Online shopping has boomed throughout the pandemic, with some experts estimating that the e-commerce growth has accelerated at a five-year rate in just a matter of months.
That meteoric rise has helped keep retailers and brands afloat during these trying times, but buying goods sight unseen leads to its own challenges. The return rate for many brands exceeds 35 percent, and shoppers sent back an estimated $428 billion in merchandise—more than 10 percent of total retail sales in the U.S.—during 2020 alone, according to the National Retail Federation.
When it comes to apparel, many of these returns stem from issues with fit. Unable to try on goods in store, shoppers are forced to rely on their instincts—and notoriously faulty sizing charts provided by online retailers—in deciding what size blouse or dress to buy. Worse still, many shoppers will order the same product in a number of sizes with plans to return what doesn’t suit them, in a process known across the industry as “bracketing.”
Massive amounts of shipping waste and carbon emissions are generated during transport to and from the consumer. And each day that an item spends in transit represents a lost opportunity for retailers to sell that product.
Retail tech innovators have rushed to address the issue of fit in recent seasons, tackling the problem behind the scenes with eager brands. On Wednesday, Singapore-based NetVirta, a purveyor of 3D scanning technology, announced the launch of Verifyt, a consumer-facing app with “close to medical precision” in determining a shopper’s perfect fit.
NetVirta says its technology has been employed by clinicians across the globe to help fit orthopedic patients with custom orthotics and prosthetics. The technology has also helped sports equipment brands fit athletes with customized protective gear. Created by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the company’s initial app, CurveCapture, launched in 2013, garnering Class II clearance from the FDA. Today, NetVirta said, the app remains the only FDA-cleared smartphone technology for 3D body shape scanning.
Now, the company has expanded its reach to the apparel and footwear markets, helping brands customize the shopper experience. The app, available on iOS and Android devices, enables Verifyt users to create 3D avatars of themselves at home using just a couple of quick snaps—even on devices without the most up-to-date cameras. These virtualized models are used to generate personalized fit recommendations from brand partners, eliminating consumers’ need to purchase multiple sizes and taking the guesswork out of transacting. The app can also expand the reach of brands offering custom-fitted garments and footwear, NetVirta said, as it allows shoppers to quickly capture their measurements and share them.
“After two years of tireless iteration to perfect our solution, with guidance from several fashion brands, we are ready to offer our solution to the industry at large,” Jeff Chen, founder and CEO of NetVirta, said in a statement, noting that the company plans to issue joint announcements with a number of sizable footwear and apparel brands across the U.S., Europe and Asia in the coming months. “We envision this move as a global play.”
According to Bjorn Bengtsson, chief marketing officer for Untuckit adjunct professor at Parsons School of Fashion, “Accuracy is one of the most important criteria in selecting a fit-technology that reduces return rates.”
“I have tried many smartphone-based solutions, and the Verifyt app is the most accurate so far,” he added. “The fact that their solution has a solid history in the medical field and other industries is a clear indicator of its potential excellence in body scanning for the apparel industry.”