When it comes to clothing, is it really possible to provide a truly personalised shopping experience online?
Newly launched e-commerce site Sojeans is attempting to do just that by offering product recommendations based on a customer’s vital statistics and preferred style of clothes.
The 'Soselect' tool on sojeans.co.uk asks customers to input height, weight, and six other pieces of information on body shape - plus how they like their jeans to fit - before suggesting a selection of items that match the user’s responses.
Each pair of jeans comes with a percentage rating for how well matched they are to the customer’s answers.
Providing accurate recommendations for fit and style is a perennial challenge for etailers, since it's one of the few areas in which they can’t compete with high street stores.
The bggest hurdle is that items that don’t fit have to be returned, sometimes at the seller’s expense.
However, Sojeans does offer free prepaid returns, and makes this clear on the page. This should help to ease customer concerns.
In recent months John Lewis and M&S have both added online tools that provide customers with recommendations for clothing by analysing shopping behaviour alongside the relationships between products and product categories.
Soselect operates in a different way, dishing out product advice tailored specifically to each customer. But is it accurate, or simply just a useful marketing tool?
CEO Sébastien Méjean said that as it develops and stores more data, the Soselect tool could help customers make better selections than they can themselves.
We're working on the link between the use of Soselect and a better selection for the customers. The initial results seem to be excellent concerning relevance, but we don't have enough yet to draw a conclusion.”
In order to test the tool, I ordered a pair of jeans to see just how accurate the recommendation would be.
Admittedly, I selected a pair of Diesel jeans that were only an 88% match instead of an Edwin pair that would have been a 95% match, but I was still disappointed to find the jeans were too big around the waist.
They were also baggier than I would normally go for and I didn’t like the colour, although obviously I could see this when ordering them.
These issues are obviously the crux of the issue. Even if jeans match your size and style it is not until you try them on that you can see how they fit.
At the moment Sojeans also doesn’t take into account brand loyalty (the reason I went for the Diesel jeans), though Méjean also said that as the site adds more styles it will be able to advise customers based on the brands they like.
Furthermore, for many customers the main driver behind a purchase will be price, so they will ignore the recommendations if the cost is deemed to be too high.
This might be innovative in terms of combining multiple measurements to create a size profile, there are still too many caveats that could discourage people from purchasing the recommended items.
And as my trial showed, though it can help to pick out jeans that may suit your style, it is unlikely to replace the experience of trying a pair on instore.
There is little that Sojeans can do about this, other than learning from customer feedback and behaviour over time. However, Sojeans does recognise that customers will be concerned about whether jeans will fit properly, and how easy it will be to return items.
By providing free delivery and a free returns policy, as well as promoting this prominently on the site, Sojeans is doing what it can to overcome shoppers' doubts and maximise conversion rates.