Augmented Reality: Revolutionizing the Future for Fashion Retailers1
Ecommerce Talking Tech

Augmented Reality: Revolutionizing the Future for Fashion Retailers

Recall this scene?

Tony Stark examining a digital projection of his Iron Man armor? That’s one of the first big pop culture mentions of AR.

Isn’t a Sci-Fi fan?

Fine, do you remember some years back you would schedule an appointment with a tailor? And despite several modifications, you would end up getting an ill-fitted garment. 

Ugh! That was so annoying!

Jump to today, you are trying on shirts digitally!

Now, only if you live in the abyss of some lost world when you won’t know what AR is.

If you are still reading this, I am assuming that you are here because you have a fair idea of what this concept is but are looking for inspiration to incorporate AR in your fashion mobile app.

So, let’s begin!

But before we look at some inspiring examples, there is a term called retail apocalypse you might or should know. In 2010, there was a financial crisis in the US that set the stage for what would become a devastating 10 years for the US retail industry. 

AR – an Answer to Retail Apocalypse

Retail apocalypse in a nutshell: Between 2010-13, the US saw a 50% decline in mall visits. This continued till around 2018 where we had popular retailers shutting down. Toys “R” Us, Maplin, RadioShack, H.H.Gregg, Gap, Polo stores, etc. either filed for bankruptcy or they started closing stores. 

From CB Insights: Victims of the retail apocalypse from January 2015 to March 2018

Reasons? 

They are obvious.

  1. Real estate becoming expensive
  2. The invincible rise in eCommerce behemoths like Amazon
  3. Constantly changing consumer demand

Not every brick and mortar store ended up closing their business during these dark times. Few like IKEA survived. Because they believed in the old saying – innovate or die. Companies started incorporating AR VR into their marketing strategy. Technologies like Augmented Reality would entice customers to visit the stores. Adidas is a good example. In 2018 during the ComplexCon conference in California, attendees would use AR functionality integrated into the ComplexCon app to look for limited-edition Adidas sneakers scattered around the conference. This piqued the interest of the customers and they began exploring the conference, while Adidas had a chance to sell more sneakers. 

Most AR retailer apps focus on the following:

→ Encouraging customers to explore the store by enticing them using immersive technologies.

→ Improving the shopping experience. An example of this is IKEA. Its AR app allows users to scan their home environment, select furniture, and place it in a room to see whether it looks nice. 

→ Creating brand awareness by providing a captivating experience that emotionally binds the user to the brand.

Furthermore, the pandemic is a challenging time for fashion retailers but this technology can prove to be a life jacket. According to data from Vertebrae, in the wake of the crisis, retailers using AR are enjoying a 19% spike in customer engagement, and the customer conversion rate increases by 90% for customers engaging with AR versus those that don’t.

Popular Brands Using Augmented Reality

To reach out to tech-savvy customers, brands have dabbled into Augmented Reality technology by creating user-friendly smartphone apps. Let’s have a look at some examples.

Fashion retailer Zara changed the shopping game with the Zara AR App. After downloading the app, customers can point their phones at the shop window, via in-store podiums, or via dedicated images at zara.com, and models Léa Julian and Fran Summers are brought to life for seven-to-twelve-second sequences giving a realistic experience. You can order the looks shown either online or from the store. The app even features a tool for sharing the experience on social media with your friends. This helps to increase customer engagement and creates brand awareness.

British online fashion retailer Asos has an App called Virtual Catwalk with an aim to offer customers a new way of viewing its products in real life. How does it work? Just point your phone camera on any flat surface, click the ‘AR’ button on the product page, and you’ll be able to see a model right in front of you. The online retailer is also trialing other AR features, including a tool that allows customers to view products on different size models, so customers can get a better sense of how something might fit their body shape.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, the online retailer is embracing AR to sell fresh products to its customers. Their goal is to provide customers with a realistic view of up to 500 clothing items per week on six real-life models 

Even Amazon is using this technology to transform the online shopping experience. Users can use the AR feature to test how products would look in their houses or on their bodies before making a purchase. 

How to use AR in Clothing Apps

Virtual Fitting Rooms

Product fitting and returns that happen because of it is a major challenge that most brands are facing. To reduce customer dissatisfaction and boost operations, businesses are implementing the virtual fitting room (VRF) technology. VRF technology lets customers try garments, jewelry, etc. on a 3D avatar without wearing the product. This creates a personalized and engaging experience that benefits both customers and the brand.

GAP was one of the first apparel retailers offering the Dressing Room App. This app allows users to try out a dress in a virtual mirror, cutting down the time of going to a dressing room. As you can see in the image, the app lets you enter height, weight, and body shape to generate a digital avatar. The interface uses the device’s camera to scan the user’s body and render digital garments on the person. Customers can move their self-made avatar around so they can check themselves out from all angles in their new outfit.

Indian Apparel brand Biba saw a 5% increase in revenue within 2 months of deploying the VFR solution.

The global virtual fitting room market size in 2019 was $2.44 Billion which might reach $10 billion by 2027. 

So, how can it help your business?

Here’s how:

It connects with your customers at an emotional level. By providing a digital fitting room you give them the convenience to try as many attires they want without being uncomfortable or hurrying that generally happens in a traditional dressing room. This suggests that you care for them and your brand is striving to offer the best experience possible — online as well as offline. 

Virtual fitting rooms allow users to share their digital avatars on social media which can get you a huge deal of social media traffic. 

Because of time constraints, users skip trying several garments in a traditional fitting room. But online gives them the liberty to try on many products.

With social distancing becoming the new norm, and the growing trend of online shopping, this virtual fitting solution will only see growth in the coming years.

Virtual Tailors

No measuring tapes, no awkward body scanners. You can now get a perfectly fitted outfit with the precision of the AR technology. A virtual tailor utilized machine learning technology to provide highly accurate body measurements for customers. One popular apparel company using this is Fit Freedom. Fit Freedom is a body measurement application that simplifies the online shopping experience of custom-made apparel. The application can capture the user’s measurements and translates the measurement data across multiple product lines to create custom-fitting garments. Thus, it provides quick, simple body measurements, creating a 3D fit model that recommends the shopper’s size across the platform’s available retailers.

Smart Mirrors

A smart mirror is an AR-based virtual fitting solution with a real-time try-on solution. It allows the user to try a garment on the virtual models displayed in the mirror. The mirror uses AR and Radio Frequency Identification that serves the purpose of a fitting room. When the user brings a garment in front of the mirror, it scans and stores the image of the same. The mirror then scans the user to create a virtual model wearing that scanned piece of clothing. The user also gets a 360 view to see the outfit from different angles. The mirror even provides you with the options of different colors and sizes available in the store.

Top retail brands like Topshop, Ralph Lauren, H&M, Zara, Burberry, and others are using smart mirrors to improve customer engagement, reduce the discomfort of traditional trial rooms, deliver a personalized shopping experience, and ultimately increase profit and sales.   

Some Good Reasons to Implement AR in Your Fashion Business

Since Apple and Google launched their respective ARKit and ARCore platforms, over 1 billion people are estimated to use AR apps in 2020. 40% of consumers say they would pay more for a product that they could customize in AR. Thus, the AR market is evolving rapidly and providing new opportunities. You can use this technology in various ways to increase revenue and boost customer experience.

It engages customers: Suppose you have a business exclusively for wedding outfits. With the help of an AR-enabled dressing room, you can let users try on different outfits without physically putting on the garments. This new feature will help keep the audience interested in your offerings. They will interact with your brand to find out more and in this way, your business might get a revenue boost. 

Lets the audience visualize: One of the biggest concerns of customers shopping online is- ‘will the dress I purchase look good on me?’ AR solves this problem by allowing users to visualize the product. Open the phone camera, select the body measurement, and there appears a virtual model with a similar body shape, and they can easily figure out how exactly the outfit will look. So, when you help customers visualize, they are likely to make a purchase because here you will be giving them a personalized experience. 

Gives the user the freedom to decide: Customers like to have complete control of what they want. Try forcefully suggesting a product that a customer doesn’t show interest in. They’ll leave your shop! AR gives complete freedom to decide what best fits them and what they should buy. This will make them feel more confident about the purchasing decision and your business will earn more conversions. 

Other benefits of using AR:

→ Eliminates barriers of geography by providing a virtual experience.

→ Reduces your investment cost in real estate, infrastructure, the cost of setting up a store, etc.

→ Lets you display more stock than you can in a physical store.

→ The real-life experience that AR gives will help reduce pre-purchase indecisions and reduce the chances of product return as well.

→ It simplifies the process of selling by eliminating the need to carry sales material, heavy materials, and more.

→ The social share option that comes with the fitting room apps impacts your marketing strategies too.

All of these benefits, at the end of the day, are going to get you what you or any business is interested in – boosted sales.  A report by Deloitte on technology trends for mid-market companies (those with annual revenues between $100 million and $1 billion) found that a majority of them are experimenting with AR in various forms. With all the capabilities like visualization, deep engagement, and improving the decision-making process, AR is proving to be an effective tool to increase sales and it is worth considering while creating an app for your brand.

Getting Started with AR Clothing App

Developing an AR app requires specialized knowledge. AR app developers have a mixture of skills including 3D modeling, computer vision, programming languages like C# and C++, and other mobile technologies. Developing an app with augmented reality is not just about knowing image analysis and a few other techniques. It requires passion. Passion for innovation and new trends.

With this passion, our team is out there to transform your idea into a fully-functional one that might be a game-changer for your business.