Getting #FitForTheFuture with Drapers Fashion Forum - Rakuten Fits Me

Getting #FitForTheFuture with Drapers Fashion Forum

Retail, Events, Innovation By Matt Harris, November 11, 2016

The Fits Me team attended and sponsored the Drapers Fashion Forum held in London last month. The day was full of debate, strategy and idea’s that could have the power to change retail practices on a global scale. From product development and localisation to marketing and metrics, the event showcased how the industry is pushing ahead to tackle key challenges such as high returns rates and scalability.

The Drapers Fashion Forum Panel
The Drapers Fashion Forum Panel

Drapers Fashion Forum reminded us that we find ourselves in a tough economic climate and how vital it is to have innovative and unique products that are meeting customer expectations in every aspect.

Our morning kicked off with a breakfast briefing where we invited key industry players to open up about returns and experiences when shopping online. Across the board they agreed it is time to move away from a fast fashion model and towards customer-centric approaches. Fashion consumption is not about seasons or catwalk trends but more about shopper profiles and knowing your customer.

ethical Fashion, anyone?

Another hot topic was that of ethical fashion. We had the pleasure of meeting with Bert van Son at Mud Jeans. Mud Jeans is a sustainable fashion brand that sells and leases jeans produced in-line with closed loop principles. Jeans as a product category are one of the trickiest when it comes to fit – we all know that familiar feeling when we need to go buy another pair. Mud Jeans also offer a refreshingly flexible transaction model as they allow shoppers to purchase up to three sizes at the price of one (on the condition that the two that didn’t fit are returned of course). This is such a great example of going that extra mile and meeting customer needs.

Bert van Son, CEO at Mud Jeans
Bert van Son, CEO at Mud Jeans

We speculate that Dan Orteu, Operations and IT director at Anya Hindmarch, couldn’t agree more: “Consumers today expect fast, frictionless and increasingly omni-channel experiences, in which interaction with brands is consistent – whether in-store, online or in-app.”

Back to returns and customer needs, we have come to perceive lenient returns policies as the norm – a ‘hygiene factor’. This is of course great but we have to point out that this comes with a cost at the expense of retailers. It is estimated that between on average between 20 and 40% of apparel purchases are returned.

increased sales = increased returns?

Further to this, clothing and footwear sales are expected to reach $600 billion by 2020 (eMarketer, 2015) which of course will have an effect on the returns volume and cost. It is also important to take a relatively broad approach to returns. Whilst the immediate cost may be a few pounds, the hidden costs can have a far greater long-term effect on sales and reputation. Clear Returns (2015) for example states that “up to 80% of first time shoppers never shop with a retailer if they send back their first order”.

A good returns experience is invaluable – almost 90% of shoppers would return and shop again on the condition that they enjoyed a positive returns experience (Endicia, 2014).

One global retailer who attended the event commented: “Our in-store returns are considerably lower than our online returns. We believe this is because in branch we have a loyal customer base who have access to fitting rooms. In comparison, we get lots of first-time customers online who are more likely to return items”. Another attendee shared: “It’s easy to think that people can’t be bothered. But that’s not going to do any good. This will only cause long-term damage to customer loyalty.”

The future of fit

The debate ended on a high as we addressed best practices from industry. Firstly, providing the model’s measurements can help customers understand their sizing better. Other important factors include the photography, the look and feel of the product page, style guidance and also having an understanding of different body shapes. One of our favourite ideas was to visualise fit preferences by way of an on-site catwalk allowing shoppers to compare themselves to models with different body shapes and fit preferences.

The Drapers’ Fashion Forum once again proved that the business of fashion and retail is one of the most complex ones and there are many challenges (and solutions!) both now and in the future. Overall, it was a great day full of inspiring encounters and conversations about getting #FitForTheFuture.

Author: Matt Harris

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