A new online business, Zafu.com, believes that it has made progress on that front. Unlike, say, Amazon â€” which analyzes a visitorâ€™s browsing and buying behavior and recommends merchandise bought by others with similar behavior â€” Zafuâ€™s approach relies on users to do a little of the work.
On the site, which is basically a search engine for clothes, visitors click through a questionnaire of about a dozen items, after which Zafu determines the visitorâ€™s body type and displays what it believes are the best-fitting jeans to suit that visitor (it offers only female styles for now). Each pair is modeled from several angles, along with a link to the product page of retailers selling the item.
The company, which introduced its Web site in August, can already point to a rapidly growing base of customers and merchant partners as evidence of popularity. The companyâ€™s early success underscores the industryâ€™s slow but steady progress in personalization â€” finding ways to match customers with their stated or implied product preferences, and thereby satisfy what analysts say is a central consumer need.
â€œOnline shoppers are control freaks, and the tools they like the best give them the ability to customize something and do product comparisons,â€ said Lauren Freedman, president of the E-Tailing Group, an Internet consulting firm. â€œSo I definitely see consumer appeal in what Zafu is doing.â€