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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Asian online clothes shoppers more picky than Western ones

Buyers in Asia tend to spend a lot more time considering their purchases, according to Asian e-commerce giant Zalora
The Business Times - June 2, 2014
By: Victoria Ho
| More
Asian online clothes shoppers more picky than Western ones

Western shoppers are more ready to purchase clothes while browsing online compared with Asian shoppers, according to Asian e-commerce giant Zalora. Its regional managing director, Michele Ferrario, told BizIT that buyers in Asia tend to spend a lot more time considering their purchases, and that conversion rates aren't as high as those of Western sites such as UK e-tailer Asos.com.

To that end, Zalora just launched a new "virtual fitting room" feature, which it hopes will increase the level of confidence for shoppers, and in turn the amount they spend on the site. The feature, created by Swedish technology company Virtusize, displays the exact measurements of an item, and allows users to overlay a silhouette of a piece over another, so they can get an idea of how the item will fit based on size and cut. Users can save items that they've bought in the past and compare other products against those.

Zalora's reason for implementing the Virtusize feature is markedly different from Western counterparts, agreed Virtusize's Asia-Pacific manager, Andreas Olausson.

Virtusize counts Asos and Monsoon in the UK, and Danish chain Magasin du Nord as customers, and these players have come to Virtusize in order to keep return rates down, he said.

Asos's typical return rate hovers in the range of 30 per cent and upwards, and many of Virtusize's other Western clients have implemented the virtual fitting feature in a bid to reduce the costs associated with processing returns. Asos.com is Virtusize's biggest customer in terms of traffic and purchases made through Virtusize's feature.

In Asia, Virtusize has Esprit and Jabong in its portfolio.

Mr Olausson said that the situation is quite different in Asia, where the relatively younger e-commerce scene needs encouragement, and demand is coming from e-tailers that are looking to raise conversion rates, he said.

Mr Ferrario said that Zalora's return rates are about 10 per cent over the eight markets it operates in across South-east Asia, and Australia and New Zealand. It has about 1.5 million customers in the region. The two-year-old company has over 1,500 employees regionally now, starting from a base of 10.

Right now, Zalora has the measurements of popular brands such as Mango and River Island in its database, but it will take between several weeks and months before all 20,000 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) per country will be covered fully, he said.

Integrating Virtusize into its system is "pretty straightforward", said Mr Ferrario. It's placed an additional station to its warehouse supply chain that measures and logs the data of each piece of clothing coming in.

Virtusize touts its 2D silhouette overlay technology as being more accurate than the 3D virtual fitting rooms that allow shoppers to "try on" garments. Some 3D machines take scans of shoppers' bodies, and allow users to put on clothing virtually over avatars.

This technology has been trailed, with limited success, by start-ups such as triMirror and 3d-A-Porter, but UK start-up Metail has been more successful, raising £5.4 million (S$11.4 million) to date since it launched in 2009.

Anders Rindevall, Virtusize's head of sales, said that the human body is not the perfect reference for clothing, because fit changes between items. It makes more sense to compare a piece of clothing against another on the site that you've previously purchased that fits really well, he said.

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