Having to return an online clothing purchase is the great disappointment in modern shopping. You fantasize about the item, forget about it till it arrives, feel thrilled when it shows up at your door, then try it on and realize you have to return it. On top of the disappointing way it puckers here or doesn't zip there, you have to return it in the mail, which is sometimes an expense and usually an annoyance, and even worse when you feel like a cow. But lots of us go through this: Between 15 and 40 percent of clothes purchased online don't fit or don't look right and are returned, according to IMRG, a membership community for online retailers.
Heikki Haldre, a founder of Fits.me, an online fitting room service that creates custom virtual mannequins for people to dress with clothes before buying them, says, "Apparel remains one of the most difficult categories for online sales — and this is because of the lack of a fitting room." He adds that one in four loose-fitting garments (like T-shirts) bought online are returned, along with almost half of the more form-fitting things.
Fits.me's services can ameliorate this problem, however they haven't launched a women's mannequin yet (it's supposed to come out in a few months), since it's harder to engineer than men's. But some changes have to be made if clothing stores don't want to go the way of Barnes & Noble.
“By 2018, some 35 per cent of clothing sales will be on the internet,” says Heikki. “This will mean that up to one-inthree clothes shops might be closing, or in need of changing their business model. The same has already happened to the book retailers and travel agents.”
Some sites already offer virtual try-on services. These include eBay, which allows shoppers to superimpose shades over a photograph of their faces; and Tag Heuer, which allows customers to print out paper watches then wave them in front of a web cam for a digital realization of what their real wrist will look like with a real watch on.
But the technology still has a long way to go, because most shoppers probably aren't sitting around fretting about whether a watch will make their ass look fat. The sexy partywear, pants, and bathing suits are the real problem. So we propose this solution, which ultimately might not make good business sense, but would make us buy lots more things online: free shipping and returns for everyone all the time.
Is it curtains for changing rooms? [Independent UK]