In 2017, Stitch Fix COO, Julie Bornstein, had an epiphany: technological innovation had overhauled nearly every consumer experience except one—e-commerce. There was so much more that consumer data could be doing to inform and empower the shopping experience, but its infrastructure remained relatively untouched. Opportunity called, so she packed up her 25 years of operational experience and headed into stealth mode on her first solo venture.
Backed by $30 million and a team of machine learning experts, Julie and her technical partner, Amit Aggarwal, founded The Yes, an AI-powered shopping platform that works directly with brands to deliver personalized, predictive recommendations. This presents people with everything they want to buy (and nothing that they don’t) before they even realize it themselves, plus the ability to make purchases directly from the app.
The mechanics of The Yes are surprisingly simple, given the complex algorithms happening behind the scenes. After an initial onboarding quiz to get a baseline understanding of a person's retail likes and dislikes, the app serves up a curated collection of items from all their favorite brands. This personalized “store” gets smarter the more they use it, consistently honing its abilities each time they say yes (or no) to any item.
But favoriting items isn’t what makes the app unique. The Yes stands apart for understanding just as much about someone's dislikes as their likes, then using these learnings to hyper-personalize their results. This process of elimination strategy creates an online shopping experience that’s much more customized and curated than anything else in the e-commerce market today.
By the time Julie and her team approached us for help, they’d already done a huge amount of work. After launching a beta of the app to family and friends, they did an excellent job testing and iterating on functionality and flow. With us, they were looking for fresh thinking on that final layer of polish and shine: what moments of delight could we bring to this new way of shopping?
With twelve weeks to go before launch, The Yes app was functional and had a gorgeous brand to back it up. Still, as we dug into our conceptual exploration, we noticed that some of the fundamental flows in the app needed a little TLC. How could we adhere to The Yes’ time constraints and still go big with our thinking? We knew we wanted to make significant changes to the navigation structure, for example, but blowing it up to start fresh, design, and iterate would put their launch at risk.
To have the greatest impact in the shortest amount of time, we decided to deliver two sets of design files: conceptual designs based on the existing UX, and future-state designs loaded with more structural recommendations to be considered down the line. That way, we could support their team in keeping their MVP on track while also ensuring they’d have inspirational updates to work towards.
As we revisited some of the product’s flows, we found as many opportunities as possible to help the brand shine through without being overwhelming. Our goal was to translate the impact of their powerful branding in ways that felt appropriate for a mobile app experience beyond the logo and color palette. And in a product space where conversion is key, we had to maintain consistency and reduce noise without watering down the brand’s core value.
To achieve this, we created subtle micro-moments of delight with animations, transitions, and loading states, instead of relying on one or two dramatic moments to get the job done. To play up the fact that the brand name directly correlated with the app’s primary action, we designed a delightful brand moment to go along with it. We even styled the typography of the primary calls-to-action after the typefaces in the brand mark so that in moments when the brand wasn’t front and center, it was still always there.
We were excited to be helping evolve the online retail industry into something better. Every interaction mattered.
An important part of the user journey for The Yes is onboarding, as it’s the first chance to educate around a completely new type of retail experience. But we couldn’t just cram the front-end of the app with explanatory content and hope for the best. We had to get people to understand that the app’s value was dependent on their engagement over time. Translation: integrate deeper learning in ways that felt truly valuable, not annoying or clunky. We wanted to gather as much context as possible every time someone shopped, which is why the Yes/No interactions were so critical to get right in our designs.
We designed style prompts and pop quizzes into the UI to gather consumer insights, too. Discovery and inspiration are core elements of the average person's shopping process, so we created a home base that consistently learns about individual preferences in engaging and unobtrusive ways. Predictive text and hints in Search also help facilitate deeper learning, and Haptic Touch allows people to further explain why they didn’t like a particular style or item. The more fun and lightweight these interactions, the more people would be inspired to unlock learnings and assist the app in generating more meaningful personalization: a win-win.
With over $600 billion on the table for global e-commerce fashion and very few people trying to shake up the space in promising ways, The Yes team is well-positioned to be the go-to e-commerce destination. Their steadfast focus on meeting the demands of everybody's unique style needs and wants—combined with the ability to pay for their finds directly in the app —give people little reason to shop anywhere else. It’s certainly an exciting time to see a team like Julie and Amit’s pushing machine learning into new dimensions, and we’re proud to have been part defining what’s possible in this initial wave of change.
MetaLab is a team of great listeners, great communicators, and great designers. They rocked.
"It’s the holy grail of online retail: suggesting the exact item someone wants to buy before they even know it."
“The Yes won’t launch until next year, but it’s already gotten a $30 million vote of confidence from a "who’s who" list of retail-tech investors.”
“AI and machine learning already dominate in many verticals, but e-commerce is still open for a player to have a meaningful impact.”