Fit is the #1 point of friction facing customers and online apparel retailers. In the best-case scenario, retailers have to offer and eat the cost of free shipping and return to incentivize shoppers to take a chance on fit. In the worst-case scenario, customers choose not to buy or abstain from shopping online altogether because they have no confidence an item will fit and flatter them.
We recently spoke with 25 customers who used the Drapr Virtual Try On viewer while shopping for dress shirts at mizzenandmain.com to better understand the fit challenges that drove them to use Drapr.
Our hypothesis going in was a vast majority of the customers were going to be new customers who would, therefore, be unsure of their size. What we encountered was the exact opposite. 23/25 were returning customers. Even more surprising was that we heard 15 different reasons why these 25 customers had trouble choosing the right fit online. Without further ado, here are 15 reasons why customers struggle to choose the right fit online.
#1 They have never bought from your brand before
This is probably the first thing you think of when you think of online fitting problems. It was for us. Of course, new customers are going to struggle with a fit; they have zero experience with your sizing!
It is hard for retailers with brick and mortar stores to get new customers into their clothing where fit risk is eliminated due to fitting rooms. Now imagine how difficult it is for an online retailer to acquire a new customer where all the normal uncertainty is the same plus customers have to gamble on fit.
#2 They put on weight
This one is probably relatable to many of us. There is no such thing as static bodyweight and don’t we know it, especially around the holidays.
You would think a pound here, or there would be no cause for sizing uncertainty, but many customers aren’t a definitive small, medium, or large; they are somewhere in between. Also, the effects of weight gain can be multiplicative. For starters, weight gain means a larger body which means tighter fits. What compounds the situation is weight gain can also be accompanied by increased self-consciousness about said weight gain and a greater desire to hide it with looser fitting clothing, so a few pounds gained in the wrong area can quickly make a previously confident customer uncertain about their size.
#3 They lose weight
The one we probably all wish was more relatable: weight loss. Just like above, a few pounds lost can make a huge difference in fit and fit preferences. Weight loss leads to a smaller body, and at the same time, it can also be accompanied by a desire to show off that smaller body with tighter fitting clothing. The question customers then ask themselves is: how much smaller can I go and how tight is too tight? These questions can easily decrease fit confidence enough to prevent a purchase.
#4 They are going to the gym
This one was common amongst the shoppers we spoke with. Muscle gain reshapes your body and introduces fit challenges that customers didn’t even know existed before, like shirts being too tight in the sleeves or chest. Moreover, just like with losing weight, muscle gain is usually associated with an increased desire to show it off. The customers we spoke to with this problem found it most valuable being able to compare trim to standard sizes and assess how fitted was too fitted.
#5 They are planning ahead
This was probably the most unexpected fit challenge we heard, but it probably shouldn’t have been so surprising given the average American gains 1lb/year through their adult life. This interviewee has been watching himself gain weight steadily year over year. This fact didn’t seem to bother him; instead he was thinking pragmatically and projecting when he would outgrow his current dress shirts. Much like parents of growing children anticipating their clothing’s useful life.
This individual has been a customer of Mizzen+Main’s for many years, so he knew the size he was going to buy already, but he also very much appreciated being able to plan.
His conclusion: “I should have five more years.”
#6 They know what size fits, but it’s not the best fit size
“I’ve got a couple of the large standards, and they fit, but I’ve never tried on any other size.”
Fitting problems aren’t just about getting customers into clothing that they won’t return, but about getting them into clothing that they love and will want to reorder a dozen times.
The holy grail of apparel retail is a loyal customer. They purchase more, and they purchase regularly, you don’t have to spend money marketing to them, they’ll refer a dozen of their friends to you through the years. Retailers lose many opportunities to convert customers into loyal customers because the customer isn’t ordering the optimal size. Sure, they’ve got a couple of large standards that they like, but they don’t love them because they should be wearing the trim version.
Just because a size fits, doesn’t mean it’s the right size for the customer. Putting customers in suboptimal sizes reduces the brand love customers will develop towards you and all the word of mouth marketing gold that you get when customers are blown away - not to mention the people who will ask where they got their clothing from.
#7 Their usual size is sold out
When a customer reaches a “Sold Out” warning for their usual size, it’s almost guaranteed that the sale is lost. One interviewee shared with us that this happens to him exceedingly often because he’s normally an XXL and inventory for that size usually runs pretty thin and is rarely available for trendier, seasonal items. While normally this customer would have left frustrated, with our Virtual Try-On tool, he was instead able to try on other sizes and even found another size, admittedly a “much trimmer size,” than he was used to, but he was still happy to own the style.
#8 They are unsure how sizes change across products
A large in a dress shirt doesn’t necessarily equate to a large in a polo, t-shirt, or any other garment. Customers know this, and unless they’re told, otherwise, they will often assume that they have to start over again. The impacts of this can be near-tragic on customer confidence as it turns a repeat customer into a new customer for every new garment they shop for.
Learn how Mizzen+Main is solving the problem of fit with Virtual Try Ons
#9 You changed your … cuts, sizes, tech packs, manufacturers, etc.
We found a general distrust towards sizing consistency over time and palpable frustration from shoppers who have had this happen to them. Even if you are a staple of sizing consistency, your peers, unfortunately, haven’t always been, and this has bred a general distrust of all clothing from all brands for some customers.
#10 They don’t know what changes between sizes
Mizzen+Main offers 13 different sizes on their dress shirts. This is both fantastic for customers as it promises better fits for more body types, but at the same time, it only magnifies the fit challenge. What happens when you size up from a large to extra large? Does it grow wider or longer? How much longer is a “Tall”? How trim is “Trim”? Are we talking European trim or American trim?
Unfortunately, even the most simplistic sizing: small, medium, and large, gives customers little more information than the medium will be bigger than the small in some way.
#11 Sizing confidence is not fit confidence
If you tell a customer they are a medium; they are only marginally more likely to buy. Customers don’t want to know what size they are; they want to know how something will look when they put it on.
Let’s imagine that we live in a world where every shopper to your brand knows exactly what size will fit them best. Fit and conversion problem is solved, right?
Not according to those interviewed.
If the shopper cares about fit, knowing that they’re small and not a medium, only marginally increases their shopping confidence. Knowing the right size can save the brand a costly return, but it is much less likely to convince them to take a chance and make the purchase. These customers were appreciative of the honesty Virtual Try Ons afforded them. They were happier to know what to expect from the actual fit than to be promised perfection and be disappointed.
#12 They can’t remember what size they own and they’re not by their closet
Another nightmare scenario for brands. You’ve worked so hard to acquire a customer. They see a marketing email or an ad on Instagram and decide to repurchase it. The only problem is that they’re on their phone on the bus, and when they go to add an item to a cart, they can’t remember what size they own. Sale lost. For me, this is the saddest reason to lose a sale. Your marketing team works so hard and spends so much money to put the right content in front of your customers at the right time. Losing a customer because they can’t remember what size they own is dumb.
#13 They have been burned by a bad sizing decision in the past, and so avoid online shopping
One shopper described what must happen a million times a day around the world: he bought a shirt in size he didn’t love, he didn’t return it, and he never wears it. He had free returns, he got a longer return period, but it was easier for him to resolve not to buy online again than handle the return.
How did we wind up speaking with him? He really likes Mizzen’s brand and browses their website when marketed to. He wants to give them another chance but admittedly wasn’t going to buy until he was able to answer the fit question via Virtual Try Ons.
#14 Bad return policies: They are unable to return items if they get the size wrong
Shoppers’ comfort with online shopping is increasing year over year, but much of it is still supported by ultra-convenient, free shipping and returns. One shopper was shopping during Mizzen+Main’s annual sale where deals abound, but their returns policy changes to exchanges or store credit only. He said he wasn’t going to risk ordering and getting stuck with store credit until he was able to visualize how the shirts he was interested in fit on his body with Virtual Try Ons.
If your returns policy isn’t as free and frictionless as can be, you are losing customers to fit uncertainty.
#15 They are shopping for someone else
Finally, we had one customer shopping for her husband. If you thought it was difficult to find things that fit you now imagine how difficult this process is if you’re shopping for someone else!
Taking these problems as a whole, it becomes clear that the vast majority of customers encounter some degree of sizing uncertainty when they shop. It also sheds a lot of light on why conversion rates typically hover in the low single digits. No, not everyone that shows up on your site will be interested in buying, but almost everyone who is has to face the problem of fit.
Interested in solving these problems for your customers?