Site for finding the right jeans - NYTimes article

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  1. No Substitute for Getting Personal, if You Want the Perfect Fit
    New York Times
    November 20, 2006

    For all its innovations, the Internet has yet to crack what is, for many, one of life’s most vexing problems: how to find jeans that won’t make your backside look like a tractor-trailer.

    A new online business,, believes that it has made progress on that front. Unlike, say, Amazon — which analyzes a visitor’s browsing and buying behavior and recommends merchandise bought by others with similar behavior — Zafu’s approach relies on users to do a little of the work.

    On the site, which is basically a search engine for clothes, visitors click through a questionnaire of about a dozen items, after which Zafu determines the visitor’s body type and displays what it believes are the best-fitting jeans to suit that visitor (it offers only female styles for now). Each pair is modeled from several angles, along with a link to the product page of retailers selling the item.

    The company, which introduced its Web site in August, can already point to a rapidly growing base of customers and merchant partners as evidence of popularity. The company’s early success underscores the industry’s slow but steady progress in personalization — finding ways to match customers with their stated or implied product preferences, and thereby satisfy what analysts say is a central consumer need.

    “Online shoppers are control freaks, and the tools they like the best give them the ability to customize something and do product comparisons,” said Lauren Freedman, president of the E-Tailing Group, an Internet consulting firm. “So I definitely see consumer appeal in what Zafu is doing.”

    Robert Holloway, Zafu’s chief executive, said the service had been about two years in the making. Starting early last year the company recruited women to come to its office in Emeryville, Calif., to test its recommendation system, and try on jeans.

    “At first, the accuracy was really low, about 50 percent,” as at other apparel sites in general, Mr. Holloway said. About 20 percent to 50 percent of all jeans bought online, he added, are returned. “Slowly but surely, we got it to the point where 94 percent of the women who went through our process said the jeans fit them great.”

    Since made its debut, Mr. Holloway said, the site’s traffic has grown rapidly, to more than 100,000 visitors this month, with virtually no marketing. The company makes money by earning a commission of 5 percent to 15 percent on every pair of jeans sold on the hundreds of retail sites with which it has agreements.

    Ms. Freedman said one drawback of Zafu’s service was that it did not weigh heavily enough a user’s brand preference. “I got a few hip choices, but it also returned me some brands I wouldn’t buy even if they fit me,” she said. “The label, for a lot of women, is as big a factor as the fit. But it’s still a really good service.”

    Elsewhere in the e-commerce industry, personalization technologies are growing quickly in importance, analysts and executives said, as retailers try to counter the effects of rising marketing costs by squeezing more sales from first-time visitors and more repeat sales from longtime customers., whose quarterly earnings reported earlier this month fell far short of projections, is turning to two types of personalization technologies to help visitors find merchandise more easily from among the more than 700,000 items on the site.

    According to Patrick M. Byrne, Overstock’s chief executive, the site last week rolled out a “gift finder” service, in which visitors receive gift recommendations determined by their answers to several questions, including the age and gender of the gift recipient, and how the user describes the recipient’s lifestyle.

    The technology behind the service, which is provided by ChoiceStream, a Web site personalization company in Cambridge, Mass., essentially assigns a series of attributes to millions of items according to their brands, styles and prices, among many factors. The more the service is used, the more accurately it can predict which of Overstock’s items will appeal to people with a certain personality.

    Mr. Byrne said Overstock also began using another service last month, Aggregate Knowledge in San Mateo, Calif., that works in a manner similar to Amazon’s recommendation system. Starting this week, he said, the system would recommend products to visitors according to their buying history on the site, or their browsing history there (which Overstock tracks). In both cases, a user will be shown items that others with similar browsing or purchasing behavior have considered.

    Mr. Byrne said the site’s personalization effort was “one of many” he was working on to improve the company’s performance. “I have a lot of hopes for this,” he said.

    Martha Rogers, a partner with the Peppers & Rogers Group, a consulting firm, said, “We’re seeing more sites starting to do this sort of thing, but it’s been frightfully slow.”

    The number of technology vendors offering the service, including specialized companies like ChoiceStream, Aggregate Knowledge and Sento, as well as larger e-commerce software companies like ATG Inc., is growing. And even though it is not particularly expensive or difficult to deploy personalization technology, Ms. Rogers said, many retailers “are stuck in the mindset where it’s just more efficient to treat everyone the same way.”

    Dennis R. Hernreich, chief operating officer of the Casual Male Retail Group, which sells clothing sized for big and tall customers, is planning to change the retailer’s site into one that is personalized to the tastes of individual users. At the moment, the company uses a fairly common approach: sending out e-mail with recommendations gleaned from a customer’s past buying or browsing behavior.

    That e-mail essentially leads the user to a customized Web page. Next year, though, Mr. Hernreich said Casual Male would rely on technology from ATG to guide each of the site’s visitors “right to what you’d be most interested in.”

    That effort, he said, is similar to one in Casual Male’s retail stores, which offer merchandise according to the various lifestyles prevalent in a particular community.

    “Whenever we put relevant offerings in our stores, it’s considerably improved the sales of that store,” he said. “This is no different, really. We’re just adding a bit more technology to it.”
  2. You know, I almost posted their url here a couple of times, but didn't, because I had tried it, and the recommendations it made for me did not include the one brand that I had already found that worked!

    But as with anything, your results may vary. It does tend to favor higher-priced jeans, which for some here will be a plus, but for others not so useful.

    And after spending money on a pair of those computer jeans - I did Target, but Lands End and Penney's also offer them - and finding them not as good a fit as the Rider ones from Wal-Mart, I am convinced that trying on 9 squillion pairs of jeans in every price range, from every store you can get to is the only way to be sure you are getting jeans that fit YOU! Call me old fashioned.
  3. That's pretty cool site. Not sure how accurate it is. I might try the jeans they recommended.
  4. I just tried it and it recommended me something that I've tried and didn't like before. Maybe it will work well for other people.
  5. i think i tried them once, or another similar site, and it recommended the most hideous jeans i've seen in a very long time :yucky:
  6. the problem is that they ONLY recommend jeans/sites that they have affiliate relationships with. they're not going to recommend jeans from sites they don't have a relationship with that they can't earn money from. i think that stinks. but my philosophy is that we deserve ALL the information...not just selected brands/sites with which they get a 'cut'.

    i think it's silly...nothing replaces a good message board and recommendations from women who have tried on hundreds of pairs of jeans and have found their perfect pair. i tried the service and my favorite jeans weren't on there (because they don't have a relationship with a site that offers them and they can get $$ from) OR they are catering to a not so much of a niche audience who will pay more than $200 for THE PERFECT pair of jeans.

    rant over :smile:
  7. I think that is the deal with too. It really looks impressive, with all the measurements they ask for, it is hard to avoid high expectations.

    And they also ask a lot of specific questions about budget, brands, and stores, and many of the brands and stores are not expensive ones.

    Yet somehow, when they come up with their "recommendations" for your clothes, they are all for expensive items from high-priced stores - if the questionnaire results are being read by either man or machine, your recommendations should either conform to your answers or just be "sorry, we don't have anything available for you at this time" or something.

    But since this is obviously not the case, I have developed a suspicion that the whole thing is intended to collect a whole lot of very detailed measurement data for some purpose or other quite unrelated to recommending clothing for anybody based on those measurements, etc!