Personal Blog

Women's Clothing Sizes - inconsistent fit and the e-commerce sales challenge

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Sun, Mar 02, 2008 @ 00:03 AM

I've written before about the challenge to consistently and easily find women's clothing that fits.  Women's clothing has none of the standard sizing that makes shopping for a man relatively quick and painless.  My prior posts on this topic have gotten some attention, so I thought I'd point out two companies trying to address the problem. 

The good news for consumers is that manufacturers and retailers are beginning to think about transparency for sizing...letting you have some way to know what the actual dimensions of a piece of clothing are.  Now that clothing sales are moving to the internet, clothing has a 14% return rate, approximately double the return rate of other items.  This costs sellers money (postage, restocking, staleness) and they know if may affect repeat business.  Two relatively young companies are taking slightly different approaches to the problem. 

My Shape focuses on the idea that women fall into a small number of body shapes and recommends clothing based upon your shape and personal measurements that you submit to them online.  The shapes are their new names and descriptions for the old apple, pear, hourglass sorts of shapes.  The biggest drawbacks here seem to be getting people to get their measurements right and any privacy issues related to someone else holding your personal measurements.

Size Me Up asks people to submit brand, size, and measurements of favorite clothes in the closet and then plans to tell them which size will be right in something they're perusing online.  The drawback here, as well, is relying on the public to provide consistent measurements.

I have some doubts about any model that requires the customers to provide crucial data.  Both of these companies appear able to attract a loyal fan base, but I suspect that both may be overtaken by one that figures out how to address the problem without making the customers part of the labor force.

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Topics: womens measurements, womens clothing sizes, technology b2c

Women's Clothing Sizes - How much do they vary?

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Wed, Dec 26, 2007 @ 14:12 PM

A few months ago, I wrote about how women's clothing sizes don't correllate to the sizes of actual women. The middle (medium) sizes of clothing are not the average sizes of women. Comparing a government study to manufacturers' sizing, average women need to buy clothes marked "large" or "extra large." Worse yet, the standards from the major manufacturers mostly seemed to make waistlines an inch too small for the rest of the body proportions.

I thought I'd go a step farther today and measure some clothes hanging in my closet. For the purpose of this experiment, I grabbed 7 shirts fom 4 manufacturers (Talbots, Brooks Brothers, Dana Buchman, and Ellen Tracy) all marked with the same size. The sleeves varied nearly three inches in length (23" to 25 5/8"). The collars ranged more than an inch and a half (15 3/8" to 17"). And, no surprise to any woman, the chest -- measured as the circumference below the underarm -- varied by 5 inches.

Then, I compared the clothing to their manufacturer's size charts. The two BB shirts had the same bust size (points for consistency!), but were 4 inches larger in the bust than advertised. The three Talbots shirts varied from 1 inch larger than the chart, to 2 and 6 inches larger than the chart. Dana Buchman and Ellen Tracy didn't have size charts posted anywhere easy to find.

Women's blouses, of course, come in a variety of bodice styles from contour-fitting to loose. Nonetheless, I can't help but compare this to men's clothes. My husband buys a shirt by the collar and sleeve length. I've never measured them, but as a general rule he can buy from any manufacturer and they fit. In fact, men of substantially different heights and weights can buy the same collar and sleeve size as my husband and the shirts fit those men as well. But my husband wouldn't buy a shirt that was randomly a 15, 16 or 17 inch collar or one that was randomly a 23 or 26 inch sleeve.

It leaves me wondering whether women really want all the variation in their day to day shopping or whether some significant number wouldn't happily buy clothes offered in the same way as they are offered to men?

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Topics: womens measurements, womens clothing sizes, technology b2c

Zync - social networking for food & fun

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Fri, Dec 14, 2007 @ 18:12 PM

"I don't know. What do you want to do?" Soon, you'll never say it again, thanks to entrepreneur (and my MIT friend) Brad Rosen.

Zync, is a new social networking site for something we really care about -- what to do tonight. Zync uses algorithms we'll never see to figure out what people like us like. So, if I like Salt for a dressy restaurant, Beantown Pub for a salad or burger, and Kashmir for Indian food, it will tell me the Chinese restaurant liked by people who like those too. It's like having an army of food tasters with your same preferences scout the city for you.

Ever killed an absurd amount of time calling, emailing, or texting to find a restaurant that four of you can agree on? Zync can solve that problem, too. If you and your friends sign up, it will make recommendations that should make everyone happy.

Looking for something to do on the weekend? after dinner? with the kids? Zync tracks thousands of activities, sporting events, concerts, art shows, bands, etc. Once it gets to know you, it should be able to tell you when your favorite craft fair is on, so you never miss it again.

Right now, you can sign up for a sneak preview of Zync in Boston.


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Topics: technology b2c

Joost & the next generation of Adver-tainment

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Wed, Jun 06, 2007 @ 09:06 AM
The front page of yesterday's NY Times Business section used a lot of ink to tout the announcement of Joost's selection of Mike Volpi to be its new CEO.  But what really got me excited was a paragraph back on page C8 near the end of the article, which said that Joost would play with floating "ad bugs" in the corner of the screen after a commercial is over.  The bug is a little widget that will remind you of the brand and let you link to the advertiser's website. 

Carried to its logical conclusion, this promises a world where nothing and everything is an advertisement.  Imagine you're watching a tv show or movie (or whatever the next generation version of these are) on your pc (or phone or some other futuristic device).  You like the handbag Cameron Diaz is wearing in the scene, so you pause the show, click on the bag and find out who makes it, how much it costs, and are given the instant opportunity to purchase.   She meets Brad Pitt at his car and you can click on the car, his shirt, his sunglasses and get similar information Or, you could click on his pearly whites and find out which brand of toothpaste he uses; click on his haircut, find out who the hair stylist to the stars was who cut his and who in your area offers to reproduce it.  The Joost concept mentioned is to deliver targeted advertising, so maybe it will learn about you and know whether to tell you where to buy the $7,000 original, the $700 or the $17.95 knock-off.  And, maybe, you don't need to pause the action.  You could get a split screen or just a comment bubble like those already on some music videos. more commercial interruptions, but endless opportunities to satisfy vendors with product placement and to satisfy consumers with instant information.


For those who don't have the burning desire to be the first with every form of new technology, Joost is a cool television- through-your-pc technology that lets you watch want you want when you want it.  Depending upon your age, think jukebox or TIVO, with the content already there.  At the moment, the programming is heavily skewed to the young male demographic -- it includes channels for Sports Illustrated Swimsuits, Indy500, Fights, Heavy Animation, etc.  In fairness, though, it does have National Geographic and Reuters and even Deepak Chopra on the Lime Channel.  

Joost is brought to you by the same folks who invited Skype.  (If you're way out of touch, Skype is the software that lets you talk to your friends in China or wherever through your pc, using your internet connection, and costing absolutely nothing).  Joost is in beta testing now and accounts are only available to those who were invited by a friend.  If you know me and you ask me, I'll send you an invitation.
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Topics: technology innovation, technology b2c

Fun with Numbers - What Privacy?

Posted by K Krasnow Waterman on Mon, May 28, 2007 @ 12:05 PM
For most of us, privacy is an important issue.  We talk about, write about, sue each other over it, and debate the extent to which it is our Constitutional right.  We know that our original notions of privacy have been drastically eroded by the amount of data collected about us every day.  Every time you buy with a credit card, debit card, or even pay cash and use a discount card, the records are collected and aggregated.  Every time you pay a bill, borrow money, or ask to borrow money,  the information is collected and stored together.  There's work being done right now to do the same things with all of your medical records. 

What's happening to all this information?  Private companies are using the information to trying to figure out what to sell you next, whether to extend you credit, and to whom they can sell your name and information.  The government is using the information to try to figure out if you are a law-abiding citizen.  And, your friends, family, and acquaintances may be using it just to find out what you haven't told them directly.  (In response to a challenge recently, in five minutes on Google, I was able to retrieve a friend's secondary address, parent's and sibling's names, religion, political party affiliation, last job, current job, foreign language spoken, and a hint about his financial position.) 

Criminals want to gain access to your private personal information, too.  They want to use it to take advantage of you -- most typically by fraudulently posing as you and making credit purchases.  Some of them want to use or sell your identity more generally, in order for someone else -- typically an illegal immigrant or another criminal -- to be able to hide from the authorities by posing as you on a day-to-day basis. 

So, how likely is it that your private personal information will end up in the wrong hands? 

The most recent US Census statistics estimate that there are about 225 million adults in the US (aged 18 and over).  The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has been trying to keep track of all of the instances when an organization has lost private personal information, including everything from hacker attacks on universities to laptops and disks lost by employees.  It's current total for 29 months (January 2005 to May 2007) is over 155 million records lost that contain information useful to identity thieves.  But, about 15% of the incidents do not have reported loss numbers; so, I estimate the true number to be around 182 million (155/.85).  And, that results in an estimate of approximately 75 million records lost or stolen per year (182 * 12/29).  Or, approximately 225 million records lost or stolen in three years.  Of course, this does not mean that every US adult's data will be lost or stolen in a three year period; some unlucky souls will have their data compromised more than once, while others will not be affected.

In addition to large scale losses of information by those we entrust with our digital data, there are lots of small scale ways to lose our personal information.  A Gartner Group analyst reported that 1.2 million Americans a year believe they have given their personal information to a criminal on the internet, but that same group is reported to have estimated that the true number for 2006 would be 3.5 million.  Large numbers of credit cards (or credit card numbers) are lost or stolen every year:  A Harris poll reported that 16% of American adults had had a credit card used by someone they didn't know.  And, a 2004 study for the Federal Trade Commission found that identity theft victims who did know who stolen their identity, nearly always reported manual (non-computer, non-digital) theft by family members, friends, neighbors, in-home employees, co-workers,  sales employees, and financial institution employees, people who had access to the physical cards, receipts, or statements. 

According to the FTC report, 4.6% of survey respondents reported they had been victims of identity theft in the past year; extrapolated across the adult population today, that would be about 10.4 million new victims per year.  If that number weren't escalating, you'd be at risk for identity theft about once every 22 years during your adult lifetime.  However, the FTC study found that the rate of discovery of identity theft nearly doubled from one year to the next.  If that trend continued, in 5 years the entire adult population would be compromised each year.  Clearly, that won't happen, as consumer awareness increases and anti-fraud technologies improves.

 In US
 Per Year
Adults   225 million 
Estimated digital records lost or stolen
with personally identifiable information
  75 million 
Estimated number of adults who give
personal information to phishers and
other online criminals             
   3.5 million
Estimated number of individuals
who were victims of identity theft (2003)  
    10.4 million

The bottom line is that there's lots of information floating around about most of us and quite a bit of it is in the hands of people or systems we never intended. 

Post Script: Should I care that I don't have much privacy?

There are two ways to think about this.  1) It's not a problem; it's just part of evolution.  Look at YouTube and MySpace; the next generation is creating permanent, open records about things that older generations would never want publicly known.  In the not-too-distant future, privacy will be dead as a concept.   2)  It is a problem.  Privacy (like discretion) is more appreciated with age.  Identity theft and credit card fraud will become such a time-consuming and costly issue that protections are a better alternative.  I admit I have my toe in the water of the first camp, but that my weight (and work) still fall heavily in the second.

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Topics: public policy, privacy, technology b2c