The fashion industry is no longer turning a blind eye to the pressing issue of sustainability.
In fact, it's become one of the hottest topics in retail, with Google searches for “sustainable fashion” up 61% in 2021 and media coverage soaring ever since, according to McKinsey. To commemorate the end of Earth Month, we’re reflecting on the environmental impact of the fashion industry and considering how next-generation fit technology can play a critical role in building a more sustainable future.
The Hidden Environmental Cost of Returns
Returning an article of clothing or pair of shoes because it didn’t fit is something everyone’s dealt with, and most don’t think twice about. But did you know there’s a more serious cost associated with returns that goes far beyond the inconvenience of trekking to the post office? It’s estimated that only 50% of returned items make it back to brands’ physical or digital shelves to be resold, while the rest is either discarded or destroyed.
In fact, a whopping 5 billion pounds of landfill waste are generated every year from returns, per BBC Earth. The shipping and processing of these returned items also contributes to significant carbon emissions – about 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, which is equivalent to the emissions produced by 3 million cars each year. It’s clear that reducing returns would have considerable environmental benefits, so how can we accomplish that on a large scale?
A Smarter Sizing Solution
A staggering 72% of online returns in fashion product categories are due to poor fit, according to Shopify. It follows, then, that online fit tools should play a significant role in reducing returns. The problem is that not all online fit tools are created equal. Without capturing someone’s unique body shape, it's fundamentally difficult to predict how an item of clothing or footwear will fit with a high degree of confidence. Consequently, while most incumbent fit tools that don’t leverage 3D body scanning have proven they can provide an uptick in conversion rate, none have proven capable of significantly reducing fit-related returns, which is the crux of the problem.
Fortunately, we have a sizing solution that takes consumers’ unique and complete body shapes into account, and therefore actually works. By implementing Verifyt, our mobile 3D body scanning solution, brands help customers find the right size on their first purchase. In fact, Verifyt has been proven to recommend apparel and footwear sizing with accuracy greater than 85%. The result? On average, our brand partners see an 80% decrease in fit-related returns for shoppers using Verifyt, and a 56% decrease in overall return rate. That means less landfill waste and fewer carbon emissions, making a significant positive impact on our planet.
Going Green = Loyal Customers
Beyond mother nature thanking you for your efforts to be more sustainable, there are financial incentives associated with becoming more eco-friendly as well. Brands that act in the name of a healthier planet attract consumers that share these values, which is an increasing cohort of shoppers. Gen Z consumers are leading the charge with a strong interest in eco-friendly and socially responsible brands, and are reportedly willing to pay 10% more for sustainable products.
The new “de-influencing” trend on TikTok also speaks to younger folks’ frustration with excessive consumption and points to their proclivity towards intentional, ethical shopping. And don’t try to fool these savvy shoppers with smoke and mirrors branding that’s devoid of meaningful impact – this generation knows greenwashing when they see it. Since the spending power of Gen Z is on the rise, it’s crucial for brands to capture the trust and loyalty of this demographic through legitimate sustainability initiatives.
Beyond Branding: The Business Case for Sustainability
Sustainability initiatives can also keep brands from falling behind in a competitive and uncertain market. To combat the $816 billion retailers lost to returns in 2022, some popular brands like Zara, JCPenney and DSW have gone so far as to charge customers for returns, a sign of just how dire the situation has become. Governments around the world are also increasing regulatory pressure on fashion brands to improve their sustainability practices, and brands that don't comply will face reputational and financial risks. Indeed, the European Union has introduced regulations to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in textile production, and California has passed laws to reduce textile waste. Such trends should caution brands to get ahead on sustainability while they can, and one easy way to do so is by reducing returns due to sizing with an online fit tool like Verifyt.
Future-Proofing Your Business
When it comes to sustainability, future-focused tools and practices are key. Verifyt’s Business Intelligence Portal allows brands to aggregate and analyze real customer body data, so they can make smarter decisions about sizing distribution for inventory production in the future, thereby mitigating overstock. Access to such data means brands can optimize their sizing standards for their actual customer base, and ensure their size ranges fit the greatest constituency of customers possible. Most existing body databases are from old, outdated studies – ours updates in real time as your customers scan themselves, which is crucial as the average human body size and shape continuously evolves.
3D body modeling also enables digital product creation (DPC), which streamlines the product lifecycle and eliminates the need for wasteful physical samples and in-person fittings. Verifyt 3D scanning also allows ready-to-wear brands to pivot to made-to-order production, which is overall a much more sustainable business model.
The Future of Fashion is Here
Sustainability in the fashion industry is no longer a niche issue, but a critical concern that requires urgent attention. That's why we're committed to providing brands with the cutting-edge technology they need to make a positive impact on the planet, while also improving their bottom line and increasing brand loyalty. With Verifyt's 3D scanning capabilities, we're making it easier than ever for brands to reduce waste, lower carbon emissions, and work towards a more sustainable business model. So why wait? Join us on the path towards a greener, more sustainable future today: https://www.netvirta.com/contact-us
Stay tuned for more sustainable content in our upcoming Sustainability Series!