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Virtual tape measure could cut online clothing retailers' return costs
Online clothing retailers have seen strong sales growth over the last year, but as ranges expand they increasingly sell multiple brands with inconsistent sizing standards resulting in numerous, and costly returns. A new virtual tape measure being developed in the UK could benefit both consumers and retailers alike.
While over half (51%) of clothing retailers report sales growth of 25% or more over the last twelve months, over three quarters (79%) have experienced issues with sizing, according to a survey of retail industry professionals by online virtual fitting room provider Fits.me.
In fact, four in ten of the retailers surveyed said that difficulties identifying which size to buy are a "major barrier to conversion online".
This lack of size standards among manufacturers, and ultimately retailers, means customers are unable to decide which garmet would fit well. This leads to cart abandonment for some, while others end up ordering several sizes of the same garment. Those that don't fit are then returned and refunds made.
Returns are costly for retailers with many footing the bill for the postage and repackaging of the clothing and possibly having to resell items at a discounted price.
"E-commerce performance is not just about increasing web-based sales volumes or values; it is also about ensuring that products stay sold. There's no point in striving to push garments out of the front door while 20% of them sneak back in through the back door," said Heikki Haldre, founder and chief executive of Fits.me.
A virtual tape measure is currently being developed by the London College of Fashion in collaboration with computer vision experts at the University of Surrey, body-mapping specialists Bodymetrics and digital creative agency Guided.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the software will enable customers to quickly and easily take body measurements.
"Body scanning is already starting to make a mark in the clothing retail sector. But because the new system takes measurements at a number of different points on the body and combines these with a person's overall proportions to build up a detailed 3D image, it offers much greater precision than anything else available in-store or online," states a recent press release from the EPSRC .
The virtual tape measure is expected to be launched within two years.
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