FIT ME FROM AFAR AND DELIVER IN STYLE
The future of eCommerce and the fashion industry including innovative fitting tools for effective outfit sizing online.
This article provides insights into how we might purchase apparel and shoes in the future. But before we do a full 360 on this topic, we have few questions for you below to prepare your mind into the world of unimaginable possibilities;
- Have you ever considered living a life without clothes and shoes?
- Have you ever experienced frostbite or sunburn?
- Have you ever felt uncomfortable wearing unfitted clothes and shoes?
‘So, what makes clothing a basic need’
As regards the first and second questions, it is almost impossible. So, what makes clothing a basic need? Based on Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs, it is not surprising that clothing was categorized as one of the basic needs in level 1. Clothing plays physiological importance in the health of humans and cannot be overlooked. Similar to shelter, clothing protects us from harsh weather conditions. Besides, the evolution of clothing shows that the early man saw nudity as an issue that needed to be addressed, hence, the covering of body parts with leaves, animal skin, woven material, and all sorts of advancement we currently see.
‘With the advent of the internet and eCommerce, how do you get the right fit 100% of the time whenever you shop online?’
At Dartemuv, we believe that apparels and shoes are the two most recognizable fashion items that are first noticed before anything else. As a result, we tend to look for items that project our image at first glance, and it has to be outfits that match the occasion. If it is a Prom, then it has to be a Prom dress. The clubs, work, wedding, and beach are a few places where dressing accordingly is almost a must. Although, confidence is an intangible material, sometimes, our outfits serve as the booster. The desire to increase one’s confidence could be placed in the Level 4 hierarchy of Maslow’s human needs with the aim of gaining attention and recognition. With the advent of the internet and the rise of eCommerce, how do you get the right fit 100% of the time whenever you shop online?
‘Also, ensuring that the items you see online are what you get, including the right sizes is not always guaranteed’
Who does not want comfort? Why do things the old ways when there are better new ways? The Coronavirus global pandemic has further shed more light on the shift towards eCommerce and how vulnerable a company would be if it solely depends on opening more stores in anticipation of walk-in customers. However, it seems for every solution, there is another hydra head to contend with, and there is no end in sight. If it is not about hacking and theft of customers’ information, human empathy displayed during sales and the total top-notch experience is missing. Also, ensuring that the items you see online are what you get, including the right sizes is not always guaranteed. So, what should be done?
The truth is that fashion houses that fail to innovate will be left out of the party, and redemption such as copying the competitor at a later stage might be too late. It is better to start the scenario planning today and now instead of dying due to complacency.
‘Item returns still happens, and bad reviews still go on Trustpilot’
For some fashion retailers, they are aware of the new reality and already becoming creative to remain relevant to drive sales up and only up. With the major brands, the fabric and pattern stated in the product description are not likely to change when delivered. However, the problem is mainly the sizes (Apparel — ‘XS, M, L, XL, 00, 8, 14, etc.’, and Shoes — ‘4, 6, 36, 38, etc.’) because it is possible to have different versions of a Size 12 apparel. We now see some websites where shoppers can select their size, and also make use of the size guide categorized by country. The size charts display sizes based on body measurements. Do not be surprised, some even provide measuring tips (pictures, videos, FAQ) and sketches you can refer to for size determination. Other retailers have included fashion apparel for the plus-size and petite sizes on their website page to accommodate all types of customers. But, despite all these measures put in place to improve customer satisfaction, item returns still happens, and bad reviews still go on Trustpilot.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, more retailers are investing in eCommerce. However, the online experience provided to customers will be one of the differences between leaders and laggards of this new reality. Once the user experience is poor while navigating a retailer’s online platform and the wrong item sizes are constantly delivered, this could lead to loss of customer loyalty and dwindling revenue. If nothing is done to rectify the issue, it could be the beginning of the journey of no return.
Some companies went all out with the technology and strategy needed to style customers from the comfort of the customers’ homes to provide the desired outfit with the right size, while others had to pay IT firms to get the sizing technology to be included on their online platform.
Below are some of the companies that have done well for themselves and we hope they continue to innovate.
- Stitch Fix is another company reinventing the wheel, the company indirectly provides you with a personal stylist experience. According to the information on their website, customers provide details of their price range, size, and style. Based on the provided information, pieces are sent to the customers’ address to try on without shipping charges, the favorites are kept while the rest can be sent back. A styling fee of $20 is charged, and it is credited towards the pieces kept. A prepaid return envelope is included for free returns and exchanges. They claim to have no hidden charges and it is not in the business of monthly subscription. The company also sells items from top brands such as; Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Kate Spade, Eileen Fisher, Ralph Lauren, etc.
2. Wantable provides similar service to Stitch Fix. Their experienced Stylists select and send a box filled with 7 items for you to try on at home based on the information you provided such as preferred styles and budget. It is not compulsory to buy any of the items, and you have 5 days to decide between returning the rest for free. A styling fee of $20 is also charged, and it is credited towards the pieces kept. In their style quiz, you can select your height, weight, jacket size, bra size, shirt size, bottom size, shoe size, and dress size. Others include; shoulder width, arm length, torso length, hip-width, leg length, and pictures of body shapes (pear, straight, hourglass, apple, and full bust). The height, weight, and bra size needs to be tweaked a bit. We are not sure if the weight is in lbs or kg, and if it is kg, the starting figure on the Wantable style quiz is 90kg, which does not take into consideration people below that figure. We feel if weight is not needed, then it should not have been added. In terms of height and bra size, the starting figures are 4'0" and 32A respectively. The kinds of outfits you should be expecting from Wantable Stylists include, but not limited to; trendy outfits, business casual/work, laidback/casual, and date night/night out.
Also, patience is the keyword while answering the quiz, because, you still need to provide answers to questions such as, the frequency at which you wear your preferred outfits suggestions, including the color, pattern, material, accessories, fitting and style (dress length, top half, pant length, pant rise, pant style, denim style, sleeve style, skirt, shorts, and exposing a little flesh). The item price typically ranges from $50 -$100, and there is a 20% discount on your final total fee, and it is only applicable if you decide to buy 5 or more items.
Despite all these few issues and lengthy questions, Dartemuv likes the fact that Wantable is addressing a need and does not want to leave any room for complaints. Also, Wantable may have gained strategic insights about the fashion industry and customer trends, and as a result, it decided to focus on certain customer segments.
The limitation of these two (Stitch Fix and Wantable) is that they do not seem to consider international or cross-border shoppers. It is quite understandable, because the cost associated with international delivery is much, and customers are not compulsorily mandated to buy the items.
Also, we realized that some companies in this industry requested the customers’ weight despite knowing that most females see that as personal information that they often do not like discussing.
In this section, we will talk about the virtual fitting rooms created by SaaS companies, and they have already seen some level of success based on clients’ reviews. The companies running the virtual fitting rooms have their links for size guides embedded on the website of their clients (Balenciaga, Asics, Foot Locker, etc.) who are mostly fashion retailers. With the numerous IT, Fashion, and Marketing talents out there, it is not surprising that virtual fitting rooms are springing up. There is a long list of virtual fitting companies and they include, but not limited to; Vitrusize, True Fit, Fit Finder (fit analytics), etc.
Below is the partnership between Vitrusize (virtual fitting company) and Acne Studios (fashion retailer). Although they all have their limitations, for now, it would alleviate the situation of wrong sizing to an extent. The retail fashion stores where you can use the vitrusize sizing tool on their website include, but not limited to; Acne Studios, Balenciaga, Urban Research, Zalora, Magaseek, United Arrows, etc. We only included a few important steps you need to take when shopping on retailers’ online platforms with logos of virtrusize, while other steps were skipped.
Step 1: Find a product you like on the Acne Studios website. Click on Size Guide around the product description. The image below appears.
Step 2: Take out a dress you already own and measure straight down from the highest point of the shoulder to the bottom of the dress. Use the image below as a guide. Type in your measurement and click next.
Step 3: Measure straight across similar to the image below. Type in your measurement and click next.
Step 3: Measure straight across the narrowest part of the dress. Use the image below as a guide. Type in your measurement and click next.
SIZING RESULT: Based on the information you provided, vitrusize calculates and displays your size. In the image below, our expected dress size is 32 and it is accurate by approximately 93%, and we are told to try a different size since it will not fit us if we buy the dress. You can toggle around the other sizes (34, 36, 38, etc.) to see if you can find a match before going to the checkout page for payment.
In the case of True Fit, the company claims to know what fits by comparing data from thousands of the world’s best brands to the clothes and shoes you tell them fits you best. Besides, True fit gets smarter as they learn more about what fits you and what types of clothes and shoes you love. Fashion retailers currently using True Fit are; Asics, Kenneth Cole, Kate Spade, UGG, Lane Bryant, Shoes for Crews, 7 for all Mankind, and Contact.
Those fashion brands already using the service of Fit Finder are; Snipes, Foot Locker, ridestore, Amaro, The Iconic, Alpha Industries, and Weird Fish. The Fit Finder predictive analytic sizing tool is based on purchases of thousands of similar shoppers and returns.
The limitations are; the use of a tape rule should not be necessary especially when you have affluent clients visiting the website of a fashion retailer, allowing the customers to provide information about their body size based on the pictures provided by SaaS companies may not be completely helpful. Also, customers like knowing what the fashion product would look like on their body when they wear it, but this cannot be achieved via the strategy of SaaS companies.
As a result of the limitations noticed and the need to proffer a possible solution, Dartemuv brainstormed and came up with different ideas but only included one in this article.
Dartemuv’s strategy on sizing is a bit similar to what we have already seen, but with a little twist. We believe that when people talk about testing out an outfit, it has a lot to do with seeing what the cloth looks like on their body while looking at the mirror. Also, in a situation where a bride-to-be decides to shop for a wedding gown, she might need the opinions of family and friends before making her final decision.
For our idea to work, all you need is either an android or iOS phone and of course, it needs to have a camera. The proposed process is listed below;
- Take a picture of yourself showing your front, side, and back views while standing by selecting the camera icon on the website of the fashion retail store — This enables auto-calculation of your body dimensions. The picture is automatically saved on the website, and you can always update it by uploading a new picture. Do not forget to take pictures of your foot and leg. Details of height, weight, and age should only be optional. After much thought, we discovered bodybarista already provides this service of body measurement via its app, but we are not sure if it is 100% accurate.
- Select the product (shirt, dress, pant, bra, etc.) you want to purchase and click; ‘COMPARE’. It immediately tells you if it is your size or not. If you want more information, just click; ‘AVATAR DETAILS’.
- Once you click on the ‘AVATAR DETAILS’, a hologram of your image with your exact body dimensions appears wearing the product you have the intention of buying — Your AVATAR has a similar height as you, and it is interactive. The graphics of the hologram should be of high quality, and you can either peer it with AR/VR headsets or not. You should be able to pass on instructions in any language (Mandarin, English, Russian, French, etc.), and the instructions include, but not limited to; turn around, raise hands, raise legs, jump, bend, walk away, come over, look at the mirror, etc. The AVATAR should be able to let the customer know if the cloth is tight and where an alteration is needed.
- It wouldn’t be a bad idea if between 5 to 10 AVATARS wearing different clothes that you prefer can be displayed all at once. From these AVATARS, you can select the clothes that properly fit you. No need to try on several clothes, and you can compare all 5 displays in real-time all at once instead of having pictures of all the clothes in your head, and selecting the first cloth you tried but no longer on your body. If the AVATARS aren’t displayed all at once, it could be hard trying to remember what the first cloth looks like compared to the 4th.
- The customer should be able to share the AVATAR invite link to others in different cities or countries including the fashion retailer’s Shop Assistants to possibly help in the decision making process. All participants in the virtual showroom should be able to see the lifelike hologram image of the shopper. Also, the shopper should be able to either enable or disable the AVATAR’s ability to accept or respond to instructions from other participants.
- If the shopper is happy with the fitting, then the order can be completed. Otherwise, the shopper can either select another size (e.g. size 12, 14, etc.) on the chart or instruct the AVATAR to select their size. If the preferred size is not available, you can instruct the AVATAR to monitor its next availability and send you an alert or simply purchase on your behalf.
- The AVATAR should be able to record the preferences (style, budget, etc.) of the shopper for future shopping. Also, the AVATAR can become the Personal Stylist of the Shopper. A customer can even give the AVATAR an instruction for it to carefully choose 10 outfits each month that matches the style of the shopper. If the shopper likes it, the AVATAR can be told to complete the order based on the already stored bank details.
- In terms of delivery, drone deliveries might be one of the ways forward. However, speed (3,000km/hr!) needs to be increased while also considering safety. Hyperloop might be another possible solution. It does not matter if the mode of transportation used for delivery is land, air, water, etc.
- A regular update of body dimension is needed via photograph before the next purchase or connecting the website to a daily workout/fitness and calorie-counting app.
- Data protection should be a top priority because some customers will not want the companies to keep or store their Avatars. There should be ways in which the customers can select different faces but the body dimensions are retained by the companies or discarded once the transactions have been completed.
If the hologram or VR experience cannot be achieved today, at least, an Avatar with a striking resemblance to the customers’ current picture should be created on the smartphone — It should not be cartoonish, but impossible to differentiate from a real picture of the customer.
The movement of the AVATAR (Things you can change: hairstyle, makeup, etc.) could be based on the imitation of pre-recorded and analyzed movements of thousands of individuals with references to height, weight, and age. Also, it might be preferable for customers to simply record short clips of their various body movements or posture. But, imitation of the real-time movement of the customers will be the best.
The limitations are; Luxury brands could use this strategy to provide all kinds of experience except those that have to do with in-store treats (wine, chocolate, cookies, etc.), and the customers walking out of the store with their items being possibly carried for them. However, with the earlier suggested speed, the waiting time for delivery is almost zero in some situations.
Also, retailers should be prepared to know how and when to rotate Retail Assistants that join the customers invite link because this could be overwhelming if proper planning is not done.
Lastly, the regular update of body dimensions should be automated without the need for a regular picture taken or connection to a workout/fitness app.
With the rate of technological advancement, it might just be possible for customers to appear and disappear for testing at an unimaginable speed. It is funny that today’s comedy might be tomorrow’s reality. A typical example is the use of a phone to communicate with someone thousands of miles away.
Fashion companies can either implement Dartemuv’s suggestion as an in-house technology or contract it to a third-party SaaS company.
The technological accomplishments of other players (FX Mirror, Fitle, etc.) in the industry should not be ignored as well.
At Dartemuv, we believe our suggestions will never be the final solution, and we are happy to hear from other people as well.
Click the links below if you are interested in working for some of the listed companies in this article in areas such as Marketing, IT, HR, Operations, Sourcing, Strategy, Styling, Product Management, Finance, Client Experience;
We hope this article was insightful enough, and also brought out the creativity in you on how this issue of online sizing can be solved. THANK YOU.
LET’S HEAR FROM YOU.
Kindly Follow, Share, and Clap.