The e-commerce shopping mall is littered with abandoned shopping carts. Consider this: an average of 73.9 percent of carts don’t make it to the check out, according to the most recent data from SaleCycle. While it’s no surprise that the preponderance of discarded baskets are found in the travel industry (think: where some people are just comparison shopping for cheap flights or dreaming of luxuries they can’t actualize), coming in second is apparel.
“Only about 10 percent of apparel and footwear purchases happen online,” Romney Evans tells FORBES. The co-founder of TrueFit, a data analytics company, believes sizing plays a big part in consumers’ lack of confidence. Drapers Etail Report found that sizing problems accounted for more than 70% of fashion purchased online was subsequently returned.
Evans points out that e-commerce sites such as Zappos that offer free shipping and returns helped take consumption from zero to incremental. “We are looking at this as the final frontier, and we see TrueFit having a huge opportunity to unlock this market,” he says.
Boston-based TrueFit was founded –like so many other companies– with the idea that there had to be a better way. In Evan’s case, he was working with Clayton Christensen at the time and thinking a lot about disruptive frameworks, even when he was out shopping with his wife. “She tried on a dozen pair of jeans,” he recalls, and didn’t buy a single one. TrueFit’s most nascent form, Evans says, was a solution in which the shopper plugged in data on their size and an algorithm would get to work parsing the measurements and preferences and spit out items that would fit just right.
Though Evans and his co-founders were not first to the party: there are custom clothiers, 3D body scanners, and on-screen human avatars all aimed at solving this condundrum, he says, “There is nothing that focused on helping find which items fit me and what size should I buy.”
When asked if he thought predictive analytics could trump Microsoft’s Kinect-enabled customer experience in which FaceCake’s Swivel application turns the shopper’s computer into a virtual dressing room, TrueFit’s CEO Bill Adler says no. “Big data is more accurate,” he says, “Because any time you do a scan you’re getting very precise measurements of the body. But we don’t walk around in leotards all day.”
Adler contends that there’s more to fit that whether the garment or shoe is too tight or too loose. “Fit, style preference, fabric, drape, all of that is really important to best outfit a person,” he says. “Fashion is form of self expression and successfully connecting you in a digital environment to right piece of clothing is more than just data points on your physical body.”
Adler also notes that TrueFit’s platform now has data from 1,000 brands and retailers, which he says makes it the largest database of its kind in the world. “It’s information that the designers hold to communicate how something should fit,” he says, as well as information from retailers about what consumers are purchasing –and what they return.
TrueFit’s personal profiles from shoppers now number in the millions, says Adler, but there’s no need to fear the NSA, or anyone else, scooping up stats on how big your butt is in those jeans. Adler underscores all data from shoppers remains anonymous, even as it learns your preferences from the items you’re buying across different retailers.
Creating that profile only takes 60 seconds, Adler maintains, another crucial point to keep customers engaged. Between the Pandora-like predictive analytics and the massive amount of data, Adler says TrueFit is poised to disrupt retailing. “If you have trillion market and only 10 percent is online you have to be able to engage people en masse.”
TrueFit is privately held and therefore reluctant to reveal revenue numbers or specifics about its current clients. Adler did say, “We find that 78 percent of all transactions come from people who never purchased online,” a 3-6x lift in conversion rates, and 10-50 percent reduction in returns. “We are getting millions to have a fluid experience.”