App that lets you search for dresses by mood and occasion cuts amount of stuff sent back by 75%

How often have you had to wade down to the post office to return a dress or two because they just didn't fit the description online? Researchers estimate that between a quarter and a half of stuff ordered online is sent back – a massive waste of time, energy and selotape.

Now a new app is trying to disrupt disdainful e-commerce purchases by letting you search dresses using real world English – rather than only using phrases listed in the databases of retailers' websites.

The founders of Handpick have pioneered an innovative new technology known as "aesthetic searching". The app suggests clothes based on the same way you would choose the outfit yourself – considering both the event and atmosphere. When looking for a dress for a 'night out', you can narrow down the results by mood by searching for terms such as classy, elegant or alternative.

This Is crucial for mobile shopping as it makes it much quicker, reducing the faff of searching through dozens of options and tags simply to buy something you send back.

In trials, Handpcik found shoppers were 75 percent more likely to be satisfied with their purchase – potentially saving e-tailers millions of pounds in lower postage costs.

The clever code behind Handpick learns as it goes – so the more searches people make the smarter it gets. Normally, searching for a "summery dress" will give you little more than items with floral patterns. The idea is to make online shopping more like buying stuff in the real world.

It's the use of descriptive phrases, rather than literal terms, which sets Handpick apart from conventional online shopping. Where you may spend hours trawling through each site searching for 'that dress', Handpick combines the specific event and the mood to find the perfect outfit for you.

Handpick is based at the Innovation Warehouse, an accelerator and co-working space in the City of London which nurtures start-ups and tech companies.

Joshua Mora, founder of Handpick, said: "I remember when my girlfriend wanted to buy a dress that was summery but not floral, and it was too difficult to find. With so much choice out there the perfect item is always waiting, ultimately what's missing is the means to find it. There's definitely a gap in the market for something which understands what people actually want when they shop, and finds it."

Ami Shpiro, founder of Innovation Warehouse, said: "Handpick has spotted that online and mobile shopping is too tricky for many people, their app will change that. We're excited to see another one of our community transform the sector they work in."

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