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Innovation

Embracing body diversity, Asos invests in virtual fit technology

Online fashion giant, Asos, is making it easier for consumers to see how items of clothing fit different body types and saving time and money on photography in the process.

The retailer recently started working with Israeli tech startup Zeekit, which uses augmented reality (AR) to digitally ‘map’ the same item of clothing on various models using existing photographs of the item and models.

A customer noticed the change while shopping on the site last month, eliciting a response from Asos that the new feature will be rolling out across the app soon.

In a statement, Asos explained, “We’re always testing new technology that can make our customers’ experience even better.

“In this case, we’re experimenting with AR to show product on different size models, so customers can get a better sense of how something might fit their body shape.”

The race to solve the fit problem

Fit is one of the biggest sticking points for online clothing retailers, which still by and large rely on size-8 models. With the average Australian woman being closer to a size 14, most consumers are left to guess how an item will fit and look in real life.

A study by global research firm, IHL, pegs the annual cost of preventable returns at US$642.6 billion globally, and while it is difficult to pinpoint the average return rate for online purchases, (one analyst suggested 17-25 per cent is normal, it is decidedly higher than for items purchased in-store.

Solving the fit – and return – problem becomes even more important for online retailers that offer free shipping, delivery and returns, which consumers have come to expect in the age of Amazon.

A number of digital startups have sprung up in this space in recent years, such as Virtusize, which helps customers compare the measurements of an item they want to purchase with a garment they already own, and Fit.me and Metail, which let customers create 3D models to virtually ‘try on’ clothes.

Asos struck a deal with Virtusize – which lacks a visualisation component – in 2013. The partnership with Zeekit crucially enables customers to also see how an item will fit.

Zeekit differs from existing players, since it digitally maps garments onto the bodies of real models, not virtual avatars or faceless mannequins, which not only creates a more seamless shopping experience for customers, but also potentially saves Asos an enormous amount of time and money on photographing different size garments on different size models.

The Israeli newspaper Globes cited industry sources as saying Asos likely paid the Israeli company NIS 2.4 million in an annual fee (approximately $900,000), which the two companies may agree to extend.

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