From the Wall Street Journal “At the moment online retailing is being hit by crippling returns, up to 30% of goods are sent back: very often simply because they don’t fit. It is common practice for customers to buy three sizes of a garment and send two back. This is hugely expensive for retailers and inconvenient for customers.” There are many Band-Aid approaches to this problem.
The most common approach is to attempt to train the user to measure himself. Vendors provide instructional graphics, videos, and tutorials that explain the measurement process. The main problems with asking customers to measure themselves are:
- They don’t have a tape measure
- They don’t know how to properly measure themselves
- It may take 2 people to measure the customer. Online shopping is often done alone
- They make mistakes while entering their measurements
- Entering measurements into a web form is a long and tedious task.
Consider what Levi’s has done with CurveID. They ask customers to group themselves into one of 3 categories, rather than have them measure themselves. Instead of measuring your tummy, you are asked a question like “which image is most similar to your tummy?”
Get professional measured
Many vendors have given up on self-reporting altogether. They believe that the only accurate way to capture a person’s measurements is to have a certified measurement professional take the measurements in person. They would argue that custom fitting simply cannot be done over the Internet.
Cracking the code of mass customization
There are many companies trying to solve the fit problem with advanced body-scanning technology like Microsoft Kinect, body scanning booths, or common PC web cams.
“Me-Ality — short for “measured reality” — utilizes 3-D body-scanning technology similar to that used in airports, but instead of finding objects, it takes measurements of a shopper’s body. Unique Solutions’ Virtual Fitting Room Bodyscanner™, said to be the only scanner in the world able to measure the body while fully clothed.”
“Upcload is doing something that many of us have wished for: it uses your computer’s webcam to size you up, then recommend clothing that will fit you well. You calibrate the service by standing in front of a camera and holding a CD (which have a consistent shape). Then you can shop across any of the sites that have integrated UPcload. Each site gives UPcload size information about each item, which is matched against your fit profile.”
The mass customization apparel business simply won’t go mainstream until shoppers trust that they are buying clothing that will fit. Ecommerce went mainstream in the last 10 years thanks to secure payment methods like Paypal and integration of product imagery. The next frontier in online shopping is to instill trust in the fit of a garment.