Success Story is a Sourcing Journal feature highlighting innovative solutions across all areas of the supply chain.
With a growing e-commerce business, American-made men’s clothier J. Press is setting its sights well beyond its Northeastern roots in New Haven, Conn. But to expand successfully, the 120-year-old apparel seller felt it had to roll out one of its biggest physical differentiators across its e-commerce experience: made-to-order shirts.
Leveraging technology from 3D and 2D product visualization platform Threekit, J. Press implemented dress shirt customization capabilities on its website, giving online customers nearly 3,000 product combinations to choose from to create a made-to-order classic or trim shirt. The online experience launch made even more sense after J. Press closed its three stores in New Haven, New York and Washington, D.C., due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While J. Press had offered customers made-to-measure capabilities for its custom men’s wear for years, Jon Callahan, vice president of stores, understood that many shoppers wanted to keep it simpler for a dress shirt. Here, J. Press offers 80 fabrics, plus a clear set of choices: three collar styles, three pocket options, two cuff types and two different cuts.
The simplification kept men from getting overwhelmed. “With the made-to-measure program, there’s many choices that you can choose from, with different styles, collars and pockets, cuffs and fabrics,” Callahan told Sourcing Journal. “We just listened and narrowed it down. We decided this doesn’t have to be an entirely complicated process of taking measurements and giving them 20 different choices for cuffs and 20 different choices for collars.”
The stripped-down customization paid dividends for J. Press, with the retailer selling three times more dress shirts in the six months after the online launch than it did in the entire 18 months the program had been available in stores beforehand. J.Press typically delivers the made-to-order shirts to shoppers within four weeks.
“Customers always could call up the store and say, ‘Can you just make me a blue oxford with this collar?’ but again, they don’t get the experience of seeing what it really looks like in person,” said Isaac Metlitsky, senior manager of web and digital at J. Press. “By offering this online right away, I think we were able to open up those customers that were waiting to order the J. Press shirt that they have wanted, while also having a little bit of that store experience online.”
Metlitsky said that during the pandemic, buying patterns for the made-to-order shirts remained consistent even amid worries of a slowdown due to office closures.
“I think an oxford shirt for a lot of people is just something that they put on as part of their daily uniform, whether it’s a weekday, on Zoom, off Zoom or in the office,” Metlitsky said. “We want to make sure that we can provide customers with fabrics they might need for any type of occasion.”
J. Press is currently adding new fabrics to add to the customization offering in the next few months for different kinds of occasions, varying from casual leaning to dressier styles.
Callahan credited the feature’s growth to Threekit’s ability to build out a website experience that was “really easy to use,” allowing shoppers to buy a shirt in as little as a “minute or two.” And Metlitsky noted that the process gives online customers more confidence in their ordering that they may not have had otherwise.
“By having that bit of 3D imaging, the aspect to be able to see what you’re going to end up with, it’s almost the same as buying off the shelf even though you may just have to wait a little bit longer for it,” said Metlitsky.
When users access Threekit’s made-to-order Virtual Photographer interface, they view a 3D image of a folded white oxford shirt on the left and five clickable drop-down menus on the right—one each for fabrics, colors, collars, pockets and fits and sizes.
Once the shopper makes a customization within a menu, such as clicking “pink hairline stripe” fabric instead of the default “white oxford” option, the real-time rendering of the folded shirt will automatically change to match the desired appearance.
The configurator provides immediate renderings of the customizable shirts corresponding with all possible product combinations. Additionally, shoppers can zoom in and out, and enlarge the shirt to see features in better detail, such as fabric, cut or stitching.
For now, the Threekit customization program will remain in place for the dress shirts, but it will likely be a while before the program expands to other items sold at J. Press. The program is already largely successful because the price points are only slightly higher than ready to wear (custom shirts hover around $135, whereas J. Press dress shirts traditionally cost $125).