Heikki Haldre, CEO of Fits.me

Virtual fitting – it’s a subject of huge interest to retailers. At Poq, we’ve found that our previous two blogs on the subject are amongst our most viewed posts.

We’ve talked about Fits.me before and they are the market leader in this area as an innovative company aiming to solve the online fit problem for fashion retailers.

The percentage of products that are returned varies from retailer to retailer, but it can be as high as 25% of all sales, which is obviously financially painful. As well as this, if consumers have a better idea of how garments fit they will be more confident to buy; increasing conversion rates for retailers.

We spoke to Heikki Haldre, CEO and Founder of Fits.me, to find out more about the virtual fitting company, their plans for the future, and why online fashion retailers should make reducing returns one of their key priorities.

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What is the main problem that Fits.me was set up to solve?

The Fits.me Virtual Fitting Room helps clothing retailers to overcome the obvious difficulty that shoppers are unable physically to try on clothes before they buy when shopping online, something that has historically contributed both to low online conversion rates and to high garment returns for reasons of poor or unstylish fit.  The Fits.me Virtual Fitting Room solution delivers an authentic, in-store fitting room experience online by providing shoppers with a photographic, mirror-like visualisation of fit.  This gives shoppers the confidence to convert, and helps them to choose more accurately the size they need to get the look they want.  And it works: we have analytics-based evidence that shows our doubling of conversion rates, and retailer-provided evidence that we’ve reduced fit-related returns by three-quarters.

What have you found to be the biggest challenges in mixing fashion and technology?

Honestly, we don’t really find that we’re mixing fashion and technology: our clients are ecommerce professionals whose responsibility is to harness technology to constantly improve the performance of their transactional website.  Retail is always competitive, fashion retail especially so, so you won’t be surprised to know that many of the people we deal with are at the very top of their game and are open to innovations like ours that have the potential to transform some of their key metrics.

Of course, we will always face the challenge of constantly changing stock, but that’s what we’re geared up for, same as the retailers themselves.

Should fitting really be a key priority for online retailers?

Customers return 15-25% of purchases, reaching 65% in certain product categories such as dresses according to the research from IMRG and Metapack.  70% of those returns are for fit-related reasons, according to the Drapers Etail Report 2012.

The other issue is that online conversions are low, because customers lack the confidence to hit ‘Buy’.  Providing a proper visualisation of fit overcomes this buyer hesitation, and sends conversions upwards too.

Making fitting a key priority sells much more stock and is vital to keeping it sold.  So, yes, it is very much a key priority!

The Fits.me model requires shoppers to take accurate measurements of themselves – do you think this could be a limiting factor?

We’re talking about clothes fitting, so precision is important – for some types of clothes more than others.  Of course, the accuracy of the fit information provided by both Fit Advisor and the Virtual Fitting room is only as good as the data that shoppers provide so people do need to be honest with themselves!

But we’re almost ready to implement an alternative way of acquiring measurements, based on a customer’s height, weight, age and general body shape which are attributes that people tend to know very readily.  We can then compare these attributes to our enormous database of body measurements, and ‘fill in the blanks’.  It’s remarkably accurate and individual shoppers will still be able to enter their precise measurements as they do now.

How does mobile commerce factor into the Fits.me strategy?

Mobile and tablets are in every pocket and we realise the need for retailers to switch on to this trend to offer their customers a more personalised and targeted service.  Customers use mobile apps to guide them through tons of decisions every day, and retailers can develop their relationships with individual shoppers by guiding them throughout the shopping journey from idea to purchase.

By tapping into free in-store Wi-Fi, customers can engage with shopping-enhancing solutions like our virtual fitting rooms which enable them to search for clothes that fit without the hassle of entering a changing room in-store. With a number of major retailers including Adidas, Superdry, Thomas Pink and L.K. Bennett already using Fits.me’s virtual fitting rooms, we are rapidly developing this product to meet the demands to meet the mobile commerce demand.

What does Fits.me have planned for the future?

Fits.me’s roadmap for the future includes strengthening our position in the European market, where we have several big name retailers on board already.  We recently opened small Sales Offices in France and Germany, and we aim to grow our presence in those countries and further into continental Europe.

As mentioned, we will also be continuing to develop our mobile strategy as we believe that is what the market wants.

Currently, most ‘fit solution’ providers actually address one of three problems: sizing, styling or fit.  Mix-and-match type products focus on style, while sizing solutions are mostly ’interactive size charts’ and very few can provide a visual look that matches true-to-life fitting rooms.  That, of course, is our USP, although we also cover the interactive sizing solutions with our Fit Advisor product.

As companies grapple with these three main issues affecting the retail industry, we expect that the market will consolidate.  There are several companies out there with just one or two clients to their name, which is not sustainable in the medium to long-term, and we also forsee that the serious players in this market will start to try to address two or more of those problems, not just one, and Fits.me is likely to be part of that too.

We successfully raised £5million in Series A funding in April this year and we are planning to complete a round of Series B funding later in 2013 or early into 2014.  This will be earmarked for sales and marketing investment in the UK, mainland Europe and the USA and, after this period of investment and technological development, we aim to break even during 2014.

Huge thanks to Heikki for answering our questions. You can find out more about Fits.me on their website.