The ‘virtual fitting room’ startup with the very nice domain name Fits.Me has been acquired by the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in a strategic deal that will see the London based startup continue operating as a separate business with a (pun!) very fitting domain name!
For those of you not familiar with Fits.Me, the startup offers companies that sell clothes online a “virtual fitting room” for their customers. It wants to provide a photo-accurate visualisation of fit and can be used both on desktop websites, as well as mobile responsive ones. Companies, such as apparel brands or retailers, can offer their customers a personalised experience, even when they are shopping online.
And Fits.Me’s extensive work with clients has shown results. Henri Lloyd commercial director Graham Allen said in a 2013 case study that the technology improved their conversion rates 57% in cases of first-time buyers, a significant increase for the “original British sailing brand”, founded in Manchester in 1963.
Over the years, Fits.Me managed to attract a number of well known brands, such as Austin Reed, Bilka, CC Fashion, M&Co and Top Vintage.
Rakuten Goes Shopping (That Doesn’t Need Fitting)
This is not the first company that Rakuten has looked at acquiring in 2015., not by a long shot. The ecommerce and media giant already had its sights on online content company PopSugar which it was rumoured to acquire for $580 million in April. Just a month prior to that, Rakuten acquired OverDrive, an ebook and audiobook marketplace for $410 million in cash. While Rakuten plans to use these content companies to grow its international footprint, Fits.Me is a technology acquisition – with their services being a good way to let Rakuten’s ecommerce projects stand out from the pack.
Rakuten’s CEO Hiroskhi Mikitani said that Fits.Me doesn’t just offer customers a better experience, but also “empowers” merchants with valuable information on their buying habits:
Fits.me represents both the fun and functionality of shopping online and is a natural complement to our growing portfolio of e-commerce and marketing services,” said Rakuten’s CEO and founder Hiroshi Mikitani in a statement. “Not only does the virtual fitting room provide customers with a more realistic shopping experience, it also empowers merchants with the valuable data they need to continually improve their service.
Fits.Me was created by an experienced team, co-founded by Heikki Haldre, an entrepreneur who built and sold five companies prior to this venture. In a 2010 interview, Haldre gave his advice about building a company like Fits.Me, at that time still based in Tallin (Estonia):
If there’s one advice to give to other starting entrepreneurs – tell about your idea to everyone who cares to listen. Don’t be afraid of someone stealing it – after all great ideas only exist because of the great team, including yourself. Use their advice to build your idea to something much bigger than you’d been able to do by yourself.
While you might still think that a technology like that of Fits.Me might not ever replace a real life fitting room, Haldre begged to differ. While customers can touch the fabric in a store for example, the main reason (60% of the time) that customers return clothers bought online is that they chose the wrong size. As Haldre explains, personal preferences on how tight clothers should be are the reason why size recommendations and size charts don’t really work. While other technologies focused more on stylistic functions, Fits.Me’s idea has always been focused on “letting people get the right size”.
What’s a Fitbot? Spoiler: Not Fitness!
What Fits.Me created in the end was “Fitbot”, a new kind of robot that would work out the thousands of shapes that make up customers around the world. Fitbots would be physically dressed in each item and size of clothing by the retailer, after which shoppers would be able to “try out clothes” in the virtual fitting room.
In its almost 5 year history, Fits.Me atracted over $10 million in investments from a number of backers, such as Entepreneur’s Fund, Smartcap and Conor Venture Partners. Fits.Me approached Rakuten first with the intention of getting them on board as a strategic investor, but both companies agreed that an outright acquisition would be the most logical continuation of their partnership. While it’s not known how much Rakuten bought Fits.Me for, with revenues in 2013. of up to $5.3 billion, the Japanese giant has money to spare to invest in technologies that will grow its market share in the clothing segment. Current CEO James Gambrell told Techcrunch: “It is the right partner”.
Rakuten will definitely help Fits.Me scale its operations and time will tell how many more retailers will use its technology to help us all buy clothes online – and not have to return them!