Bridging Digital and Physical Shopping
With shoppers temporarily putting the brakes on purchases in brick-and-mortar stores, virtual dressing rooms are the most well-timed digital retail tool that can be found. According to estimations, the global virtual dressing room market is expected to reach $19,250.4 million by 2030. But it’s fair to predict, that due to the changes induced by the pandemic and current social-distancing practices, this number could become even higher.
Being an online equivalent of an in-store changing room, virtual dressing rooms blur borders between digital and physical experiences, allowing people to “try on” clothing, shoes, cosmetics without leaving the house.
The quick and effective adoption of this solution can be a true game changer for retailers, while its advantages extend to both business owners and their customers:
First of all, an improvement in user experience is huge: online shopping becomes more engaging, increases customers’ confidence in choices and makes the whole more fun in general.
The ability to accurately evaluate the size of ordered products can sharply reduce return rates (for now, approximately 30% of all products ordered online are being returned due to incorrect fit or sizing)
If consumers are presented with an authentic representation of themselves and see how the clothing fits their skin tone, body shape, height etc. – they are more likely to buy the product, so the sales increase.
By having access to the data from virtual changing rooms, retailers can collect real-time behavioral information to have more clues on how - and what - to market to their clients.
Inventory planning becomes much easier – thanks to analyzing shopping patterns, merchants can have a better grasp of what exactly to keep in stock for consumers.
The above-mentioned benefits show the whole range of possibilities - virtual dressing rooms are a combination of financial investment, marketing, and great user experience.
Choosing the Right Technology: From Manual Inputs to AR Wonders
There are different technical solutions for virtual dressing rooms available on the market, which gives retailers an opportunity to choose the one best fit for their needs and budget.
3D customer models. Self-service contactless body measuring is a simple technical solution for virtual try-ons. Shoppers can enter some basic measurements (height, weight, etc.) in a desktop or mobile app, and a virtual 3D avatar adjusts to fit their dimensions. Often such digital dressing rooms are fit with only predefined body models – like in the “DressingRoom by Gap” solution. In Gap’s app users can select from five body types – and view a product on the model that they identify with. The same idea was used by the online retailer ASOS, who has recently launched its “See My Fit” program, that allows customers to virtually try on 800 different dresses.
Face and body scanning. Another popular virtual dressing solutions are based on scanners – using technologies such as web cameras, phone cameras, or Kinect device. It has been eagerly adopted by beauty companies, which encourage their clients to virtually apply makeup. As an example, the “Sephora Virtual Artist” app can scan your face, figure out where your lips and eyes are, and then lets you try on different looks. The same goes for MAC Cosmetics, who is also investing heavily in this technology. “Shoppers who try a product online — a shade of hair dye, say, or a pair of false eyelashes — are nearly three times as likely to buy the item. They spend 10 percent more, and are less likely to return products,” says Adam Gam, chief marketing officer for Perfect Corp, which provides AR technology to MAC.
Advanced augmented reality. With the growing interest in the virtual dressing room, the used technologies are going to become more and more sophisticated. We’re talking here, for instance, about superimposed 3D models or pictures of clothing that could track to movements of the customer, so it appears as if the customer is wearing the virtual item in the video view. With advanced physics engines determining how a clothing fabric will stretch or bunch when the avatar moves, the users’ experience will be even closer to that before a real mirror.
In-store virtual technologies. Last but now least, we should mention “contactless” dressing rooms within physical stores. So-called smart mirrors have been making their headway for some time now – and, most likely, will grow in strength. Solutions like this are especially attractive to customers who have different special requirements - e.g. people with OCD, Asperger, in a wheelchair, etc.
There’s also a blended-reality mirror technology, patented by Amazon, which might gain popularity in the future. It lets customers try on clothes while placing them into a virtual location: the device will use a mix of displays, cameras and projectors to create the illusion of a new set of clothes on reflection.
According to market research, the retail sector is expected to spend a whopping $1.5 billion on augmented reality and virtual reality technology in 2020. For now, it’s predominantly the big brands that are making the investments – but the smaller chains are following up quickly.
Exploring new trends, such as digital dressing rooms, along with other tech-driven solutions, will most certainly drive and change the industry in a profound way. In a time of significant challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis, innovation and digitalization in retail are synonymous with survival. Shops that would be able to offer their clients both convenience and great user experience could win out on e-commerce business big time.