A few years ago, I found myself in an interesting predicament while shopping for clothes to wear to a party. When I exited the fitting room to look in a mirror, the sales girl smirked that the skirt I was tugging down my legs was, in fact, a tube top. Enter humiliation. And a realization that I could no longer, in good faith, shop in the junior’s department. But where to go? I wasn’t ready for the old lady stores with boxy, embroidered sweaters, either.

A friend suggested I try Stitch Fix an online personal styling service that selects clothes for you based on your taste, budget and lifestyle. I took the plunge. And after receiving several shipments of perfect selections, I examined why Stitch Fix works. In fact, they employ principles of "personalized shopping" that we can use in our opticals to tailor the perfect eyewear for our patients.

Identify Your Style
When you first log into the Stitch Fix website, you create a style profile so your personal stylist can get to know you. The website displays several different galleries of clothing grouped according to various styles: preppy, conservative, athletic, trendy, casual, glamorous, etc. The customer is asked to rate whether they love, like, dislike, or are neutral, about each group of clothes. For me, when I walk into a large department store, I can often feel overwhelmed by all the different racks of clothes. But here, with individual groupings of eight to 10 pieces to form one or two outfits, it was easy to identify which style I was drawn to.

In our opticals, we may display our frames according to styleor even brand, however, with so many items filling up shelves or a wall, it may be hard to zero in on one particular style. How much would it help a patient if we initially showed them a few different pictures of models wearing different style frames? Many of us probably already have marketing posters or pictures on display, but how many opticians take the time to ask the patient, "Which style appeals to you more: the plastic trendy frame with bling seen on this model here? Or the rimless style that disappears on the face of the model here?"

If you don’t have posters displayed in your office, why not browse through a few recent issues of optical magazines, pull ads, laminate the photos and have those available for the patient to look at? Taking a quick five minutes up front to identify the patient’s personal style will ultimately allow the optician to tailor a selection of frames to the patient’s preference in a more accurate and timely fashion.

Identify the Best Fit
Stitch Fix asks a myriad of questions regarding body type, not just height and weight, but questions about shape and proportions, and then suggests certain type of clothing based on your physique.

Opticians are trained to innately select certain frames for different face shapes. However, patients might not realize that when the optician picks a certain pair of eyeglasses they are registering the curves and angles of the patient’s face to find a style that will best suit them. Train your optical staff to verbalize the process the way Stitch Fix lets its customers know that the clothing was picked specifically for the client’s individual shape and size.

Let the patient know that because their face is oval, a square or rectangular frame will add contrast to the curved lines of their face. A square face or a strong jaw will be complemented by a soft oval or round frame and a heart shaped face will work best with a frame that balances the varying widths of their bone structure. By simply verbalizing the fitting process, a patient will feel like the optician is handpicking the best frame design to complement their unique facial features.

Ask Lifestyle Questions
In its initial questionnaire, Stitch Fix asks its customers to identify their lifestyle. For example, they ask to quantify how often the client attends cocktail parties and special occasions. How often their life is casual and laid back versus athletic and filled with sporting activities. Or how much time they spend in an office or business setting.

In our opticals, lifestyle questions are a great opportunity to identify the need for flexible, durable frames, possible sports goggles or wraparound straps, sunglasses, Transitions or a second pair of eyewear.

Provide a Small Sample Size After you complete your style profile and detailed analysis of your body dimensions, Stitch Fix will send you a shipment of five to six items hand-picked for you. Personally, I love having a few items, specifically tailored to my taste and fit and lifestyle to try on. A large store and racks and racks of clothes can be very overwhelming. That’s why mannequins are used, to simplify the process of putting together an outfit. How much more efficient it is to have something picked out based on your personal style profile.

If an optician says, "Based on the pictures of the style you like, and the dimensions of your face and your personal lifestyle activities, I think one of the following three frames will work best for you," it is much more efficient and effective than just having the patient randomly walk around the optical, aimless and overwhelmed.

Stitch Fix is an online personal shopping service that is taking the fashion world by storm, using a personal styling platform that became a $300 million start-up within three short years. And their growth was based mostly on word-of-mouth. Their model, manually selecting clothes based on a style survey, lifestyle questionnaire and body dimensions, proves that customers like to feel personally styled.

In a world where our opticals are going to be increasingly competing with online spectacle sales, we have a way to keep our patients purchasing eyewear in our offices if we can offer them a personalized stylist to help them find the best spectacles, tailored specifically for them.

Jennifer Jabaley, OD, is a partner with Jabaley Eye Care in Blue Ridge, Ga. Contact her at jabaleyjennifer@yahoo.com. This article first appeared in Review of Optometric Business.