Soon, we’ll all be dressed like Bond and Marilyn.
The online apparel market is expected to grow 17% in 2017, and is presently the largest e-tail segment second only to consumer electronics. At the forefront of this development are the companies solving the biggest problem online shoppers have with apparel: fit. As new UX innovations make shopping flow more seamless, and consumers raise their standards for fit, such companies will discover prosperity. Below, we list four reasons will custom-fit fashion will see a rise.
Retail fits only 15% of men.
And you thought you looked great in that medium sized polo. In a business insider interview, Stantt co-founder Kirk Keel presented research that demonstrated standard size labels only fit 15% of men correctly. Pieces often fit in one place, but misfit in another. For example, the shirt you like at Zara might really show off your chest, but then you realize the sleeves are too short. Or the sleeves might be fine, but the waist area turns out too baggy. The obvious counterargument to this is that shoppers rarely pay attention to such nuances, and that existing products are perfectly functional. Just remember if that logic governed retail, we would still be wearing the fashions of our Neanderthal ancestors (although they did go extinct for failing to invent jackets, so functionality has some value).
User experience is improving.
While options provide variety, having too many of them can ruin a user experience. In e-commerce, the platform for many new fashion startups, the draw is to get on, find something to like, and check out as fast and easily as possible. Users will simply abandon the shopping flow if they experience what researchers call “customization fatigue.” Similarly, e-commerce based fashion startups lack the one thing many consider the crux of their shopping experiences: the fitting room. However, new innovations have been made in the last few years that will remedy many of those inconveniences.
Startups like Bonobos are now complimenting online platforms with retail boutiques that allow shoppers to try on products before buying online. Acustom Apparel even has 3D scanners that scan your entire body for precise measurements instantly. StyleWhile just produced a fitting room app that lets shoppers create virtual avatars and see how they would look wearing any piece of apparel. Getting your measurements, even if you are at home, is getting easier too. ThirdLove allows women to simply take a photo of their breasts while wearing a tank top, and then have their best measurements produced on the company’s end. Heck, Fitbay even lets you follow body doubles and see what clothes they look best in.
Margins are high. Returns are falling.
The inherent business of custom-fit has become more profitable. Startups like Efaisto do not start making the clothes until shoppers order them. Unlike traditional retailers, they do not have to worry about inventory management. Most custom fit startups are also vertically integrated. By selling through their own websites and controlling their own manufacturing processes, they avoid the need to sell to 3rd parties in the value chain. This allows them to keep margins high. Innovations have also improved fit quality – return rates have fallen from 40% to 28%. As UX continues to improve, we can expect more progress.
The fact many bespoke boutiques are selling through e-commerce is also a boon. Global smart phone users are expected to reach 6.1 billion by 2020, and mobile already delivers 33% of online fashion sales worldwide. Affordable bespoke goods also fall within the affordable luxury segment, which is expected to be one the fastest growing segments in 2017, boasting a rate of 4.5%.
It is becoming more affordable.
Like we mentioned in our “4 Reasons to Star Looking Awesome with Bespoke” article, one of the biggest drivers of custom-fit fashion’s mainstream success will be affordability. An amazing skirt from Rita and Phill hugs like your body and still feels comfortable after 4 hours of driving. It would set you back only $145. A tailored dress shirt from Efaisto costs only $74. These premium offerings cost nothing compared to traditional tailored jeans that run on average over $5,000.
Such pieces will be very appealing to the generation that has grown up in tech and that seeks personalized tailoring in every product: millennials. This is especially true given that: 1) discounted bespoke offers an entry point for many who are just joining the work force, and 2) customized offerings are a keystone to a consumer generation more diverse than any in history.