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Personal Shopping Is Dead. Long Live Virtual Styling!

27/04/2017 14:16 BST | Updated 27/04/2017 14:16 BST

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When was the last time you enlisted the help of a personal shopper while out and about on the high street? If your answer to that question is "never", it turns out you're not alone. In fact, you're part of the large majority that haven't.

Myself and the rest of the team at DV Closet conducted some research in conjunction with Censuswide to gauge fashion lovers' opinions of personal shopping, and we found that 85% of all those surveyed had never used a traditional personal shopper before. To us, this signals a fundamental flaw somewhere in the model.

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We then asked those 85% why they'd never used a personal shopper before, and the responses were even more interesting. An overwhelming 90% told us that they either couldn't see any value in it, or that they simply couldn't afford it. What's more, of the 15% that had used a personal shopper before, more than a third (38%) told us that the items of clothing recommended to them were more expensive than they could afford, which consequently resulted in a negative experience for them.

These results seem to indicate that the idea of professional, one-on-one styling is all but dead. While it might have been an innovative and exciting concept when it was first introduced, the expectations and needs of consumers have evolved in accordance with the digital age we live in and traditional personal shopping has simply failed to keep up with the times.

Instead, our research found that fashion lovers are transitioning towards a new digital, tech-focused way of gaining virtual styling advice -- one that involves using smartphones and apps to gauge the opinions of friends, family and fashion professionals.

Of all the under 35-year-olds who took part in our research, 68% of them believed that taking and sending a photo on their smartphone is the best way of receiving instant feedback on an item of clothing. Just think: how many times have you tried something on in a fitting room, snapped a photo in the mirror and sent it to a partner or friend for an informed second opinion?

Meanwhile, over half (57%) of all 16 to 24-year-olds that took part in our research told us they were either likely or very likely to trust the advice of the fashion bloggers they follow on social media channels -- an opinion that was shared by nearly half of all 25 to 34-year-olds. This is undoubtedly a sign of the growing influence these individuals are having on younger audiences and the wider fashion industry in general.

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In keeping with this technological trend, we also found that nearly 60% of all 16 to 24-year-olds told us they would be interested in using a smartphone-based app for fast and frequent personal fashion advice.

What these figures show, in a nutshell, is that the future of fashion is digital. Fashion lovers don't want to spend their days trawling from one shop to another looking for a top they like, only to find out that it doesn't fit as they hoped. Instead, they want to receive helpful feedback in real-time -- from a mix of both friends/family and styling professionals -- without needing to leave the house. Can you imagine how useful it would be to get suggestions on how to improve your choice of outfit while getting ready for a night out?

The fashion world needs to adapt to this shift in the styling landscape, or else face the same fate as traditional personal shopping. Virtual styling is riding on the crest of a wave, and it's showing no signs of slowing down.