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Amazon finally opens up Prime Wardrobe to more customers

Amazon’s Prime Wardrobe appears to be getting ready to launch. The retailer’s “try before you buy” shopping service, first announced in June 2017, aims to challenge incumbents in the market like Stitch Fix, Trunk Club, Wantable, and others. The service has quietly remained in an invite-only beta since last year, and Amazon claims that’s still the case. However, a recent flurry of tweets, including – ahem, those from an Amazon account and people who worked on the project – beg to differ.

Join Prime Student and try on your clothes before buying them with Prime Wardrobe! #PrimeStudentRep #Ad pic.twitter.com/yv1FyiQkcE

— Amazon at UCI (@AmazonAtUCI) April 11, 2018

Unfortunately, the Amazon staffer’s tweet was deleted after we asked Amazon about it. It had read: “Amazon Prime Wardrobe is officially launched! Hooray! It’s been a fun project to work on.” Before we could screengrab the tweet, it was gone. But here it is in Chrome’s history, if you’re curious:

Amazon initially denied that anything had changed with regard to Prime Wardrobe, saying it was still in invite-only status. But when we shared the tweets, the spokesperson clarified That Amazon’s Fashion team has now extended the program to more Prime customers.

Customers can “shop from our great selection of brands for women, men, kids and baby,” the spokesperson said.

A number of Amazon Prime shoppers on Twitter do seem to realize they’ve just been let in:

Amazon offering me 'Prime Wardrobe'.

Yeah. Just pick three grey market bits of clothing, in Korean sizes, all made from synthetic fibres that shrink / expand / fade after the first wash and…etc

— Ponce of Darkness (@Dandy_and_a_Fop) April 11, 2018

Email from AMZN re “Prime Wardrobe”. Here is how it works:
1. Select 3 or more clothing items.
2. Try at home for 7 days
3. Return what you don’t want via included prepaid label
4. Free delivery and returns

Why would you ever go to a store?
The last straw for apparel retail. pic.twitter.com/l10wSBYutG

— Anil (@anilvohra69) April 12, 2018

I just an invitation to Amazon Prime Wardrobe. Amazon stay coming for my bank account.

— The Black Gambit (@Cybersoulja) April 11, 2018

Amazon Prime Wardrobe may be the best thing ever.

— Tracy (@ttovickn) April 11, 2018

Amazon Prime Wardrobe?? hmm might have to check that outhttps://t.co/Fd3J3aISzj

— chasing dreams (@youallcrazzyy) April 12, 2018

Holy shit, @Amazon's Prime Wardrobe is basically @JackThreads from two years ago.

It was always a good idea then, but now… with Bezos money.https://t.co/v4u9PyJs7d pic.twitter.com/3PcaE1Db0R

— Tercius (@Tercius) April 8, 2018

Amazon declined to say how many people were testing it prior to now, or how many were added this expanded test.

But Amazon surely can’t take much longer to roll out the program more broadly, given that it’s pushing a year since the original announcement. And during that time, Stitch Fix has IPO’d and Gwynnie Bee launched a subscription clothing box platform for other retailers, which has been adopted by Anne Taylor and New York & Company. It’s time for Amazon to step up, too.

Prime Wardrobe could be a strategic advantage for Amazon in the online apparel market as well as a means to boost Prime subscriptions.

The service has been designed to solve one of online shopping’s biggest challenges in the apparel space – it’s hard to tell how something will fit – or if it looks good – from an online photo or video. Models don’t have the same proportions as most shoppers do, for starters, and clothing manufacturers all cut their sizes differently. Plus, you often don’t know – until something is on your body – how the fabric feels, if it hangs well, if it’s too tight or too loose in some spots, too short or long, or how it looks as part of an ensemble.

In the past, that’s led some people to avoid online shopping for apparel. Despite this, apparel is one of the fastest-growing categories online – that’s why Walmart bought ShoeBuy, Bonobos and ModCloth, for example.

Companies like Stitch Fix have addressed the challenges with buying apparel online by sending shoppers a curated selection of clothing and other accessories which consumers can try on at home, then keep or return using an enclosed prepaid shipping bag.

Prime Wardrobe skips the individualized styling service – which frankly, hasn’t been that great at Stitch Fix, in my experience after over a year using the service. Stylists blatantly ignored requests, and the service never seems to adapt that wall based on buying behavior. The “personalization” may exist, but it feels like smoke and mirrors. In reality, most of Stitch Fix’s clothing is on-trend or classic, so generally inoffensive to most shoppers. It sells. But really, the ease of home try-on and returns is what’s best. These aspects are Prime Wardrobe’s focus, too.

To use Prime Wardrobe, Prime members shop a dedicated selection of items on Amazon’s site, where they’ve been organized into high-level categories like Women, Men, Girls, Boys, and Baby.

From each section, items are further organized by style (trendy, romantic, sporty, casual, etc.), occassion (work, weekend, etc.), and more. There are also featured selections like the “Editor’s Top Picks,” and seasonal collections like “That Perfect Spring Dress,” along with “New Arrivals,” “Brands We Love,” and other grouping that make it easier to find things you may like.

As far as I can tell after a bit of poking around, Amazon doesn’t heavily favor its own private labels in Prime Wardrobe’s collections. Its own labels are simply mixed in with other well-known brands, like Tommy Hilfiger, Adias, Guess, Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Nine West and many others.

You have to choose at least 3 items before you can ship yourself a box of clothing, shoes and accessories, then can try items on at home for 7 days before you’re charged. The box holds 8 items max.

A prepaid UPS label is included, so you can return items you decide not to keep. A promotion is currently offering $20 off when you buy $200 or more, which takes the place of the $20 “styling fee” Stitch Fix charges that’s then credited back when you buy from your box.

Although Prime Wardrobe is only for Prime members, items don’t ship in 2 days like Prime. Because boxes include multiple pieces, they may take four to six days to ship.

While Prime Wardrobe is now available to more people, Amazon didn’t say when the service will launch publicly.

Do you have Prime Wardrobe? Share your thoughts with me at [email protected]

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Facebook hit with defamation lawsuit over fake ads

In an interesting twist, Facebook is being sued in the UK for defamation by consumer advice personality, Martin Lewis, who says his face and name have been repeatedly used on fake adverts distributed on the social media giant’s platform. Lewis, who founded the popular MoneySavingExpert.com tips website, says Facebook has failed to stop the fake ads despite repeat complaints and action on his part, thereby — he contends — tarnishing his reputation and causing victims to be lured into costly scams. “It is consistent, it is repeated. Other companies such as Outbrain who have run these adverts have taken them down. What is particularly pernicious about Facebook is that it says the onus is on me, so I have spent time and effort and stress repeatedly to have them taken down,” Lewis told The Guardian. “It is facilitating scams on a constant basis in a morally repugnant way. If Mark Zuckerburg wants to be the champion of moral causes, then he needs to stop its company doing this.” In a blog post Lewis also argues it should not be difficult for Facebook — “a leader in face and text recognition” — to prevent scammers from misappropriating his image. “I don’t do adverts. I’ve told Facebook that. Any ad with my picture or name in is without my permission. I’ve asked it not to publish them, or at least to check their legitimacy with me before publishing. This shouldn’t be difficult,” he writes. “Yet it simply continues to repeatedly publish these adverts and then relies on me to report them, once the damage has been done.” “Enough is enough. I’ve been fighting for over a year to stop Facebook letting scammers use my name and face to rip off vulnerable people – yet it continues. I feel sick each time I hear of another victim being conned because of trust they wrongly thought they were placing in me. One lady had over £100,000 taken from her,” he adds. Some of the fake ads appear to be related to cryptocurrency scams — linking through to fake news articles promising “revolutionary Bitcoin home-based opportunity”. So the scammers look to be using the same playbook as the Macedonian teens who, in 2016, concocted fake news stories about US politics to generate a mint in ad clicks — also relying on Facebook’s platform to distribute their fakes and scale the scam. In January Facebook revised its ads policy to specifically ban cryptocurrency, binary options and initial coin offerings. But as Lewis’ samples show, the scammers are circumventing this prohibition with ease — using Lewis’ image to drive unwitting clicks to a secondary offsite layer of fake news articles that directly push people towards crypto scams. It would appear that Facebook does nothing to verify the sites to which ads on its platform are directing its users, just as it does not appear to proactive police whether ad creative is legal — at least unless nudity is involved. Here’s one sample fake ad that Lewis highlights: And here’s the fake news article it links to — touting a “revolutionary” Bitcoin opportunity, in a news article style mocked up to look like the Daily Mirror newspaper… The lawsuit is a personal action by Lewis who is seeking exemplary damages in the high court. He says he’s not looking to profit himself — saying he would donate any winnings to charities that aim to combat fraud. Rather he says he’s taking the action in the hopes the publicity will spotlight the problem and force Facebook to stamp out fake ads. In a statement, Mark Lewis of the law firm Seddons, which Lewis has engaged for the action, said: “Facebook is not above the law – it cannot hide outside the UK and think that it is untouchable. Exemplary damages are being sought. This means we will ask the court to ensure they are substantial enough that Facebook can’t simply see paying out damages as just the ‘cost of business’ and carry on regardless. It needs to be shown that the price of causing misery is very high.” In a response statement to the suit, a Facebook spokesperson told us: “We do not allow adverts which are misleading or false on Facebook and have explained to Martin Lewis that he should report any adverts that infringe his rights and they will be removed. We are in direct contact with his team, offering to help and promptly investigating their requests, and only last week confirmed that several adverts and accounts that violated our Advertising Policies had been taken down.” Facebook’s ad guidelines do indeed prohibit ads that contain “deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or business practices” — and, as noted above, they also specifically prohibit cryptocurrency-related ads. But, as is increasingly evident where big tech platforms are concerned, meaningful enforcement of existing policies is what’s sorely lacking. The social behemoth claims to have invested significant resources in its ad review program — which includes both automated and manual review of ads. Though it also relies on users reporting problem content, thereby shifting the burden of actively policing content its systems are algorithmically distributing and monetizing (at massive scale) onto individual users (who are, by the by, not being paid for all this content review labor… hmmm… ). In Lewis’ case the burden is clearly also highly personal, given the fake ads are not just dodgy content but are directly misappropriating his image and name in an attempt to sell a scam. “On a personal note, as well as the huge amount of time, stress and effort it takes to continually combat these scams, this whole episode has been extremely depressing – to see my reputation besmirched by such a big company, out of an unending greed to keep raking in its ad cash,” he also writes. The sheer scale of Facebook’s platform — which now has more than 2BN active users globally — contrasts awkwardly with the far smaller number of people the company employs for content moderation tasks. And unsurprisingly, given that huge discrepancy, Facebook has been facing increasing pressure over various types of problem content in recent years — from Kremlin propaganda to hate speech in Myanmar. Last year it told US lawmakers it would be increasing the number of staff working on safety and security issues from 10,000 to 20,000 by the end of this year. Which is still a tiny drop in the ocean of content distributed daily on its platform. We’ve asked how many people work in Facebook’s ad review team specifically and will update this post with any response. Given the sheer scale of content continuously generated by a 2BN+ user-base, combined with a platform structure that typically allows for instant uploads, a truly robust enforcement of Facebook’s own policies is going to require legislative intervention. And, in the meanwhile, Facebook operating a policy that’s essentially unenforceable risks looking intentional — given how much profit the company continues to generate by being able to claim it’s just a platform, rather than be ruled like a publisher.

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