Retail isn’t dead, says Warby Parker’s Neil Blumenthal. Rather, “mediocre retail experiences are dead.”
The shift from a supply-driven to demand-driven marketplace has taken hold. Brands and retailers are struggling to regain their footing, as demonstrated by mediocre revenue numbers and near-daily reports of store closures. Those with the best technology and experiences will win.
Innovative customer experiences, such as fit-focused technologies, are enabling brands and retailers to survive in this uncertain landscape.
From a consumer standpoint, fit is the number one factor when buying denim, yet 79 percent of U.S. women can’t find jeans that fit well. For most women, jean shopping is right up there with swimsuit shopping — it’s frustrating, demoralizing and confusing. They are unsure why a 29 in one brand fits when a 29 in another doesn’t, or why a friend may wear the same size yet fit into jeans completely differently.
For brands and retailers, denim shopping is just as problematic. There are reports that 70 percent of online returns are due to fit, and brands have come to expect that women will buy multiple styles planning to return those that don’t fit. This type of behavior is a nightmare for inventory and revenue projections — returns account for roughly $14.5 trillion in global retail sales. To us, it’s simple: Solving for fit is solving for returns.
I first observed the disconnect between real women and non-standardized sizing while modeling. I shot hundreds of jeans in the same size and most would fit differently. Some would flatter my shape and others wouldn’t. It was through this fit, not size, realization that I knew there had to be a better way. I saw an opportunity to improve the consumer experience and reduce costly returns, and thus Fitcode was born.
In the three years since we launched, we’ve amassed a wealth of consumer and industry data, facilitated countless fit sessions, and measured thousands of pairs of jeans. Our data has made one thing clear: a good fit matters for consumers and brands alike.
And our partner data shows that helping her find the perfect fit — the first time — makes her 4x more likely to convert.
Here’s how an innovative focus on fit can influence all aspects of the business, both online and off:
In reaction to Mickey Drexler’s J.Crew exit, Loose Threads’ Richie Siegel explored the rise and fall of the supply-driven world. Within this system, brands created and merchandised seasonal products with little-to-no customer feedback. Thanks to the internet and social media, that world is no more.
Today, says Siegel, “a shopper is the beginning,” and brands must react to near real-time consumer feedback.
In this demand-driven market, fit-focused, data-driven merchandising enables brands to move quickly and address consumers’ unique needs.
When consumers can choose from literally millions of products, getting the right customer in the right fit the first time is incredibly important. Using fit technologies, you can make merchandising decisions based on data — rather than gut instincts or historical decisions — and help her cut through the noise to find the right fit.
Instead of merely serving her the latest styles, show her new fabrics and silhouettes that are guaranteed to fit her unique body type. Allow her to drill down by style and wash preferences within a personalized, curated selection that she knows will work.
Customer-focused product design
Fit doesn’t just impact merchandising — it’s also a design problem.
Many brands that we speak with use a single fit model to design an entire collection. That is, they rely on one woman’s body shape to create jeans intended to fit their entire consumer base.
There’s a better way.
Instead of designing for a narrow slice of your customer base, use fit data to design styles that will fit your core customer demos and ensure broad coverage.
We hold fit sessions with our partner design teams and bring in women who represent the brand’s core Fitcodes, or body shapes. Our partners are always blown away by how the same jeans fit so dramatically differently on women who all wear the same size.
These sessions allow design teams to see whether their lines fit the bodies of their core customers and fine-tune design decisions (an inch higher here, an eighth of an inch lower there) before heading to production.
Empowered sales teams
I recently browsed the denim department at a local retailer and listened to an associate repeatedly recommend the same brand to customers of varying body shapes and sizes. When I asked why he pushed that brand, he shrugged, and said, “It’s my favorite.”
Give associates the tools to look beyond personal bias and the newest styles to recommend styles that will work for customers’ unique body types, whether using a fit-focused clienteling app or a fit-quiz-guided sales floor experience.
If you can send her into the dressing room with three pairs of jeans that all fit and allow her to make a decision based on style preference, rather than have her try to wiggle into pair after pair of ill-fitting styles to maybe have one fit, you’ve won her confidence and her sale.
Because it’s really all about confidence. Give her confidence that your brand understands her needs and her pain points. Give her confidence that you listen and react to her concerns. Give her the assurance and information she needs to shop with confidence for great-fitting styles.
Informed customer service
Similarly, our partners all report a top CSR request: “These are my measurements — what jeans will fit me?”
Personalized selling doesn’t have to be confined to in-store. Give your online customer service reps the tools to make customized recommendations beyond style. Modern fit technologies can turn a frustrating request into the starting point for a personalized, engaging customer interaction.
The bottom line
Consumers crave a personalized, differentiated experience. Show you understand her needs — and her fit headaches — with a fit-focused shopping experience that makes her the star and you the hero.
Rian Buckley is the CEO and co-founder of Fitcode, a fashion data company that enhances the shopping experience by focusing on fit, not size, and works with top denim brands including AG Jeans, JOE’S Jeans, and JAG Jeans.