Jessica Couch on how solving sizing will help apparel businesses remain competitive in a post-COVID world.

woman shopping in a post-COVID retail environment

Bold Metrics speaks with Jessica Couch, the founder of business and technology consultancy Luxor and Finch, an apparel fit and fit-tech veteran of over a decade. Couch owned her own online store early which exposed her to the challenges of fit when shopping online and how it relates directly to body confidence. Armed with this first-hand experience and years of studying how fit impacts apparel retailers and shopper behavior, she pivoted to create a consulting firm to helps brands and retailers match people to products successfully, using existing and available technology, while helping them with best practices. 

Below are a few key insights from the interview. Find the full podcast here:

Why is fixing fit so crucial for brands and retailers?

Jessica Couch: There is a lot of technology on the market that claims to help or remediate some of these issues but we do a good job of vetting them and we have a directory of them. We work with you guys too. So we try to only suggest tools that we know will be the best and that only showcase positive results. The reason why this is so important to us is because fit is a huge problem, it’s not just about returns and dead inventory. It’s a social justice issue. It’s an inclusivity issue, it is a diversity issue, it is just so many other issues that we probably don’t always think matter, and fit is right in the center. 

And there is actually no real way to be sustainable unless you’re matching people to product. And one of the best ways to do that is to help people understand fit in a way that brings them to the purchase decision faster, and with confidence.

Bold Metrics: What have you seen when you’ve been helping brands and start-ups discover which technology would work best for them? With your focus on fit, how has the reception of some of these brands been?

JC: Prior to COVID-19 I don’t think people were taking fit and fit-based technologies seriously. They were still relying on the physical store to be the main place where people shopped and all these traditional experiences. People had heard about fit tech but they had mixed feelings about it. I believe abt 5 years ago a lot of these companies came on the market and they had all these promises about what they were going to do and when it didn’t work a lot of these people considered fit-based solutions to be kind of like snake-oil. It’s like “it sounds good but we know that it’s a gimmick of some kind.” Now we’ve seen a complete 180 where people have to invest into these types of technologies because there is no guarantee that even when people go back into the stores they are going to want to take time to try things on. And what we still have to guarantee a smooth experience for the customer that answers questions they may have. 

Now people are super optimistic and they want to try things out and they want to pilot, they want to do their research. So it feels like it’s a good time for people who want to take fit tech seriously. Although a lot of the brands have already tried it, I think that a lot of the smaller brands especially that are forced to enter the digital space now are actually thinking ‘ What do I do about fit?” So that is encouraging.

BM: Agreed. We’re also seeing just a ton more brands approach us lately in search of a solution to this problem. Even before COVID-19 but the pandemic has just accelerated that and you and of have to invest in that type of technology when so much of your sales are shifting online.

On the challenge of expectation and the limitations of technology.

BM: When you work with these brands on advising them on some of these fit tech tools, what kind of challenges do you face when it comes to integrating the technology?

JC: A lot of brands haven’t done their research on the need of their consumers and what their issues really are in with fit or fit-tech or what they are missing, so there are a lot of assumptions that you have to get through first. Another challenge is the existing technology stack and the availability of technology to be integrated properly. Especially if you are working with some of these websites and they have templates and they don’t allow certain APIs and then you have to do lot of coding and that can be pretty challenging and lastly I would say that a lot of brands don’t really know their customers deeply so they don’t really know how the experience would change their customer’s experience deeply. So that would be problematic.

After implementation, a lot of people think that technology is like a magic wand—you just put it in, it works by itself and nothing has to happen. But there’s a training piece associated with it and there is an upscaling piece, where you are not just upscaling the people working on the backend or your team members on how to use it but you also have to communicate with your customers on what the experience will be, what to expect and what the outcomes will be and sometimes when that goes unsaid it can create a lot of conflicts or confusion. 

On the importance of providing support for women of color

BM: Besides Luxor and Finch, you’re also a champion of women of color in the industry and you started an event series that is very inspiring. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and what your passion is there?

JC: Sure. So Women Of Colour Worldwide started off as a series of branches where we just wanted to get women of color in fashion and tech to come together and talk about their experiences and create opportunities to (empower them to) move laterally and vertically within the fashion tech industry. It started off as one brunch and turned into a nationwide brunch series.

But what we found was that all women had issues in their various positions, not just in fashion and tech, and not just in the combined fields but we had women in media and entertainment, women in music, come out, just because they had never been in a room which felt free enough to have the conversation about what their experiences were like, and what options they had, and how they felt limited or supported. So it turned into a really awesome initiative and we’ve been doing it since 2018.

And then recently with all the issues with the Black Lives Matter movement and injustices around the US in general, we felt that we were very on-point and on time, because back then we were holding a lot of brands accountable for making spaces for people of color and making accountable their relationships with people of color, not just in the diversity and inclusion space, but all across the organization. (We were) making sure that they were recruiting and retaining in a way that makes sense. Prior to all of these issues, we were doing that, and with these more recent incidents, it became even more relevant to have that conversation. Because when people feel marginalized, it is only so long before they respond.

We have a ton of allies to come to our brunches in as well and advocate for, how as a non-person of color, can you create spaces that are more inclusive. And that is equally appreciated because it is impossible to have just one homogenous setting. You have to have people working together and listening and responding and also being vocal about some of the situations. We are super passionate about that because you just want to feel like you are part of a group, and I know you also want to be super successful in your career and what you are doing, and sometimes to do that you need to have support. And we have great support from different brands – Nordstrom, Amazon etc…Nike has also supported us. Because people really see the benefits.

Listen to the full podcast here:

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