We’ve all experienced the frustrations associated with the lack of a universal sizing system across retail. It’s created a perpetual guessing game of what size will fit you best when shopping across different brands — at one store you may be a small, but at the next, you’re a medium. A recent tweet from aggravated consumer Chloe showcases this issue perfectly by including a picture of seven pairs of jeans that are all labeled size 12, but the waist bands of each vary in width.
Not only does this issue highlight the exclusivity of retail sizing, it also leaves consumers self-conscious and confused, especially when shopping online. With the inability to try clothing on before making a purchase, consumers are left to assume which size will fit best based off what size they buy most across brands. However, with the discrepancies in sizing, this method isn’t always reliable and often results in receiving items that need to be returned due to improper fit.
Due to the lack of a true sizing system, the constant stream of apparel returns has become online retail’s most prevalent and costly problem. Any time a shopper orders an ill-fitting item, it’s up to the retailer to foot the bill for return shipping and mailing out a new item, if required. In fact, nearly 40% of online apparel orders are being returned (with 70% of those returns due to problems with fit), costing the retailer anywhere from $3 to $12 per order. One study cites total expenses to e-Retailers from apparel returns at $1.4 billion dollars, roughly 2.5% of the total online revenue ($60B) of apparel and accessories in 2015.
As e-Commerce continues to grow, it’s now estimated that return costs in the United States alone will amount to $550 billion by 2020, a more than 75% increase from four years ago. In order to protect themselves, we’re now seeing big retailers revamping their return policies to save money. For example, L.L.Bean reported losing $250 million worth of returned products over the last five years that could not be resold, and as a result, has since changed its return policy from what was once very lenient, to one with a deadline and proof of purchase requirements.
While companies are still making a significant amount of money on clothing sales, they’re losing a substantial amount of it when products are inevitably returned. The retail industry is long overdue to adopt a solution that will cut costs by reducing the number of returns while also maintaining, and potentially even bolstering, customer loyalty.
Fixing The Sizing Issue
Surprisingly, most retailers do not directly connect fit and fit-related issues to their bottom line. Brands understand the issue of returns, but not always the long-term consequence of poor fit. Not only is it inconveniencing the customer and costing the retailer money to return the product, but it also ruins the trust between a shopper and the brand, which can potentially deter the shopper from making any future purchases.
So how do we fix this? Despite efforts to create a more inclusive and universal sizing system, one still does not exist. Fortunately, there is technology available to the market that allows consumers to take accurate measurements utilizing a mobile device, which would then sync directly to a retailer’s sizing chart and only recommend items in a size that correspond to their exact measurements. This ensures consumers are purchasing clothing in the right size every time.
There are other technologies on the market as well that guesstimate a consumer’s size based off of submitted photos, or that require shoppers to enter what they think their measurements are in order to recommend what will fit best. There is also 3D scanning, virtual try-on and other big data methods.
Despite the availability of these technologies, many retailers are still apprehensive about implementation due to concerns over cost, effectiveness and ease of integration. However, with a little further research, they’ll find that many of these solutions are affordable, immediately effective and simple to use with accurate results. Not to mention that with access to the data being gathered by these technologies, retailers are able to create the personalized and seamless shopping experience consumers crave.
The sizing and return issue has created a sizeable market opportunity for technology companies providing a solution to enable retailers to regain these losses. As innovation continues, we can expect to see retailers sampling these various solutions as a way to increase customer experience while also improving their own bottom line.
Ronen Luzon is the CEO of MySize, a developer of proprietary smartphone measurement applications for retail, fashion and shipping/logistics. Luzon is a serial entrepreneur and a skilled manager with a track record of success across various industries. Prior to founding MySizeId, he established and led startups in the medical devices and communication sectors. Among his other endeavors, Luzon founded Malers, a company that has grown to be a leader in the global security solutions market and provides some of the most advanced technological solutions for integrated communication infrastructures, security and control systems. Prior to that, he held several senior marketing, sales management and professional services positions in a variety of international high-tech companies. Luzon graduated from Middlesex University in London with a B.sc in IT and Business Information Systems.