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Overcoming Online Obstacles: Finding the Right Fit

Finding a solution to the fit problem

It’s a well understood phenomenon that many online sales are lost or refunded when customers can’t easily determine their perfect fit. Here’s how some cutting edge retailers are getting around this sizeable issue.

Fashion and apparel retailers have always had one major problem when selling online: customers can’t try before they buy, so determining the correct fit is that much harder. Already, innovative retailers have found creative solutions to this problem, and the online fashion sector is regarded as among the most lucrative.

However, the fact is that plenty of sales continue to be lost, as techniques like using detailed photography, video, free shipping and free returns can only get so many customers over the line. In fact, the issue is likely to be costing retailers billions of dollars globally.

Bodymetrics uses Microsoft Kinect cameras and advanced software to map each individual's body shape.

Bodymetrics uses Microsoft Kinect cameras and advanced software to map each individual’s body shape.

“27 percent of consumers resist buying fashion online because they’re not convinced it will fit; another 17 percent have bought online but haven’t had a good experience,” Fashion Industry Analyst for the NPD Group, Marshal Cohen, told Washington Post.

These percentages equate to large sums of money in the US, which is considered to be a more mature online retail market than our own. For example, Kantar Retail has estimated that online clothing, accessories and footwear would total $34 billion this year.

Technological Solutions to the Online Fit Hurdle

Last year, Macy’s partnered with True Fit, a company that offered a fitting solution based on big data, customer purchasing behaviour and cold, hard logic. The idea is that the online software would be able to determine an accurate fit based on information already known about the customer, as well as some additional details they would be queries on as part of the shopping process. The real benefit of True Fit is that it would continue to ‘learn’ more about your fit requirements, becoming more accurate over time.

One of the most futuristic solutions thus far are 3D body-mapping techniques, which are usually incorporate multi-angle cameras and some fairly powerful software. Examples of this include the Bodymetrics system, which partnered with Razorfish and Microsoft Kinect to introduce the technology to Bloomingdales’ customers earlier this year. Another concept that follows these lines comes from the Berlin-based UPcload, which has developed a technology that is smart enough to determine a customer’s fitting requirements with nothing more than a standard webcam and a CD. Using the CD as a reference, the software is able to comparatively measure the dimensions of the person holding it. The Washington Post believes that the outdoor gear retailer North Face will be the first US brand to carry this technology later this year.

Estonian robots act as 'try on' substitutes.

Estonian robots act as ‘try on’ substitutes.

Then there’s the case of an army Estonian robots that can change the shape of their bodies in order to remotely ‘try on’ clothes for online consumers.

Unfortunately the fit of a garment is among the most personal, subjective element of any retail experience. At the end of the day, if a customer doesn’t like the way the garment feels when they finally get to wearing it, they are likely to return it – even in the case that it does fit. However, the more accurate, advanced technologies that are used to market the item and build trust with the consumer prior the sale, the less this is likely to occur.

What comprehensive, useful fitting information or technology have you found on an online retailer’s website?

Campbell Phillips

Article by

Campbell currently serves as Editor for Power Retail. He has a background in science communication and a long history in retail. Campbell has a keen interest in emerging technologies and their impact in the world of media and online retail. Campbell is an indoor sports junkie, to the point of playing in a local dodgeball competition once a week, “just for kicks”. Follow Campbell on Twitter, Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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