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For all its problem-solving intentions, online shopping comes with its fair share of stress. Scrolling through product pages may be a breeze, but at the end of the day, there's nothing more annoying than being stuck with clothes that don't fit and having to send them back to the store, dreaded trip to the post office and all.
Fitbay, a new fashion-centric social network, aims to cease those worries. The Copenhagen-founded, New York-based startup has created a system where users are matched with "body doubles" (that is, other users who are shaped like them) in an effort to figure out what clothes—and sizes—they should be buying. Though Fitbay's still in beta, CEO Christian Wylonis believes it will soon become the world's first truly social shopping tool.
"Our ultimate goal is to become the Facebook of shopping," Wylonis told Racked. "The idea behind Fitbay is a combination of our infatuation with social media and the need to solve the problems of online shopping, where people can buy clothes that actually fit."
According to the Wall Street Journal, approximately a third of items bought online are returned; returning merchandise isn't just inconvenient for customers, it also causes retailers to lose tons of cash, particularly when they offer free shipping. Not to mention, online retail isn't as big of a business as you might think.
"Only around 15 percent of retail transactions have moved online," explained Wylonis. "Compare that to other industries, like travel, which is well over 50 percent. We believe the risk associated with buying the wrong size scares people away from purchasing clothing online, but when they are shopping off real people, it's more authentic."
Wylonis demos the site. Photo courtesy of Fitbay
Fitbay has an easy process for matching people with their body doubles: They have users fill out a simple questionnaire with height, weight, and other physical details. Those users—Wylonis said the network currently has around 100,000—then share photos of themselves in items they've recently bought. Followers with similar body types can see what the items look like on a real person; they can also navigate a discovery page that recommends pieces to buy along with the proper sizing information. Every item is purchasable via affiliate networks like ShopStyle and LinkShare, which count Asos, Nordstrom, J.Crew, and Banana Republic among their retailers.
Wylonis knows a thing or two about social media. A Dartmouth grad, he was part of the first wave of college students Facebook was originally created for. In fact, Wylonis moved back to his native Denmark after graduation and attempted to create his own version of the social network, which eventually got crushed once Facebook moved to Europe. Wylonis said he was on the hunt for a new project when he noticed a major gap in social shopping.
"In my case, I'm 6'2" and almost 200 pounds, so I'm not getting fashion inspiration from someone who is 5'8" and weighs 120 pounds," he said. "A social network of body doubles makes sense for shopping because you can exchange tips on which brands actually fit true to size, and you can see how the clothing will look on people like you."
Fitbay, which has raised some $2.4 million from investors, also draws on today's most loved and maligned internet truth: the selfie. As shameless and vain as they may seem, they can actually be a wealth of information. Plus, why bother with virtual fitting room apps when you already have selfies on your phone?
"Ninety-nine percent of people aren't going to want to measure themselves for these virtual fitting rooms. It's too much of a hassle and even manufacturers don't always know the exact measurements of their products," he said. "The way to fix online shopping is to make discovery fun."