Bodi.Me: the pandemic has changed the way companies fit staff for uniforms, perhaps forever. Even now, as the UK begins to emerge from lockdown, Covid precautions, and Covid itself, are likely to remain in some form for months, if not years, to come.
That means that the days of creating sizing sets and having all staff try on the same garments to determine the size of uniform they should be issued with is behind us and may never return, thanks to innovative technologies that can do the same job remotely, as well as faster and more sustainably.
Online shopping for clothing has exploded over the last year, for obvious reasons. And it is now increasingly common to find sophisticated size and fit technologies on retail platforms in place of traditional and complicated size charts. Retail is employing these fit technologies to help their customers purchase the correct size, reduce returns rates, improve brand loyalty, and increase both sustainability and profitability.
Fit technologies can deliver the same benefits to uniform suppliers and their customers, and in these pandemic days, they have one other vital advantage – they are entirely contact free. For example, from just a few data points, Bodi.Me’s Size-Me solution can extrapolate a complete body profile and generate a personalised size recommendation for a uniform with a high degree of accuracy.
There are, however, some key differences in the way that retailers and uniform suppliers use these systems and the data they collect. At Bodi.Me, we know from working with numerous clients in the uniform sector that some questions are not considered appropriate to ask employees, especially when this information, as is often the case, is provided to a third party such as the employee’s manager.
In a retail environment, fit recommendation solutions often ask for height, weight, bra size (or chest size), gender, even age. This information is provided by consumers in an entirely impersonal way through an interface on the retail platform, and they can choose whether or not to supply it. In a uniform setting, every person who wears a uniform must choose a size and may feel uncomfortable providing information such as weight and bra size directly to another person. And some companies have policies that preclude asking for a person’s gender or age. Given that fit technologies cannot work accurately without some pertinent details about a wearer’s size and body shape, how can uniform suppliers and their clients get around this issue to reap the benefits of accurate, contact-free sizing?
Some systems work using photos. If you can’t ask for potentially sensitive data such as weight and bra size, why not skip the data and request a full-length body photograph from wearers? Well, for one, many consider this even more intrusive. To be useful from a size and fit perspective, wearers must photograph themselves in tight-fitting garments. Not everyone is comfortable doing this, or with the idea of seeing themselves – or someone else seeing them – as a 3D avatar. And remember, the issue with sensitive data points is that this data is handled by third parties in the uniform process. It is not the same as choosing to upload a photo of yourself to your favourite brand’s website.
At Bodi.Me we have been working on alternative ways of intelligently estimating garment size without asking for potentially sensitive data from wearers, and initial testing shows that we can achieve a high degree of accuracy by asking for this information in different ways. Instead of weight and height, we ask for the size the person wears in a certain brand and in a specific garment. Then we ask how they wear it – tight, regular, loose, etc, depending on the garment. Currently, gender is a necessary data point because men’s and women’s clothes fit differently, but there are alternative ways of asking this too. Not simply male or female, but, for example, ‘do you usually wear men’s or women’s clothing?’.
This system relies on having a large and up-to-date database of fit data for fashion brands and retailers. The pool of brands we use for each contract would be tailored to the customer. So if, for example, the end customer is a UK supermarket, the pool of brands would include brands and retailers widely available in the UK, and the same for an Italian hospitality business or a US global ecommerce brand.
Extensive size sets have long been used by uniform companies to better fit the variety of sizes and shapes of the wearers, but even then the number of returns are often high. Sophisticated fit technologies like Size-Me can be used to optimise size data to reduce returns and improve fit, and are completely Covid-safe. And, thanks to our R&D team and bespoke solutions, it is entirely possible to deliver a system that accurately estimates employee size without asking for information that could make individuals or their employers uncomfortable.
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