Forbes Magazine Review: New York’s Fashion World Discusses Technology Disruption

The #1 business issue: a perfect fit = a perfect sale

Providing consumers with correctly-fitting clothes is one of the top business issues in the industry, and a key opportunity for technology disruption using better data.

Common sense dictates that good fit is key to fashion purchases, but it’s also backed up by the hard data. Customers who try on clothes in fitting rooms have a conversion rate of 67%, compared to just 10% for those that don’t. Concerns about fit is the number one reason consumers report being reluctant to purchase clothes online. Returned items is one of the biggest costs for online retailers, with return rates of 15-50% depending on the type of item, and 60% of the time that goods are returned, poor fit is cited as the reason.

Conference attendees said it’s not only about transparency and efficiency. Sizing is a delicate subject, and the way products are sized is part of a brand’s image.

Customers prefer to buy clothes with smaller sizes on the label, and this has lead to rampant size inflation over the years. A woman’s size 10 is now 4″ wider than in 1975 – and even men’s sizes, ostensibly marked in inches, have grown larger.

The general consensus was that the future will see retailers moving away from defined “sizes” to a more general notion of “fit.” To achieve this, the industry will need better tools to gather and store the real measurements of clothes and customers.

Various companies at the event discussed their approaches to fixing the problem, and gathering “point of fit” data (who didn’t buy, why, and what garment didn’t fit, etc.)

Styku proposes perhaps the most interesting idea from a technology perspective. The company enables consumers to scan themselves using the Microsoft Kinect image-recognition device originally designed for the XBox games platform.

Styku CEO Raj Sareen says that “through the XBox, Microsoft is the largest body scanning company in the world” because 1% of the XBox user base (around 350,000 people) have used the device for this purpose. Once they have been scanned, consumers can visualize how clothes would look on a virtual model that matches their own dimensions.

Styku was recently chosen by Microsoft as one of the most innovative uses of the Kinect platform.

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