I called it...
I predicted the imminent demise of the Zozosuit a couple of weeks ago in my speech at @3dbody.tech conference in Lugano but not because they didn't need the suit any longer. The claim that they have sufficient data to predict enough body measurements and shape/distribution characteristics to produce custom clothing is, in my humble opinion, crazy. Sure, they can use AI to predict some measurements when they know height and weight, but will there be enough and will they be accurate enough to make custom t-shirts and jeans? And not have tremendous returns? And will the AI know when someone is fudging on how much they weigh? Sorry, but I don't think so.
First, the bulk of the data collected has been in Japan, anthropomorphically the most homogenous population on the planet. I did a size study in Japan scanning 27,000 consumers and can say that with confidence. Using that data to predict measurements when they launch in the US is a big stretch (no pun intended). I love the Zozo custom concept, by the way; affordable custom, made to fit basics sounds fabulous and sustainable. I truly wish them the best but they'll need more than the data they have to be successful amidst the diversity of body shapes and statures in the US market. (Full disclosure, I've offered to help them here but have not heard back...)
The real reason for losing the suit is friction. No, it doesn't chafe but the friction of having to order, wait for, try-on, download the app, send the personal data, wait for the clothing to arrive, hope that it fits, get anxious when it doesn't, etc., etc. all adds up to too much friction for the consumer. I spoke about consumer perceptions and expectations about body scan technologies at the conference and noted that while many of the technologies today are quite advanced and accurate, too few really consider the consumer who should be at the center of the discussion. We have three islands out there: the retailers and brands anxious to sell more clothing, the manufacturers who want to produce more clothing, and the technology providers who want to facilitate a successful sale (meaning the clothing will fit and won’t have to be returned). But then we have the consumer who’s in between those islands, drowning (or at least treading water).
There’s no question that consumers want the shopping experience, especially online, to improve; that they want clothes to fit better and flatter more; and they don’t want to deal with returns. The retailers and brands and their suppliers all want the same things. Here’s where the technology companies can enter the picture but they need develop solutions from a consumer’s perspective. Their solutions need to eliminate, not create friction. I saw some incredible technologies in Lugano from a state-of-the-art infrared body scanner, to portable scanners, to smartphone scanners, to a hand-held millimeter scannerwhich would not require the consumer to disrobe. Whether on the commercial or academic side, the brainpower present was amazing. But few of the solutions shown will ever be commercially viable unless they start with the consumer.
Predicting the Zozosuit’s demise was not a stretch (sorry). My next prediction is that some or most of the competing technology providers will need to get together, pool their ideas and solutions, and come up with a way to solve the size and fit challenge without asking the consumer to do anything, or perhaps come up with a process that consumers will absolutely want to experience. I think, collectively, retailers, brands and solution providers can do this but we need to start and, if we do, consumers won’t be the only beneficiaries.