Fashion size finding remains a challenge for retailers and consumers. Choose the right fit for you from our shortlist of size finding technologies.
Finding the right size is of course crucial when shopping for fashion. It is therefore no big surprise that failing to find the correct size or fit is the reason that consumers mention most frequently for aborting a shopping experience, both online and in brick and mortar stores.
British and German consumers head the ranking of countries with highest return rates when shopping online. Zalandos’ return rate is above 50%, and the company states that this is not an exception but rather the rule in German fashion e-commerce. Consumer analysts Savvy Marketing state that 63% of all British online shoppers in women’s fashion return one or more items. In the US, the average fashion online return rate is about 35 % – much lower but still a big cost factor for the industry.
‘Article does not fit’ alongside ‘I do not like the article’ is the second most important reason why shoppers return a fashion item ordered online.
Thus, size-finding in fashion (r)e-tail seems to still be a challenge for the fashion industry and its consumers. It is an important sales and traffic driver that increases conversion as well as site traffic. And it is an important cost-saving lever as it can help reduce the logistics and handling costs associated with processing returns. Therefore, fashion retailers around the world have developed various strategies and tools to help their consumers finding the correct size, minimizing returns and maximizing turnover.
This is my shortlist of viable solutions to the fashion size finding problem, both in high and low tech:
1. Magic Mirrors Using 3D Body Scans
Neiman Marcus, Uniqlo and Rebecca Minkoff (in cooperation with eBay) are among the pioneering companies using 3D body scans to enhance the fitting experience, adding fun and comfort for their consumers to the process.
3D body scanning is probably the fastest and most accurate solution for taking measurements of an individual. Unfortunately, it also is the most expensive option. Both the laser scanning and the white light scanning technologies are in their early stages, and consumer acceptance is still quite low.
2. True-to-Size 3D Avatars
Different methods are available for creating a true-to-size 3D avatar. Some companies use personal measurements and facial images. Others use modelling and image processing to create the avatar using two or three full-body 2D images alongside height, weight and age information. With both methods, the software develops an avatar based on data and image input. The avatar is then used to do the fitting for the consumer.
Body Labs was one of the first companies offering this service, e-mailing the avatar measurements to retailers or tailors of the consumer’s choice. This is a low-cost solution and acceptance by consumers is quite high.
Trimirror is another company who creates a 3D avatar for fitting after consumers enter their measurements. Additionally, it links the avatar data with size specs of associated retailers and generates a list of fashion items that should perfectly fit the given body measurements. And in case you like the way your avatar looks in selected fashion items, you can instantly shop for them without being rerouted to the retailers online shop first.
3. Algorithm Based Measurements
Son of a Tailor is a Copenhagen based company who offers customized short and long sleeve t-shirts, woolen t-shirts and pique polo shirts. Instead of asking consumers to take lots of measurements, their solution uses an algorithm that calculates all measurements needed for a perfect fitting t-shirts or polo based on height, weight, age and shoe size.
Although the website also offers to take all common body measurements or measuring a perfectly fitting reference shirt, the algorithmic measurements surprisingly turn out just as accurate. In order to create the perfect shopping and fitting experience, the consumer can additionally add preferences such as sleeve and garment length (short, regular, long) and neck and fitting preferences (fitted, regular, loose).
EYEFITU uses the same method and matches the measurements with size specs of associated retailers and brands. Based on those matches, the app offers products from participating retailers available in the right size. A lot of brands and retailers in all segments of the fashion industry already participate – from luxury brands like Burberry to more mainstream fashion brands like s.Oliver.
VIRTUSIZE is the solution to fashion size finding that online giant Zalando and companies like Uniqlo, Nudie Jeans or Filippa K. use. Virtusize also offers consumers two size finding options. You can measure your favourite (let’s say) jeans, following clear guidelines on how to take measurements. Or you can compare the item you intend to buy with a previous purchase from an associated retailer’s website. Both options result in a virtual demonstration of variances between a reference pair of jeans (the one you measured, or your previous purchase) and the one you want to buy. Based on that data, Virtusize can also suggest perfectly fitting items available in the retailer’s online shop.
4. Smart Questionnaire
One of the low-tech but very smart solutions is the ‘Finding Your Size’ questionnaire that Hallhuber uses to help their online consumers with identifying the perfect size. Hallhuber asks for height, weight, age, body type (hips and belly), fit preferences (fitted, regular, loose, tight, low waist and so on) as well as preferred brands and which sizes consumers usually wear from those brands.
In addition to helping consumers find the perfect size, this solution also provides additional consumer insights about their relevant set of brands. This information is crucial in identifying who your competition really is. Many fashion managers still believe that it is up to them to define which brands they are in competition with. But, in fact, the only one who is able to define your brand’s true set of competitors is your costumer. Knowing the overlap of your consumers’ shopping behaviours with other brands (by product group) will help sharpen your UVP and finetune your assortment accordingly.
In sum, there are many new and innovative ways out there that help with finding the correct size when shopping for fashion online and offline. Besides high-tech and high-cost solutions (3D scanning, magic mirrors etc.) there are also high-tech but low-cost as well as low-tech and low-cost options available.
Surprisingly, the number of brands using any fashion size finding technologies to increase customer satisfaction and reduce returns and the associated processing costs at all is still relatively low. If that’s you, give some serious thought to which of the available options might be the perfect fit for you. Pick one, test it, roll it out, benefit from it!
About the Author:
Heike Blank has worked for big organizations such as VF Europe and s.Oliver but also for niche brands such as Ecko Unltd. and Zoo York in top executive positions. Her extensive experience with opening and managing own retail, partner stores, concessions and shop-in-shops in 23 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia make her an expert in expansion. Get in touch with her via e-mail and read more from her here.