Coming off a year of dramatic retail shifts and accelerated online consumer purchasing behaviors, last year’s explosive online growth was not immune to new challenges.
In particular, the apparel retail industry, which pre-pandemic experienced 75 percent of sales made in-store, saw an immediate jump to 100 percent of clothing being purchased online — creating new demand and emerging pain points for both retailers and consumers. One of the key changes in the consumer experience was the loss of trying on clothing in-store. The seemingly simple part of a shopper’s journey allowed someone to find the right fit and purchase the item in just one size, however, the shift to online created the need for consumers to order multiple sizes of the same item.
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But while ordering multiple sizes, or bracketing, solved the problem of trying-on for consumers, these orders also created an artificial temporary demand, out-of-stocks for consumers and guaranteed returns. And in many cases, even when a consumer orders multiple sizes, they fail to find the right fit.
According to Christian Ruth, chief executive officer and founder of MySureFit, the frustration from these experiences can also result in customer loss for the brand. “The real frustration of the consumers is if they’re trying a new brand for the first time, and that item doesn’t fit them well, over 50 percent of them will abandon that brand,” said Ruth during the Fairchild Media Group’s recent Tech Forum. “And return policies can’t fix that problem.”
Moreover, Ruth said, “these issues are not only frustrating for consumers, resulting in potential consumer churn, it’s also very expensive for brands and retailers to trust and support that model.”
“You’re talking about a scenario where brand retailers could be forced to increase inventory to meet artificial demand,” said David Cunningham, president at MySureFit. “No one is going to keep three sizes, but the increase that [bracketing] combined with the prolonged return cycle time is a critical issue that results in we believe is an increase of potentially 1,500 times a brand’s inventory. And it’s dramatic because that cycle time is so long.”
Notably, the significant inventory being manufactured to support the artificial demand is hugely detrimental from a sustainability standpoint when at the end of the season items are moved back into a warehouse to be heavily discounted — which can threaten a brand’s aspirational value — or be destroyed.
While various size technology solutions have entered the market over the last several years, Ruth told WWD the industry was continuing to struggle with the personal nature of fit as it relied heavily on self-reported measurements.
“Consumer self-reported measurements which have a number of reasons are unreliable for a number of reasons,” said Ruth. “Either they know how to take the measurement or they are going to manipulate that self-reporting due to guilt, shame, or confidence issues. But the other problem was there was no standardization.”
Taking these challenges head-on, Ruth created MySureFit to take the guesswork and inconsistency out of the consumer’s hands by using algorithms to find a person’s perfect size from a photo.
“Everything we did was focused around getting high-quality information at the various fit points that are relevant to fit and can also take into account, consumer fit preferences across brands and across types of styles,” said Ruth. “Whether it’s a dress, blouse, denim, whatever it might be, it’s a system that can scale dramatically and exponentially because we knew that in order for behavior to change you want to have millions of users using it and brands and retailers trusting it.”
To get it right, Ruth said, MySureFit did it “the hard way,” engineering every potential facet of what the solution should be. The benefits of using higher-quality information on the technology speaks for itself with a proven 99 percent accuracy to measure fit from consumer photos. Today, MySureFit reports return rates well below 5 percent and higher conversion rates when its consumers check out.
At the same time, retailers using MySureFit’s solution are able to gain access to proprietary data based on the digital process used to gather data to reveal insights about demand. The demand data can then be optimized for future inventory planning and manufacturing purposes, knowing information about what fit and colors consumers are looking for and ultimately increase a brand’s core competencies.
“As I can imagine a world of 100 percent e-commerce — even though our technology can work in-store as well — we’re trying to create an opportunity for brand retailers to make the digital transformation shift because that’s where it’s going to be,” said Cunningham. “We want these brand retailers to be able to have the information and be able to arrange their operational strategic activities in the areas that really matter to them long term.”