written by Olivia Oran in New York.
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