“Online clothing retailers struggle with high return rates, which is about 20%” says Sucharita Mulpuru, a Principal Analyst for Forrester Research. “For expensive items, returns rates are even higher – 50%. The numbers look even even bigger, if you consider return rates of Brick-and-mortar stores – less than 10%.”
(Erin G. Smith, WSJ)
Sizing & fitting is one of the inherent problems for not just customers shopping online, but also for online retailers. Many retailers have tried to dig deeper into the problem and find a solution to break this barrier between fashion brands and shoppers. Years of attempts to standardise sizing have been fruitless; fitting people into rigid size “frames” seems impossible.
Read more about the attempts of sizes standardisation and vanity sizing here
One of the biggest obstacles for companies expanding into global markets is providing accurate sizing for the local markets. And when you add international expansion of brand and global tourism into the equation, the size complexity multiplies.
So why do customers return the products that they buy online? There can be many reasons, for example – maybe they didn’t like the color or fabric, maybe they simply changed their mind, or it simply didn’t fit them the way they expected. As an Online Retailer, gathering data related to the reasons behind returns is of paramount importance if you are serious about winning customer loyalty.
The Retailers are moving and expanding to new markets for growth. One of the biggest challenges which Global market offers them is that different demographics have different body shape, size, stature, etc. Retailers and brands are trying to hit a fast-moving target. When it comes buying fashion online, or worse, returning it, the number one factor is fit,” he said. “Some 70% of all returned garments online are fit related. Furthermore, fit has a huge impact on brand loyalty with 85% of consumers saying they go back to a brand specifically because of how it fits them. Fit related returns are a massive issue for online fashion suppliers. And when you add international expansion of brand and global tourism into the equation, that confusion multiplies. Different country size designations, an absence of country or international size correlation standards, different and dramatically inconsistent grading between sizes, and confusion around alpha, or letter sizing, such as S-M-L-XL all add up to a perplexing environment for shoppers.”
(Ed Gribbin, Edited)
Speaking from our professional experience, the sizing differences between brands, countries, genders are sometimes more “tangible”, and sometimes the sizing between some of the brands can be somehow similar. To visualise the inconsistency between brands from the UK, ‘What size am I?’ asked a size 12 model to try out size 12 in different brands and choose a size that really fits her. The results were not surprising. Consistency was clearly missing in the sizes among brands that were tested.
(Read more about the project)
What is more, the “ What size am I?” project suggests that different brands provide clothe sizes based on their target audience’s needs and image. “While working on this, I noticed some interesting trends. Firstly, all stores size in evenly spaced increments – because they are using fitting models rather than individual models for each size – but different stores aim for different markets. Some retailers seem to cover pretty much every widely available size – in the UK, these include Gap, Marks & Spencer, Monsoon, and Next. Others are unashamedly aimed at what I call the “fashionable midget” end of the market, like TopShop, Banana Republic and Kate Middleton’s beloved Reiss.” (Anna Powell-Smith, project What size am I ?)
Sizing tools available in the market
“A new wave of technologies is just beginning to hit the market, these technologies
(a) acknowledge that different brands fit differently, and that they will likely never align;
(b) can help individual shoppers, no matter what their size or body shape, find the brands with the best personal fit for them.
These technologies, can quantify the exact size and shape variances among thousands of brands. They will allow brands and retailers to more accurately connect shoppers with the brands and styles that will fit and flatter them on a personal level.
Fit among brands may never be aligned, but empowering consumers with better information and simple, intuitive tools, designed for today’s increasingly mobile lifestyles, will ease the pain of finding the right size the next time they need that perfect fit.” (Ed Gribbin, Edited)
To put it simply, there are 4 main approaches that are used to solve the sizing & fit issue in fashion e-commerce. Each of them serves a different purpose and has its own advantages and disadvantages:
|3D scanning and virtual fitting rooms||Smaller shops with limited selection of products.||Exact measurements and real time “trying on”||Time consuming and costly to digitise all clothing measurements|
|Measurements||Tailored clothing companies (for example, suit companies.)||Personalised size solution tailored for each client.||Time and resource consuming to measure all clothes. Impossible to visualise.|
|Personal shoppers||Exclusive fashion ecommerce platforms.||Personal relationship with clients. Taking total control of learning their “fit”.||Such solutions are usually very costly and are for “upper class society”. Possible human “error”.|
|Data driven solutions||Big multi or mono brand online shops.||Solution is based on machine learning rather than personal opinion.||Sometimes it takes time to learn about shopper’s style preferences. Insufficient data.|
Things you can do to help your customer pick their right size
Here are 3 techniques used by bigger retailers like Zalando, ASOS & Amazon to help their customers picking the right size. These techniques can help you communicate the product size and fitting more efficiently to your customers:
- Detailed model and product description (Zalando). Describe the model wearing the garment: what size she/he is wearing, how tall they are, etc. The more information you’ll provide about the model and the garment, the better understanding of the product’s fit your shoppers will get.
- Product reviews and feedback (Amazon). Implement or gather yourself (if possible) customer’s feedback. What fit, what did not fit, and, finally, was is it what they expected?
- Show perspective in photography (ASOS). It is important to spend time and resources to showcase the product, especially if you sell shoes. Sometimes it requires an overall product impression to make a purchase decision.
At EasySize, we have proven that the size & fit issue can be solved by simply using the resources an online shop already has, which is data. Each shop, no matter how big or small it is, contains large amounts of data of what their shoppers buy, return and do not return. By reading and mapping the purchase behaviour it is possible to read and understand each single shopper’s style & fit and preferences.
Originally from Russia, Gulnaz Khusainova is the Founder & CEO at EasySize – A data-driven company based in Denmark, disrupting fashion e-commerce with their data driven sizing solution for retailers. Gulnaz holds MSc in Strategic marketing and has an experience in big data technologies, while working as a Head of unit in one of the largest banks in Russia. Despite of her young age (26 years old), she has been recognised as one of the most inspiring young female entrepreneurs in Europe’s Ecommerce Space.