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Could returning online buys be a thing of the past?

Swedish company Virtusize has created a way to find clothes that fit without trying them on

Could returning online  buys be a thing of the past?
Photo by Erik Olsson

What’s the big idea?
Most of us have experienced that moment when you excitedly rip open a parcel of clothing ordered online only to find it doesn’t fit quite as well as it did on the model in the photographs. It’s one of the biggest problems with online shopping, and the result is an average return rate of 30 per cent for online retailers. And if you don’t buy clothing online, it’s probably because there’s no fitting room. Enter Virtusize, a new tool that aims to solve the problem of not being able to try on clothes when shopping online. “Together with the photographs and information online retailers provide, we try to offer the experience of a fitting room,” says Swedish co-founder Peder Stubert.

How does it work?
To get started, you input the measurements of a similar garment you already own – either by measuring it or finding and tagging a garment you own that is in the Virtusize network. You create a kind of online reference wardrobe you can use on any e-shop where Virtusize is available. The outline of the garment you want to buy is overlaid on the silhouette of the garment you own to give you a better idea of what to expect when it turns up.

Where did the idea come from?
The idea is based around the eBay model of selling clothes, where sellers list the exact measurements of the garment for sale and you can compare those measurements to a similar garment you already own.

The five co-founders – all avid online shoppers – realised it was an answer to the issue of size and fit for online retailers. “The problem was there is no logic in sizing – I can be anything from a small to an extra large depending on the brand,” says Stubert. “So, either we didn’t know what size to buy or the fit was not what we expected.”

How is Virtusize different?
There were already a few different attempts to solve the size and fit problem, but most start by getting consumers to measure their body and then overlaying the garments on the body, which the Virtusize team believes is too complicated and doesn’t really work. “We realised that we needed to compare products to products, not products to body,” says Stubert. “We wanted to take this idea and make it more visual, intuitive and fun. We spoke to pattern designers who were very encouraging, so, in spring 2011, we quit our jobs and got started!”

Which online retailers use Virtusize?
The first version of Virtusize was launched in autumn of 2011 with nelly.com, Scandinavia’s biggest online retailer. There are currently more than 30 retailers using Virtusize, including heavy hitters such as ASOS, Acne, Monsoon and Whyred. “We’re very focused now on getting Virtusize out to big online retailers all over the world,” says Stubert.

What’s the next step?
World domination. Currently, there are offices in Stockholm and Tokyo (as Japan has one of the most advanced e-commerce markets in the world), and there are plans to open an office in the US early this year. “We want to keep developing the product,” says Stubert. “The goal is to become the essential tool for people around the world when they shop for clothes online.”


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