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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.

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.

David Moth

Published 13 May, 2013 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1679 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Graham Everit

Sounds like a good idea in principal, and aims to solve problem close to fashion retailer's hearts, but the stats of 50,000 uses per month across 23 retailers mean 2173 uses per retailer site per month. I can't really see this affecting the bottom line on returns for some time yet.

I see your point that it'll become more useful as more retailers come on board but it's got some big hurdles to get past (e.g. the measuring you mention) and it's got a long way to go. I wonder if ASOS have done any A/B testing on the call to action, I'd imagine there are some much better variants than "visualise fit" that would increase interactions.

about 3 years ago

Anna Lewis

Anna Lewis, Google Analytics Analyst at Koozai

This sounds like a very clever idea to save money, but it sounds like it takes the user quite a bit of time? Having said that, so does posting back items! It would be great to see this rolled out to other retailers with a log in to Virtusize so that you can just use one method and have a virtual wardrobe with clothes for any store. Chances are other retailers will start using a slightly different system soon and every shop will need a new set of measuring skills! Nice to hear of a novel solution to an ecommerce problem though.

about 3 years ago

Pete Williams

Pete Williams, Managing Director at Gibe Digital

and the power to re-market to users who have added items to their virtual wardrobe would make it seem like another great idea for retailers to use a system like this, won't be long before Amazon makes a move for them!

about 3 years ago

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Richard Hamer

My one and only time using Asos was last year when I ordered a pair of men's trainers. They arrived, but were women's.
I sent them back, they sent a new pair; exactly the same.
I returned them and asked for my money back and at the same time asked if they actually had any size 8 for men in stock. The answer was no.
Seem obvious that they were prepared to pass off to me whatever they could.

about 3 years ago

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Ash Khrera, Business Analyst at MTG group

I might be thinking too much , but it will be really good to have a onscreen ruler so the shopper don't have to search for it which can become time consuming.

Considering the actual purchase is mostly done via tablets or desktop it seems feasible idea.

over 2 years ago

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