Buying clothes online has always been a leap in the dark. For most shoppers, it’s frustrating to see that the garment that dazzled them so much on the retailer’s website is too big or small, or just doesn’t look right. Return rates are as high as 30% to 40%, and 70% of returns happen due to wrong size. Apart from dissatisfied customers, it has a negative collateral impact on the financial health of the retailer. The loss gets compounded, as most of the retailers nowadays offer free shipping due to the sheer force of brute competition. That’s why retailers as well as etailers have believed that matters related to fit are way too important and can impact sales directly. They have tried hard to cut short the danger of returns through various ways. One such way, which is in accordance with the technology empowered era, is the virtual changing room. And it is quickly blurring the lines between online and physical fashion retail.
Certainly, many retailers have used this concept of the virtual changing room in various ways. In physical stores, virtual clothing can be superimposed onto the shopper’s image in a mirror-like screen. In this way, the virtual changing room eliminates the need to get undressed. For busy shoppers, this can be a much more enjoyable experience as they can try on more items in less time.
Similarly, Zugara, a virtual changing room technology company, offers Webcam Social Shopper software, which enables a shopper to use their webcam as “a magic mirror” to try on items virtually. Just like the in-store experience, a shopper can hold a dress in front of her. The mirror will immediately notify her about the rightness of the color and style of the dress as per her body style, skin tone and features. The interface is intuitively interactive with the built in gestures, motion and voice control. The software even allows her to take pictures and share with her friends.
Looking at the sway of the mobile in online shopping, integrating virtual changing room tech in mobile infrastructure appears like the next step. Gap has just rolled out a new AR equipped Dressing Room app. Within the app–which was created by Google and Avametric–a shopper has to provide basic information like height and weight into the app. Once they select one of five body types, a virtual 3D model will appear by displaying how the garment will look on the shopper. If a shopper is satisfied, he can buy the item from the app.
It’s clear that virtual changing room technology will benefit both etailers and retailers. The first direct and visible benefit is the novelty of such apps and rooms. Though they have been in use for some time, they are still not the norm. Their newness will not wear off that quickly. Obviously, they will be a key factor in attracting more shoppers. A 2015 report by Walker Sands confirms this claim, as it found that 35% of customers would shop more online if they were able to try items on virtually, rather than just see images of them.
But, these virtual trials will also pleasantly affect the inventory scenario of brick and mortar retailers. There is no need for them to carry clothes in all sizes, colors and patterns. The customers can simply “try on” the demo (virtually of course), customize their pick (say, Medium in Light Blue with contrasting trim) and place their order. The cost that requires to maintain the inventory in the form of storehouses and staff can be waived off (think of how Bonobos keeps costs low by stocking next to nothing in their stores). Thus, when looked at it from the long term view, it’s worth to bear the cost that is required for implementation and installation for virtual changing room tech. This cost analysis particularly holds true for in-store virtual dressing rooms.
The theoretical benefits of both the online and in-store virtual dressing rooms have already been transformed into real revenue for many retailers. Carrefour introduced the app that shared similarity with the Gap’s app as far as functionality is concerned. It saw its returns fall by over 30% whilst conversion rates were up by more than 23%.
But by no means has virtual changing room tech managed to keep the critics and cynics silent. They are more skeptical about the efficacy of online virtual dressing rooms. Marge Laney, CEO of Alert Tech, has no problem in welcoming it. But she has raised her concerns by saying, “No buying decision is final until the try-on has been completed, whether that’s in the fitting room or at home. AR can increase the fidelity of the online experience, but will never replace the actual try-on when the items are received.” That said, virtual reality and augmented reality aren’t the stuff of science fiction. The advancement may iron out the points which are making people like Marge Laney to look at such apps with a bit apprehension!
While virtual changing room technology is in its nascent form, it’s well-established that online sellers need engaging visual content to convert shoppers. Visual Commerce–including shoppable Instagram through Shoppic,me, shoppable multimedia user generated content displays, and more–is an excellent way of using this technology. Fill out the form below to learn more!