John Lewis is to trial an online personal shopper service for womenswear after staging an internal competition for innovative technology-led ideas.

The service is designed to give customers the same quality of style advice they would receive from in-store fashion assistants and will involve an automated service that suggests clothes based on a customer’s preferences.

A set of questions will allow the shopper to input information on their body shape, colouring and the event they are buying for. The site will then produce a range of options based on these details.

The retailer is to trial the service in the autumn, after Dorothy Wood, a fashion assistant at the John Lewis Cambridge store, came up with the idea.

John Lewis chief information officer Paul Coby challenged the entire business to come up with ideas that used technology to improve the retailer’s customer service. The IT team received 150 ideas and distilled that down to a final list of five.  

A team of staff from across the business formed a panel that chose the winner at an event in March. A digital team is now working on launching the personal shopper service.

Coby said: “It was a lot of fun. The number of ideas out there in the business about how we can use technology was fantastic. We could probably have had 20 worthwhile finalists rather than five. It was a really interesting thing to do.”

John Lewis has also run an Innovation Day for technology suppliers, asking IT companies to pitch ideas for new services in store and online. 

Coby said technology-enabled ideas are increasingly coming from within the business, but added: “You need to be open to all these different sources of innovation, whether it’s your own people, start-ups or big suppliers in California.”