eCommerce is amazing. One can buy pretty much anything wanted (or needed), anytime, anywhere. Need the latest book on energizing motivational management–> Amazon. Want to fly off to a fun destination for a getaway weekend –> Travelocity. Missing your vintage Six Million Dollar Man action figure –> ebay.
Most products are relatively easy to buy, have shipped, and put into use once they arrive. In many cases the shipment is fast and the “instant gratification” effect is fulfilled relatively well. That said there is an exception to this that confounds many merchants and marketers –> Apparel (or anything that requires “fit” as it relates to look and feel). Return rates for the apparel category are among the highest of any category sold online. It causes significant considerations for budgeting and definitely takes the lion’s share of space in the inventory space and P&L of retailers.
As eCommerce has continued to evolve, many new companies are coming on the scene to work to alleviate this problem. Some have been successful – others have not. In the men’s apparel space, Bonobos launched in 2007. An online only business for the first five years, the company was committed to selling the “best fitting pant” for men. Seeing an opportunity to transcend to the offline space, in 2012 Bonobos opened a “Guideshop” and has quietly built a solid business around a mix of “guideshops” and an online ordering mechanism. Guests go into the local guideshops (currently in high population cities across the US) and work with a Bonobos Guide to find the right fit. Once the items are selected, the order is placed online (at the store) and then the products are shipped to the guest at a desired location. With fit now known, guests are able to comfortably order online and have items shipped without the trepidation of wondering if the items will create the instant gratification needed.
On the women’s side, several companies have stepped up to the Bonobos model (including Bonobos with their AYR website and collection). What is interesting is the push into the technology realm. One such company based out of Dallas, AVYN, is being born out of a made-to-measure company women’s dress company called Victory Mountain Threads. AVYN plans to use patent-pending technology to revolutionize the measure-fit-make-deliver-wear world that women often find challenging. AVYN will bring the full cycle together in a way that what is ordered is what fits (and vice versa).
Going back to the days of Lands’ End and JCPenney using “My Virtual Model”, retailers have been on a quest to master the fit, satisfy the customer, and deliver a quality product. In the online world, the challenges are great. In our ever increasing technology world of today, those challenges are being bridged with smart ideas, clever technology, and a commitment to improving the experience. Keep an eye out for the companies that are pushing the envelope. In short order we will all ask – “why did no one think of that before?”