Starting this week, ZipFit is officially transitioning fully online and will no longer opening up its pop-up shops. ZipFit, an innovative provider of men’s custom denim jeans started by Booth graduate Liz Kammel, opened its Michigan Ave. storefront less than two years ago, and had pop-up locations in both Skokie and Schaumburg.
Now that all locations are closed, the migration online is complete. But CMO Alex Batdorf said it was always in the works: “it’s four times harder to acquire customers online than in person – having physical locations helped build a customer base within Chicago before expanding online.” The pop-up-shop model has served them well, and the team feels that they have reached the right point in their business and customer base to hop completely into the digital space, with nearly half of their online purchases now made by repeat customers.
She says that contrary to most expectations, their customer base is not an “exclusive” crowd. Many of their customers, she said, had been “settling” in the past, wearing jeans that did not provide ideal comfort or style. Their “Fit” strategy, by providing men an alternative to the dreaded in-store shopping experience and a solution specially tailored to their measurements, appears to be driving customer loyalty.
“Typically, guys buy on average 1.5 pairs of jeans a year," Batdorf said. "Our customers buy multiple.”
ZipFit’s business model is not centered on jeans so much as around fit: “I’ll have customers come and ask me, ‘What’s most fashionable, most trendy right now?’ And I’ll say ‘Let’s make sure that we have the jeans that fit your form, that are the most comfortable for you first," Batdorf said.
The store locations made use of a “Fit Finder” app that takes in measurement information on waist size, inseam length, body-type information and snugness preferences. There was also a “Quick Match” option that matched off of a man’s pre-existing pair of jeans. Both apps are remain in use on their online store. This information then goes to their seamstress, Emma Cullimore, who ensures that the hem is perfect and adds what they call "center-back alteration," which adjusts for fit to accomodate different builds.
Of course, the closing of any storefront is asking an adaptation from customers used to coming in-store. “Most of our customers kind of knew we were planning on transitioning online,” said Batdorf. “Though there were a few who were surprised, we let them know their new options.”
ZipFit has also unveiled their new onsite fitting service, ZipFit Mobile, as a part of the company’s e-commerce acquisition strategy moving forward. The launch of ZipFit Mobile will take place today with TechNexus, where they will do onsite fittings for the guys working in the space. They have also seen a demand for their Fit Finder technology amongst fashion e-retailers looking to narrow the digital divide that results in higher rates of online returns.
Though they will have to face competitors from larger fashion retailers – Macy’s having deployed it’s own fit model, TrueFit Online – as well as from longtime men’s fashion e-Commerce sites like Bonobos, they see opportunity to launch more nationwide growth, having seen early interest on the east and west coasts - and even internationally in Canada and Australia.
At the same time, their onsite fitting service, ZipFit Mobile, will provide Chicago-area customers the chance to request a ZipFit Fit Expert to help customers with a fitting in the comfort of their own home. This way, the in-person interaction portion that Batdorf said many of their customers valued from in-store Fit Experts will still be available to both repeat and new customers.
Though the longstanding question of whether ZipFit plans on building a fit model for women remains in development, other additions to their business including expanding product categories beyond denim to men's casual pants and shirts.
The website, which will now carry the bulk of the company’s sales, was launched last year, but full functionality will be unveiled in the days to come as the company rolls out the full campaign surrounding its pivot to e-commerce.