Fit Technology: The Future of Retail is Matching People to Product
By Jessica Couch, Fit Technology Integration Expert and Founder of Luxor and Finch Consulting
What Is Fit
Fit is the most important issue consumers have with clothing right now. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Bodylabs, 58 percent of shoppers would buy more frequently if they could ensure a proper fit. Additionally, 85% of shoppers would purchase more if they could ensure a proper fit. A lack of understanding of fit is the main cause for returns, dead inventory, cart abandonment and the reason most people do not try new brands.
In 2015 while obtaining my master’s at Cornell University, under the guise of Professor Susaan P. Ashdown, I conducted an in-person and online survey to determine the impact of fit on the purchase decision. Fit is so significant to the purchase decisions, shoppers can be categorized into personas based on their hierarchy of fit perception. These personas can then be used to develop UX/UI, in-person experiences and directive shopping techniques.
So why do companies still neglect to view fit technology integration as a competitive advantage?
The issue lies in an understanding of what fit technology really is. To assume that fit technology is just body scanners and gimmicks is incorrect. Fit technology as we see it is the implementation of technology and best practices that reduce pain points caused by fit. To better appreciate fit technology, we have to break it apart and understand the individual definitions. Fit, as we see it at Luxor and Finch, is the combination of both consumer measurements and preferences.
Technology, as defined by Webster's dictionary, is
A. the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area
B. a capability given by the practical application of knowledge
C. a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge
D: the specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor
With this understanding we can then move forward with understanding what fit technology really is and how diverse solutions are.
RENT the Runway’s chief technology officer and head of product Josh Builder mentioned in a recent article why they do not use fit technology ‘gimmicks” to rent clothing. But according to our definition of technology, they actually do. The user generated content feature on the website, consisting of women sharing their sizes, measurements and opinions of previously worn clothing, is a type of fit technology. It requires no hardware or complicated software but it is a process that helps to match people to product effectively. Fit technology can exist across the supply chain and in various forms. Implementation depends on the needs of the customers and the data (or lack thereof) being collected. The goal of all fit tech is the same, reduce pain points caused by fit and match people to products.
Why It Matters
Matching people to product should be the most important goal of every apparel business. Fit is a major factor in the matching process. Comprised of both measurements and preference, an understanding or misunderstanding of fit is often the leading cause for the $62B returns in the us annually. 67% of shoppers have reported that fit is the sole cause for returns. While returns are a big focus, and they should be, what is less known but equally problematic is the dead inventory issue. Every year dead inventory causes retailer $50B. Whether a result of poor placement, merchandising, planning or fit, it greatly hinders the ability of brands to successfully match people to product.
Current Issues in the Supply Chain
Fit based practices help to create loyal shoppers. Sizing is a difficult issue because of traditional sizing practices. Generally, brands work with one fit model with a certain body type and market their products to the masses. Without directive shopping techniques, people are matched incorrectly to the wrong product. There are ways to avoid this. Techniques in the design room and during the fitting process can be implemented to help better match people to product. Grading is also often problematic. Many designers and tech designers are not creating the right grading systems. Depending on the body tpe grading has to be adjusted parametrically. There are tools and techniques that can also assist with this issue. Catching fit issue in the design and development phase can help to reduce a lot of the pain points. However, once the garmen hits the sales floor, resolving the fit issue looks slightly different.
In brick and mortar stores, the layout, merchandising and associates are key to creating an enhanced fit experience. Additionally, collecting consumer behavior data is also important when matching people to products. Technology such as RFID scanning, responsive mirrors and geo tagging can help to collect the right customer data and match people to product better. This is even more important for multi brand retailers. The information collected can then be used to assess shopper behavior in-depth and begin to bring to light the cause for returns and dead inventory, thus creating a better shopping experience. Brands such as Rebecca Minkoff have already begun to create in store experiences that are tech enabled, driven off consumer data and responsive to the needs of customers. Making it easier for customers to shop and discover products in store is extremely important but making it personal is most important. Personalization helps to drive sales. In a study conducted by Segment, researchers found that 44% of consumers said they would likely become repeat customers if their experience was personalized, 49% of surveyed shoppers purchased a product they didn’t originally intend to buy after receiving a personalized recommendation and 40% of u.s. consumers purchased more because their experience was personalized. Personalization and matching people to product go hand in hand.
Online, matching people to product is equally imperative. Whether through online mobile tools, imagery reflecting actual customers, user generated content, innovative merchandising or fit based copy and content, fit techniques and practices can help create higher conversions and lower returns, keeping customers loyal. Brands take a massive risks by not matching people to product successfully. With all of the competing stores and brands popping up, losing a customer can have adverse consequences. One bad experience not only loses that one customer, but everyone else in that customer available network. Multiplied across hundreds and even thousands of people spells out doomsday for brands and retailers.
What’s the Solution
There is no one all-encompassing fit solution, however there are solutions that work best depending on the problems that have been identified. In order to resolve the fit issues you have to understand current gaps in your business, what's hurting your bottom line, what data is being collected, what data is needed, what part of your experience can be improved upon, customer behavior, and customer feedback. Deciding which fit based solution is best for your business depends on your current product offering and customer personas. While there are many solutions available, choosing the right one can make an impactful difference on your performance and the longevity of your brand.
Luxor and Finch helps brands and retailers implement the right technology to reduce the pain points caused by fit by analyzing their current practices, identifying fit related issues then remediating the issues through strategy and implementation.