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business models, strategies and technologies

What’ll it take to make clothes fit?

Clothes have no value unless they fit – but accelerating online sales make that achievement less likely than ever. A  gaping disconnect in the e-business model ….

According to a recent Danish startup named Fitbay, as much as 50% of clothing sold online gets returned because it doesn’t fit. The company has a certain vested (geddit?) interest in pegging that figure high, because the company claimed to have nailed a way of solving this problem. Basically by crowdsourcing “similar body profiles” and style profiles – social media for clothes.

It seemed like a good idea, except that the company went from being the third-fastest-growing fashion/e-commerce startup in the world to going belly up in November 2015. But the point of this post is not Fitbay – it’s the business need that Fitbay was trying to address.

Ruining reputations, undermining efficiency

The mis-matched and sometimes deliberately mis-leading (size as a chimera, an aspiration, a dream, rather than factual information) chaos of clothing sizes means there is no reliable sizing lingua franca. The Tower of Babel-like mis-information machine gets exponentially more inaccurate when different companies and different countries use their own standards, leaving us poor consumers pretty much at the mercy of having to try on each garment in the same way our great-grandparents did, in order to have any realistic chance of getting something to fit our infinitely variable frames.

Every time an item doesn’t fit – either really not fit, or the infinitely flexible self-deluding “well, it almost ….” – it delivers a big dent to the brand’s reputation and perceived coolness, as well as providing one more nail for the coffin of customer-centric fashion.

Every time an item doesn’t fit, the customer either has to put up with a recognition of wasted time, money and sartorial effort, or a whole lotta’ hassle with packaging and dispatching a return – with no credible incentive of successful fit-fixing in the next iteration.

Iceberg for e-shopping

Almost every e-business setup – and the fashion, clobber and shoes sector in particular – has to provide an accessible returns policy to have even a chance of staying in business. But every time an item doesn’t fit, there’s a whole mountain of administrative bother and logistics burdens that get piled onto the commercial equation – unpredictably unbudgetably – and with a potentially catastrophic effect on for profits.

E-business is intended to make commerce easier – not more difficult and more expensive, with product returns as a practical iceberg likely to do a Titanic on your wonderful business. I’ll be writing more posts about that, I reckon …


mPort pod for scanning your body data

Measurement passport?

Some companies try to tackle the “bad fit and punitive returns burden” commercial conundrum by throwing technology at it.

One such idea is the measurement passport from mPort, proclaiming to be a world-first technology for transforming the way the world shops and tracks its health and fitness. This is basically an in-shop (or in its native Australia an in-mall) 3D body scanner pod that uses fully automated non-invasive infrared sensors to map the facts (rather than the illusions) of your body shape. The result is a measurement passport that you can supposedly map onto the size provisions of any clothing manufacturer.

The mPort business model aims to spread its base beyond mere glad rags, by also encompassing the world of “fitness” (whatever that misnomer really covers). However, it seems a big, clunky old-school solution – and one with the big weakness of lack of scalability and big infrastructure requirements. It’d probably have much more potential if you could use your smartphone to wave around your body …. Kinda’ like a selfie in 3D.

But the e-business-driven “fitting” arena is certainly a business waiting to happen – although no one quite seems to have found a viable answer yet.


External info
https://fitbay.com https://mport.com/