Sizing Solution Firms: Ones into Gimmickry Have Been Edged Out

The fit technology arena has been in an acquisitive state over the last year or so. As the apparel & retail industry moves through an impressive and accelerated digital transformation brought on by the digital-first dominant consumer, this space is expected to burgeon as more brands look to digital channels for revenue growth.

Long Story, Cut Short
  • Many size/fit solution companies have come and gone during the past few years. The issue faced by most was that of creating a well-performing solution which is quite a complicated task that requires cross-discipline teams.
  • The interest of large investor companies in the market has shown significant growth since the beginning of 2020.
  • There is tough competition in the market with some companies having long-term experience that can’t be replicated by a new company.
It is not clear how many companies in the sizing tech space exist in the market and how many startups have failed to take off. What is clear is that the tough and good ones are surviving—heading into a future which will see more brands and retailers getting into the virtual sizing/fitting area.
Survival of the Fittest It is not clear how many companies in the sizing tech space exist in the market and how many startups have failed to take off. What is clear is that the tough and good ones are surviving—heading into a future which will see more brands and retailers getting into the virtual sizing/fitting area. FitAnalytics

Just two years ago, this writer had interacted with dozens of firms from across the world providing sizing solutions to fashion-retail companies. The premise at that time too had been the same: sizing up the segment as a journalistic exercise. But pinging many of them resulted in mails that bounced back. On following up to their websites, it transpired that many of the domains do not even exist today. Many of the sizing solution providers have since virtually disappeared into thin air.

The impression one had got last time was that there would be a sharp—if not meteoric—rise in the number of "sizing" professionals and companies in the industry. The disappearance of such companies, needless to say, came as a surprise. Now, would that mean that competition is getting tougher by the day, and that the shakeout in the sector has already started to happen?

Bold Metrics Co-Founder and COO Morgan Linton believes there is more to it than meets the eye. "We have seen the fit technology space in an acquisitive state over the last year or so, with several acquisitions taking place. Some more recent acquisitions include Snap, Gap, Zalando  and Walmart for technologies that could help solve the issue of returns and sizing."

Linton is right. In August last, American clothing retailer Gap acquired e-commerce startup Drapr, which had built a technology that let customers try on clothing virtually to ensure a better fit from home. Drapr had been designed to help customers find the best clothing size and fit for their personal style and body type, while helping retailers reduce unnecessary returns.

The Gap takeover had come soon after US giant Walmart in May 2021 acquired Israeli fashion startup Zeekit that combined fashion and technology through its dynamic virtual fitting room platform to create a significantly enhanced customer and social experience. The solution—Choose My Model—was unveiled to customers in March this year.

The earliest big-time acquisition was from March 2021 when US messaging app company Snap bought over digital sizing company Fit Analytics. The Berlin-based Fit Analytics helped consumers pick the right size of clothing when they shopped online. The early move was part of Snap's long-term plan to bring more e-commerce and in-app purchases to the Snapchat messaging app.

Nikita Dobrynin, Founder and CEO of Kiev-based AstraFit, too gives the examples of acquisitions (by Gap and Walmart). He goes on to add: "We've seen many size/fit solution companies come and go during the past few years. This happens because the idea of solving the size/fit problem is quite straightforward and there is potentially a good market for those solutions. What many of them have faced is that creating a well-performing solution is quite a complicated task that requires cross-discipline teams. This is a common fail-reason. The interest of large investor companies in the market is permanent since 2009 and has also shown significant growth, especially since the beginning of 2020."

Sebastian Schulze, Founder and CEO of Fit Analytics, has of course seen it all. He agrees that there is consolidation in the market, "but I wouldn’t call it a shake-out as much as a clear indication that new companies aiming to make a mark must do something different (or better) than has already been done. Sizing, style, and fit technologies are more complex and nuanced than many companies think when they start out—it’s not as simple as 'map shopper to a size they already wear and recommend the same size in a different garment.' It takes an incredible volume of data to truly generate accurate recommendations, and that data is only available over time for a sizing company."

But, the issue will still be about solutions. Linton says: "While there are many small startups that tackle difficult problems like sizing, that is not unique to any space in particular. If there is a real problem that persists, there will always be entrepreneurs in the wing working on solutions. As the apparel and retail industry moves through an impressive and accelerated digital transformation brought on by the digital-first dominant consumer, we expect the space to blossom further as more brands look to digital channels for revenue growth."

Sizing, style, and fit technologies are more complex and nuanced than many companies think when they start out—it’s not as simple as 'map shopper to a size they already wear and recommend the same size in a different garment.' It takes an incredible volume of data to truly generate accurate recommendations, and that data is only available over time for a sizing company.
Nuanced Tech Sizing, style, and fit technologies are more complex and nuanced than many companies think when they start out—it’s not as simple as 'map shopper to a size they already wear and recommend the same size in a different garment.' It takes an incredible volume of data to truly generate accurate recommendations, and that data is only available over time for a sizing company. Bold Metrics

And there would be the challenges. Argues Eric Best, Co-Founder and CEO of Seattle-headquartered SoundCommere, "There are a few challenges facing players in the category. First, does this approach require hardware or bandwidth not readily available to consumers? Stores have an opportunity to leverage devices and create differentiated experiences that might not be cost effective for household adoption and ecommerce buying. At the end of the day, the new technology has to work better than the old standbys."

Obviously, the good ones will stay on and solutions will have to work. Just as Nicole Levitt, Vice-President of Marketing at Israeli company Sizer Technologies, insists: "Only those companies with a solution that really works—meaning they are accurate and easy to use, with retailers and users confident to use them—are still in the market. Those solutions that are not accurate just disappear with time. There are 3–4 strong competitors in the market."

Billy Pardo, Chief Product & Operations Officer of Tel Aviv-based MySize, talks about the hard work that goes into it all: "The fact is that addressing the sizing issue well takes a tremendous amount of research and development; so, there is a high barrier to entry. At MySize, it took us four years and multiple patents before we could become a company with a viable product. Many of the sizing solutions that were gimmicks, or simply not as effective as the leaders failed, which is normal for a relatively new industry."

The ones that have stayed on, will have the additional advantage of having been there and done that. Says Schulze: "There is tough competition in the market with some companies having long-term experience that can’t be replicated by a new company. Strong network effects accelerate the dominance of a few players who provide the best service to retailers and brands. That being said, there is always room for innovation and new ideas. There are always new companies who revolutionize a pre-existing idea or technology."

Pardo sums it up: "Simultaneously, major retailers recognised the immense value that sizing solutions provide, particularly as a pre-emptive solution for reverse logistics woes, and they went on an acquiring spree that has led to half of our competitors ceasing to exist because of exits. We’re now in a much better position to succeed and grow and the rise in demand paired with a limited landscape of competitors is a testament to that."

Estimates vary from one research company to another, and it is not clear how many companies do exist in the market and how many startups have failed to take off, but what is clear is that the tough and good ones are surviving—heading into a future which will see more brands and retailers getting into the virtual sizing/fitting area.

Subir Ghosh

SUBIR GHOSH is a Kolkata-based independent journalist-writer-researcher who writes about environment, corruption, crony capitalism, conflict, wildlife, and cinema. He is the author of one book, and has co-authored three with others. He writes, edits, reports and designs. He is also a professionally trained and qualified photographer.

 
 
 
  • Dated posted 3 May 2022
  • Last modified 3 May 2022