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: 11/14/2019

    Shoptalk makes a statement with a conference featuring only women speakers

    "Women only" speaking fully demonstrates exactly how low the bar is for women in the business of retail. Only women speaking at a conference means nothing in light of the hidden male bias embedded in algorithms. Women think differently than men, it is a fact. Female AI is the new challenge for women to solve to move towards parity with men.
  • Posted on: 11/13/2019

    Study: Consumers don’t enjoy doing their holiday shopping online

    Online holiday shopping is tedious at best. Hours and hours of time, searching, hunting, reading reviews, imagining the product in the physical world. Too many choices, too many third-party sellers selling the same item, requiring shoppers to investigate the merchant delivery record in the hope that the gift will arrive on time. In the beginning, online shopping was billed as efficient with vast selections of merchandise. In reality, holiday online shopping is inefficient and overwhelming. UPS expects soaring holiday returns this year; with a peak return day 26 percent higher than 2018. In 2018 online returns reached $207 billion. Conversion remaining at 3 percent means 97 percent of shoppers are not enjoying their shopping experience!
  • Posted on: 11/12/2019

    What’s in store for retail in 2020?

    Until retailers face the fact that technology is the key to linking all the pieces together at scale, the blurring of lines, IoT, and support networks will be nothing but talking points. All trends will be impacted by the technical chops of leadership and the people they select to once and for all connect the dots between the business, the product, and the consumer under the mantle of a retailer's reason for being, existing to inspire. Leveraging talent and AI are key. Retailers, as master merchants, must dive deep into technology to take part in creating a holistic customer experience for their brand. Amazon sure knows how to do this! C-suite needs visionaries to engage and inspire the troops, which means seeking talent outside the walls of inside politics and fiefdoms. Change happens incrementally. Without a solidly engaged C-suite and technical roadmap? Well, we have all seen the effect of failure in mass store closings.
  • Posted on: 11/08/2019

    Gap Inc.’s CEO steps down. What comes next?

    The focus “on strong leadership candidates with operational excellence to drive greater efficiency, speed and profitability" is actually the problem. No mention of the product. Very sad.
  • Posted on: 11/07/2019

    Can J.C. Penney reinvent itself with its offbeat lab store?

    Reinvention rarely works. J.C. Penney might look to Nordstrom, a master of reinvention over a decades-long, continuous reinvention while still staying true to both product and customer. The lab seems like noise, a distraction of focus to avoid the real challenge -- does J.C. Penney have a place in 21st century retail? Such thinking requires tremendous bravery on the part of leadership. Outsiders are connecting the dots, as insiders avoid hunkering down to problem-solve for a real reinvention of JCP. Meanwhile, distractions like spa treatments, selfies, video gaming, and barbershops seek to engage a customer to buy services rather than products. Promoting services rather than product indicates internally JCP leadership does not have a relevancy plan in place.
  • Posted on: 11/06/2019

    Will consumers decide that buying less is better than buying ‘green’?

    "Limited environmental impacts" is a subjective statement. Just as "organic" is subjective to thousands and thousands of individual product variables in the food supply chain. Environmentally speaking there seems to be a big "trade-off" hack going on masquerading as being "green." A few examples. Does the trade-off of renting clothes, for instance, involving packing, shipping, delivery, dry cleaning the same garment dozens of times being delivered over time to dozens of people, multiplied by thousands of products, reduce the environmental effect of buying the garment? Or how about buying "green" products on Amazon? Because digital shopping is devoid of sensory cues experienced in the physical world, it is a common practice for people to buy two or three of the same item knowing they will return two of the items. What is the cost of reverse logistics to the environment? Lastly, we see news of major companies secretly burning millions and millions of returned products, as the only economical method to dispose of millions of products. Just like most everything else in the world of "awareness" marketing, "the devil is in the details" truly applies to "green buying." Buying less is healthy for both humans and the environment in my opinion. For more insights watch this CNBC report.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2019

    Nordstrom nails its NYC flagship opening

    Bravo to Nordstrom. I know from my years at Nordstrom that the NYC flagship is a decades-long vision realized. While others have closed flagships, Nordstrom continues to be one of the best merchants in the world. Nordstrom does not chase business, Nordstrom leads with class and style, always true to the customer while giving each associate the freedom to thrive.
  • Posted on: 10/29/2019

    AI needs to be more than just a bright, shiny object

    Retailers have only themselves to blame. Retailers have had at least 20 years to learn and understand the digital world. AI and its retail applications are reflective of the fact that retail technologies continue to evolve whether the C-suite has an interest or not. Here is the deal, a person or entity can only be "taken for a ride" if they choose to be ignorant. Digital is not a side note, it is the business of retail today. With digital comes the opportunity to leverage new retailer-specific customized AI driven solutions in many areas from improving ROI in the supply chain to banishing the bane that is the $208 billion return market by offering shoppers recommendations based on a shopper's sensory preferences. The litmus test for a retailer? Know what you are solving for, which is a human problem. The use of technology is the opportunity for a digital solution to solve a physical world problem. Take the time to talk with vendors, dig deep into detailed use cases you are trying to solve, ask many questions. Track the solution from beginning to end with the vendor or consultant. Learn on the job! Track the humanness of the solution the vendor offers. Does it make common sense to your business; to an individual customer? Retail is technology, requiring an investment of time to understand and then to solve the big ROI drains retailers face in the digital world. A quote I recently heard is that there is "not enough thinking going on" in retail.
  • Posted on: 10/28/2019

    What makes voice assistants creepy?

    Seriously, suspending disbelief that Alexa is always listening is to ignore the facts. Alexa targeted advertising is the tip of the iceberg, as they say. Whoever they are, they seem to be right. But creepiness is not confined to Alexa. My iPhone asked me out of the blue the other day how I liked lunch at a restaurant I had visited the day before. My iPhone, without being asked, guesses where I am going and how long it will take to get there. Who or what else is observing our day-to-day life? Likely all this data will become the basis for AI enabled "listening" to every aspect of our lives. To what end?
  • Posted on: 10/25/2019

    What does artificial intelligence mean for loyalty marketing?

    Personalization at scale is a sound bite mirrored against the lackluster results over the past 25 years as retailers and marketers invested millions into "personalization" schemes and bright shiny technologies. The #1 big, messy problem? Digital is devoid of sensory cues. The #2 big, messy problem? Computer science vs. human cognition. Decision trees vs. human emotion driven by individual sensory preferences. Sensory failure, rendering current personalization technologies defective at scale. Al leveraging machine learning must know what to solve for. True one-to-one human "personalization" is dependent upon an individual's unique sensory preferences. Proof personalization has failed? 3 percent online conversion and 35 percent to 50 percent return rates. In fact, reverse logistics are consuming ROI at a rate heretofore never experienced by retailers. And the reason millions of customers return goods? The reason for returns at Amazon: 34 percent said the size, fit, or the color was wrong, 14 percent said item not as described, 10 percent disliked item, 9 percent changed their mind, and 4 percent intended to return the item anyway, as many buy two or three of the same item to buy one matching their sensory preferences of fit, look and feel. Today is the beginning of true personalization. Retailers and marketers need to evaluate "personalization" strategies and tech from a human perspective. The new personalization technologies must leverage AI to elicit individual human sensory preference intelligence. This is the elephant in the room squashed for years by the endless dichotomy of using finite, linear mathematical formulas to solve for individual human-based cognition. Explicit vs. implicit human behavior, the dichotomy of computer science and human-centric abstraction. Think about it all you individual humans who have read this far, after all, you may or may not have preferred to read my comments.
  • Posted on: 10/23/2019

    Do angry shoppers make happier customers?

    Is there not enough anger in the world to go around? Instead how about studying the consumer decision to purchase in-store? Now that will blow your socks off!
  • Posted on: 10/22/2019

    Can b8ta do for fashion what it’s done for consumer tech?

    b8ta definitely will add the cool factor to the apparel brands it features. That said, clothes have a funny way of being different than electronics. Clothes come in different sizes, fits, colors, fibers and on and on. Likely b8ta will focus on a few branded key signature pieces to merchandise into their kiosks. Clothes to wear while working at your Altwork Signature Station or wearing your Google Chips. It all makes sense, body to tech layering, hipsters unite! It's smart; create desire via highly cool, curated product, leverage the product into "have to have," creating a cult of need resulting PR-driven, modern retailing at kiosk scale. Begin the blur between clothing and tech worn on the body.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2019

    Will Barneys find success setting up shops inside Saks Fifth Avenue?

    A Barneys store-within-a-store could be interesting, possibly at Within a physical Saks store, the Barneys editorial viewpoint of hip and modern may be lost among the many "mainstream luxury" brands. Careful curation and PR may engage those who are curious about Barneys. Long term? A roll of the dice.
  • Posted on: 10/18/2019

    Nearly half of online fashion shoppers say social media inspired their last purchase

    Whether fashion magazines in the past or digital fashion influencers of the present, younger people are always "inspired" by fashion. Inspiration translates into sales of key fashion items for retailers seasonally, benefiting both online and physical world stores. There has always been fashion discovery influenced by movies, culture and, in the last decade, social media. The surveys in this article are generalizations. In the real world of fashion inspiration, especially with younger people, only a few trends will take hold and hit the mainstream payload for retailers. Influencers influence, which makes for good PR. Social media influences buzz about fashion, from which only a sliver of young fashionistas actually “buys" into the influence. Only a few push themselves out of their internal psychological comfort zone to wear clothes to attract fashion attention. The rest home in on ripped jeans, mom jeans, and baggy clothes. And you guessed it, the home run is fashion items that last several years as these key fashion items work their way through the fashion food chain.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2019

    Does Target need to address its associate morale problem?

    On the floor, Target associates are the "in the moment" a shopper's customer experience. Low morale is obvious, very counterproductive to the in-store experience. Cutting hours introduces a new human dynamic which will lead to turnover. Messing with an associate's livelihood is dangerous, leading to pushback from other associates and morale issues. Store managers should speak with each associate, understand their wage needs and then make the hard choices based on fewer shift hours to restructure schedules in the interest of the associates. Some associates will need to find other employment in a strong job market. Being up front with individual associates, versus letting morale decline over the entire store, saves a lot of angst on the floor and in the lives of associates and managers.

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