Product returns are a major problem for online retailers as each unwanted order obviously incurs a cost, which then raises the dilemma of who is to pay for postage.

Passing the cost onto customers is certain to put people off ordering again in future, but absorbing the cost might not be feasible for all businesses.

Ideally retailers should try and reduce the need to return items in the first place, and we’ve previously written about a shoe fitting app that reduced fit-related returns by 23%.

Now ASOS has launched a new tool, Virtusize, that has the potential to achieve an even greater rate of success, as it has already proven to reduce fit-related returns by up to 50% on other ecommerce sites.

The tool allows customers to compare specific measurements of an item they are looking to buy with a similar item they already own by displaying and overlaying silhouettes of both garments.

Virtusize is already live on 23 different online retailers in Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and the UK, and is used around 50,000 times per month by online shoppers.

After a successful six-month trial with 2,000 of its products ASOS has announced plans to gradually roll out ‘Fit Visualiser’ to the rest of its ecommerce store, so I tried it out to see how easy it is to use…

Usability

The CTA for Virtusize is labelled as ‘Fit Visualiser’ and appears alongside the other dropdown menus on the product page.

Clicking on it opens a pop up window that displays a graphic describing how to use the tool.

You can either click ‘I own it’ which adds the item to your wardrobe so you can compare it against other products, or you click ‘next’ which then allows you to input the precise measurements of a garment you already own.

This requires the customer to use a tape measure to find out various dimensions of their chosen garment. Virtusize chose to do this as it’s easier to compare garments against each other than it is to compare body shape, plus it’s difficult to try and measure your own body.

At each stage there are handy graphics that talk you through the process, making it very easy to follow. The instructions change when you click each different box so as to show you exactly where to measure.

There are three or four compulsory fields for each garment, plus a few optional measurements to help make it more accurate.

Once you’ve input the measurements Virtusize superimposes the shirt you’re considering over the top of the item you own so you can see the difference – it then tells you by how many centimetres each dimension doesn’t match.

I found the user experience to be extremely slick and it was a big help in identifying a style of shirt that would actually fit.

Having selected a shirt I tried the tool out on t-shirts. I already own an ASOS brand t-shirt, so I was able to add that to my Virtusize wardrobe and track down a different product in a matching size in just a few clicks.

But while finding a shirt and t-shirt was easy, shorts proved to be more difficult and I couldn’t find any that closely matched the leg dimensions of a pair I currently own.

Personally I found measuring shorts was trickier than measuring a shirt so this may have had something to do with it.

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Was it a success?

Due to the problems with finding matching shorts I opted to buy a t-shirt and shirt, both of which fit almost perfectly when they arrived.

I was expecting the t-shirt to fit as I was able to compare it to one I’d previously purchased from ASOS, but even so I was pleasantly surprised that it exactly matched.

The shirt was the real test as I was working from my own dubious skill with a tape measure, but the fit was great and Virtusize accurately pre-empted the minor differences in size.

In conclusion…

Generally when shopping at ASOS I buy several different garments safe in the knowledge that I’ll probably only keep one or two then post the others back free of charge.

Virtusize reduces the need for this scatter gun approach as you can immediately discount a number of garments based on their size.

Personally I feel that the tool inspires confidence during the buying process, particularly when comparing products against garments that you’ve previously bought from ASOS.

Measuring the items yourself is a slight barrier to entry and there’s an obvious issue in that not everyone has a tape measure handy, but it’s pretty easy once you get started.

And once customers have been convinced to overcome that hurdle then the quality of the UX is likely to encourage repeat uses.

From Virtusize’s point of view the beauty is that once a user uploads a garment to their account they can compare it against products on any site that uses the tool.

So for example, when someone is shopping on ASOS they can compare the products against items they’ve previously bought from Stylebop.

Therefore Virtusize becomes increasingly valuable and useful for the customer as more retailers come on board.

Getting a retailer like ASOS to sign up is obviously a major coup for Virtusize and with other brands in the pipeline there’s a fair chance that the tool will become a common feature on ecommerce sites soon.

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