Kenneth Cole and ASICS drive personalization through customer knowledge


The mantra, “Know me to serve me,” reflects a key goal of all retailers, says T.J. Papp, vice president of digital and ecommerce with fashion company Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. That is, to effectively serve and retain customers, retailers need to know not just their sizes, but their preferences for style, fit, color and other attributes.

Kenneth Cole and ASICS, the $4 billion athletic footwear and activewear company, are among businesses working with True Fit, a data-driven personalization platform for footwear and apparel retailers. Their goal? To boost their ability to understand and serve their online customers, increasing sales and cutting returns in the process.

Several years ago, the team at Kenneth Cole noticed a slowdown in website traffic and customer retention. “It was clear to me and the team that we really weren’t delivering the right experience,” Papp says.

Kenneth Cole had already been using True Fit’s True Confidence system, which offers personal fit ratings and size recommendations. Papp and his colleagues wanted to augment Kenneth Cole’s customer knowledge and insight with the data True Fit had collected. The goal was “to really create a personalized shopping experience and drive retention,” he says.

Three factors drove the selection of True Fit for this initiative, Papp says: its mammoth database, its ability to scale and the existing relationship between the two companies.

True Fit’s approach is driven by several core beliefs, says co-founder Romney Evans. One is the belief that finding shoes and clothes one loves should be effortless and inspiring. Another is the conviction that everyone has an intrinsic desire to be true to themselves, including through their clothing.


When it comes to fashion, subtle details distinguish one garment from another and can determine whether a customer loves it or returns it, Evans says. Moreover, these details can be found in data on consumers’ shopping habits, which computer models can leverage to help explain even the seemingly inexplicable world of fashion.

To that end, True Fit has “mapped the fashion genome” by connecting disparate data, such as specifications from thousands of individual brands and catalog entries, Evans says. For instance, True Fit will know that a dress is an A-line wrap, as well as its sleeve length, fabrication, color and pattern, and other attributes.

True Fit also can scan 430 million anonymized consumers to see what they’re buying and — just as important — what they’re keeping. It then can relate this to 100-some attributes per garment.

The 80 million registered True Fit users in North America, Europe and the United Kingdom provide another source of information. Based on the profiles they’ve created, True Fit can assess not just their fit and size, but different garment details to predict the items “they’ll love and keep.”

“The goal right now is to really help retailers and brands personalize every touchpoint of the customer journey,” Evans says.

True Fit is rolling out several new systems, including True 360, which connects key data points such as a customer’s body type, fit and style preference, and affinity brands, to create a detailed view of every shopper. This can be integrated with a retailer’s customer relationship management system to drive personalization in every interaction.

In implementing True 360, Kenneth Cole wants to ensure that whenever a customer visits, it can use its knowledge of them and their shopping habits to offer the exact size and style they prefer. This should result in several benefits, Papp says, including reducing the time to purchase, increasing sales and retention and cutting returns.

Moreover, the implementation allows Kenneth Cole to dismantle its existing hierarchy and the need for employees to pull information from different sources and present the data up through the organization — a process that could take weeks or months, Papp says. The goal is to become “more of an agile cross-functional team that can quickly leverage data.” By using True Fit tools to help flatten the organization, Kenneth Cole can more quickly move from idea to action.

Another system, True Insight, offers multiple dashboards that help retailers gain a comprehensive view of their customers. For instance, one dashboard provides information on the purchases a retailer’s customers are making across the True Fit platform. A separate dashboard highlights styles with abnormally high return rates and shows how each item’s sizing compares to the industry standard.

“It’s uncovering really powerful insights retailers can take direct action on,” Evans says.

Taken together, the True Insight tools allow retailers to slice data by product attribute to zoom in on the reasons certain styles do well while others run into headwinds. For instance, they can see differences in sales and returns by different styles of jeans.


ASICS also had been working with the True Confidence system, says Sean Condon, senior director of global digital commerce; the company also has connected with numerous customers who’ve established True Fit profiles. The purchase rate of these customers is about 30 percent higher than that of other customers, while their rate of returned purchases is about half the rate of other customers. “These are huge differences,” he says.

With True Insight, ASICS can relay customer and sales information to the company’s merchandizing and product teams. If returns for a running shoe have increased because of a slight change in its fit due to a product redesign, the teams can alert customers to the change and recommend they order a half-size up. “It offers a better way for us to understand consumers’ behavior and feed that back to the organization,” Condon says.

True Insight also gives ASICS insight into other brands their customers are shopping, which helps shape the way ASICS presents products and may influence product development.

“Retailers tend to have a very siloed view of their customers,” Evans says. Without sharing specific retailer data, True 360 provides a broader view of customers’ shopping behavior. The result is “higher fidelity recommendations,” he says. For instance, if a consumer is looking at wrap dresses at three different sites, the model picks up her interest in wrap dresses, so the True Insight-enabled site knows to feature those.

The benefits promise to be compelling. True Fit’s core products have typically driven an incremental 5 percent revenue lift to an ecommerce site, Evans says. The goal of the newer systems, which add consumer intelligence to a retailer’s CRM system, is to improve by another 5 percent. “By having better data, we can really supercharge performance,” he says.

“Data is key to unlocking ecommerce business and understanding consumers,” Condon says. The more relevant and specific data ASICS can obtain, the more it can tailor its offerings and boost sales and retention. “It’s about personalizing the experience for consumers and delivering a better experience, so consumers want to shop with ASICS more often.”

Kenneth Cole takes a strategic view of growth and seeks business partners that will help drive it toward that strategic view. True Fit falls within that bucket, Papp says. Kenneth Cole is putting True Fit on its road map for additional initiatives as it “continues to push personalization at scale within our company,” he says.

Karen M. Kroll is a business writer based in Minnetonka, Minn.

Photo credit: Yaoinlove/


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