Fit is one of the biggest drivers of customer loyalty
Rakuten Fits Me provides a full product suite for ecommerce apparel retailers to take the guesswork out of sizing and to personalise the shopping experience. This gives shoppers the confidence to find, buy and keep clothes that fit and flatter their unique body shape. Vicky Zadeh, CEO, Rakuten Fits Me spills the beans on technologies that will shape the future of fashion retail and how sizing solutions are replacing sizing charts.
What is the market size of the global online apparel industry? What is the expected growth rate by 2020?
Ecommerce continues to play an incredibly important role in the retail industry. The performance in 2017 clearly shows this; retailers with strong ecommerce performance consistently outperformed average sector growth rates. Companies such as Amazon and Alibaba grew revenues by over 30 per cent in 2017, compared to the mid-single digit growth of the wider retail market. And, apparel mirrors this trend perfectly; we have seen significant growth in pure-play apparel retailers, such as Asos and Net-a-Porter, paired with the persistent decline of high street retailers. We don't expect the growth of the global online apparel industry to slow down any time soon. Generally, analysts expect the online apparel retail market will grow at 10-15 per cent globally over the next three years. And while the growth may start to plateau in markets such as the US and Europe, we expect the driving force of this growth to be in developing economies, in particular India and China, who are exhibiting significant ecommerce growth, and we are increasingly starting to work with brands from these countries.
How does Rakuten Fits Me work to solve fit-related issues? How is it different from other fitting solution providers?
Rakuten Fits Me is a fit-and-personalisation company, which enables leading apparel brands, retailers and merchants to engage with their shoppers, personalise their purchase journey, and enjoy valuable operational insight through a portfolio of solutions cantered on Rakuten Fits Me's expertise in fit preferences. Fit Origin, our core recommendation engine, is the only product in the market that combines shopper data with and retailer's garment data-resulting in a clear, easy-to-understand and unique recommendation every time. Fit Match, the first fit filter on the market, works in conjunction with any other existing site filters and only shows customers clothing that will fit and is in-stock in their recommended size; ensuring a friction-free and fun shopping experience.
Our products give shoppers confidence they are buying the right size that will flatter and fit them, increasing the likelihood of purchase, removing the need for multi-size purchases and driving customer loyalty (80 per cent of shoppers who return their first order, wouldn't shop again). For retailers, this means increased conversion rates (our clients typically see conversions rates jump 2-4x when shoppers use our tool), reduced returns and increased incremental revenue.
There are two other approaches that are fit recommendation providers take. The 'body double approach' uses a shopper's body data to pool it with a group of 'body doubles' that have already purchased with the brand. Based on that historical sales/returns data it will determine what size the customer is likely to keep. While this method can be quick to launch it requires high transaction volume (and reliable data) to offer a recommendation that can be trusted. It doesn't factor in shopper fit preferences or wearer intent.
An alternative approach is the size chart comparison; when the shopper is browsing a product (brand A) -a size chart comparison recommendation approach will ask them what size they bought and kept from a different brand (brand B). They will run size charts against each other and determine which size from brand A they will most likely fit. As size chart data is easy to obtain, this can be an easy integration method for brands who don't have garment data. However, the disadvantages are obvious; vendors that use this approach ask the shopper to consider other brands they have successfully shopped with before (not ideal if you're trying to keep people on a website!) and it isn't anywhere near as accurate.
There is increasing buzz around gender-neutral clothing among consumers. How does Fits Me accommodate fashion changes like these?
While we are familiar with the term 'unisex', the fashion world is now going beyond that and it's not just on the runway where Marc Jacobs and Gucci have combined their usually separate men and women's shows, or in progressive fashion nations such as Korea and Japan. UK high-street retailer John Lewis recently removed gender labels on their childrenswear and this trend is increasingly growing in adults clothing too, with Zara releasing an 'ungendered' collection and H&M selling a unisex denim line. At Rakuten Fits Me, we also don't believe in labels and that's why we are aiming to release a gender-neutral option for all our products in 2018. This would initially be via body shape selection and ultimately through non-binary gender algorithms that focus more on a shopper's shape than on their gender. We think a customer should wear whatever they want, with the best fit. We want everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy shopping for clothes.
How important is it to provide the right fit to shoppers at the first go?
We believe fit is one of the biggest drivers of customer loyalty. Recent research shows that 80-90 per cent of shoppers go back to a brand specifically because of how it fits them, and, therefore, it is incredibly important to ensure shoppers are shown the best size for them, the first time. We believe retailers often forget about the importance of fit. If online shoppers receive items that don't fit correctly, there's a reputational penalty; 85 per cent of women reporting disappointment when clothes don't fit, and 80 per cent of shoppers who have to return their first order, wouldn't shop again.
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