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. To learn more, visit:
  • Posted on: 12/17/2018

    RH’s new location is a ‘luxury compound’

    Modern sleek meets ornamental. A fabulous vision into the current world of look-alike home improvement and home furnishing offerings, all variations on the same theme. Upscale vacationer or current consumers are tired of variations of the same "look" at every retailer. RH is carefully testing how much to move the needle to the new modern, sleek ornamental vision of home furnishings and in turn, home finishes. Smart move. Merely opening experiential one-off locations does not make a success for any retailer. RH is carefully morphing a new consumer "taste" profile into a fresh approach versus the current redundancy across the home furnishing category. Excellent move, grounded in RH quality built products.
  • Posted on: 12/14/2018

    Does Starbucks have a big delivery opportunity?

    A cup of Starbucks delivered at home? At the office? Out of occasional desperation, possibly. It seems wasteful for both humans and the environment. Not to mention constant Starbucks price increases.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2018

    Is Kroger following the Sears playbook for self-destruction?

    Kroger's in-store customer experience appears to be on a downward slide. Focus on the basics. Hire associates who stay longer than a few months. Lift the attitude in the store. Return to offering fresh produce and stop pricing things like Whole Foods. Kroger used to be neighborly to shop, with weekly deals. Digital is a shiny impediment if it means sacrificing the store.
  • Posted on: 12/11/2018

    Should Amazon buy Target?

    Target is on a roll. Back in the swing for a while now of offering cool products in an easy to shop format. And who are the majority of Target customers? Women! Why? Target is an experiential experience, for products purchased based on human emotion. Conversely, shopping Amazon is a linear, non-emotional, often tedious process ferreting out which third-party seller to place an order with. Why does Amazon struggle with women's apparel? Amazon apparel offerings are soulless knockoffs of best-selling styles, counterintuitive to how women shop. Amazon is no Target! Just saying ...
  • Posted on: 12/10/2018

    Walmart wants your walls

    Walmart's new editorial style images lift Walmart into the sphere of affordable fashion for home. While purchasing a home may be out of range for many Millennials, creating a personal space is not given Walmart's new modern range of all things home. is a smart acquisition, offering design inspiration, modernizing each Walmart Shop by Style option. This is clearly an advantage for Walmart over Target and Amazon. Target's home decor offerings have narrowed with the focus on Magnolia Home, which is a specific look. Amazon is very tedious to shop for anything to do with fashion, compounded by third-party vendors selling seconds as new. Acquiring is a smart move, opening up the door to new demographics of first-time Walmart shoppers.
  • Posted on: 12/07/2018

    Have retail store associates fallen into a hypnotic state?

    Retail selling floors are a funny place. It seems everyone is there for a different reason working for hourly pay and with few or no benefits. "Fresh" comes from the top. Associates in a hypnotic state reflect all the levels of store leadership that touch the floor. Store managers must not come off as drill sergeants. Given human nature, the retail selling floor can be rampant with hierarchy, posturing and a few hourly workers just doing their time. Delivery of a cure (or cures) must be perceived by associates as management's genuine high regard for them, inspiring the associate from within to elevate him/herself. The flip side is fodder for negative feelings/conversations towards management.
  • Posted on: 12/06/2018

    What is the dollar value of trust?

    Trust is more of a "show-me" than an "ask me." A uniquely personal, relevant offer speaks volumes over plying a consumer with "transparent" language on how their data is used and shared. All under the guise of demonstrating trust? A policy of depending on the consumer to read, process and determine if they should trust a retailer is completely counterintuitive to "show-me" why I should trust you, my retailer. Retailers have so many initiatives in play at once, it can be overwhelming to the consumer. Thinking holistically from the consumer viewpoint is rare, evidenced by current retailer trust strategies. A unique emotional connection with a consumer requires a new way of thinking.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2018

    Are subscriptions an untapped gifting opportunity for retailers?

    The idea of subscriptions is great! Especially if one loves the product. The caveat is that after a few months the glow of excitement is replaced with a product(s) the customer does not like. Dealing with this entails figuring out what to do with the items one does not want, like or love. Regifting, stuffing in closets, etc. Not to be banal but, clearly, it takes a great understanding of one's brand and one's customer to knock it out of the park, month after month. I agree niche opportunities abound for subscriptions! Yet even "Fruit of the Month" is a bit overwhelming at some point.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2018

    Can Gap cut its way to profitability?

    It is the product. Gap has not reinvented itself since the beginning. Internally, I am guessing there are strict product rules to follow, written in stone with the belief of maintaining its core customer who has long since moved on. In my years of being hired to go in and reinvent a brand, with the exception of one company, the mindset of leadership is the cog that stops the wheel of reinvention. It always starts the same. Sure, lip service to the promise of a bright new future sounds great for a while. But then slowly but surely, turf wars break out. Those with the loudest voice politically complain up the chain of command and voila! It is back to the comfort zone of the past. Shrinking stores as a path to profitability is an aid to help Gap leadership manage their role in Gap's path to irrelevancy. A tragedy of human nature.
  • Posted on: 11/29/2018

    Store employees of the future will be affiliates, not associates

    I'm not sure why it's an either/or situation between an affiliate and an associate. Both roles are completely different on the sell side. I see the affiliate role breaking open new opportunities for both the retailer and affiliate while the associate staff is in the store day in and day out. There are many underserved segments in influencer marketing, beyond Millennials and teens. Both Walmart (especially and Nordstrom customers have the same needs, just in different price points and aesthetics. An opportunity to build an affiliate-based business direct to an individual segment by an affiliate who gets that segment is exciting. As far as marketing and protecting the retailer's brand, guidelines can be in place. It always amazes me how an influencer can put together an outfit based on trend but in a completely organic versus a commercialized version. I bet there are a number of men and women past the age of 40 who would love an influencer at Walmart or Nordstrom to inspire them with new ways of dressing the same way!
  • Posted on: 11/28/2018

    Can customer lifetime value scores work against retailers?

    CLV as a method to rank a customer and once it is known to a customer it may elicit unintended consequences. To some, it may feel like being graded against some unknown metric as to their (human) value to a particular retailer. To others Big Brother watching and to some it will not matter. Retailers need to be very careful with CLV profiling. Rating one customer against another does not serve a customer. A dangerous ranking once exposed could anger many customers into retaliating and shopping with a retailer they know they can trust. What happened to the "good old days" of carefree shopping, where a shopper could be a shopper and have some fun?
  • Posted on: 11/26/2018

    Are Black Friday results a sign of Christmas 2018 things to come?

    Sales may be up, but the digital shopping experience has miles to go to before it is easy and seamless. Personally, I was exhausted and gave up on Black Friday. Using specification filters and clicking through on banner prompts for great deals lead to the same place most times. Shopping for shoes, clothes or handbags, forget it. When I logged into Amazon, recommended for me were doormats, braces for door wells, and a bunch of things I have never even shopped for on Amazon. Shopping Nike shoes on Amazon lead to way too many redundant recommendations and out-of-stock third-party sellers. The Nike offerings seemed like "private label" by Nike for Amazon when double checking against Try shopping for a handbag on Amazon. Forget it! No filters! Just "Recommended for You!" Awful handbags, but "Sponsored!" Shopping Nordstrom, Macy's, The Rack, Neimans, Saks, Off 5th, Final Call, etc. lead to specification-driven/collaborative filtered lackluster results. Then dynamic pricing came into effect! By that time with no purchases I quit! Today is Cyber Monday, we will see how that shipping experience goes. Bottom line, I do think of the sales lost Friday due to technology. Shopping is a discovery experience to a point! Without relevant results? Back to the mall for holiday shopping? Human-like shopping technologies have miles to go impeded by fancy pricing and marketing plays...
  • Posted on: 11/20/2018

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Big Lots vs. Dick’s Sporting Goods

    A Dick's commercial pulling at my heartstrings! Who knew Dick's had ping pong tables! The clear winner, Dick's! Memorable because the commercial touches a basic human emotion, memories.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2018

    Can Walmart turn its haters into lovers?

    The quality of Walmart's customer service like any other subject is subjective to each of our own world views. That being said, no one likes being treated like a dolt when seeking sales assistance in a massive store. Given the media attention and PR, Walmart has attracted recently in acquiring more upscale brands, brilliant customer service should be at the top of the retailer's list. Yet in reality, it seems the corporate view is to leverage new shopping technologies as customer service. A technology overdose, replacing the only human interaction touchpoint between Walmart the brand and its customers. A competitive advantage over Amazon.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2018

    I don’t like Amazon as much as I did last week

    I agree with you, Paula. All a big sham. Personally, I have lived and witnessed the overtaking of Seattle by Amazon. Seattle has lost a portion of its soul to Amazon. Meanwhile, tax incentives enable Amazon to flourish and embed itself into people's lives through cheaper prices, superhuman fast deliveries, in-home monitoring, etc. AND at the same time integrating itself into every aspect of our lives, ranging from health care to real estate. The old adage is true "nothing is for free." Possibly, we consumers without realizing it are also losing some of our soul. We all will find out soon enough.

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