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: 09/19/2019

    Retailers falling short at training frontline workers

    In the first few days, a new employee knows exactly, without having to think about it, the "invisible" culture of the store. What is expected, not by the manager, but those truly in charge -- associate colleagues. Manager lip service versus the political reality of the few who dominate the invisible culture of the store. Humanness at play -- the survival of the fittest, with the meekest just minding their business to get along and go home. Lessons and training are good and well-intended by management. Unfortunately, in reality, the invisible "pecking order" common to human nature, controls and dictates the underbelly of happiness or angst of associates on the retail floor. Akin at times to a soap opera.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2019

    Retailers approach tech’s cutting edge with caution

    What is going on? PR in search of media hype. Whatever happened to retail merchants? Somewhere along the line, merchant tech insecurity has created a Jetsons-like frenzy replacing common sense.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2019

    How profitable is online selling?

    Online conversion for many retailers is about 3 percent. So 97 percent do not buy, they walk. Returns range from 35 percent to 45 percent or more. Shipping product back and forth to customers and warehouses is inefficient, and seriously not "green." For all the bravado around technology solving digital shopping, recommending a product to a human who buys the product, likes it and keeps it, nothing has worked. All are pretty much hacks on the same old thinking: segmentation, collaborative filtering, etc. Technology has treated humans as cogs in a machine, rather than as people with individual sensory preferences. Computer and data science seeks to find patterns in zillions of data points, learning absolutely nothing about individual human preference. Having preferences is something we all do as humans every day. We prefer one thing or many. We wear clothes, drive cars, and buy homes and furniture that make us feel good and comfortable, without even having to think about it!
  • Posted on: 09/13/2019

    Old Navy is ready to set sail on its own

    Old Navy. Basics 50 percent off. Clunky execution of vast racks of key basics. Meet the Old Navy customer. Get the popcorn, 800 new stores will be an interesting show to watch.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2019

    What keeps online shoppers from creating user accounts?

    There are varying ranges of retail user accounts. The most frustrating are retail sites requiring a shopper to sign in with his or her social media account. If a shopper does not want to share their social account, the only option is to create a user account just to enter the site! Really, having to show ID just to enter a store? How many shoppers are these sites turning away? Far and away the most egregious reward for setting up a user account is constant and consistent daily, multiple spam emails from the retailer. Unsubscribe is set up to be difficult. Retailers need to treat customers with respect, the best solution for long-term customer relationships.
  • Posted on: 09/11/2019

    WRT #digitaltransformation success

    This is a hard question, as retailers and brands long ago turned their data over to data analysts, as retailers did not want to deal with it. Today analysts with no experience in retail, product or the human decision to purchase, are tasked with evaluating and translating data into brilliant and actionable insights. Behaviorally, this is pretty much a mess. Structurally various data silos are strung out among disjointed walled data infrastructures. Wow. The race to embrace data has lead retailers and brands to abandon common sense. Retailers and brands need a subject matter expert in the room, not linear-based, finite mathematical formulas trying to solve for human insights. Retail is a digital business. Period. Someone needs to help the C-suite cross the knowledge gap between the physical and digital world. Only then will executives be able to leverage their business acumen, lacking in data analysts, into powerful insights able to crack the codes of knowledge buried in their data silos.
  • Posted on: 09/10/2019

    Nordstrom Local hopes for big returns from the competition

    Wow, I did not know that so many people who shop Nordstrom also shop Macy's and Kohl's! I imagine this is a surprise to many analysts. Macy's and Kohl's are price-driven. Nordstrom is not. A huge disconnect for the Nordstrom brand in my opinion. Shoe repair and cleaning of strollers -- Nordstrom always comes to mind when I need these services?
  • Posted on: 09/09/2019

    Will Apple’s texting tool create more personalized shopping experiences at Burberry?

    Bots handling appointments and "product ready to pick up" alerts are handy. Store associates texting customers enters the realm of subjectivity. Is it an annoyance or helpful? Burberry sells luxury products to a limited segment of the marketplace, as opposed to Nordstrom, for example, who sells many products to many. Texting as a shopping tool is dicey. It better be an opt in experience with a dedicated "personal shopper" the consumer actually knows, otherwise it's a misuse of a customer's personal information. The question? Where will it all end once store associates can freely contact customers at will? And to what purpose -- the extra 10 percent?
  • Posted on: 09/06/2019

    Starbucks developing new store dedicated to pickup and delivery orders

    Starbucks will need to let its customers know the difference between stores and pickup locations. As a customer myself, I would be bummed to walk into a Starbucks to find out I cannot order a drink in person. Only to be directed to go outside and get on my phone to order the drink and then continue to wait outside to be notified my drink is ready. Sound bizarre? Each Starbucks customer experience is subjective to the individual. Unintended consequences abound.
  • Posted on: 09/05/2019

    Whole Foods wants a hand from shoppers at checkout

    Consumers may say "just forget it." Aiding and abetting Amazon's ambitions to "manage" the privacy of individual consumers is just one more step to an Amazon-monitored life for us humans. Alexa, are you listening? Today we found out Facebook, who held 80 million of our phone numbers on an unsecured server, did not even have to be hacked for someone to post 80 million of our phone numbers online. Piece by piece, facial recognition, finger recognition, hand recognition, in-home monitoring of conversations by always-on, even if turned off, digital devices, privacy given up in the name of convenience? Just say forget it!
  • Posted on: 09/03/2019

    Walmart and BuzzFeed deliver shoppable recipes

    It will take energy and time for customers to incorporate shoppable recipes into a repetitive real-life experience. Who doesn't love Tasty's videos! Although I have never tasted a Tasty recipe, they sure looks good. Shopping for groceries off a phone or even an iPad is very time-consuming. Making a purchase solely for one recipe seems environmentally wasteful. Noted in this article are all the buzzwords of "digital shelves, dynamic pricing, just walk out." Which means Walmart will "dynamically” increase the prices of Tasty recipe ingredients, in-app. Dynamic pricing is pure price gouging of the individual shopper. This is not a nice way to treat a customer or engage a customer's loyalty.
  • Posted on: 08/30/2019

    Social media antics cause grief at Walmart, Target, Home Depot, others

    This is dangerous behavior for retailers not to prosecute. Where were the parents over the past 15 years? Behavior like this makes the world less safe for all of us. If this is OK in the stores, what is next? A shopper having a heart attack or a shopper pulling a concealed weapon? I wonder what the parents will say then about "poor Johnny" who was only out for some good old-fashioned fun. Sad and completely ridiculous for retailers to enable this by not prosecuting. I feel sorry for retailers. This behavior is beyond the pale.
  • Posted on: 08/29/2019

    Lord & Taylor to be sold to Le Tote

    What are Le Tote's "advanced personalization techniques?" How will these techniques suddenly lift Lord & Taylor from the abyss? The reason for purchase according to Le Tote CEO Rakesh Tondon is, "Le Tote will be merging the iconic Lord & Taylor brand with technology." Le Tote's means to execute this sale? Low-interest rates on the back of debt financing. Sound familiar? A review of Glassdoor and Yelp customer and employee reviews paints a challenging environment. The technology used to personalize a physical world customer experience must first have a great physical world to leverage. To transition 45 Lord & Taylor stores into hotbeds of "advanced personalization techniques" will take time. Requiring large-scale clearance of current goods, killer in-store (vs. online) merchandising strategies and product assortments, all requiring time, talent and resources. In the end, based on Le Tote's online apparel rental brands, the new Lord & Taylor will be filled with brands already found at other retailers, struggling to survive, including the now "sold" Lord & Taylor.
  • Posted on: 08/28/2019

    Innovation: Are retailers trying to do too much?

    Retailers dismantled the specialized core of their business years ago, by replacing human buyers with computerized buying. Centralized buying turned great regional assortments into seas of sameness at the store level. True innovation, innovation able to touch the hearts and minds of a specific retailer's customers lies in the product and product assortments. Which is why Target, who reinvented itself back to Target of the past is one of the best-performing retailers today. Great products merchandised to excite and inspire their customers to buy, buy, and buy. Sure Target has leveraged a number of technologies for customer convenience, but not at the expense of their core, the product. Retailers tend to flip and flop chasing the newest, next big thing. This is unfortunate for many retailers who are now experiencing a slow death, as a result of losing sight of what was their core business -- product, not technology.
  • Posted on: 08/26/2019

    Trump’s tariff war escalates

    Thanks for your comment, Tony. Trade needs to be fair. Equal for all. Please send me the link if you post on a discussion blog.

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