As an avid sewist, fashion enthusiast, and student in the Emerging Technology in Business class at the University of St. Thomas, I have chosen to explore a technology that seamlessly integrates my passion for both the fashion industry and clothing construction — 3D body scanning apps. I am intrigued by how this technology could revolutionize the shopping experience while reducing the costs and environmental impact associated with returns. Can the use of 3D body scanning apps eliminate the need for self-measurement and reduce errors in the shopping process?
My name is Katie McDonald, and I am a student at the University of St. Thomas majoring in Entrepreneurship and Digital Media Arts. In this post, I will be unveiling the capabilities of 3D body scanning apps technology and highlighting some of the apps driving this innovation to the market. The post will include key insights gained from the research conducted, as well as key points from an interview with an innovative leader in this space, Margaret Tam, the co-founder, and CTO of TrueToForm.
3D body scanning apps overview
What is it?
3D body scanning apps are a technology that measures your body and produces a digital, 3D avatar of the scan. The National Library of Medicine describes this technology by stating,
‘3D graphic technologies enable the affordable and precise reconstruction of body scanned models’ (Cimolin et al., 2022).
These avatars can then be…
‘Applied in a variety of verticals, such as fashion, fitness, and wellness, and healthcare’ (Cimolin et al., 2022).
3D body scanning can be conducted via smartphone or tablet. From this scan, an avatar of the user’s body is generated in just a few minutes.
This technology allows users to choose their sizes more accurately while shopping for ready-to-wear clothing. It also ensures the precise construction of custom-made garments, utilizing measurements generated in a digital medium.
Conclusively, the introduction of this technology creates new opportunities for e-commerce clothing brands by reducing the likelihood of returns. This enhances both profitability and environmental sustainability while simultaneously fostering an increase in customer satisfaction.
Accurate measurements can help prevent consumers from purchasing ill-fitting clothing, which may otherwise leave them dissatisfied or inclined to initiate returns.
I decided to focus on three apps that offer 3D body scanning, including TrueToForm, 3DLOOK and netvirta.
I had the opportunity to connect with the esteemed entrepreneur Margaret Tam to learn about her journey as a co-founder and CTO of TrueToForm. Margaret stated,
“There is no job where you can learn so much.”
She was inspired to start this company after facing difficulties finding clothes that adequately fit her body.
Users can either download the TrueToForm app or find that the technology is integrated within partnered companies’ websites. TrueToForm has also collaborated with leading fashion design institutions, including Parsons, FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology), University of Oregon, Rhode Island School of Design, and Columbia College of Chicago, which have incorporated the use of their offerings into their curriculums. Margaret is a former Software Engineer at Apple and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.
Margaret Tam’s entrepreneurial journey reflects the impactful intersection of technology and fashion, with TrueToForm making strides in addressing personalization and fit challenges in the clothing industry.
The Mobile Tailor is 3DLOOK’s smartphone-based 3D body scanner that helps businesses acquire their customers’ measurements remotely, providing a tailored solution designed to support custom-made clothing businesses. Consumers can generate the necessary data by taking two photos of themselves, taking approximately 45 seconds (3DLook.ai).
The netvirta website highlights that 35% of clothing and footwear purchased online are returned (McKinsey). netvirta’s solution, Verifyt, utilizes patented computer vision and machine learning algorithms, allowing the derivation of a 3D body shape in under one minute using any smartphone (netvirta.com). The primary objective is to eliminate self-measuring, addressing human bias, and reducing errors in the shopping process.
Current and forecasted adoption/usage
Users can download apps like the ones listed above that offer this technology to measure themselves as a means for helping them in sizing to either purchase or make their own clothing. This helps to validate choices on the consumer side, the construction of garments from custom-made designers, and the strategic planning of ready-to-wear brands.
For brand implementation, Forbes noted how consumers can, “Receive personalized size recommendations or custom-fit products” and that
“By digitizing products, brands can also eliminate physical samples from the design process, which can increase operational efficiencies and reduce waste” (Chen, 2021).
We have all received an item online that deviates from our fit/sizing expectations. This enhanced measurement accuracy can contribute to minimizing the $5 million worth of retail returns that end up in landfills (Chen, 2021).
3D body scanning apps embrace the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit through minimizing the expense of returns and unsatisfaction from customers.
Opportunities for expanded for expanded usage
The National Library of Medicine emphasizes the fashion sector’s opportunity for
“Selling virtual merchandise as an added value to the real product in the form of a nonfungible token (NFT)” (Cimolin et al., 2022).
Forbes notes the potential of this technology to create a
“Direct-to-avatar consumer channel” (Hackyl, 2022).
The practical application of this technology becomes evident when considering its ability to allow consumers to visualize, for example, how a dress from Madewell would fit on their body, assisting in the decision-making process of whether to add it to their cart.
For custom-made clothing, 3D body scanning apps provide a remote way to take measurements that ultimately help to achieve the desired fit for consumers.
Potential magnitude of impact
The Wall Street Journal highlighted how this technology aids in reducing “inventory guesswork and fewer carbon-producing returns” (O’Brien, 2023). According to Morgan Stanley, online returns can range from 25% to 50%, and their research findings showed that even a “5% reduction in the rate of product returns could double earnings before income and taxes for an online apparel retailer” (Morgan Stanley, 2018). The Morgan Stanley Research Center has predicted that
“The widespread adoption of the technology could mean a decisive shift in the global apparel market, causing it to move much more heavily online, bringing improved revenues and margins for online retailers” (Morgan Stanley, 2011).
If the main obstacle to online shopping is the uncertainty of whether a garment will fit properly, 3D body scanning apps present a promising solution to bridge this gap.
As 3D body scanning companies continue to forge partnerships with brands and reach their targeted audiences of users, it presents a new shopping journey for consumers. Overall, it helps shoppers find garments designed to meet their specific sizing needs.
Ethics and regulations
Key associated risks within the fashion industry
A significant concern associated with 3D body scanning technologies is the issue of body information privacy (Youn et al., 2023). Simultaneously, brands must ensure the accuracy of measurement data and adhere to their sizing guides to provide consumers with precise sizing recommendations (Chen, 2021).
Transparency in informing customers about the use of their data is crucial for brands to establish trust with their users. Moreover, consumers should meticulously review and evaluate the Terms and Conditions sections of these platforms. Given a 2017 Deloitte study that revealed “91% of consumers accepted terms and conditions without reading them” (Cakebread, 2017), the likelihood of every user conducting a thorough review is low.
Potential unintended impacts
Brands must consider the accessibility of users conducting scans based on their physical needs and abilities to ensure an inclusive experience. For instance, collecting body measurements for wheelchair users in seated positions (Ichikari, 2018).
Additionally, brands should be mindful that accessing this technology may pose a barrier for some individuals who do not possess a smartphone. It is essential to continue providing opportunities for consumers to receive sizing recommendations without the need for these specific scans.
The additional costs of integrating these scans into the shopping experience may pose an expense that marginalizes small businesses. These platforms should ensure equitable pricing plans that meet the budget needs of both large and small-scale clothing businesses.
3D body scanning apps will require consent from the user, and the storing/sharing of the data will be subject to security and privacy restrictions. Brands must also contemplate the legal ownership of the 3D body scanning software when planning its implementation into their apps (Fierens & Owa, 2018).
Navigating the landscape of 3D body scanning apps involves not only obtaining user consent and addressing security concerns, but also understanding the legal implications of software ownership.
To conclude, 3D body scanning apps offer promising, efficient, and simple solutions for both people and the planet within the realm of fashion. These measurements and avatars are a gateway to a new shopping experience and have the potential to digitize the store fitting room experience.
Industry leaders like Margaret Tam are innovating the future for brands, fashion designers and consumers alike. I reflect about when 3D body scanning will become a part of the shopping standard… Additionally, how this will foster more responsible consumption and production from fashion brands.
I extend my gratitude to Margaret Tam for sharing insights into her entrepreneurial journey. Additionally, I express appreciation to my university for offering the Business in a Digital World curriculum, which has provided both myself and fellow students the opportunity to explore emerging technologies in a business context and their capacity to enhance the common good.
Special thanks go to Professor Lee Winbush for creating a curious and collaborative classroom environment that has deepened my understanding of this ever-changing landscape.
Thank you for reading!
“About the Body Scanner.” Explore Cornell — the 3D Body Scanner — about the Body Scanner, www.bodyscan.human.cornell.edu/scene60df.html. Accessed 22 Nov. 2023.
Cakebread, C. (2017, November 15). You’re not alone, no one reads terms of service agreements. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/deloitte-study-91-percent-agree-terms-of-service-without-reading-2017-11.
Chen, Jeff. “Council Post: How Retail Brands Can Work to Reduce Returns.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Sept. 2021, www.forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2021/09/14/how-retail-brands-can-work-to-reduce-returns/?sh=60494043204a.
“Faster Fashion: Will 3D Body Scans Disrupt Apparel?” Morgan Stanley, www.morganstanley.com/ideas/3d-scanning-apparel#:~:text=More%20accurate%20measurements%20with%203D,10%25%2C%20raising%20profit%20margins. Accessed 22 Nov. 2023.
Fierens, Alexis, and Buki Owa. “123D Body Scanning.” DLA Piper, www.dlapiper.com/en-us/insights/publications/2018/11/law-a-la-mode-27th-edition-november-2018/123d-body-scanning. Accessed 22 Nov. 2023.
Gill, Simeon, and Gianpaolo Vignali. Full Article: Mobile 3D Body Scanning Applications: A Review of Contact …, 20 June 2022, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00405000.2023.2216099.
Ichikari, Ryosuke, et al. CSUN ScholarWorks, 2018, scholarworks.csun.edu/.
O’Brien, Sara Ashley. “These Companies Have a Revolutionary Idea: Clothes That Actually Fit.” The Wall Street Journal, 11 Sept. 2023, www.wsj.com/style/fashion/clothing-size-perfect-fit-tech-59ff9984