Cynthia Holcomb

Founder | CEO, Prefeye - Preference Science Technologies Inc.
Cynthia Holcomb, CEO and Founder of Prefeye, is pioneering the Art and Science of Preference. Her mission: humanize the digital experience, crossing the current emotional and sensory engagement barriers imposed by the digital world.

Prefeye technologies are inspired by Cynthia’s 20+ years in the apparel and fashion industry, designing and building products for dozens of retailers and brands, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Lord and Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom Product Group, Pendleton, QVC, Speedo and the home products industry.

As Design Director to Nordstrom, Cynthia spent years watching shoppers make the decision to purchase or NOT to purchase. Curious, this led to 15 years of research and technological development based on the cognitive sciences of psychology, artificial intelligence and neuroscience. Cynthia’s focus: develop an agnostic, digital platform to decode how information is represented, processed, and transformed by human sensory perception, memory and emotion into the decision to purchase a product or brand by an individual shopper.

Prefeye, Cynthia’s 5th startup, is a preference recommendation platform, individually preference-matching people to products. Prefeye is the digital equivalent of in-store shopping for products humans purchase based on emotion and individual sensory preference. Products like apparel, cars, homes, home furnishings, shoes and art.

Cynthia’s work has appeared in Time Magazine, CNN, WWD and Apparel Technology. Cynthia holds a B.S. in Clothing and Textile Science. Nine patents filed in Preference shopping science.

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  • Posted on: 08/10/2018

    Can on-demand sales stabilize Blue Apron?

    On-demand offerings at scale seem very unlikely considering meal kits for many consumers are high-end products with time-sensitive perishable contents. Many people, depending on their mood, do not know what they want for dinner until just before dinner! Retail partnerships seem like a more viable path if there truly is a place for meal kits in the marketplace over time. There is a thin line between frozen meals with a long shelf life and heavily packaged meal kits. Both are processed, containing food in non-recyclable pouches. Are packaged meal kits really "fresh"? Are today's meal kits the frozen food category of the future? Looks like the verdict will be leveled soon.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Report says voice commerce is all talk

    Missing in this article is the fact people/shoppers will still have individual preferences, whether for soup or toilet paper, let alone items like socks, which people actually wear on their bodies. Shopping is not a utility, like a browser or a floppy disk. Shopping is personal with outcomes, and if lousy, can ruin an otherwise good day. Turning one's life over to Alexa as a shopping convenience has yet to work because people are not lemmings. Yes, Alexa is clunky, and yes, a new way of shopping takes time to adapt to, but it is more than that! Fundamentally for voice to work, technologists need to shift from linear, computer science decision trees, inferred behavior or collaborative filtering, etc. techniques and focus on the way humans cognitively make the decision to purchase; human emotion and individual sensory preferences. Imagine voice-activated, mobile shopping experiences "Alexa, I need a pair of black pants." "Siri, I need a dress to wear to the Smith wedding." This is the chasm Alexa, Siri and Google need to cross. Not "Alexa order me a can of tomato soup."
  • Posted on: 08/07/2018

    Where does art end and retail begin?

    This is the "art" of merchandising fully expressed; art created to generate the passionate interest of those moved to emotion at the intersection of art and fashion. Fashion and art are intertwined, whether on a runway or at the Whitney. Why do people spend money on trinkets leaving the museum? To remind themselves of the emotional high they experienced inspired by the intersection of art and fashion.
  • Posted on: 08/06/2018

    Are outsiders required to tackle disruption?

    Vision is an elusive quality, not always understood or hiding in plain sight to those in the C-Suite. Years have passed since C-Suiters experienced the hands-on touch and feel of being on the retail floor. Would today's C-Suite know to hire Steve Jobs over Ron Johnson? Retailers have had their eye off the ball for 20 years watching paint dry, as Amazon boldly and singlehandedly disrupted retail globally. Retailers are still trying to play catch up, trying this or that to find a fix! Amazon embraced technology as a vehicle to reach millions and millions of individual people with their brand and products. Let's face it, exemplary retailers have a talent, built on hands-on, real-world experience, enabling the mastery of the Art and Science of retail. What is missing from retail is not knowledgeable retailers, but big picture, tech-savvy retailers. The "new idea" to disrupt retail via C-Suite hires from other C-Suite big corporations is missing the mark. There is an adage I have observed over my years in retail: companies would rather throw money to "try" to fix something, rather than delve into a problem to find a real solution. Hidden in plain sight within retail organizations are rising stars, without a C-Suite resume.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2018

    Will in-home 3D scanner drive online clothing sales?

    Individual human "fit preferences" are not based on body measurements, nor body scans. Individual humans purchase apparel based individual sensory preferences of fit, look and feel; how a garment fits their body, feels on their body and looks on their body in the mirror. It is not about measurements. Some people like clothes loose, some tight. Clothes are 3-D products. Adding even more subjectivity to individually preferred, sensory-based, subjective fit preferences. And because all apparel brands fit differently, even with the exact same measurements, digital matching of an individual person to an individual product does not and has not worked -- ever -- using body measurements! Why? Even within the same brand, there are hundreds of variables, including EASE (the added space so a human can get the garment on his/her body), which affect the fit and shape of a garment. Fit and shape brand standards are what patterns are based on. They add ease to a range of product classifications and styles, greatly affecting fit and shape outcomes multiplied by differences in fibers, fabrications, country and style of manufacture, fiber/fabric color, styling details, whether the product is lined or unlined, etc. The list of variables is long. Back to EASE. How and where a brand adds ease into dozens of the afore-listed variables to create the shape and fit of the product creates dozens of "micro-fits" within the same brand, in the same category. Size is not fit! Measurements are not fit! Take a minute to people watch at the mall to see for yourself the real-life results of individual fit preferences in action.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Who in retailing’s c-suites should drive customer experience?

    Why do CX and CX tech stakeholders need to be aligned? Why is there a question of who is more critical, CMOs or IT [CIOs/CTOs]? These questions are not about CX, but about territorial internal politics within an organization. Exacerbated by very different internal perspectives of what CX is. This is not rocket science! What ever the title, hire someone who has a passion for the customer experience, knowledgable about technology, who can walk their talk with the tech leaders. Retailers need to leverage technology to create holistic CX. Technology is the vehicle, not the driver. 20 years plus into digital retailing, now is the time!
  • Posted on: 08/01/2018

    Kroger Ship to take on Amazon’s Prime Pantry

    This is simply now one of the established methods of grocery delivery Kroger must match to remain relevant to their competition. It's great news for Kroger loyalists, as they curiously watch their neighbors receive daily packages from Amazon. Now they too can ride the digital shopping wave right into their pantry.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2018

    What can retailers do about consumer’s AI concerns?

    AI is a huge, broad sweeping discipline rapidly integrating itself into every aspect of human life, technology touches. AI is also the buzzword of the year, a sound bite used as shorthand to describe most new technologies, whether they have an AI component or not. Consumers have had so much of their personal information culled by Facebook, etc. I think the fear actually begins with the retailer. Retailers do not understand how and what AI can do for their businesses, as there are 100s of retail AI application possibilities. The fear factor, the disconnect in knowledge and understanding of AI/tech confuses the issue of AI potential with fear of not knowing what, if anything the retailer can or should do to capitalize on AI. I believe senior level decision makers, to remain competitive must be educated to understand retail technologies and the opportunity of new AI applications. To achieve this goal, bridge the gap between retail and tech by educating an internal team of retailers to the role of Merchant Technologists. MTs to be led by the Chief Merchant Technologist, a person deeply experienced in art and science of retail, the customer experience, and retail technology. Otherwise for retailers, quagmire -- the same muddled mess of disparate tech solutions yielding less than optimum results. Only this time, hit and miss AI solutions with possible unexpected customer consequences.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2018

    Having little luck with Millennials, J.C. Penney refocuses on middle-age women

    It must be very difficult to be working inside J.C. Penney over the past decade or so. Imagine being in the trenches with top management COMPLETELY changing direction consistently and randomly, issuing new standards and practices. Reinvention is very difficult to achieve, as history shows very few retailers or brands have been able to execute a reinvention. The criticism JCP stepped away from middle-aged women as customers to focus on Millennials is just plain old rhetoric, used to sidestep the real issue. The real issue: lack of vision and clarity on behalf of senior leadership hired to lead, leadership without the depth of talent and experience needed to execute in apparel, let alone a reinvention. Millennials will be middle-aged in the not too distant future, replacing current middle-aged customers. The new CEO must reinvent by offering products reflective of the current retail environment, not chasing old brands and new customer segments JCP is not equipped internally to execute to (design, product, the look and feel of JCP stores, etc.). After all, shoppers can go to Costco to buy the basics of the old Liz and Calvin brands.
  • Posted on: 07/25/2018

    Kroger’s 90-day terms have CPG suppliers seeing red

    As always, manufacturers are at the mercy of large retailers. Given the average American's view of the large corporation versus the "little guy," this move could definitely generate negative news in the media for Kroger. Kroger customers expect quality products. It seems like Kroger is building its new apparel lines and other new initiatives on the backs of suppliers.
  • Posted on: 07/24/2018

    Is robotic micro-fulfillment the path to streamlined grocery pickup?

    Wholesome food on the table. Short of this, many will likely be disappointed with the quality of "fresh foods." Fresh foods stacked in towers in dense warehouses seen only by robots will make quality control an issue. Although freshness in food quality is subjective, just as eating at Chipotle is different than McDonald's, price plays a part. In grocery, the price is a sliding scale for what the market will bear. Safeway, Kroger and the rest now charge a premium for the same exact product grocers like WinCo sell for 10 percent to 30 percent less. Then there are many who hate to grocery shop and have little interest in food. This trade-off is not a trade-off at all.
  • Posted on: 07/19/2018

    Seven ways Gen Z is different that don’t include tech

    Digital savviness, over the brief time Gen Z'ers have been alive, has set the stage for new ways of doing things in the physical world. A conundrum: which came first? Tech or Gen Z behavior? There are many influences in the world, but none as pervasive as technology. Smart marketers will adjust their thinking from marketing to understanding, over time, how technology will shape the hearts and minds of physical world experiences for Gen Z.
  • Posted on: 07/18/2018

    Target’s inside app continually crowdsources design ideas

    Win-Win! Yes! Beats the heck out looking at PAST sales and sell-through. Future, forward-looking inputs by 600 or so Target customers is so far beyond dry, metric-driven analytics. Human inputs on this scale directed to Target designers encompass the subtleties and nuances designers seek to understand. A solid platform for customers to speak and retail designers to listen. This would have great fun in the days when I was a Design Director. As for crowdsourcing, a different venue, not filtered for context, impacting the viability of understanding customer preference.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2018

    Walmart and Microsoft team up to slow Amazon’s roll

    The answer to this announcement is complex. Is the excitement about computing power, big name leverage, back-end operations or the possibility and opportunity of human-driven AI cognitive processing? Microsoft, not currently known for intuitive successes (Bing) and Walmart with its teams of developers (Walmart Labs) working to crack human-based AI applications seem an unlikely merger of disparate modes of thinking. The partnership hints at solutions requiring Microsoft to have deep insights and knowledge of how an individual human makes the emotional decision to purchase a specific product like apparel, home furnishings, food, shoes, etc. Retailers are not technologists and technologists are not retailers. While both struggle to solve for relevant AI-enabled, customer-centric solutions in the digital world. As far as Amazon? Good PR for Walmart, furthering Walmart's efforts to keep a horse in the race.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2018

    Need a nap? Casper opened a store for that

    Publicity plus ... This is an excellent leverage of the brand and the product. As a standalone, one-stop sleep destination, not so much! I read the Glossy reporter's Dreamery experience this past weekend and it sounds like a lot of work to doze off, even with a treat of Riley face wash. A great marketing and educational vehicle. Good clean fun. Might be the new facial or manicure for high-end spas?

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