09.20.2007 4:10 am

Searching For A Perfect Fit


The online apparel industry has been one of the fastest growing online e-commerce categories over the past few years, but it is also one with a high number of returns partly due to the lack of personalized sizes/measurements. To reduce return rates and further increase sales, online retail sites like MyShape, Zafu, Intellifit and My Virtual Model are using innovative personalized services for shoppers by offering a collection of clothing outfits to suit an individual’s shapes, sizes and styles. Other online services like FashMatch, Like and 6pm help users assemble matching outfits using technology that combines both mathematical algorithms (that account for colors and patterns) as well as the collective feedback from its users.  


While a majority of consumers still prefer to buy clothes in stores where they can touch and try on the items, the use of visualization tools, personalized services and the adoption of liberal shopping and return policies by several apparel retailers has resulted in a significant growth in the online apparel industry. According to Forrester Research, US online shoppers spent more on apparel than on computers - becoming the largest online retail sales category.  Online apparel shopping is expected to reach $22.1 billion by the end of this year, a 21% increase over 2006. While that accounts for just 8% of all US apparel sales last year, it also suggests that there’s still plenty of room to grow. Getting the right shapes and sizes has always been the biggest concerns that women have when shopping for clothes. Now, several retailers are coming up with innovative techniques to overcome shoppers' worries about sizes by letting them try on clothes without ever touching it.


MyShape asks its customers to send in their specific measurements, style preferences and body shape; after which, the retailer offers a collection of outfits that suit their shapes and styles. Once a customer completes her profile, she is linked to her personal online shop that consists only of clothes that flatter her shape, match her measurements and reflect her style and fit preferences. Each of the letters of “myShape” is represents seven defined body shapes of women. For instance, shape M represents women who possess softened, straight figures and fairly straight shoulder lines with rounded bottoms. The site then lists the fabric, tops, skirts/dresses and other clothing items for women with the M shape. Zafu takes shopper’s body measurements and then searches a product database to find clothes that fit. Almost two million women have used the service with 94 per cent of users saying that the clothes fit. Jean shoppers can get a perfect fit at by getting their bodies scanned and measured for free at Intellifit stores and kiosks -this process takes less than a minute (radio waves collect thousands of data points in the body). Customers can then go to the Intellifit Web site and search for their favorite Levi’s or jeans that fit them.  


My Virtual Model lets shoppers dress up an online model with the ability to use clothes with varying colors and fabrics so as to have a better picture of what they would look like. Customers can then save as many dressed models in their virtual closet. The BrandME feature lets users display several brands in their virtual wardrobe and post them on their personal page where visitors can comment on them. FashMatch users suggest matches by searching for various clothing items and pairing them as outfits in a virtual wardrobe. Based on community votes on the combination, the site then offers matching items. For instance, selecting a cotton jacket would list matching items with short jeans and a leather shoes. At Like, users can select a particular pattern or color of the clothing item that shoppers like and the site then list items with similar attributes.


Clothing is an important part of how a person feels and presents themselves. The rise of several virtual wardrobe retailers has given shoppers something to cheer about, especially those that are frustrated with the time consuming effort of trying on clothes, searching for the perfect fit.


Resources: New York Times, CNET, MSNBC

Bob Rattivarakorn
Trends Research Analyst

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