The apparel landscape has changed dramatically since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic—specifically the steady increase of e-commerce sales has posed numerous new challenges for apparel retailers. Unlike a category like electronics, clothing is highly subjective and the lack of uniformity around sizing and fit only complicates matters—often resulting in high return rates that sap margins. And the more shoppers buy online, thanks to closed stores or shuttered dressing rooms, the more pressure there is for retailers to deliver product consumers will love—and keep.
In a recent fireside chat, Sourcing Journal founder and president Edward Hertzman speaks with William Adler, CEO of True Fit, about where apparel and footwear retailers need to invest in digitization as more shoppers (and dollars) continue to shift online. According to Adler, with many shoppers still not entering stores, it’s on the retailer to replicate the experience on their website by engaging in conversation based on data from transaction history and fit, color, style to trend preferences.
Adler compares his company’s algorithms to music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora to gauge shopper preference and match them with the properly fitting clothes. Powering the platform is its Fashion Genome, a highly structured data set designed to connect millions of detailed garment specs and style product attributes to the individual shopping behaviors of shoppers.
But beyond the algorithms, the crux of the issue for apparel retailers is that understanding the digital consumer means knowing not just customer fits and brands, but also more holistic characteristics such as the fabrics they are comfortable wearing or the trends and patterns that flatter them.
“People return the correct size sometimes because they don’t like [the product], because it doesn’t fit their taste,” Adler said. “It’s not about the size so much as about understanding the preference, why you love what you love. Why is it true to you?”
Despite the need to get to know the shopper, brands are also still struggling to convey a sense of emotion to their customers through their digital channels. An e-commerce experience that displays a plethora of button-down shirts or dresses over a screen with limited or unreliable product information is often counterproductive to what should ultimately be a fun, uplifting process for shoppers.
Since the pandemic started, the True Fit software platform has seen a 143 percent increase in consumer adoption as more consumers opt to shop for apparel online and get products recommended for them. With the technology scaling up, Adler hopes to leverage the current insights to ultimately improve retail supply chains.
“If I’m [a retailer and I’m] fast in my turns, I could go and influence my next production cycle, and certainly I can influence merchandise planning and assortment,” he said.
Click here to watch the video to hear more from Adler about how apparel retailers can get the proper ROI from their digital transformation efforts.