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: 04/24/2019

    Kohl’s goes all-in on Amazon returns

    Kohl's sees itself as a self-service store. Ms. Gass explains that Kohl's is "more of a self-serve environment, which is how our customers are used to shopping us.” Further Ms. Gass explains "we believe the [Amazon devices] will be fantastic and the experience will be great for our customers.” The curious conflation of self-serve shopping and the great Kohl's customer experience is openly acknowledged via Amazon in-store returns and Amazon devices. On the surface it's promoted to be the new-new of Kohl's. A reason to drop on by Kohl's. Below the surface, there is likely some evidential behavior being mis-characterized to prop up Kohl's. A consideration?
  • Posted on: 04/23/2019

    Are secondhand sales the right branding move for Neiman Marcus?

    An excellent decision by Neiman Marcus. Make it easier to trade in your Gucci handbag from last year for a new one this year. Meanwhile, Fashionphile delights a customer with a more affordable option, a slightly used Gucci handbag! A win-win move for Neiman Marcus and its customers.
  • Posted on: 04/22/2019

    Is it time to push the ‘go faster’ button on cloud computing?

    Both the IT organization and the e-commerce group need clear direction and understanding from the C-suite (especially at public companies) to the three to 10 year plan. The time to react has passed. The future is already here and instead, most retailers are wondering how to AI/ML. Cloud computing costs are definitely a factor without a plan. A truly rhetorical statement! Edge computing is here A few items the C-suite, IT and e-commerce groups can aspire to utilize the cloud to edge computing for:
    1. Leverage Intelligent APIs: smart API capabilities, enabling one-to-one contextual interaction between human and product;
    2. Translate customer sentiment: solve for invisible and complex human sentiment intelligence;
    3. Supply chain: Optimize supply chain and inventory with individual SKU analysis;
    4. AI/Machine Learning: Build, train and deploy intelligence gathering models to solve for retailer-specific, customized customer preference intelligence solutions;
    5. Azure IoT: Extend human sensory-preference intelligence and customer sentiment analytics via the cloud to edge devices, including voice commerce like Alexa;
    6. Search: Using the flexibility of edge computing, customized, individualized search in ways never seen before.
  • Posted on: 04/19/2019

    Is AI’s impact on demand forecasting more hype than reality?

    The key to AI/ML is, what is AI solving for? Algorithms, to be effective, must go beyond computer and data scientists. A subject matter expert must be part of the solution to guide engineers, etc. to an understanding of what to solve for. To be successful, AI algorithms must be agnostic, stripped of subjectivity.
  • Posted on: 04/18/2019

    H&M launches online peer-to-peer styling forum

    Branded, quality content will be key. No dark screens, shaky videos, etc. The "Amazing Scarf" video is a very modern representation of the H&M brand, inspiring the plain and simple "need" to buy a scarf. The video inspires, instructs and is loaded with very cool ways to wear a scarf for different occasions. The video is accessible fashion creating an emotional connection to the H&M brand. Itsapark style advisors provide H&M the opportunity to leverage their brand far beyond physical product into the realm of fashion leadership driving new H&M advocates to buy, buy, buy.
  • Posted on: 04/17/2019

    Will livestream shopping take off in the U.S.?

    In the U.S. there is possibly a new generation of QVC-like shoppers in training. Facebook-like interactions between teens circa 2010. Teens and fashionistas with time to jump into spur-of-the-moment livestreams give traction to live influencer shopping. Be the one in the know of the latest and greatest. With all that being said, livestream shopping does flip the human interaction shopping paradigm. There is "something" at the core of shopping live using a mobile device, the "something" a gateway to new ways of thinking of how to virtually interact with product and design.
  • Posted on: 04/16/2019

    Hubert Joly: New Best Buy CEO has the right stuff to lead chain to new heights

    Best Buy's "new" competitive edge seems to be the customer experience. Best buy retails products found at thousands of other retailers. Likely Mr. Joly's ability to execute the Best Buy turnaround was guided by foundational expertise in the hospitality industry. As a Best Buy consumer, the "pretend not to see the customer" experience is still alive and well at Best Buy. Getting it right for Ms. Barry will require qualitative versus quantitative measurement of the customer experience at Best Buy.
  • Posted on: 04/15/2019

    Is Bed Bath & Beyond smart to draw the line on coupons?

    Well, looks like Bed Bath & Beyond is seeking to join Sears and all the other retailers lost in the woods, never to be found.
  • Posted on: 04/12/2019

    Should retailers worry that secondhand apparel is flooding the market?

    Practically speaking, buying used clothes is like buying used clothes. Even with price tags, most used offerings have been worn or housed in someone's closet. "Fresh" is a key variable when buying clothes already worn on someone else's body without laundering prior to sale. Ask anyone who has walked into the awkward stuffiness of a used clothing store. Thrift store shopping is nothing new. Physical world vintage thrift stores heavily curate their apparel offerings. The influence of Marie Kondo mania, while generating press and media attention and yes, people shedding their wardrobes to the Goodwill and Salvation Army to "spark joy" will pass in time. Retailers who jump on this media-driven frenzy are wasting time and resources. For some retailers it's again another attempt to save a floundering business. Soon closets filled with 2X used clothes will inspire a renewed thirst for freshly purchased new clothes. As trends come and go, second-hand retailers like ThredUp and Swap will continue as before, enabling those with fewer resources to purchase used clothing to augment their wardrobes. Meanwhile back at Instagram, those with clean closets will be in pursuit of new inspirations to fill their empty closets.
  • Posted on: 04/10/2019

    Madewell is on the way up, J.Crew is not

    J.Crew turned product "control" into a hall of repetitive, stiff-looking, throwback to the days of preppie yore, apparel offerings. Loosening up the look and feel of the J.Crew brand could possibly save the ship, but that would require new ways of thinking on behalf of leadership. Changing inbred mindsets is an extremely difficult task to execute. Meanwhile J.Crew, has let Madewell evolve with the times. Madewell partnering and receiving strong brand approval via Nordstrom stores reflects the sweet spot of 2019 product merchandising, a fresh, easy to understand brand and product at a mid-range price point.
  • Posted on: 04/08/2019

    Will Alexa earbuds advance Amazon’s virtual assistant ambitions?

    An Alexa earbud? Amazon has a whole lot of catching up to do. Alexa needs to get a lot smarter to turn the Apple tide. Enticing if cheaper yet without a compelling use case, it will likely go the way of the Fire Phone. Ordering goods on the go and commanding Alexa to execute thousands of Alexa skills likely will be lost on the normal Air Pod user as too complex to deal with or learn. Amazon is a bit late to the party, showing up without a phone.
  • Posted on: 04/04/2019

    Chrome extension shows Goodwill to shoppers, not to Amazon or Walmart

    Just by virtue of the fact that Goodwill has created a Chrome extension to give Goodwill customers the opportunity to shop digitally is pretty darn awesome! Specialty shops like "Curated by Goodwill" with plenty of locations to shop or drive-thru drop off donations demonstrate Goodwill has a customer-centric retail vision. Goodwill, the Target of non-profit retailers, leveraging donated goods to create thousands of jobs! Well done. Admirable.
  • Posted on: 04/03/2019

    Can subscription retail solve its retention problem?

    Being boxed into items once received, miss the mark, ugh! The thrill of shopping, the dopamine high becomes laborious, tedious and annoying. Costco and Amazon Prime deliver personal choice along with perceived cost savings, day in and day out. Dollar Shave Club delivers a well-designed commodity at a price. Stitch Fix offers a subset of personal choice, stylist within a box, and the opportunity to be part of a tribe. Advice for those attempting to improve retention rates: Create subscription offerings with an "air" of individualized personalization and perceived value under the influence of time and cost savings.
  • Posted on: 04/02/2019

    Which data sources should be driving personalization?

    The #1 reason people BUY a product: human emotion driven by individual sensory-preferences. Ecommerce is represented by multi-billion dollar verticals of products purchased based solely on human emotion and individual sensory preferences like clothes, shoes, accessories, home furnishings, homes, art, cars and the like. Current personalization solutions operate on principals of binary and linear logic. While humans operate on a cognitive, INVISIBLE system of individual human preference, controlling purchase behavior & product decisions. In the area of e-commerce, products are devoid of sensory cues available in the physical world. To understand an individual shopper’s sensory preferences, sensory-profile her/his purchases. Especially those products purchased and not returned. Purchase history is the roadmap of individual human preference intelligence. Yet, still today, purchase history is locked in retailer data silos, useless, subjected to antidotal interpretations by systems “solving for” various forms of segmentation. This will soon change. Human Preference Intelligent enabled APIs leveraging AI/ML are opening up new ways of thinking, creating cognitive applications to "solve for individualized sensory-preference personalized" solutions. Subjective variables beyond human computation "solving for" invisible and complex human sentiment intelligence. Eliciting human preference to solve for the invisible. Explicit vs. implicit human behavior, currently the dichotomy of computer science and human-centric abstraction.
  • Posted on: 04/01/2019

    Harris Teeter tests self-checkout store

    There is a big difference between the experience of Amazon Go versus scanning purchases. Having to scan multi-item purchases after waiting in line for a checkout station all the while watching store personnel look busy talking to one another is frustrating. Scanning guns require effort and likely are a great place to pick up a nice case of the flu, just saying. Agreed, retailers are struggling with labor shortages but also enjoy labor savings at the expense of the Holy Grail of the "customer experience." Retailers, especially grocery, singing the song of automated checkouts may face a backlash. After all, most customers in a hurry or otherwise do not enjoy interfacing with a machine. Human-to-human still offers the best customer experience. Too much sun will burn.

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