Every so often, technology produces something which makes our lives so much easier that we wonder how we ever did without it.
Fit Match strikes me as having the potential to become one of those inventions. If it works, it could revolutionise online shopping – and take much of the frustration out of it.
This handy search engine add-on promises to match individual online shoppers with clothes which fit them perfectly, and items which are in stock.
It’s been launched by Rakuten Fits Me – a company which aligns product data with shopper body data so both consumers and businesses get the perfect fit.
The company is currently working with European brand Masai, US clothing range Rhone and British fashion house Henri Lloyd to implement Fit Match - with many other brands interested in getting on board.
The issue of consistent sizing in clothing stores is always a hot topic. For women in particular, the frustration of being a size 10 in one shop, and then anything up to a 14 in another, leads to much gnashing of teeth and flicking of credit cards.
Technology is constantly providing users with a more personalised online experience.
But for shoppers, the thought of being able to order jeans without the worry of having to send them back because they can’t even get a leg into them, seems almost too good to be true.
And I know I’ve been left frustrated after selecting something from a website - only to go to order it and discover my size is out of stock.
Vicky Zadeh, chief executive of Rakuten Fits Me, said: “We are living in the age of the customer, and you can either fight trends that are happening – people shopping by search is one of them – or you can embrace them.
"The data we ask for is simply age, weight and height. Women can also include bra size. This gives you a choice of one of three body shapes which we know you will fall into.
"There's lots of biometric data involved. Age is a key factor because your age dictates how you carry weight on your body.
"But once we have this information, garment data allows a shopper to be matched up to an item that will fit. We can offer a perfect match, or a near perfect match - if the item of clothing has a flexibility about how you wear it."
I have to admit to a bit of cynicism about how an algorithm alone can account for the lots of different shapes and sizes of the human form.
After all, how many times do we read stories about a woman who is a size 10 in one store - but can't fit into less than a size 14 in another?
Vicky points out that the algorithm will not change this - but detailed garment data will match shoppers to the clothing which has the right measurements for them.
“Fit Match takes personalisation to the next degree – every individual shopper is presented with their own personalised view of the products on a website that fit their unique size and shape," she said.
“Removing any item that is not a good fit means shoppers won’t have to waste time scrolling through reams of clothing that won’t fit or flatter their body shape.
"Fit Match will doubtless encourage more people to shop online for clothing by serving them a selection of items that work for them. Confidence in shopping online will increase, driving higher average order values, lowering returns and improving customer loyalty.”
Using the three data points of age, weight and height, Fit Match provides unique fit recommendations thanks to an algorithm which combines garment categorisation, attribute mapping, data science algorithms and historical consumer data. Data from more than 30 million unique profiles helps to create accurate recommendations.
Rakuten’s own consumer research found that 35% of shoppers abandon their purchase because they are not sure if it will fit, while 40% say they are often shown items that are not available in their size.
Three quarters of online shoppers use search when shopping online. Some 81% say it improves their search experience, while 84% return to the store to buy more in the future.
More than half are more likely to shop somewhere which suggests items to fit their shape, while 45% would like to be shown only items which fit their shape.
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