Thanks to 3D body-mapping firm Bodymetrics, Selfridges shoppers in the U.K. have been able to easily find the perfect pair of jeans for a couple of years. The technology basically analyzes their curves to help them find the best-fitting denim carried in the store. But now, U.S. shoppers can say goodbye to saggy behinds and waists that ride up, as Bodymetrics has made its way stateside, via a partnership with digital agency Razorfish and use of Microsoft's Kinect.
After wowing CES attendees, Creativity included, on the show floor in January, Bodymetrics announced a collaboration with retailer Bloomingdale's, which got shoppers at Denim Days in Century City, Los Angeles to use a "pod" to find the perfect fitting jeans. The event proved a success, and more locations and retail partners are planned.
Bodymetrics, which has partnered with Selfridges and global clothing retailer New Look in, said that it's service grosses $5,000 sales per square foot for retailers. To put that in perspective, Apple's sales per square foot globally was just above $5,000 at the end of 2011, while the International Council of Shopping Centers estimates that women's apparel stores brought in about $264 per square-foot in sales in 2009.
The U.S. Pod, which comes in two versions, one for the home and one for retail outlets, is a bit different from its U.K.counterpart. Unlike the British pod, which uses a proprietary technology, the Stateside models use Kinect for Windows sensors to map your body's outline and find your "shape," which can be classified as "emerald," "ruby," or "sapphire." The U.S. expansion has been possible because the budget-friendly Kinect creates a favorable price point for both Bodymetrics and the retailer. An exact price point has not yet been decided by the company, but the metrics are "very good," for the retailer, said Bodymetrics CEO Suran Goonatilake.
Separately, the Pod is just one of many ways that Kinect for Windows tech is being implemented in commercial uses. The technology is developer-friendly, according to Craig Eisler, general manager. It is designed to enable commercial applications to be developed easily and quickly. Recently, twofifteenmccann created a video that showed its many uses, from hospitals, to classrooms.
Bodymetrics teamed up with Razorfish because the two companies have been involved in complementary experiences. Last year, the agency's Emerging Experiences team hacked Kinect for Windows to create KinectShop, which mapped clothes onto 3D versions of bodies to see how they would look when worn. That was basically an earlier, demonstrative version of today's Bodymetrics Pod.
According to Mr. Goonatilake, the company was looking for a production partner that would be able to take over the customer experience bit of the puzzle, leaving him and his team to focus on the actual device.
Jonathan Hull, the lead of the EE group at Razorfish, said that one of the hardest parts of the process is giving due consideration to the holistic experience, starting right from when the customer walks in the door. The idea is to stop consumers from simply doing their research in the store -- touching fabrics, trying it on -- and then going home and buying the outfit. Of course, they could still do that, but the Bodymetrics Pod is an incentive for them to stay and execute the sale in-store.
And even if they don't, using the Pod gets you to set your own Bodymetrics Account, which stores your profile so you can use it for online shopping. "You have to come up with an experience that isn't intimidating to consumers or the retailer," said Mr. Hull.
One of the most difficult parts is making the experience easy, intuitive and not at all frightening. While Kinect for Windows is a common technology now, it's still not as easy to use as, say, an iPad. "We need for it to be natural, so we put coding into it to take it to another level," said Mr. Hull.
Body Image Issues
After the outcry over TSA's body scanning security software, any whiff of body-mapping technology raises red flags. But Mr. Goonatilake said that when the company started, it reviewed technology that the TSA uses, and decided to not use it. The Pod only creates an outline of your body, and doesn't X- ray anything. Using Kinect, a technology that is in use in 18 million households already, is also a big plus, since most people are already familiar with it.
Although Mr. Goonatilake could not disclose how many people currently have Bodymetrics profiles, privacy and data storage is a big issue for the company. Customer data is stored on Microsoft's cloud storage platform Azure. "Like any type of information, this is treated sensitively," said Mr. Goonatilake. "We've made it clear that users are in full control of their data and what they choose to share. They can also delete it anytime."
But cumulatively, the implications of having this kind of data at your fingertips are enormous. Once Bodymetrics -- and other technologies -- takes off, the face of retail might undergo one of the biggest makeovers ever.
Knowing the body shapes and sizes of consumers could have a huge effect on stocking policies, as well as manufacturing and inventory optimization. Factories and retailers will no longer have to stock a few of each type of product, and instead be able to gauge demand and supply precisely. Ten years ago, Bodymetrics hosted and analyzed data from the U.K. National Sizing Survey, a research project that "mapped the nation" so retailers could understand their customers. "We've been developing tools and analytics for that for several years," said Mr. Goonatilake. "That's definitely the vision."
Advancements in fit technologies also will give a new lease of life to clothing e-commerce, which, while huge, only has a participation rate of 10%. "People are afraid to shop for clothes online," said Mr. Goonatilake. "This will be a bridge to correcting that."