Data powers Le Tote's personalization to keep members, vendors happy

Customer reviews are a huge part of data collection at Le Tote. (Le Tote)

Collecting data is one of the main components of online fashion rental site Le Tote's success. 

The membership-based program, which bears the tagline “wear, return, repeat,” prides itself on personalization. The key to building and maintaining happy consumers is getting to know each shopper’s personal preferences, and nothing serves that purpose more than collecting data. 

From day one, when a member starts building their style profile, Le Tote asks questions about what a person likes as well as what they dislike when it comes to apparel. Le Tote’s styling technology learns a user's preferences for colors, silhouettes, fit, measurements, etc. 

While much of this information is collected up front, it takes a few Totes before both the styling technology and the customer really begin to set their preferences—and the process is constantly evolving as new data is collected. 

Correct fit is just as important as finding out a shopper’s style, according to Ruth Hartman, chief merchandising officer at Le Tote. Therefore, Le Tote works closely with vendors to offer consumers correct measurements. And conversely, the e-commerce site uses consumer reviews to help other members decide which size will actually fit their measurements correctly, since each brand’s measurements vary. 

In addition, customer reviews are a huge part of data collection at Le Tote. Products are rated at 80%, which is a much higher engagement than on other apparel sites. 

Ruth Hartman

“This is because customers understand that the more information she gives of herself, the better and more valuable the service is to her. That’s why we get that high of a rating,” Hartman told FierceRetail. 

This data is also given back to the vendor, which can save the producing brand both time and money. Brands learn information about a product's purchase rate, number of units sold, popularity of colors, etc.

Le Tote’s personal styling is done not by humans but through a proprietary, in-house fit algorithm that collects all of the data about a member. Hartman calls Le Tote’s system part science, part art. Nothing is outsourced, all of the technology in controlled within Le Tote. 

But as more and more retailers are testing out subscription models, Hartman is still confidence in the uniqueness and complexity of the data collection and distribution produced by Le Tote. 

While the company conducts A/B testing to figure out when and what to ask customers, they actually find it quite easy to get members to give up personal information. In fact, Hartman says members are happy to give up personal data in order to receive items that fit their body correctly. 

But there is always room to improve customization and personalization. Currently, when a member is sent a message that it is time to “customize your tote,” they have 48 hours to swap in and out items. Le Tote recently rolled out the ability to personalize what a customer is seeing on this page. For instance, if three different customers are looking at the same tote, the options for items to swap in are different for all three members, according to each's individual taste.

Le Tote wants customers to wear the products immediately, so they don’t sell for seasons ahead. “We look at the weather 10 days out and based on the zip code, we put that weather into the algorithm,” Hartman said. “Items are meant to be usable right after you open the box.” 

But every retailer has its challenges. Le Tote feels it needs to better educate consumers on what the company's service propositions are. In other words, simplify the experience as much as possible. 

“Once they sign up [members], we really want them to understand what we’re trying to help them with. Making it all a little more frictionless,” she added. “We want them to see: ‘The more I engage, the more I invest in the relationship, the better off the experience will be.’”