September 16, 2010, 4:12 PM

MyShape attracts nearly one million female shoppers looking for the right fit

The site helps women take detailed measurements and then shows them apparel that flatters.

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Nearly one million online shoppers have registered on members-only women’s apparel site MyShape.com since its launch in October of 2006. That’s likely because many women are frustrated with ordering clothes online that either don’t fit or are far from flattering, CEO Mercedes De Luca says.

MyShape aims to solve this headache with a system that has a shopper take 11 measurements and answer questions about her style preferences, then assigns her one of seven body shapes. MyShape then creates a personal store for her, featuring styles designed to fit, look good and jive with her style.

“A lot of women learn what looks good on them through lots of time trying things on and experimentation,” De Luca says. “But we can save them that time. We know if you have broad shoulders, you won’t look good in a boatneck top and that you will want to stay away from pieces with embellishments on the shoulders.” By asking women what they prefer as well, such as the skirt lengths they like and if they like their outfits snug or loose, MyShape also shows women pieces they will want to buy, she says.

The site’s fit technology is called ShapeMatch and it is designed to match women with clothing that corresponds to their personal measurements. Rather than a size, it is a proportional description of a woman’s figure and how her physical attributes relate to each other, MyShape says. Additionally, every garment on MyShape is assigned a Shape Code, which relates to its style attributes like pant length, the shape of a sleeve or the silhouette of a skirt.

The ShapeMatch system uses this combined data along with a shopper’s style preferences to provide her with a personal shop populated with items and looks that match her measurements and preferences. When women select an item in their shop, it automatically calculates the right size for her proportions.

The site, which sells pieces from more than 200 brands, helps avoid the hassle of returning a piece because it doesn’t fit, DeLuca says. “We can say, in this Elie Tahari skirt, you need a two, but in this Elie Tahari dress, you’ll need a size four,” she says.

For those women who question if they know exactly where to measure their hips or how to figure out the width of their shoulders, the site offers a video with an animated character measuring herself in the spots required by the ShapeMatch system. The video pauses after each measurement until the shopper keys in her measurement and then moves on. 

Membership on MyShape is free, De Luca says. When a member logs in to the site, she clicks Start Shopping to view all the items in her personal store, arranged by type of apparel such as dresses or jeans. Shoppers also can design their own jeans through the site.

“We get rid of anything that doesn’t fit or won’t look good on you and show you only things you want to see,” De Luca says.

In its first year, De Luca says MyShape was mainly focused on perfecting its technology. Now that it has refined its measuring and recommendations system, it is launching new features and tools to improve its online store. The retailer next month is relaunching its site, which will more heavily promote a few tools that previously were hard to find because MyShape was testing them out.

One of those features is Ask a Friend, which allows members to invite a friend to view her personal shop.  The friend, who presumably knows the shopper’s taste, lifestyle and body shape, can leave comments on the items.

“Reviews on apparel sites often don’t help women because they come from shoppers with all sorts of body types,” De Luca says. “But if your good friend says ‘This would look great on you’, it’s extremely helpful.”

The new site also will feature a tool called a Style Rater, enabling a shopper to give items in her personal shop a ‘Thumbs up’ or ‘Thumbs down’. The ‘Thumbs down’ selections are removed, De Luca says. MyShape is planning to use this feature to learn more about each shopper’s personal preferences so that the site can present her with more relevant choices, DeLuca says.

In an effort to ramp up awareness of MyShape and its revamped site, the retailer is  kicking off a MyShape Challenge in which women can take a few measurements, not the full 11, and have MyShape select a pair of pants for them to purchase. MyShape will then ship the pants to the shopper along with a scarf in the shopper’s color of choice. If the pants don’t fit she can return them and MyShape will pay for postage. Either way she gets to keep the scarf.

Scarves, after all, fit just about everyone.

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