June 9th, 2014:

Technology Will Stop Fashion History Repeating Itself

The problems facing shoppers ordering clothes online are the same as those that faced mail order shoppers over eighty years ago

Just like history, fashion repeats itself. All fashion trends eventually return to vogue.

Padded shoulders, flares and tracksuits. They’ve all been at points mocked and decried as fashion crimes so awful they could never possibly return to the mainstream ever again. Yet, return they do.

But it isn’t just the fashion that comes back into play, the business and shopping trends around the industry do too.

Trends from the past

The history of ready-to-wear fashion (that is ‘off the peg’ clothing, rather than bespoke or tailored outfits) is vastly different for men and women.

Men’s ready-to-wear clothing can be traced back to the bloody war fields of nineteenth century America. The rise of mass manufacturing during the industrial revolution finally solved the military’s problem of the need to clothe thousands of men of different physical statures as quickly and as cheaply as possible. The ability to base clothing on a series of ‘average’ male body types was exploited by manufacturers and quickly adapted for the commercial civilian market.

Women, however, stayed loyal to making their own clothes or (for the wealthier) buying custom made until the 1920s and 30s when a change in economic and social trends saw an explosion in chain stores and mail order services.

Unfortunately for manufacturers, the boom in mail order sales was met with a tidal wave of returns as women found it hard to know what size to order for themselves. The system used for men (creating a series of average body types using chest measurements as a reference point) did not produce as accurate a result when transferred to women’s figures.

Using bust measurements as a basis for sizing seemed logical on the surface, but was utterly flawed in practice. Due to the economic impact of wasted produce, the US government commissioned a national survey of women’s body measurements to try and address the issue. This attempt at standardising sizes was noble, but ultimately doomed. Instead, sizing terms continued to develop according to the preferences and logic (or otherwise) of the manufacturers.

A familiar pattern

Today we see increasing numbers of shoppers purchasing online. Whether for reasons of convenience, cheaper prices or simply the wish to avoid the teeming masses on the high street, our equivalent to the mail order industry of the early twentieth century is booming.

As any shopper knows, sizing across labels gives only the faintest of hints of what size to expect. For example, a size 16 for women can vary by as much as 8cm in measurement between brands. Similarly, a woman needing a size 6 in Banana Republic may wear a size 10 in Topshop. With over a century of disparity between brands and their sizing terminology, a standardised sizing system is as distant a pipe dream now as it ever was.

The inability to try clothes on when buying online is, just as it was for our catalogue using predecessors in the 1930s, causing huge problems. A survey by IMRG found that up to 23% of clothing bought online is returned. A phenomenal financial cost for the retail industry and a major barrier to wider public confidence in the platform.

While we may be no closer to uniform sizing now than 80 years ago, we now have the technology and data to all but eliminate the issue of ill-fitting clothing orders.

Cutting the cloth right first time

As for many problems in the modern world, data can be a major trump card to play in the battle. The ability for retailers to use a customer’s previous purchases and records of personal physical data to help ensure correct sizes are ordered can be a massive help. Some retailers now warn a customer if they have selected an item in a different size to a previous purchase; flagging an order for a ‘large’, for instance, if a ‘medium’ was previously bought.

Virtual fitting solutions are also increasingly playing a role in making sure the cut of the cloth meets a customer’s fit preference. From 2D illustrated garment-to-garment comparisons (directly cross referencing the measurement of a favourite dress owned by a customer to one they wish to buy) to 3D computer body modeling, the tools are now there to make online shopping a more reassuring journey for the wary shopper.

By improving the online shopping through allowing customers to ‘virtually’ try on clothes before they buy, retailers may convince many shoppers to bypass the hassle of physical fittings rooms entirely.


The perfect fit

The way we shop is evolving and maturing. Increased globalisation, combined with ever-rising smartphone and digital penetration, mean it is more important than ever for retailers to enable informed purchasing of their products to the ‘point and click’ shopping base. The market is too tempting in size to ignore.

In contrast to the 1930s, the technology, data and means are now there to prevent the returns that previously plagued the industry blighting its 21st century equivalent.

Unlike flares, the concept of ordering an item that doesn’t fit is something that should genuinely be consigned to fashion’s dustbin.

By Peder Stubert, Co-Founder Virtusize

Also published by Huffington Post UK


May 27th, 2014:

Decoded Fashion London Summit

We were at the Decoded Fashion London Summit, where we got to participate in a panel debate regarding “The ROI of Fit Technologies” together with other fitting solutions. We were also in the Spotlight Expo and got to meet various interesting people. 

It was interesting to see and listen to the impact and influence technology have on the fashion industry. Speakers such as Lulu Guiness, Mary Katrantzou and William Kim (CEO of All Saints) all shared their thoughts and input as to how technology effects and will effect their brands. 

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imagePhotos: Courtesy of Decoded Fashion


April 30th, 2014:

Fixing How Clothes Fit You Can Reshape Online Retail Logistics

When we were in Austin, Texas for SXSW we met Rawn Shah, a journalist for Forbes who was very interested in our solution and wrote a piece about us and how solutions like ours can reshape the online retail logistics. 

Read the article here


March 26th, 2014:

The end of online returns? App lets you see how clothes will fit based on items you already own

Last week, the British daily newspaper The Daily Mail covered Virtusize, giving the readers a detailed explanation of our garment-to-garment solution.

It tells the readers how finding the right size and fit is so important because sizes varies drastically between retailers, therefore it’s vital that online shoppers have a way to feel confident when choosing the right clothing size when they shop online, as they do not have the luxury of using a fitting room.

Read the full article here


February 26th, 2014:

Online retailers will cut returns if they tailor their offering

Thirty-five years on eCommerce has transformed the way we shop. From plant pots to sportswear, consumers can purchase practically anything online. Whilst retailers are pleased with effective sales channel online portals can provide, eCommerce to date hasn’t been a smooth ride.

A sharp increase in online shopping has, however, resulted in a corresponding increase in online returns, a costly bill for retailers to foot.

A recent report from IMRG, the UK’s Online Retail Association, showed the long-term return rate for online apparel is 23%, but can be as high as 30% for retailers. It’s these figures that must be taken into account whenever record-breaking online sales figures are proclaimed. How many Christmas gifts were sent back to sender after the holidays?

As more and more stores jump online, competition gets stiffer. To remain one step ahead of the game retailers need to make themselves as appealing as possible to customers. Delivery terms and offerings are one of the key battlegrounds retailers are fighting on.

Uncertain customers will shop elsewhere; retailers are being forced to offer attractive, and often free, delivery policies. Studies have found that handling each returned item costs online sellers between £3.50 ($6) and £11 ($18), which doesn’t take into account the losses from the items that are returned in a damaged or unsalable condition.

The ease of returning products has encouraged a new wave of shoppers to bulk buy online and send back what they don’t like – a particular problem for fashion retailers. Unable to try clothes on to see how they fit, shoppers are purchasing multiple sizes of the same garment to try on at home. When they’ve found the perfect fit they simply return the rest.

Taking a closer look at the cost of online returns proves that UK retailers need to increase customer confidence and combat the current ‘return to sender’ mentality.

Give and you shall receive

Like physical stores, online sellers will never be able to prevent habitual product returners, but ensuring they have the best possible solutions to prevent returns will have a significant impact. Research has shown a 1% decrease in returns can mean a 1% increase in profits.

Nick Robertson, Chief Executive of online retail giant ASOS recently commented that a 1% fall in returns would immediately add £10 million ($16 million) to the company’s bottom line.

So why exactly do retailers offer free policies?

Customers and retailers are in a marriage of convenience when it comes to returns.

Retailers have to offer services for free to be able to compete and customers don’t want the hassle of having to send items back. But it’s a somewhat forced arrangement that causes irritation to all involved.

Klas Hjort, a Swedish professor from Lund University, has carried out extensive research on this issue. He found that factors such as legislation and competition often force e-tailers to offer free delivery and free returns but more often than not these offers are not profitable. They are, so to speak, a necessary evil.

For online shopping to reach its potential retailers need to balance customer satisfaction with sustainable delivery policies.

Alter to create the perfect fit

This is not the first time online shopping has faced challenges. Founded in the midst of the dotcom crash, when the outlook for online selling looked doubtful, ASOS managed to defeat the odds and is now one of the most successful fashion retailers in the World. With Goldman Sachs estimating that the cost of returns of poorly fitting and unwanted clothing averages 30% of online pure-play sales, retailers shouldn’t be passively worrying about the cost of the returns. They should instead be thinking about how to combat them.

Whilst online retailers will never be able to replicate the in-store experience they can bridge the gap to give users the best possible shopping experience.

Images and product specifications can be the deciding factors that will determine whether a customer will purchase an item or not. For fashion retailers this is particularly tricky as customers are unable to physically see how garments fit them. Fortunately, many have started deploying virtual fitting solutions with the aim of helping shoppers pick the right size and understand fit. The better informed the customer is, the less likely a trip to the post office to return the item will be.

Conquer and profits will soar

Clicking onto an online retailer’s site is the same as walking into a store for online shoppers. A store will be judged by its display, how easy it is to find products and overall customer service.

To change customer habits online retailers need to improve customer confidence and give them the data, information and visual tools necessary to make accurate and informed decisions. This will reduce returns and consequently increase profits.

By Peder Stubert, Co-Founder Virtusize

Also published by Fourth Source

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February 4th, 2014:

Virtusize is “The Big Idea” - find us in N by Norwegian

What’s the big idea? 
Most of us have experienced that moment when you excitedly rip open a parcel of clothing ordered online only to find it doesn’t fit quite as well as it did on the model in the photographs. It’s one of the biggest problems with online shopping, and the result is an average return rate of 30 per cent for online retailers. And if you don’t buy clothing online, it’s probably because there’s no fitting room. Enter Virtusize, a new tool that aims to solve the problem of not being able to try on clothes when shopping online. “Together with the photographs and information online retailers provide, we try to offer the experience of a fitting room,” says Swedish co-founder Peder Stubert. 

How does it work? 
To get started, you input the measurements of a similar garment you already own – either by measuring it or finding and tagging a garment you own that is in the Virtusize network. You create a kind of online reference wardrobe you can use on any e-shop where Virtusize is available. The outline of the garment you want to buy is overlaid on the silhouette of the garment you own to give you a better idea of what to expect when it turns up.

Where did the idea come from? 
The idea is based around the eBay model of selling clothes, where sellers list the exact measurements of the garment for sale and you can compare those measurements to a similar garment you already own.

The five co-founders – all avid online shoppers – realised it was an answer to the issue of size and fit for online retailers. “The problem was there is no logic in sizing – I can be anything from a small to an extra large depending on the brand,” says Stubert. “So, either we didn’t know what size to buy or the fit was not what we expected.”

How is Virtusize different? 
There were already a few different attempts to solve the size and fit problem, but most start by getting consumers to measure their body and then overlaying the garments on the body, which the Virtusize team believes is too complicated and doesn’t really work. “We realised that we needed to compare products to products, not products to body,” says Stubert. “We wanted to take this idea and make it more visual, intuitive and fun. We spoke to pattern designers who were very encouraging, so, in spring 2011, we quit our jobs and got started!” 

Which online retailers use Virtusize? 
The first version of Virtusize was launched in autumn of 2011 with nelly.com, Scandinavia’s biggest online retailer. There are currently more than 30 retailers using Virtusize, including heavy hitters such as ASOS, Acne, Monsoon and Whyred. “We’re very focused now on getting Virtusize out to big online retailers all over the world,” says Stubert.

What’s the next step? 
World domination. Currently, there are offices in Stockholm and Tokyo (as Japan has one of the most advanced e-commerce markets in the world), and there are plans to open an office in the US early this year. “We want to keep developing the product,” says Stubert. “The goal is to become the essential tool for people around the world when they shop for clothes online.”


January 27th, 2014:

Piecing Together the Size and Fit Puzzle

Centuries ago clothing was made to measure. The rich had bespoke tailor-made outfits and the poor stitched their own. Regardless of wealth, clothing was custom made to match each individual’s shape.

This is a stark contrast to today’s world where we mainly buy off the peg. Shoppers cast their eyes at labels to find out the size of clothing, but are left confused about how a garment will fit them when they put it on.

Luckily, consumers in a physical store can head to changing rooms to try clothing on and ensure it fits. But those that shop online are left playing a guessing game. Unsure of how an item will fit them, many online shoppers have started ordering multiple sizes of the same garment to find their favourite fit and then send the rest back. It’s a habit that is costing retailers billions.

A stitch in time…

With the recent explosion of online shopping (research showing almost one in five pounds spent on shopping in the UK is done online) retailers have good reason to anticipate an increase in sales in 2014 but they should also brace themselves for a corresponding high in product returns.

A recent BBC article reported that it is common for three in ten items ‘sold’ online to end up as returns as customers ‘buy’ different colours and sizes to experiment with at home.

A new study by the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, looking at one major European online retailer, found that without the burden of returns, profits would be as much as 50% higher. This highlights the colossal amount of money that could be saved by reducing returns.

The key question is how do retailers reduce the cost of returns? 

Moving the needle

It is becoming standard for online retailers to couple garment information next to videos and pictures of models wearing the clothing. But obviously, a size eight dress modeled by skinny 6ft woman is unlikely to look and fit the same on a 5ft 3in customer.

Equally, simply including a list of product measurements does not allow shoppers to visualise how the garment will appear on them.

The varied size system used by different retailers is a further complication. For example, a size 8 by British brand Topshop is 7cm smaller around the hips than a size 8 from Spanish Zara.

Without a global or industry ‘standard sizing’ system, customers cannot rely on the number or size in the label because brands persistently tailor to their niche and alter their measurements.

Retailers need to give shoppers the tools to enable them to see how garments fit before they order them online. According to a Drapers Fashion E-tail report better size and fit guidance is the number one request among consumers shopping for clothes online.

Retailers will never be able to replicate the physical changing room online but virtual fitting solutions are proven to increase customer confidence and prevent people from buying multiple items of the same outfit.

One of the most well known approaches is the 3D model that allows customers to mock up an image of their body shape to see how an outfit will look on them. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, these complicated solutions are expensive to set-up and often inaccurate; they show what an item looks like but fail to portray how a garment would fit.

Our research has found that online shoppers want another type of virtual fitting room. They are not so interested in seeing what the garment looks like on them on-screen but rather how the clothing will fit them in the real life.

They want to see if their desired dress is going to be shorter or longer than their tried and trusted favourite that holds pride of place in its wardrobe at home.

Sizing up the future 

It is evident, online returns are a huge problem and inconvenience for both retailers and consumers.

It seems the missing piece of the puzzle doesn’t lie in expensive technology but rather in going back to basics to help online shoppers buy clothing that makes them feel as if it were made to measure.

Peder Stubert’s second blog post in the Huffington Post UK brings up the topic of size and fit and how the conception of these two terms have changed with time. What is size today?

Read the blog post at Huffington Post UK: 

http://huff.to/1gipRhv


January 7th, 2014:

What’s happening in 2014?

New year, new energy! The team is back in place after some rest during the holidays and are ready to start the new year.

We are very excited about this year and all that lies ahead of us. Therefore, we want to give you a sneak peek of what is coming up in 2014:

Revolutionary Feature

We have a very exciting feature coming up next year, which will make it easier for shoppers to insert reference garments without having to use a measuring tape. It will be a quick and easy way for shoppers to start using Virtusize and will improve the overall shopping experience.
Mobile Site
In 2014, we will launch a version of the widget customized for your mobile sites, hence letting online shoppers use the solution on all smartphones and improve the experience on tablets.
Statistics & Analytics
An improved way of keeping track of the activities around the widget will be implemented and help you monitor specific usage. 
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December 31st, 2013:

Happy New Year!

As 2013 is approaching the end we look back and feel proud of many of the accomplishments we have achieved this year. The many new partner stores we have welcomed to our family, the awards we have won and the increased recognitions we have received.

This year we have established ourselves as the solution for illustrating size and fit at some of the largest and most important retailers in the world and we will continue to strive to become the solution for size and fit for more e-tailer’s next year.

2013 has been great, but we are looking forward to the journey and more milestones in 2014.

See you next year!


December 29th, 2013:

Watch out for us in 2014

2014 will no doubt be an exciting and adventurous year for us and it is always nice to get an extra boost of confidence. This week, Swedish financial newspaper Dagens Industri named us one of the 14 hottest IT-companies to look out for in 2014.

We are on the list together with other prominent Swedish IT companies such as Spotify and King.

Watch out 2014, here we come!

http://bit.ly/1dFbfTt


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