, a software solution developer for retailers, recently commissioned a survey of over the habits and tastes of Britain’s clothes shoppers.

One of the key questions asked buyers how they would feel if their favourite clothing supplier or brand were to alert them to the existence of garments that it thought would be perfect based on the individual shopper’s specific fit preferences, measurements and previous purchase history.

From the 2000 shoppers surveyed, 41% answered they would feel ‘ok with that/pleased’ and – more enthusiastic still – 14% said they would be ‘happy about that/I welcome it’. Only 15% of shoppers said they would be displeased or unhappy about it, with the remainder unbothered and not regarding such notifications as intrusive.

Given that this scenario remains hypothetical for the majority of shoppers, it seems clear that customers are more than open to a fit-based, individualised search-and-discovery experience to help them on their clothes shopping journey.

The survey contained further evidence of customer support for fit-based personalisation, this time at a different point in the purchase journey: 78% of shoppers (uniformly across male and female respondents) agreed that, if a clothing retailer or brand showed them only items that it knew would fit them the way they like, this would help them to choose.

This is clearly suggestive of a higher propensity to convert, addressing as it does the very real problems that shoppers have in finding what they are looking for: our survey showed that 46% of shoppers always or often find it irritating to have to search through a lot of clothes to find the items they want.

So there’s significant customer demand for, and acceptance of fit-based personalisation. But how can retailers deliver? Below are my principles for implementing a more personalised experience for shoppers:

1. Focus on the overall experience

Don’t think that collecting customer fit data is simply so you can send a targeted email or curate an onsite experience: leverage your improved customer knowledge throughout your business. Your garment technologists, designers and buyers all need to know who your customers actually are, not who you think they are, and will welcome a dynamic, first-hand fit dataset to work from. For example, knowing with precision the realities of your customer base will enable you to make products that are specific to it and which can be ordered in the right proportions, resulting in fewer customer-disappointing ‘out of stock’ moments and fewer misjudged garments on sale at the end of the season.

2. Don’t be shy

Worried about being seen as creepy? Don’t be: consumers are broadly comfortable sharing a significant amount of information about themselves. 57% percent of people are happy to share their email, 45% their personal measurements and 41% their style preferences. Don’t be afraid to ask for information, as long as you make it clear when you are collecting it and for what purpose. Today’s customers are acutely aware of the value of their data but, providing it is clear that there’s benefit to them, not just to you, they will share relevant data.

3. Be transparent

The issue of relevance is important. Asked about personal information that they were unwilling to share with apparel retailers or brands, 28% of shoppers say that it’s because they don’t see how it’s relevant to their clothes shopping experience – the biggest single cause of concern. The conclusions we reached from our survey are that retailers should be transparent about the reasons for collecting data, and about the benefits it will bring to the customer. Collect only what you need (I can’t remember the last time a retailer phoned me, but they always ask for my phone number), make good on your promises, and people will be more comfortable sharing it.

4. Be efficient

While only one in seven clothes shoppers finds being asked for data ‘creepy’, you do need to be smart with your data and use it to improve their instore shopping experience or online purchase journey – they are savvy enough to suspect someone is taking advantage. Consumers will welcome advice and support when they choose to engage with you, but they don’t want to feel as if they are constantly being marketed at. The primary concern of one in six people is that the data you collect will be passed on to third parties.

5. Be consistent

Finally, ensure you are consistent in store and online. Aim to be known for the individual and personalised experience you offer customers across all your channels. This means being able to access a customer’s details when they enter your store to offer advice on items that will be of interest, as well as emails that contain items based on their fit preferences and an online account that only shows styles of interest.

While this is far from straightforward, still, our survey offered significant encouragement to retailers wondering how mobile devices can play a part: three in ten shoppers said they would be happy to make available their shopping profile via their smartphone or tablet so in-store staff could serve them more efficiently, while only four in ten express discomfort with that idea.

Amazon’s ‘similar product recommendations’ was the first step into ‘personalisation’ which has seen great success, boosting sales by anywhere between 10% and 30%, and apparel brands have tried to emulate this. Many brands have come a long way in the last year to improve personalisation, there is still a long way to go. However, by focussing on the fit preferences of the customer, rather than ‘previously bought’ items, you will be able to offer an even more targeted service, encouraging even more sales and increasing loyalty and reputation.

By Stuart Simms, CEO,’s report – Knowing Them, Knowing You:

Shopper perspectives on engagement, loyalty and personalisation in apparel retail – is the source of the statistics referenced in this article. 

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