In the Spring of 2013, a well known and extremely vocal CRM provider promised a clothing retail future where we’d walk into a shop (say a sneaker store) and be greeted by a personalised audio message reminding us of our size, the last time we bought a pair of shoes and whether or not these needed to now be replaced. This is the first week of Spring 2018 and we’re still not being greeted by little voices who know our shoe size and their state of repair.
What went wrong? Most people now carry smartphones everywhere plus beacon and proximity technology represent the core functionality of most of the apps that we use on these devices on a daily basis. Today we can even talk to our phones, ask them for information and even have them complete simple tasks. So where is the great interaction with brands that we were promised? Are we missing out? Yes and no.
I don’t know that we’re missing out on being greeted as we enter a shop. “Hello John Anderton”, a line from Sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick’s Minority report springs to mind. In the movie version of the story we see the lead character being greeted by various window displays as he walks through a shopping mall. I suspect most people would find this too obtrusive, no?
What we are missing out on is a bit of data, intelligently applied. In the good old days of retail, one could walk into a tailor and they would immediately recognise your size and be able to match that against their stock and the styles of the brands they carry. This still exists in some places — Dublin’s Louis Copeland and Sons being a fine example!
Unfortunately, due to the nature of people and stock turnover, this type of knowledge and customer service is very much an exception rather than a rule these days. Anyone try buying jeans lately? I have an athletic build — this means that I have a skinny waist, wider hips, relatively large upper legs and then above average lower legs for a skinny person but below average for someone who might be carrying a few extra pounds.
In a world of slim, skinny, carrot or tapered, it has become nearly impossible for me to buy a simple pair of jeans! I find that I typically either can’t pull the damn things up beyond my knees or else I end up with a pair of wide baggy jodhpur looking things that only General G S. Patton could’ve been proud of!
But surely with all the technology that we have access to today there is a better way of doing things? There sure is! I believe brands need to get a lot better at gather size data from their customers. It’s actually in everyone’s interests (the consumer, retailer and the brand) to get a better handle on sizes within a population. Historically, military archives were the best place to go to get a measure of a population because they kept very good records of the sizes of their troops.
I’ve no idea where one could access such data today but if I was a brand I’d start by gathering it from my customers. Size charting doesn’t seem to have changed much over the years with chest, height, inside leg and waist still being the normal measurement yardsticks. Why don’t brands publish the widths of trouser legs and jumper arms? This would make it so much easier for a customer to find clothes that actually fit — especially when buying online.
Having such data would also make it so much easier to re-market to consumers. Imagine if you found that perfect pair of jeans but after a year they were starting to wear out and you started to dread the stress associated with trying to replace them? Now imagine receiving an email from your jean’s manufacturer offering you a discounted price for a new pair and a range of colours to chose from?
And what about socks and jocks (underwear) and other items that run out more frequently? It’s become commonplace to receive regular monthly instalments of shaving kit and detergent so why not consumable clothing too? I recently noticed that Nike have started to offer free returns of clothes bought online even if they’ve been worn! I’m not sure what direction this suggests things or going but if Nike are offering such a service (at no cost) then how far away could we be from a subscription clothes model?
Bottom line, the process of figuring out clothing is a science but a very inefficient one at that. Better data has huge potential to reduce waste and increase manufacturing efficiencies. Ultimately better data can also lead to a much better customer experience by helping customers to make better, quicker and easier decisions at the pre-sales stage of the purchase cycle.
What do you guys think? How do you shop for clothes right now? Do you love or hate the process? Maybe you’ve already found, figured out or have dreamed up an amazing system to improve this process?! If you have then do let me know in the comments or message me here!