Retailers ignore customer expectations at their own peril
The virtual fitting room, a fast emerging concept in the apparel e-tailing industry, is believed to reduce sizing and fitting issues. Fits.me, an online fit and size recommendation solution provider, is one of the most successful companies in this industry with customers like Austin Reed, Baukjen, CC Fashion, Charles Tyrwhitt, Henri Lloyd, Hugo Boss, M&Co, QVC, Thomas Pink and Viyella. Tim Smith, director of marketing for Fits.me, discusses with Fibre2Fashion the company views and opinions on the virtual fitting room industry, its current market and future prospects, the product's strengths and advantages, and the various factors that promote its growth.
Considering that Fits.me has surmounted the fit issue to a certain extent, what is hampering your product from going places?
I would say our solutions already have gone places. We have some outstanding clients such as Hugo Boss, QVC and Thomas Pink. But it's true that many apparel retailers have yet to deploy any online fit or size solution, and there are probably several reasons.
Virtual fitting rooms are often marketed with the message that they reduce fit-related returns and increase conversions. But in reality, the scale of low-conversion or high-returns problems vary significantly from retailer to retailer, and even from country to country. For some retailers, these may be the stand-out two issues to resolve. Other retailers have different problems to solve urgently. There will always be competition for budget and resources, and retailers must address the most important issues first.
However, every retailer and brand prioritises its customer experience. Customer expectations have altered over the last two years, and 'customer experience' is now one of the hottest topics in e-commerce. While conversion-and-returns performance is still important, our clients tell us that their shoppers now expect to have the option of using a virtual fitting room as a part of their purchase journey, just as they expect to have the option of using a physical fitting room in a physical store. Retailers ignore customer expectations at their own peril. So, we think this will be a significant driver for further adoption of virtual fitting rooms.
For retailers and brands, a virtual fitting room that engages shoppers and encourages interaction with products is a vital means to attract customers, retain them, learn about them and their preferences, and to gather data that can drive personalisation - another big element of the customer experience. So, from a data and insight perspective as well as from the purchase journey perspective, we believe that retailers and brands will identify virtual fitting rooms like ours - providing both the engagement and yielding the data - as an integral part of their customer experience strategies.
Does Fits.me work across all body types?
Yes, the solutions work across all body types. In fact, one of the types of shopper likely to benefit from a Fits.me solution is the person who usually finds himself or herself compromising on size selection, somewhere because of being of less-regular shape or size. Without the virtual fitting room, such a person inevitably faces a less-than-great shopping experience, and probably returns garments more frequently than average.
Which are the new markets that you are exploring?
We're headquartered in the UK. So historically, we've focused there while looking at Europe too. We already operate virtual fitting rooms in the US for European retailers including Hugo Boss and Thomas Pink. In December 2014, we acquired the New York-based size recommendation company Clothes Horse, which gives us the foundation for more aggressive North American expansion.
What is the cost of implementing your product at the retail level?
Our solutions are software-as-a-service, and we have a SaaS-like pricing model, an initial implementation fee upfront and then regular monthly fees. The fees for Fits.me Virtual Fitting Room and Fit Advisor solutions start at a few thousand euros per month.