(In the 17th paragraph, corrects the $55 average spend to be
per item, not overall.)
By Lou Carlozo
NEW YORK, July 7 Technology may finally be
solving the thorny problem of buying clothing online - that you
cannot try things on. Through scanners and data mining,
consumers are now able to get a custom fit, saving them time and
money because they do not have to order multiple items and
return what doesn't fit.
The majority of these new systems do not cost a thing for
the buyer to use. They are more about recommending a more exact
sizing and style than if the customer tries to pick an item on
Given that the average woman has $550 worth of unused
clothing in her closet, according to a recent survey by
VoucherCloud.net, a retail coupon site, shoppers could use a
little help paring down their purchases to things they actually
like and will wear.
One virtual try-on system is made by FaceCake (www.facecake.com/),
based near Los Angeles. Called Swivel HD, it works with
Microsoft's Kinect 2 to project clothing onto users as though
they are looking in a mirror. Users stand about two feet away
and hold out their hands as if they are grabbing products off a
rack. If you bend with a virtual purse on, the strap bends with
you so you can see how it fits your body contours.
"You don't have to tell it anything," says FaceCake Chief
Executive Officer Linda Smith.
When the technology was featured at the Dubai Shopping
Festival in December, shoppers tried on an average of 26
products - five times more products than the average shopper
takes into a dressing room, according to FaceCake.
This creates cost savings in various ways. For starters,
buyers can view clothes in an ensemble more easily, and get a
better idea of how those clothes look against their skin tone.
Another feature lets users share photos of their potential
choices via social media, so buyers can get input before making
With other software-based tools, a little user information
is needed, but it can go a long way.
True Fit (www.truefit.com/), software built for
retailers, works with more than 1,000 brands like Michael Kors
and Sean John. Shoppers can create a new profile in 60
seconds or less by entering their height, weight, body type and
size of their favorite dress instead of traditional
The technology then analyzes billions of data points to make
clothing recommendations; the more a person uses it, the more
True Fit "learns" about what works for them.
"It helps us zero in on some things that fit them in real
life," says co-founder Romney Evans. "We also look at past sales
information so we can get smart about a recommendation. It's
really an ongoing conversation with customers, and those
conversations will get better with time."
Some technologies do use measurements.
At Me-Ality's website (www.me-ality.com/), customers
can input four simple measurements to get clothing
The Left Shoe company (www.leftshoecompany.com/)
could finally make the Brannock Device - the metal plate with
sliders that has measured shoe sizes since 1927 - a thing of the
past. At the West Hollywood, California-based store, customers
stand on a platform while a high-resolution camera rotates
around each foot on a circular track, taking 300 total images in
As of now, this kind of fitting can't be done via the web,
but Left Shoe store co-owner Patrick Mayworm says a mobile-based
system is coming.
At Stitch Fix (www.stitchfix.com/), it takes about
10 minutes to complete a profile that addresses size, style,
shape and lifestyle - as well as your shopping budget. A
personal stylist then picks five items for you. It costs $20,
but that amount applies to paying for the clothes you keep. If
you keep all five, you get a 25 percent discount; if you return
any, there are no restocking fees and Stitch Fix pays the
The average spend per item is $55, which "is very similar to
retailers like the Gap," says Stitch Fix founder and CEO Katrina
Lake. "They're also saving money that they would otherwise spend
on gas to get to the mall, or on shipping and returns for online
purchases," she adds.
You can also get recommendations via social media from
companies like Zappos. All you have to do is type #nextootd on
your Instagram postings and they'll respond to you based on your
And starting in June, Zappos will also offer #askzappos,
where you can snap a picture of an outfit you like and get help
finding out where to buy it.
"People think about shopping in a different context now,"
says Will Young, director of Zappos Labs in San Francisco.
(Follow us @ReutersMoney or here;
Editing by Beth Pinsker and Jonathan Oatis)