Body data is big, and it’s going places it hasn’t gone before, according to fit technology firm Bold Metrics.
The San Francisco-based outfit believes the metaverse could be the technology’s next stop, and apparently venture capitalists agree, backing the business recently in an $8 million Series A.
The fight to give online shoppers the right fit is a key priority for e-commerce, giving investors like Bessemer Venture Partners, which led the round, plenty of motivation. They were joined by Lytical Ventures, ValueStream Ventures and Nanban Ventures, bringing the company’s total raised to $12.3 million.
Bold Metrics’ approach to fit-tech eschews long quizzes or fussy phone-measuring features, and instead, applies data intelligence to determine fit with just four or five questions, and offers tools like its AI-powered Smart Size Chart that include inventory algorithms to leverage real-time data and address supply chain issues. The company’s largest client to date is Tailored Brands. Nationwide, Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank stores have armed sales associates with Bold Metrics’ iPad app for contactless measuring.
The company’s vision could help set the technology’s path into the virtual world. It’s already gotten started by debuting its Body Data NFT in January.
“[It’s] a way for consumers to digitally authenticate their body data information, which can then automatically be utilized within a Web3 application,” Daina Burnes, chief executive officer of Bold Metrics, told WWD.
“Say you’re shopping within Web3, within the metaverse and with whatever avatar you’re using within those experiences — there’s no concept of your clothing not fitting your avatar, of course. But it’s really the translation, like a Web3 application to an in-real life application, where you can start to have the integration of technology and the concept of virtual fit, come to play.”
In essence, the blockchain tech offers a secure way for a consumer to hold their size and fit information, and bring it to any retailer. For Bold Metrics, this could also be a first step into something more visual in the metaverse. The company has worked with visualizations and is capable of generating avatars, Burnes added, based on its data. And there’s quite a bit of it.
“We produce all the detailed body measurements of the consumer. So it’s like they’re being 3D body scanned, but with AI, essentially. And so it creates quite a scalable way for retailers and brands to capture the body data of their customers, and relate it to the sizing of their garments,” she added.
Companies have been trying to solve the fit predicament for years in the regular 2D internet, though the urgency seems heightened lately. Along with swelling e-commerce activity, product returns also skyrocketed during the last holiday season. At the outset of the peak period, UPS projected it would shuttle more than 60 million returns between November and January, setting a new record.
There are myriad ways platforms determine proper sizes, from posing lengthy questionnaires to applying artificial intelligence to analyze everything from taste and shopping history to regional trends. But that’s often only half the battle. Increasingly, retailers and tech providers understand the important role visualization plays for the consumer.
A recent example came courtesy of Walmart, which debuted virtual fitting rooms in March, thanks to the Zeekit platform it acquired last year.
“One of the most frustrating aspects of shopping for clothes online is understanding how an item will actually look on you,” the company stated in the announcement. “With Zeekit, our goal is to deliver an inclusive, immersive and personalized digital experience that will better replicate physical shopping.” In the Choose My Model experience, consumers can choose from 50 different models showcasing a range of body types and heights, so they can have more confidence about how a garment might actually look on their own figure.
Such efforts look like a logical bridge to 3D visuals in the metaverse and virtual fashion try-ons using augmented reality. That work has already begun, thanks to start-ups and major tech companies alike.
At its latest partner summit in April, Snap Inc. unveiled a slew of new features, including advances in augmented reality fashion try-ons. At the time, Carolina Arguelles, head of global AR product strategy for Snap, explained the need to WWD: “We’ve been investing in expanding capabilities, not just for the try-on with the camera, but supplementing that with amazing new fit and sizing recommendations,” she said.
“So step one, ‘Does this look good on me? Because the only thing I’m looking at is a model, which is gorgeous, but I don’t really look like that model.’ And then the second step is ‘OK, I’m about to add this to my cart, what size should I buy?’” she continued. “Fit Analytics is part of Snapchat, and I think that, for us, it’s really helping to make sure that we can give that customer confidence when buying.”
Other updates come from partners like Forma, an expert in image-processing, which will use its tech to allow retailers to turn 2D catalogue images into 3D AR assets. Bold Metrics partnered with Forma in 2020 to create virtual fitting rooms, as well.
Shopping in the metaverse and trying on virtual clothes — and giving people confidence that what they see is what they can expect when the real thing shows up — may not be readily available yet, but companies are sizing up the opportunity.
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