Why Standardised clothing size specifications are essential for ecommerce

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There is a problem with sizing of fashion items, highlighted recently by the Returns Management Research Group at the University of Bamberg, who said that the size of clothing is currently not very meaningful, which leads to many online returns and them calling for manufacturers to use binding, standardised clothing size specifications.

It’s bad enough on the high street as many will know. Consumers often have favourite fashion shops, not just because they like the style, but because they know that the clothes in a certain size will fit them. A women’s size 12 in one shop might be more like a size 10 in the next and similarly for men’s clothing a size Large from one brand might be more akin to a medium from another.

The situation is even worse when you throw cross border trade into the mix. The accompanying image shows two ostensibly size XXL shirts – one from a UK manufacture and another from China. Different countries have very diverse ideas of sizing as locally, it’s proportionate to the average size of their population. Put simply, an average build UK citizen is significantly taller and larger than an average build Chinese citizen. The problem is when a UK merchant tries to sell to China clothing will be way to large and similarly a Chinese merchant selling to the UK will effectively be selling child size clothing even if it’s labelled XXL. Standardised clothing size specifications would go some way to solving not just cross border sizing issues but also domestic clothing sizes.

Without standardised clothing size specifications, it’s essential that online retailers take due care in how they market their items. There’s little use selling a Chinese size XXL in the UK as an XXL or vice versa as the result will be negative reviews and probably a return. It does however open the question as to how to market the products as it means specifying a size that differs from the label. Ideally of course, products would be relabelled with sizing appropriate for the market the garments are to be sold into, but failing that titles and attributes should at least be adjusted.

One thing I love that Amazon do is a ‘Fit’ feature with feedback from real customers describing products as ‘Too small’, ‘Moderately small’, ‘Fits as expected’, ‘Moderately large’, and ‘Too large’. However if your product receives too many poor reviews or your entire account is lowered in search due to poor feedback, minor size feedback won’t help as your products simply won’t be seen.

As the new year starts, if you are expanding into new territories do your product research before you launch your listings. Localisation isn’t just translation plus swapping a few terms such as ‘flip flops’ for ‘thongs’, it’s about tailoring your entire proposition for the local market and ensuring local tastes and sizing is appropriate.


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