What exactly is fit technology?
If you hear fit technology and you think body scanners, 3-D avatars and complicated space-age technology, you are only partially right. But if you hear technology and automatically think “gimmick,” then you most likely have misunderstood the meaning of fit technology altogether. To understand fit technology in the way we see it, you must understand the actual meaning of technology.
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word technology as such:
A. The practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area.
B. A capability given by the practical application of knowledge.
C. A manner of accomplishing a task, especially using technical processes, methods or knowledge.
D: The specialized aspects of a particular field of endeavor.
Let’s take that definition and add the word fit. Did it change the meaning of fit technology for you?
Fit technology isn’t just about fancy or expensive technological integrations, it’s about best practices, knowledge application, processes and methods to help reduce the pain points caused by fit. These pain points are real, returns are well over $62 billion and dead inventory accounts for about $50 billion annually and the numbers continue to grow. Although companies can account for the inventory loss on their balance sheets, they can no longer ignore the subsequent environmental impact and the loss of customers. Environmentally, the misalignment between people and product has a significant impact. Nataliya Makulova, from Balanced Fashion, often talks about the importance of understanding the end of the product life cycle as a means to reduce waste. This type of consideration is not just about the decomposition of garments, but also about the intention of design and the ability to get that design to the right people more efficiently. We have to view fit (matching people to product) as a remedy for the broken supply and demand relationship in fashion.
Why Do People Not Believe in Fit Technology?
We all know fit is a problem but many people don’t quite understand the negative impact of fit. Additionally, there is a huge misconception of what fit technology really is. Rent the Runway’s chief technology officer and head of product Josh Builder mentioned in a recent article why they do not use fit technology “gimmicks” to rent clothing. But according to our definition of technology, they actually do. The user-generated content feature on the web site, consisting of women sharing their sizes, measurements and opinions of previously worn clothing, is a type of fit technology. It requires no hardware or complicated software but it is a process that helps to match people to product effectively.
People often over complicate the idea of fit technology based on their own expectations or experiences. Their expectations of large body scanners, AR tools and 3-D avatars is what many think of when they hear fit technology. What isn’t considered is fit-based copy, user-generated content, imagery, comparative shopping or data mining. These methods along with advanced technological methods, both help to resolve the fit issue. Fit solutions are unique to each brand based on the types of products and customers.
How Causation Vs. Correlation Affects Fit Solutions
In my 2015 master’s thesis conducted at Cornell University, I studied digital perception of fit, fit influences and consumer archetypes. During that time, denim purchases were on decline and many considered the rise of ath-leisure to be the cause. According to many reputable publications, ath-leisure was going to kill the denim industry permanently. There was some truth to the idea, but overall this was an oversimplification of consumer behavior based on causation vs. correlation and a misunderstanding of the impact of fit and fit perception.
Ath-leisure is comfortable by nature. The fit of ath-leisure varies but can be easily determined without a try-on. Because of the more-comfortable fit, shoppers can view ath-leisure items as less risk oriented. In direct contrast, denim’s structured fit and varying cuts make it a more of a high-risk item to purchase in lieu of a physical try-on. What contributed to the decline of denim was the inability to perceive the fit of denim without a physical try-on. Now brands such as Good American are flourishing with denim sales and offering customers fit solutions to help them determine the right size.
Understanding the customer, customer needs and how customers interact with garments are key to developing or implementing a fit technology. Fit technology is about matching people to product — simple. It’s about creating both shareholder and stakeholder value in balance, which traditionally has not been prioritized. Don’t wait until bankruptcy to get a strategy in place, find the best way to get your products into the right hands.
Jessica Couch is the founder of Luxor and Finch Consulting, a fit technology integration firm.