The old adage “the customer is always right” incites an instant eye-roll for anyone who’s worked in the retail space. But as retailers face new challenges around assortment planning and design, it makes sense to let the customer guide those decisions.
And fit technology specialists at Shoptalk agreed that this is one area the old cliche holds true.
“Everything relies on consumer preference,” said True Fit co-founder and chief customer officer Jessica Murphy. “If the retailer doesn’t know how customers like to wear the clothing, that represents a missed opportunity.”
Preference also plays a large part in the data that Fit Analytics uses in its sizing tools, said CEO and co-founder Sebastian Schulze. “Our sizing platform draws data from three different sources, and analyzes them with machine learning,” he said. The company’s Fit Finder tool draws information from consumer-generated data, such as fit preferences, height, and weight; item specifications and size charts from partner companies, like Zara, Hugo Boss and Tommy Hilfiger; and transaction data that reports whether customers keep or return the items they buy based on Fit Analytics’ suggestions.
Schulze said engaging the customer in their preferences, and finding out what they want, is more effective than making them get out a measuring tape to record every part of their bodies. “Asking the consumer to put in that work is too much,” Schulze said. “In a brick and mortar situation, you can try on things and have an instant answer, but asking for full body measurements in e-commerce is too much.”
At MySizeID, the company’s tool does the measurement work for the customer, said Ronen Luzon, founder and CEO. “We use the sensors on the mobile phone with our algorithm to take full-body measurements, in under a minute,” Luzon said, demonstrating how the MySizeID app allows customers to measure themselves by moving the phone over their body. “There are no questions asked, no pictures taken,” Luzon said.
Alleviating stress from the consumer’s end is especially important, said Murphy, because shoppers already have a hard enough time finding their size. That makes it all the more vital that retailers cede control to the customer and help them find fit using tools that make them comfortable. “Retailers don’t always do a great job of seeing where the white space is,” Murphy said. “Retail is evolving all the time, and we’re living in a fast-paced environment, but the customer is in the driver’s seat.”
E-commerce is finally allowing consumers who were never served by the retail landscape to find clothes that fit, said Schulze—plus-size customers, athletes, even petite customers who have made do shopping in the juniors’ or kids’ section.
“We see higher engagement rates from people who are outside the ‘normal’ size chart,” Schulze said. Still, retailers often don’t realize the revenues they’re missing out on when it comes to sizing.
A high-end contemporary retailer and True Fit client found that around 15 percent of customers who spent time on the e-commerce site regularly—and reported the brand as one of their favorites—couldn’t find their size on the retailer’s website. And that’s because it wasn’t offered. The company was missing out on shoppers who were larger than a size 14. They didn’t realize the missed opportunity until they employed True Fit’s insights and reporting, which led the brand to expand its size scale and fold those would-be customers into the dedicated customer base.
Luzon agreed there are also specific niches where restrictive sizing charts are suffocating the market and limiting opportunities, especially in lingerie. Consumers are often uncomfortable trying on intimates in-stores, or going for a fitting, and there are limitations as to what they can access through e-commerce. “[MySizeID] makes the consumer feel confident, and that makes a change,” he said, explaining the comfort level comes from the fact that the tool doesn’t use photos to compile a customer profile, nor does it ask them to measure themselves.
If that’s how fit tech looks from a customer-centric perspective, what does it look like to retailers?Schulze said it translates to consistent profit growth.
“What we see on average is a 3 to 5 percent impact on the bottom line when brands use the core FitFinder product,” Schulze said. “Some of our additional products and tools allow an even more personalized experience, or contribute to the discovery phase, and for some brands that makes an even bigger impact.”
There’s also the profit increase that comes from capturing a segment of the market that’s been waiting on the sidelines for a chance to purchase, Murphy said. “Fit is the No. 1 reason consumers are hesitant to buy,” Murphy said. “When you can reassure them, that’s what contributes to repeat purchases and loyalty. The key to that is connecting with your consumers.”