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Sizing Up the Fit Problem

How big is the online fit problem? The latest in our Ask EDITD campaign, we called in Alvanon, Clear Returns and True Fit to get to the bottom of it.
Sizing Up the Fit Problem | EDITED

Your industry questions have been coming in thick and fast and we’re going to answer all of them. For this piece, we’ve called in a host of experts to get to the bottom of the industry’s problem with fit.

Q: How much of online shopping is returned because of the wrong fit? Is the problem really big or is it exaggerated?

EDITD Answer: One thing is for sure: It’s a problem. One which every retailer around the globe deals with on a daily basis. EDITD lets us see exactly which garments end up heavily discounted and sometimes it’s glaringly obvious fit issues are to blame. But to answer this question best, we dialled in the fit industry experts.

First, we first turned to Ed Gribbins, President of Alvanon, apparel fit experts, to give us a sense of the size of the problem.

“When it comes buying fashion online, or worse, returning it, the number one factor is fit,” he said. “Some 70% of all returned garments online are fit related. Furthermore, fit has a huge impact on brand loyalty with 85% of consumers saying they go back to a brand specifically because of how it fits them. Fit related returns are a massive issue for online fashion suppliers.”

Romney Evans, co-founder of True Fit, agrees with Ed. “Compared to other consumer categories – like music, books and electronics – the digital apparel industry has a major confidence gap when it comes to actually completing purchases online,” he tells us. And the culprit? You guessed it.

“Much of the reason shoppers aren’t confident is because sizing in the apparel industry is not standardized and there’s infinite variability to people’s bodies,” Romney says. “In analyzing over $30 billion in returns transactions from major retailers, we see returns for dresses around 55%, shoes around 20%, and every other category in between.”

“We see returns for dresses around 55%, shoes around 20% & every other category in between” says @truefit.

Vicky Brock, CEO of Clear Returns, takes the pragmatic stance that often fit issues are the easiest get-out for consumers returning product. “Fit or size is a nice non-confrontational, no blame reason for a shopper who wants a hassle-free return to select,” she says.

“Often, on the ‘reason for return’ forms retailers ask shoppers to complete are very prescriptive and mostly limited to reasons around size and fit. And so it’s no surprise that they come out as the top reasons. When retailers use the code ‘Not Wanted’, ‘Didn’t Like’ or ‘Changed Mind’, they can be used more frequently than codes relating to fit.”

At @clearreturns, we fit & size blamed by retailers for returns, whereas the real reason is an expectation gap.

And, as Vicky tells it, that’s not all there is to it either. “At Clear Returns, we also see fit and size being blamed by retailers for returns, whereas the real reason is an expectation gap between what they promised, and what the customer received. For example, the product wasn’t the expected colour, quality, feel, material or scale. Or perhaps it was pinned round the model to improve fit in the image, Photoshopped for a bit of extra colour zing, or the non-model size variants of the product just haven’t scaled to other sizes very well. These things get treated as fit issues – but the reality is more complex.”

So to get back to the original question, is fit a big contributor to returns? Yes! Is it exaggerated? Well, depends what you’ve heard. Though the fact remains that the issue is certainly big enough to merit attention.

The good news it that it’s not all problem and no solution. Ed Gribbins from Alvanon told us that “to combat sizing inconsistencies and turn browsers into buyers, retailers are increasingly deploying fit personalization services that boost confidence for consumers and generate a dramatic lift for retailers.” He would know, that’s one thing Alvanon does to helps retailers at the product end. They’ve developed, “a fit standard that accurately reflects the bodies, sizes and shapes of their target customers”.

Meanwhile, True Fit have developed technology which creates a personalized fit profile based on the individual shoppers’ sizes. They do this by analyzing brand data, turning browsers into buyers.

Clear Returns is also invested in helping retailers in this respect. They’ve developed software which helps retailers predict the likelihood of customer returns as well as flag up problem items within as few as five returns.

But before you run out to a third party, Ed also reminds us that some of the responsibility lies with communications teams at retailers. “If you do not communicate, educate and market fit information to your customers, in a simple, intuitive and clear manner, they won’t know what to buy. Proper marketing and communication around fit, whether in-store or online, can make the difference between converting or frustrating a potential customer.” So maybe look to tighten up a a few internal practices first, then seek help.

“Communicate, educate and market fit information to your customers, in a simple, intuitive & clear manner” says @alvanon

Getting the fit problem under control will be critical for the continued growth in online retail, particularly in areas like lingerie, luxury and technical clothing. Improved tech and increased insight into the real reasons for returns is a sign that the industry is on the right track.

Do you have unanswered industry questions? Here you’ll learn about the lifespan of sweatpants, read this for fashion career advice or discover the average price of dresses here. And stay tuned for next week when we’ll demystify buying and merchandising terminology! Sign up for our weekly Insider Briefing and we’ll let you know when it’s live!