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: 06/17/2019

    How well did Target handle its no good, very bad weekend?

    No, customers will get over it. The Target promise is too compelling. Conversely, customers who missed the outage will be happy they went to the beach. Target associates and management did a good job of handling a retail nightmare.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2019

    Amazon taps AI to drive fashion recommendations

    AI, deep neural networks, or any other touted new or old technologies all have a blind side. What they should be solving for is individual human sensory preferences. The #1 reason fashion items are returned? Individual sensory preferences issues of fit, look and feel. Solving for visually alike is old thinking and non-effective, parsing the complexities of human cognition into a non-human like solution. Just as useless as using collaborative filtering, segmentation inferred behavior, or wait for it -- the weather -- to recommend items people actually wear on their bodies. Hence, even with all the "new" technologies since the beginning of online shopping for clothes [cira 1995] online apparel retail conversion rates are still 3% and with staggering return rates of 30% to 40%! Lost in the quest for new technologies, human cognition and human sensory preferences. StyleSnap is just another technique based solely on the human-less limitations of computer science. What to solve for? Explicit [implied] versus Implicit [absolute] human behavior. The absolute dichotomy of computer science and human-centric abstraction. No wonder billion dollar verticals still have not crossed the sensory chasm between the physical and digital worlds. Solving for individual human sensory preference is the key.
  • Posted on: 06/12/2019

    Has Barnes & Noble found its savior(s)?

    Libraries and good bookstores, a reader's dream. Unfortunately, shopping Barnes & Noble is a lackluster experience. The presentation lacks inspiration, a hodgepodge of books, shelved in curious ways -- as opposed to the dynamic real-world experience of shopping Amazon bookstores. Whoever buys Barnes & Noble will need to reinvent Barnes & Noble, taking a cue from Amazon. Otherwise, it will still be the same lackluster experience, under new management. Ask a bibliophile, would you rather have more Amazon bookstores or Barnes & Noble bookstores.
  • Posted on: 06/10/2019

    Walmart debuts store-to-fridge fresh food delivery service

    Crazy times! Has Walmart lost its mind? Ok, maybe a few people out of millions have no issue with random people entering their home. The opportunity for misbehavior is rife. Crimes of opportunity. Good media PR sound bites, though.
  • Posted on: 06/07/2019

    How long before Amazon launches its fleet of drones?

    Sacrificing quality of life in one's home or yard so Amazon can deliver a neighbor's deodorant is simply insane. As our cities become more densely populated, our skies become Amazon and Alphabet highways? If the FAA approves this (outside of the big backlash which will occur when everyday people realized how compromised they have become) we, all of us, will be prisoners tortured by the incessant whirling/buzzing noise of drone pollution and drone dodging courtesy of Amazon and Alphabet! Shut the curtains so the Amazon drone can't peek into your home. Whoops, forgot Alexa is already listening. Just like Facebook sells our private information for free, now Amazon and Alphabet get to use the 30 feet above our heads for free. As you can read, I have a strong opinion on this matter! Thanks for listening, good therapy.
  • Posted on: 06/06/2019

    Ace Hardware and True Value satisfy customers, Home Depot not so much

    As a frequent hardware store customer, Home Depot is in full court press with many associates working the vast caverns of the store seeking shoppers who are lost to redirect them. And usually this is where it ends. Unless one gets lucky and accidentally runs into someone with knowledge of the needed solution. Ace is small and has super friendly associates assisting in solving small hardware issues at home. Bottom line, knowledge versus selection. In-store is far and away better than online research. I know from hours of online research and printing out product spec sheets, only to not be able to find the products in stock.
  • Posted on: 06/05/2019

    Walmart’s checkout pilot puts shoppers in the fast lane

    Amazon Go -- easy, pick one item and go. Alternatively, ever try self-checkout at Target? Balancing scanning multiple items ranging in size with a line of shoppers behind waiting their turn! Scanning, bagging, payments -- all are a bit like juggling. Retailers might consider doing stress tests: “employee cashiers” vs. “shopper cashiers” before retailers invest too heavily in technology to replace human store personnel. Oh yeah, has anyone had a good time with self-checkout at Home Depot lately? Try self-checkout with lawn furniture. A real treat! And there is always an attendant standing, watching as we “shopper cashiers” struggle. The mantra heard over and over, year after year, is about the importance of the customer experience. It look and feels some retailers are offloading the customer experience to the customer, so they can navigate their own experience free of pesky store personnel! Huh, what?
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Experience is overrated, hire talent

    Thanks Ian!
  • Posted on: 06/03/2019

    Experience is overrated, hire talent

    Hiring "talent" to work the floor or cashier comes with its own challenges, creating an internal hierarchy/pecking order between what should be equals. Most retailers would do well to hire people who have a real interest and enthusiasm for the role they are hired to do. Team building of equal contributors will foster an emotional connection with the job and enable many different types of "talent" to emerge. It is all about attitude. No room in retail for prima donnas.
  • Posted on: 05/31/2019

    Consumers are changing – or not – in ways that retailers may not understand

    Noise, so much noise in the marketplace. Influencers, social media, rent this, free returns here, pick up at the store, tech-driven shopping. Are there enough hours in a day to list all the noise? Part of the noise is self-inflicted as retailers chase the next new tech-induced light at the end of the tunnel. Apparel sales falling by 3 percent since 1987 cannot be solely blamed on smartphones. Times have changed, very few consumers, especially Millennials chase fashion. Basic wardrobes of jeans, hoodies, t-shirts are the new normal at school and at work. Retailers must acknowledge the days of fashion for fashion's sake are over. About five to seven years ago. Teens to 30 somethings have already abandoned fashion. Old news. New news, fashion basics at retailers like Target, priced to be easy and fun to buy. A footnote rather than a book. This sea change is already cemented. Millennials will move into their 40s and beyond with the same "fashion" sensibilities. It is human nature, as people get older they move further into their comfort zone, especially in what they wear. Retailers who survive will pivot, recognizing the days of fashion-driven assortments are over. Both brands and large department store retailers are still blinded by the past, evidenced by the "boring middle" as Steve Dennis describes in his retail blog. The change is here. Room for a host of new retailers who "get it."
  • Posted on: 05/29/2019

    What’s the secret to driving emotional connections with customers?

    Brand messaging, brand stories and the like set the stage for emotional marketing. Emotional connections between human and brand live within the physical product itself. Humans operate on a cognitive, invisible system of individual human preference, controlling purchase behavior and product decisions. Capitalizing on emotional data requires "emotional mapping" of a product's interactive sensory attributes to elicit an individual’s sensory preferences. Whether through purchase history or interactive self curation, individual customer preference enables true one-to-one contextual interaction and relationships between human and product and brand. Hiding in plain sight there are massive silos of individual customer preference intelligence. Waiting to be discovered and translated at scale!
  • Posted on: 05/28/2019

    Can department stores shake themselves out of the doldrums?

    The definition of "reinvent" according to the dictionary: "Change something so much that appears to be entirely new." it's difficult to change entrenched systems and mindsets. This is further exacerbated by the same brands, the same floor layouts, the same corporate software-driven merchandising plans, the same lack of customer service, the same, same-old. Mindsets have to change! The evidence is crystal clear. Nordstrom is too expensive faced with so many alternative choices. Macy's is a sea awash with merchandise overload, J.C. Penney product merchandising has no meaning, no "wow I need to buy this!" Kohl's, great for active apparel and Amazon returns, with room left to bowl down the aisles. While this analysis seems harsh, it is. Flip the mindsets. Less is more. Curation by location, like the old days, when there was a reason to drive to the store. Retail has lost sight of merchants. Real merchants who understand the "known, unknown" of consumer sentiment. Target has figured it out for Target. Now each retailer needs to figure out their own "entirely new" or disappear into the past. I firmly believe reinvention is possible. After all, think about all the great moving parts that can be reorganized, remerchandised, redisplayed, repriced, and reinvented.
  • Posted on: 05/23/2019

    Can a startup undercut Rent the Runway in the clothing rental space?

    Yes, price is very important to get new customers "in the door." But price takes a back seat to the customer experience. The impediment, just like online shopping, is that a shopper has to spend the time to find what she wants to rent. This requires searching a vast selection of styles, fits, shapes, fabrications, brands, seeking her own "taste" preferences to find a dress, for example, that she likes. Then there's additional time spent reading reviews, seeking to find others who have rented the same dress, who are close to her height, weight and bra size. Time to shop is a requirement and an investment. That said, this is a new generation of shoppers used to a digital interface for most aspects of their lives. The die is not already cast. If renting clothes becomes a norm in apparel, then there is a huge opportunity for new startups to differentiate themselves in their rental offerings, just like any other apparel retailer.
  • Posted on: 05/22/2019

    Should retail boards include seats for store associates?

    Politics ... A feel-good, Hollywood movie ending with the little guy/gal overcoming great odds to earn a seat on a corporate board. The audience is reduced to tears and happiness abounds! In the real world, retailers like Walmart would benefit by filling a board seat with an experienced negotiator, who through personal experience empathizes with the little guy/gal. Someone with the ability to navigate board politics to increase wages, sick days and a host of other benefits Bernie is seeking to "enforce."
  • Posted on: 05/21/2019

    When the going gets tough, the tough get transparent

    Corporate perfection is a myth. If the IPOs of today can gain billion dollar valuations without earning a penny, engage workers into low wages resulting in strikes, while all the while selling off our personal data, Rothy's is a standout! Imagine being transparent about a production problem. Public tolerance seems to be high for orchestrated (one eye shut) responses to massive breaches of personal information. Quite refreshing to see a crisis of production!

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