How Fashion Brands Are Going Phygital
By Lena Mayberry
As technology infiltrates our lives, creating a more digitally oriented society, there is much more flexibility available when it comes to shopping. This has changed the way people shop, and in turn, changed how companies approach the digital aspect of their business.
There is no doubt that online shopping, or e-commerce in general, has changed the way we purchase goods and services. As a result, retail companies are using technology to provide new and innovative ways to connect with their customers. A manifestation of this is an increase in ‘phygital’ initiatives from fashion brands.
Phygital: An increasingly popular concept (and polarizing word) that refers to the use of technology to combine digital and physical elements in both products and experiences, often resulting in interactive elements and increased geographic access.
Phygital can mean:
Physical goods with "twinning" or corresponding digital counterparts.
Concurrent or sequential physical and virtual events.
Digital products and information to enhance shopping online and in-store.
Prada’s NFT division, Prada Crypted, has been launching a monthly 24-hour drop of a limited edition piece that ties to an NFT twin (ranging from around $500 to $1,000 in ETH). Some holders are randomly gifted perks with the piece (such as fashion show tickets). Following their previously sold-out drops, Prada will continue to use upcycled fabric from Prada’s archives in a new gender-neutral product – offered in both physical and digital forms.
Karlie Kloss concluded Carolina Herrera’s spring/summer 2023 collection in a yellow floral belted gown. At the same time, Kloss appeared on Roblox sporting a digital replica of the dress. The dress was instantly available for purchase in the Roblox avatar marketplace for 500 Robux (about $5). 432 copies were sold during its four-hour availability. One resold for more than $5,000; the average resale was more than $1,000. Roblox has grown into an essential platform for demonstrating the importance that young customers place on digital products.
Tommy Hilfiger returned to New York Fashion Week for the first time in three years with its “See Now, Buy Now” collection. On September 11, the American apparel company's physical Autumn 2022 presentation was broadcast live to Roblox users, as avatars wearing the collection walked across the metaverse platform's virtual New York City.
Puma debuted a physical pair of NFT sneakers on the NYFW runway. Their physical show was followed by a virtual parallel ‘Black Station’ experience. Black Station is their first-ever metaverse experience, which incorporates NFTs that can be redeemed for limited-edition real sneakers. The Black Station experience utilizes an NFT to connect digital design to physical products, demonstrating how brands can leverage technology to engage with consumers and enhance their experiences.
Brands are getting on board.
Nike has initiated a QR code campaign for customers to access additional product details and archival items via AR. The experience was designed by the Nike Global Brand Experience team utilizing a combination of WebAR and Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technologies in collaboration with BUCK, an award-winning creative technology business.
The project’s aim is to, “bring the brand’s past, present, and future to life in stores globally through a WebAR experience that captures the spirit of DNA (Department of Nike Archives) and supports the future of storytelling within the retail space.”
Burberry, a London-based company, has developed a fresh strategy to attract customers to its physical stores. Burberry made the decision to use augmented reality (AR) and implement an immersive in-store experience at all of their pop-up stores to commemorate the release of their Olympia bag and welcome shoppers back to physical stores following a number of coronavirus lockdowns.
Customers could access the experience without downloading an app. They only needed to use their smartphone to scan QR codes. Users may also take photos or videos of their experiences, which resulted in a lot of brand exposure and UGC for Burberry. Burberry, among other labels, is sensitively responding to shifts in the market.
Retail isn't what it used to be.
Online sales are growing at a staggering rate, with over $300 billion in sales this year alone. The future of retail is phygital—blending physical stores and digital shopping into one seamless customer experience. Couture Technologies, through Virtual Try-On, assists the world's best brands in making this shift, allowing them to interact and more directly assist their consumers get the right fit, the first time, no matter where they are.
Experimenting is inspiring. 54% of customers are now shopping across 5 different channels. This means we're increasingly seeing things that would only be online bleed into stores and vice versa. Ulta’s Virtual Try-On makeup was born out of pandemic necessity. Nike has many AR activations. Nike digitized historic objects for one of their AR activations so that visitors could not only view them but also experience them up close. Such experiences were unthinkable before this technology, particularly due to physical constraints, as many archive pieces are delicate or fragile.
When thinking about phygital shopping, brands can use data to better follow the customer, rather than the channel, with digital products aiding shopping both in person (via AR) and online (via VTO, AR, and 3D renders).
Customers and brands don't have to choose. Linked physical products add value to virtual goods and virtual experiences expand the reach of physical moments.
Years ago, when the public expected businesses to respond to their questions and concerns on the brand's social networks, brands saw it as a burden. But now it's an easy and integrated part of their processes. The same goes for virtual and Web3 for brands. Technology is progressing, and it's not a blip.