We’ve all been there. We’ve got a huge event coming up and nothing to wear. Our shopping buddies are busy, we don’t really have the time OR energy to hit the mall, but we’re really set on finding that perfect outfit. In trying times like these, wouldn’t it be amazing if we had access to a personal shopper 24/7? And even better… if we could do it all from the comfort of our iPhone?? Well, thanks to an innovative new app, PS Dept, we can. We sat down with the Founder & CEO, Michelle Goad to learn where this AMAZING new app got its start.
First off, tell us about your background. How did you get your start in the fashion world?
After undergrad at UCSB, I moved to New York and enrolled in Parson’s Interior Design Program. My first job was in the interiors world as an Assistant Designer for Donna Karan Home. After a year, I switched things up and joined the Women’s Shoe Buying Team at Barneys New York. That experience was incredible- I learned so much! It was right around the time of Sex in the City, and designer shoes was the place to be if you worked in fashion. After a few years, I decided I wanted to get out from behind a desk and moved into Merchandising & Marketing for Marc Jacobs Collection. I travelled the world representing the company for 4 years. And in 2012, I left to start PS Dept.
Okay, DREAM career!! So PS Dept. is obviously amazing. What’s the concept, and why does every woman NEED this app?
PS Dept. (short for Personal Shopping Department) is personal shopping as simple as sending a text message. It’s an app that lets you text the personal shoppers at the top brands & stores and tell them what you’re looking for. They send recommendations back and you buy right in your text message! You can text personal shoppers in all your favorite stores whenever you’re looking for something, and it’s a completely free service.
Totally brilliant AND free? What gave you the idea?
My lightbulb moment came in seeing a major void in the online shopping experience. When you need a new blazer for example, if you search online… you’ll get 10,000 results. If you walked into a store with the same need, an expert could tell you the best 3 options. You’d be in and out quickly, AND leave feeling confident about your purchase. So I asked- why not connect experts and online shoppers? Customers could ask questions about fit or get help finding the best options, and the personal shoppers could reach more people to share their expertise and style. After talking to hundreds of women who work late, have kids, live in smaller cities without access to great stores and the shoppers within, everyone I spoke with seemed to want an “in” to text these shoppers too! So, PS Dept. was born. We’re the best of both worlds- you’re buying on your phone but have the added guidance of a personal shopper in-store who knows what’s “good on the menu.”
Sign us up!! Did you have any struggles as you got started?
My biggest struggle starting PS Dept. was convincing luxury brands to adopt a mobile app for their store employees. The traditional store experience was built on associates waiting for customers to walk in the store, not the other way around. But, customers just aren’t going in-store like they did 10 years ago. Adding a new channel of business seemed a little overwhelming for retailers, especially those who weren’t on iPhones yet. It took a lot of persistence but now, we are 50+ brands and growing every month! Mobile is definitely not an “of the moment” thing!
We notice this is entirely built on great service…
I am not shy about telling people that I am completely obsessed with customer service. I always joke about this but I’ve literally been shopping at the same stores for 10+ years and they still treat me like I’m a new customer every time I walk in- that is the exact opposite of the PS Dept. experience. My “must have” feature in creating PS Dept. was a customer first service policy- every retail partner who joins must offer our universal service policy on the app. Free shipping, free returns, and full refunds within 30 days regardless of their own store policies.
We agree, customer service is always key. What else can shoppers expect?
Our mission is to deliver a 10x better shopping experience through personalized service. Our platform is all about you ask, you receive. We launched 3 months ago and have been adding as many brands and stores as quickly as possible to meet our customer’s requests. If one of our retail partners can’t fulfill a request, our in-house team will step in and shop out of our network to find whatever our customers ask for. If it’s available on earth, then we’ll pull every string and call every store to try to find it!
That’s definitely a unique trait that not many companies offer. With that in mind, we have to ask- any favorite customer experience stories since launching?
There are so many!! Some of my favorites are from “ones that got away”- one of our customers fell in love with a Nina Ricci gown which sold out immediately after shipping to the stores (she lives in Dubai). A couple months after receiving her request, our team was on the Barney’s website late one night and came across THE dress and literally only her size was available! We ordered it immediately and after receiving, she sent us a pic of her in the gown at the event. It’s such a dream as a Founder that our service was able to connect a customer across the world to one of our personal shoppers on Madison Ave.
Another favorite story- one of our clients fell in love with a Vince sweater that sold out while in her shopping cart online. She asked us for help and we worked with the Vince team to locate the sweater. We ultimately found it in an outlet mall in Seattle, it was shipped to her in New York City.
During the holidays, one of our client’s husbands used PS. He knew his wife wanted a specific Balenciaga bag but what he didn’t know was that it was sold out country-wide! We worked with the Balenciaga team to find the bag in a boutique in Paris and had it shipped to her in San Francisco just in time for Christmas Eve!
With that, we’re officially customers for life. Thank you so much for your time, Michelle, and even more so for your brilliant idea!