Digital innovation research for online fashion and textile retailing comes to Glasgow

August 13, 2015

The Creative Clyde community encompasses different strands of the creative sector and we like to bring together different skillsets to encourage collaborative working. The E-Expo event, which took place at Film City Glasgow on the 9th June, brought together a number of fashion and textile retailers and digital entrepreneurs to witness two online retailing innovations and learn about research into injury time retailing, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s Retail Sector Initiative. If you missed out, Dr Patsy Perry, a lecturer in fashion marketing at the University of Manchester and project lead of Shoogleit, has provided us with her insight in to what opportunities injury time retailing can provide for Glasgow based retailers and digital entrepreneurs in the future…

ezine

Shopping journeys are a complex pattern of multiple channels and devices as consumers perform information search and purchase activity on a combination of PCs, tablets and smartphones before, during and after visits to physical shops.  The high street is full of shoppers who are showrooming (researching offline, buying online) and reverse showrooming (researching online, buying offline).  However, the gap between seeing a product online and being able to touch, feel and try it on offline is a challenge for the online fashion and textiles retailer, who may lose sales as a result of consumers’ hesitation to buy.  Within the time window between purchase decision and payment, savvy retailers are deflecting and winning sales by using technology to offer the consumer a rival deal.  This is called injury time retailing. Clearly, there has been a step change in online shopping behaviour, creating a fresh wave of innovation but what are the opportunities for retailers and digital entrepreneurs?

Two new, online retailing innovations, Shoogleit and e-Size, took the floor at the E-Expo to give us some insight…

First up was a form of gestural interactivity technology called Shoogleit, which is an app that provides interactive visual product information on a tablet or smartphone.  Shoogleit allows consumers to rotate products and scrunch fabrics just as they might in store.  Researchers from The University of Manchester and Heriot-Watt University explained how Shoogleit reduces the perceptual gap between digital and physical product evaluation.  Focus group findings showed that female consumers across all ages consider online shopping to be more relaxing, convenient and offering better service than the high street.  Websites are used to play and engage with products before making a purchase decision. Fashion websites are entertainment, an escape, a treat to be enjoyed after a hard day at work and a chance to learn about new trends before going shopping.  Product visualisation technology (e.g. catwalk videos, zoom and spin features) helps them reduce the risk of making the wrong decision.  Focus group participants gave very positive feedback while using Shoogleit.  They liked having full control of the rotation speed and direction and appreciated the use of actual models rather than an invisible spinning mannequin.  Viewing a product from all angles was useful and they were better able to judge fabric quality with the use of fabric scrunches. The researchers also suggested that Shoogleit could reduce the costs for fabric suppliers of sending out swatches by helping buyers select the appropriate samples for examination.

Next, researchers from the London College of Fashion presented the e-Size project, which explores how size recommendation apps could improve the online shopping experience for consumers and increasing the sale of fashion garments.  Many consumers struggle to find clothes that fit them properly when shopping online. A lack of available garment information from retailers, combined with inconsistent sizing standards across brands, leads to high clothing return rates and many consumers are reluctant to shop online with unfamiliar brands and retailers. Dissatisfaction with clothing fit and subsequent product returns are costly to the retailer and inconvenient for the consumer. The e-Size technology provides accurate sizing recommendations using simple body measurements that are inputted by the consumer, such as height, weight and age.  The applications, powered by an algorithm, use the consumer’s information along with the retailer’s garment data to predict the correct size for the consumer’s body.  Some apps offer additional features such as a personalised virtual model or styling adjustments to meet personal fit preference for each article of clothing i.e. loose, standard or very fitted.  In collaboration with London-based ethical menswear retailer, Brothers We Stand, the researchers tested two applications (Fits.me and Fit Analytics) to assess their effect on the online shopping experience.  Results proved the accuracy of the technology, with the majority of users being recommended the correct size.  Consumers found that using the application made them more confident about online shopping, with over 90% of users agreeing that the applications were easy to use and saying that would use them again.

Small businesses can navigate the changing online environment with the support of HM Government’s Do More Online campaign, which provides help and advice on choosing the right marketplaces, payment options, ecommerce, social media marketing and more.  Shoogleit and e-Size can benefit the fashion retail industry by improving the online shopping experience for consumers and increasing the sale of fashion garments.  There is an opportunity for further testing and commercialisation of these innovations by businesses within the creative industries, including fabric manufacturers, textile retailers and fashion retailers. For each innovation, additional development is needed to make them into products that require limited effort to configure for small business owners. This means identifying commonality across the business processes requirements and resources of the small business sector.

If you are interested in becoming involved in further research development or would like additional information about either project, please contact:

Shoogleit project: Dr Patsy Perry at patsy.perry@manchester.ac.uk , Twitter @Shoogleit

e-Size project: Susan Hamilton at s.hamilton@fashion.arts.ac.uk Twitter @LCF_eSize