June 6, 2014

E-Commerce Newsflash: How Social Curation Is Replacing the Dressing Room

Posted by Faith Albert Category IconConversions & UX Category IconNews & Trends

I am a shopper. Repeat after me: shop-per. I am one of those women who will scour as many sites as it takes to find the perfect shirt. However, there is nothing more frustrating than receiving what you think is the most glorious shirt in the mail, only to find you need to return it. This is one of the main reasons I am forced to shop in brick and mortar stores. But I am not alone: according to Internet Retailer, 65% of people will browse online but purchase in store. What if we could eliminate the need for a fitting room? What if everything your potential customers ordered magically fit? Goodbye returns, hello 100% customer satisfaction!

Cue Fitbay. The site, still in its infancy and invite only, claims to be able to do just that. So, how is it doing it? Big data and social curation. We’ve all heard of big data, but social curating might be a new concept. Basically, it’s extreme crowdsourcing. People enter information about their bodies and what brands they cannot live without. Example, I am 5’ 3”, 127 pounds with an athletic build. I love Lilly Pulitzer dresses, but I always need to order down a size for the garment to fit. Fitbay would compile my information with thousands of others to accurately assess how clothing will fit on people of similar builds.

The site claims it isn’t just focusing on big retailers; it’s dedicated to helping consumers find smaller boutique brands as well. Once Fitbay has matched you with your ideal wardrobe, it will directly link you to the sites where you can actually make purchases. Think of it as the Kayak of the fashion industry.

In an interview with Refinery 29, CEO Christian Wylonis answers the question on everyone’s minds. What if it doesn’t fit? Does Fitbay handle refunds? “At some point we may decide to do this. Right now, we can’t, because it would require direct agreements with the web shops that we redirect our users to. We are a community for sharing clothes that fit, which means that everything is based on crowdsourced information; so we can’t guarantee 100% accuracy.”

In fact, there are a ton of “virtual fitting rooms.” The problem is they don’t work. Wylonis says Fitbay is different because, “(competitors) are trying to replicate the experience of a fitting room online by measuring your body and/or clothes. The process of measuring is very time-consuming and inaccurate, which is why we wanted to avoid this process altogether. . . We believe that the solution is to remove the need for fitting rooms altogether — not replicating a fitting room online.”

So, while Fitbay irons out its wrinkles, any e-commerce clothing business might want to incorporate its approach. Start by collecting profiles from your current customers (height, weight, build). Ask them to review styles and fits with basic questions.

  1. Did the product run small?
  2. Did the product run large?
  3. What was your overall level of satisfaction with the product?

Ask customers to take pictures of themselves in the garment for your site. Slowly, you’ll create reliable information for your customers. The more information you can glean, the better.  Just remember the end goal—clothes that fit without a fitting room.