Our partners are diverse and varied, but one thing they all have in common is an innovative ethos. In today’s interview, Irina reflects on our journey from ambitious start-up to the industry leader in sizing and fit, and how cutting-edge thinking continues to inform decisions in an ever-changing apparel landscape for Fit Analytics and our partners.
How do you think Fit Analytics did in predicting the future of the industry?
The short answer is that we were right on the money. When Fit Analytics was founded in 2010, the two pain points in the apparel industry were high returns and sizing uncertainty as more and more online businesses launched. At our inception, the online market share was a mere 7.2% of all retail. A decade later, online has taken over 26.3% market share and is on a rapid upward trajectory – a number growing even faster than originally projected since COVID-19 changed the world.
Back in 2010, the majority of consumers did not know what size they were when shopping online. If you think about it, the best way then was to go into a store and try the clothes on to see how they fit. However, as more retailers shifted online, we saw an opportunity to create the fitting room experience online and in turn, decrease the high return rates as a result of guessed sizing. Fit Finder, our online sizing solution, officially gave the first size recommendation based on body modeling and size chart data.
What was Fit Analytics’ initial approach?
The first iteration of our flagship product was created to get ahead of the returns problem. We had to understand the various body types and shapes out there to be able to create the fitting room experience online. Our technology consisted of using real people, CDs (remember those?), and webcams. This allowed us to match clothing fit with different body types. Over time, we aggregated millions of purchasing records and different body dimensions from real people and shifted to a machine learning approach in 2014, which all our products use today.
On the backend, we use our body modeling and machine learning algorithms to provide a size recommendation for a particular garment. On the front end, customers answer a few simple questions and receive a size recommendation within seconds. It is a smooth user journey that seems very simple and easy to the consumer, while being robust and complex in the background. It’s a win-win – retailers are able to boost conversions and reduce returns, while their customers receive highly accurate size and product recommendations.
How did foresight set Fit Analytics apart?
We had the right idea at the right time. Because of this, we were able to ride the wave of the increase of e-commerce while the positive impact of our solutions acted as the roadmap for each subsequent decision. Our first iteration as a 3D solution provided us with our real body-based dataset, which is a massive key differentiator. Today, Fit Analytics generates over one billion size recommendations per month and we’ve become the world’s leading data and fit partner for apparel companies. We reviewed our technologies, made pivot decisions at the right time, and were always flexible enough to stay focused on our vision while adjusting our approach as needed. At this point we have the most retail partners – spanning across all major continents – and the largest dataset in the world. More importantly, we continue to innovate and solve challenges in fashion using our technology.
What is your focus now?
We still have a major emphasis on reducing returns as it continues to be the most pressing issue in e-commerce. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced more brands to become innovative and shift their focus to digital. That means providing a virtual fitting room experience has shifted from a “nice-to-have” feature to an essential cornerstone of any online strategy. Fit Finder continues to be integral in the online shopping experience today and in the future as we see more emphasis on digital. We are growing our team and product offerings to reflect the increase in demand for omnichannel solutions for apparel and footwear companies.
Who will benefit most from advanced tech in fashion?
Both brands and consumers will greatly benefit from incorporating tech in fashion. Understanding consumers – who they are, and what they are shopping for – is key for brands to offer the most relevant fashion choices for their consumers. A retailer leveraging technology to improve their strategies will have a positive shift in their business. Fit Finder has a customer-centric experience that has transformed how consumers shop for apparel online, and the retailers are reaping the benefits from the increased conversion and reduced returns.
Is tech more sustainable?
Tech being sustainable is a question of how a company applies it. Implementing the right technologies can greatly help with sustainability and is a necessary strategy moving forward for any company addressing this topic. From our perspective, we’ve seen apparel and footwear retailers address environmental strain by reducing waste and carbon footprint caused by returns. Our partners use our data to plan, manufacture, and order apparel more likely to fit their customers.
Technologies like Fit Finder and Fit Connect are built to reduce returns due to fit by providing highly accurate size and fit recommendations to consumers. With Fit Intelligence, we are able to support our partners on the supply chain side by flagging products with high returns rates, and sharing partner-specific demographic and behavioral trends.
What steps does Fit Analytics take before developing a new product?
At Fit Analytics we work with over 300 top retailers world-wide, so we use our pulse on the industry to identify problems that need to be solved. Our Fit Consult team works directly with partners on bespoke projects from size-chart optimization to in-store applications. These early-adaptor projects often highlight upcoming industry problems which need solutions. A great example of this is the new problems which have cropped up due to fitting room closures.
Because of the pandemic, daily business has radically shifted. Fitting room closures and safety concerns have forced retailers to look for alternatives. We have been working with partners to solve this problem and have come up with 3 different solutions to address the needs of different types of apparel retailers.
The first way to ease the shopping complication of fitting room closures is by encouraging customers to use Fit Finder on their mobile devices while shopping in store. This is an easy win for any company with an established online store, and works particularly well for those boasting a native app.
The second solution is by installing Fit Finder enabled kiosks in the stores. This reduces touch points, makes for easier disinfection measures, and allows customers to get an idea of sizing from a more limited location. Our partner, Amaro has been successful using Fit Finder kiosks in-store since 2018 and we have worked out the experience for this application in the past 2 years.
Lastly, another solution is to provide sales associates with tablets that have access to Fit Finder so they can help customers with sizing. All of these variations facilitate shoppers getting accurate size recommendations without having to try the clothes on.
With the “see now, shop now” model how can advancements in tech streamline the shopping experience?
Our technologies have wider reaching applications than the most visible Fit Finder. Some of our retail partners use the collected data to support their own strategies, planning, supply chain, and manufacturing. Brands are able to map the size and fit inputs from shoppers, with sales and return data to plan, produce, and buy apparel with extreme accuracy. The companies are able to plan inventory based on real-time information about the demographics and preferences of their actual shoppers. These retailers are able to achieve a more efficient and sustainable “see now, shop now” experience by starting at the source.
From your experience as a Client Partner, would you say there are any common traits Fit Analytics’ partner companies share?
The majority of our clients want to impact returns due to fit and want to provide a better omnichannel shopping experience for their customers. Additionally, many companies are dealing with fit issues internally and need a data-driven partner to provide insights into garment specifications for their customer base. The common thread connecting all of our partners is not being afraid to leverage cutting-edge technologies to create the best possible user experience for their customers and enhance their own business strategies. Retailers that turn to us for Fit Finder, Fit Connect, and even commission individual projects with our Fit Consult team, understand the value that a personalized experience offers to ensure their customers find their best fit and styles they will love.
What would you say to a company who is on the fence about implementing your technology?
There is no avoiding the technology wave. The market share for online shopping is only increasing, and if a company wants to remain competitive, it needs to stay up to date with current technologies. Consumers are looking for solutions that will help personalize their shopping experience, as well as make their journey quick and efficient. Our dataset and machine learning algorithms have proven to have an immediate and positive impact on conversion rate, returns, and shopper experience.
Fit Finder – our core size recommendation solution – elevates the online shopping experience by providing a personalization tool to shop confidently. Many companies are seeing increased returns for online purchases and Fit Finder was designed to curb the amount of returns due to fit related reasons. The shift to online has also pushed more and more companies to create a virtual fitting room experience, which is critical to maintaining a loyal customer base.