Sizing Solutions Thriving, But Industry Slow to Catch up

Sizing is all! Incorrect size and sloppy fit mean the product comes back. Then starts the rigmarole of unsold inventory and deep discounts making it a retailer's worst nightmare. But, technology has a way out. Since the pandemic, broad acceptance of sizing solutions is generating greater revenue streams and triggering new business models.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • In the last two years, brands and retailers have been shedding their legendary lethargy in adapting to technological change.
  • A closer look at developments in the AI-VR-AR ecosystem will show a frenzy of activity, with technology improving by leaps and bounds. But, are brands and retailers keeping pace?
  • On analysing the online fronts of over 100 European retailers, it was found that 34 used size recommendation technology, and nine did not offer any help with sizing. Worse: not even 1% of shoppers clicked on size charts since they seemed to be outdated.
The fashion media is flooded with news about tech developments in fashion retail. In March this year, American departmental store giant Walmart started rolling out the first applications in its app and web store. The idea was to let people choose a model that looked most like them and judge for themselves how the garment would look on them.
The Model Look The fashion media is flooded with news about tech developments in fashion retail. In March this year, American departmental store giant Walmart started rolling out the first applications in its app and web store. The idea was to let people choose a model that looked most like them and judge for themselves how the garment would look on them. Vic B / Pixabay

The pandemic, two years ago, came with a series of consequent problems, all well documented subsequently. The supply chain hitches, lockdowns and social distancing norms wreaked havoc in the retail world. The flip side was that it ushered in radical changes in the way people shopped, particularly online. And when shops started re-opening, not many were too willing to try clothes in fitting rooms. All this while, the volume of returns through online shopping kept increasing.

But, the solutions had already existed, except that brands and retailers had been tardy in adopting the technology—of virtual fitting rooms. In the last two years, brands and retailers have been shedding their legendary lethargy in adapting to technological change.

The fashion media is flooded with news about tech developments in fashion retail. In March  this year, American departmental store giant Walmart started rolling out the first applications in its app and web store. Walmart started with a ‘Choose My Model’ functionality, which allows clothes to be shown on fifty different models with the most diverse sizes and skin tones. The idea was to let people choose a model that looked most like them and judge for themselves how the garment would look on them.

Since it was Walmart that was doing it, it became news. But public memory is short. Levi's had, long ago, in August 2017 created a flutter by launching its Virtual Stylist’ online feature on levi.com, that was also available through Facebook Messenger. The Virtual Stylist, Levi's claimed, was built by combining that expertise with artificial intelligence (AI). Users would get fashion advice – available throughout the site – in a conversational tone via their mobile device or laptop, creating a more personalised, easy shopping experience wherever and whenever they want it.

In between the Levi's innovation and the Walmart feature, it is not that the history of virtual styling and fitting had been a yawning gap.

A closer look at developments in the AI-VR-AR ecosystem will show a frenzy of activity, with technology improving by leaps and bounds. That would, therefore, make one ask: are brands and retailers keeping pace too?

When stores closed down and shoppers had to switch to buying clothes online, many shoppers who were hesitant to buy online in the past became very comfortable shopping online. As that happened, many brands (both big and small) realised very quickly that returns were suddenly a much bigger problem than they had ever expected.
Online Shopper When stores closed down and shoppers had to switch to buying clothes online, many shoppers who were hesitant to buy online in the past became very comfortable shopping online. As that happened, many brands (both big and small) realised very quickly that returns were suddenly a much bigger problem than they had ever expected. OSPAN ALI / Unsplash

Starting with the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic, people in industry say in one voice, has certainly got things going. For some it was a trigger, for others an accelerator.

"The pandemic has definitely fast-forwarded the need and demand for digital sizing by a good few years. Brands are also under increasing pressure to provide the best customer experience whilst demonstrating their commitment to sustainability - with consumers expecting verifiable digital assurances. They must focus on investing in digital technologies, that help manage their sustainability and stay focused on their UX to ensure they rise to the top," says Nicole Levitt, Vice-President of Marketing at Israeli company Sizer Techonolgies.

One of Sizer's notable projects came in May 2021 with mybraFit, the AI-powered app for North America intimate apparel brand Wacoal. Sizer's measurement technology determined breast measurements with accuracy, which were then integrated into Wacoal's sizing algorithm to deliver a bra size recommendation. All one had to do was use the front camera of a smartphone or tablet, and the measuring process would be complete in two minutes. Sizer's Chief Executive Adam Kaplan had then remarked, "We have seen digital adoption soar during the pandemic, with many companies accelerating the shift to digital in design, product development, and AI-powered body measurement solutions."

Nikita Dobrynin, Founder and CEO of Kiev-based AstraFit, agrees that the pandemic caused a big shift in consumer behaviour. "As in many other markets, online sales of clothing are now a mainstream channel. As a result, many apparel businesses were forced to allocate even more budget to their e-commerce. The big ones had to overcome quite a few challenges and it's not only marketing, like driving traffic or improving their webshops, but also figuring out logistics and support.

"Of course, the virtual fitting room is one of the solutions that many of them are now considering to keep up with the competition. Small brands are also thinking about using the technology. Especially, if it's a new business. They think that having a virtual fitting room tech available from day one is essential." AstraFit offers a solution that can be integrated right into a brand's website. Russian children's clothing brand Reima tied AstraFit's integration. Between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021, Reima.ru's average session duration increased 1.5 times and conversion rates went up 2.5 times.

Nikita Dobrynin
Nikita Dobrynin
Founder and CEO
AstraFit

As in many other markets, online sales of clothing are now a mainstream channel. As a result, many apparel businesses were forced to allocate even more budget to their e-commerce. The big ones had to overcome quite a few challenges and it's not only marketing, like driving traffic or improving their webshops, but also figuring out logistics and support.

As in many other markets, online sales of clothing are now a mainstream channel. As a result, many apparel businesses were forced to allocate even more budget to their e-commerce.
Full Mainstream As in many other markets, online sales of clothing are now a mainstream channel. As a result, many apparel businesses were forced to allocate even more budget to their e-commerce. Pawel Szvmanski / Unsplash

Growing Faster Than Expected

Far Away in San Francisco, Bold Metrics has been seeing more activity than before. Co-Founder and COO, Morgan Linton, takes a deep dive into the subject: "The space has been growing faster than we could have ever imagined. When stores closed down and shoppers had to switch to buying clothes online, many shoppers who were hesitant to buy online in the past became very comfortable shopping online. As that happened, many brands (both big and small) realised very quickly that returns were suddenly a much bigger problem than they had ever expected.

"One big lesson that apparel brands learned over the last two years is that new shoppers coming to their site had a hard time finding what size to buy. This translated into lower conversion rates and higher return rates than they had seen in the past. Demand for virtual sizing technology grew exponentially as this happened, and as a result we've seen the strongest growth in the history of our company over the last two years."

Bold Metrics offers a range of SaaS (software as a service) solutions to help brands unlock the power of body data to improve the customer experience around fit, and these brands now come in both big and small sizes.

Continues Linton: "Big brands are moving faster than they ever have which is great to see — it's clear that they are looking for solutions that do more than just increase conversion rates; reducing returns is more critical today than ever before. Currently we're seeing demand across both Enterprise and SMBs equally — both segments have seen so much growth in their online businesses that they all see virtual sizing technology like ours as a must-have. This is not limited to luxury brands, in fact, I think we are at a point in time where all brands now realize a size chart isn't enough, they need to leverage AI-first solutions to help their customer find the right size online."

Billy Pardo
Billy Pardo
Chief Product & Operations Officer
MySize

When it comes to trends, inspiration and creativity, the fashion industry tends to be at the forefront, but in practice, the implementation of new technologies has moved along at a snail’s pace. The pandemic, however, has radically shifted the rate of adoption across many solutions and led to significant improvements in the online experience.

Big brands are moving faster than they ever have which is great to see — it's clear that they are looking for solutions that do more than just increase conversion rates; reducing returns is more critical today than ever before.
Problem and Solution Big brands are moving faster than they ever have which is great to see — it's clear that they are looking for solutions that do more than just increase conversion rates; reducing returns is more critical today than ever before. Pedro Vit / Unsplash

Getting over Lethargy

Seeing things up close has been Billy Pardo, Chief Product & Operations Officer of Tel Aviv-based MySize. In February this year, MySize acquired omnichannel e-commerce platform Orgad, which is headquartered in Israel and operates globally, including the US and Europe. Earlier, the same month, MySize announced its FirstLook Smart Mirror, an interactive, mirror-like touch display that provides shoppers in physical stores with an enhanced, online shopping experience and contactless checkout.

Says Pardo: "When it comes to trends, inspiration and creativity, the fashion industry tends to be at the forefront, but in practice, the implementation of new technologies has moved along at a snail’s pace. The pandemic, however, has radically shifted the rate of adoption across many solutions and led to significant improvements in the online experience. With physical stores suddenly relegated to an afterthought to their online counterparts, shoppers struggled with sizing, styling, shapes, and understanding of the variety of eye candy goods displayed before them.

"These sizing and display issues forced retailers to understand the mighty power of data-driven sizing solutions almost overnight. We’ve now seen a broad acceptance of the power of sizing solutions to generate greater revenue streams and new business models that lean on customer real body data, fit, and style, not to mention to reduce costly returns."

All this works for consumers. "For shoppers, this overnight embrace heralds a future in which they are increasingly able to easily navigate their way across an ocean of brands. They can understand and visualize how items will fit with the click of a button via AR or VR avatars in a metaverse environment. That ability means fewer frustrations, convenience, and confidence that boosts average order size, and the hassle of reverse logistics and returns is solved even before it starts."

MySize itself has been moving with the times. In June 2021, it announced the development of an AI-driven sizing solution specifically for secondhand clothing retailers. MySize has been a partner of leading brands and e-commerce platforms including Shopify, WooCommerce, Lightspeed and Magento.

Says Pardo: "While the biggest players have tended to be the earliest adopters — Amazon piloted a patented manufacturing system to enable on-demand apparel-making back in 2017 — it’s not just the largest players that are interested. Returns, virtual experience, and boosting average order size are pain points across the industry, and we’ve seen Unitex in Germany, GK Software (which is a global retail software provider with thousands of clients) partnering with us to provide those same types of solutions to brands of all sizes."

Morgan Linton
Morgan Linton
Co-Founder and COO
Bold Metrics

Big brands are moving faster than they ever have which is great to see — it's clear that they are looking for solutions that do more than just increase conversion rates; reducing returns is more critical today than ever before. Currently we're seeing demand across both Enterprise and SMBs equally — both segments have seen so much growth in their online businesses that they all see virtual sizing technology like ours as a must-have.

Brands are under increasing pressure to provide the best customer experience whilst demonstrating their commitment to sustainability—with consumers expecting verifiable digital assurances. They must focus on investing in digital technologies, that help manage their sustainability and stay focused on their UX to ensure they rise to the top.
UX Focus Brands are under increasing pressure to provide the best customer experience whilst demonstrating their commitment to sustainability—with consumers expecting verifiable digital assurances. They must focus on investing in digital technologies, that help manage their sustainability and stay focused on their UX to ensure they rise to the top. Sherbak Volodymir / Vecteezy

But Other Problems Remain

Yet, it is not that all has changed. In fact, for the humongous industry that textiles-apparel-fashion is, many would say things have just started to roll, and it has miles to go. At least, that's what a market study by sizing solutions company Presize alluded to last year.

On analysing the online fronts of over 100 European retailers including Zara, Adidas, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Sezane and Asos, the researchers found that 77 had size charts on their product pages, 34 used size recommendation technology, and nine did not offer any help with sizing. Worse: not even 1% of shoppers clicked on size charts since they  seemed to be outdated.

The report, published in December 2021, went by a set of 12 criteria, including the availability and quality of size charts, the use of supporting visuals, fit-advising customer reviews and the integration of sizing technology. The findings are not dated.

Conflating the survey results with what fashtech insiders have to say, it is evident: things are happening, but a lot more still needs to happen.

Nicole Levitt
Nicole Levitt
Vice-President (Marketing)
Sizer Techonolgies

The pandemic has definitely fast-forwarded the need and demand for digital sizing by a good few years. Brands are also under increasing pressure to provide the best customer experience whilst demonstrating their commitment to sustainability - with consumers expecting verifiable digital assurances.

 
 
  • Dated posted May 2, 2022
  • Last modified May 2, 2022