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Fashion retail’s future reliant on virtual solutions

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By Published On: October 17, 20220 Comments

Since its very first foray into the world of e-commerce, fashion retail has suffered from a significant limitation inherent to its digital presence, with consumers too often unable to accurately judge fit or how an item will look on their frames corresponding to fashion retail being greatly overrepresented in product returns each year.

Help has arrived, however, with advances in technology and particularly virtual solutions emerging to provide relief for beleaguered fashion retailers and better enable their growth in online spaces.

According to findings from Power Retail’s most recent Trajectory Report, consumer responses show that 64 percent of total product returns came from the category of fashion retail, with 60 percent of all returns being as a result of a product either not correctly fitting or a product appearing as different than it had online according to findings from the prior Trajectory Report.

This problem is particularly acute in respect to female shoppers, 82 percent of whom report persistent struggles finding fashion items that appropriately fit them according to a recent study from Australian fashion app Mys Tyler. The number of women overall reporting having bought clothing online only to discover the item didn’t fit correctly is slightly higher according to the same study, at 85 percent.

The issue isn’t only one impacting consumers, too, as fashion retail’s returns problem has an immense cost for both retailers and the climate. It is thought that only half of all fashion returns will be added back to inventory, leading to a considerable amount of fashion products left to be discarded. The cost of this to retailers is considerable, estimated to reach a level as high as US$550 billion globally. The cost to the environment may be even greater, as the fashion industry year after year continues to be one of the world’s leading polluters.

“I’ve spent 30 years in the fashion industry across the retail, manufacturing and technology sectors. In that time, I’ve seen countless trends emerge: the rise of the teen mall, fast fashion and now e-commerce,” says Whitney Cathcart, co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of software company 3DLOOK, “I’ve also seen an abundance of waste, which has always bothered me, and sought a way to reduce it.”

3DLOOK, a global leader in AI-first mobile body scanning solutions, is one innovative startup to have introduced a technological solution to online fashion retail’s persistent problem. With the launch of its product YourFit earlier this year, designed to bring fitting rooms to online fashion retail, 3DLOOK offers proof that the future of fashion is virtual.

“YourFit takes everything we love about shopping in physical stores and virtualises it,” Cathcart tells Power Retail, “It provides instant size recommendations based on the customer’s body and virtual try-on so they can see exactly how a product would look on them.”

“Combined, these features provide customers with the confidence and clarity to shop for apparel without complicating the process. They simply snap two photos, dressed in tight fitted clothing and on any background, and in under a minute their personal, online fitting room is ready to enter.”

The solution of YourFit in responding to online fashion retail’s fundamental problems is deliberate on behalf of 3DLOOK, as the software startup observed not only the consistent hits to retailers’ bottom lines but the dissatisfaction of consumers and sought to directly address the problem.

“The industry has spent decades squeezing billions of diverse customers into a limited range of shapes and sizes. You know that hoard of items that you bought but never wore because they didn’t fit quite right? That’s evidence that this doesn’t work,” Cathcart offers, “Instead, solutions such as YourFit are creating an industry where fashion is designed, manufactured and personalised for you.”

“This will improve customer satisfaction – driving sales and reducing returns, which doesn’t just benefit businesses and consumers, but also our environment.”

The opportunity for such technological solutions to commit and contribute to building on overall sustainability goals is an added bonus for 3DLOOK and YourFit, while also reminding us all about the role technology has and will play in not only driving us into the future – but better ensuring we have a future to aspire to. Addressing online fashion retail’s inherent sustainability problem is, it’s fair to suggest, a major environmental step.

“Returned goods venture between processing facilities on gas-guzzling trucks, only for most of them to be burned or buried in landfill anyway,” Cathcart says, “Technology is making it easier for shoppers to find products they love without resorting to harmful practices such as bracketing, which will help fashion to become the green industry it aspires to be.”

But, of course, a large part of building on this progress comes with ensuring that 3DLOOK’s product solutions are simple enough for retailers to consider adopting. Certainly at first glance, the mere idea of a virtual fitting room being made accessible to consumers sounds intimidating. But, as Cathcart explains, the YourFit solution is deliberately developed to circumvent these concerns and encourage retailers everywhere to embrace the opportunity.

“Despite the complex technologies involved, implementing YourFit requires a minimal amount of effort and technical skill from our retail partners. Brands with Shopify stores can use YourFit as a simple plug-in solution. For more complex integrations, we offer an easy to deploy Google Tag manager process. 3DLOOK carries out a short User Acceptance Testing (UAT) process, and in a few weeks, the virtual fitting room is ready to go,” Cathcart offers, “Throughout, our in-house consultancy team, led by our very own industry guru Ed Gribbin, is on hand to support retailers throughout the process.”

“Using YourFit is equally as straightforward for consumers. They snap two photos, guided by a voice assistant, and receive almost instant results. The entire process takes place over the web, with no need to install an app — we’ve gone above and beyond to make YourFit hassle-free, and continue to update the platform based on user feedback to provide shoppers with the best retail experience possible.”

Sustainability and ease of access solutions appear to be far from all that 3DLOOK offers retailers with YourFit too, it seems, as results to retailer’s conversions and overall bottom lines from introducing such strategies to address persistent issues plaguing fashion retailers headlined by the problem of return rates have shown considerable promise.

“On average, our partner brands are growing their conversion rates by 16%, AOV by 23% and reducing returns by 6% — and often by far more,” Cathcart says, “Our partnership with TA3 SWIM, for instance, saw the sculpting swimsuit brand’s returns for sizing-related reasons fall by 47% within six months of implementing our personalised size recommendations.”

And as broader economic conditions continue to pressure retailers of all descriptions, with fashion no exception, overall improvements to customer experiences like that offered by 3DLOOK’s YourFit solution will only continue to grow in importance.

“The modern consumer wants personalized experiences that makes their lives easier, they want to shop from their smartphone, and they care deeply about sustainability,” adds Cathcart, “As we all tighten our purse strings, implementing technology to provide shopping experiences that meet these modern expectations will be crucial.”

Overall, it becomes clear that the future of fashion retail is virtual, as addressing the issues plaguing the category’s aspirations to evolving its online offerings at rates proportionate to all other retail categories will only continue growing as an imperative in the months and years to come.

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