Is Virtual Try-On More than a Trend?
By Lena Mayberry
For retail, online sales now represent nearly 20% of spending through all channels. During the pandemic, virtual try-on (VTO) has provided a welcome relief to fashion and beauty companies who have been unable to show their products in person. With shoppers now trickling back into physical retail stores, some speculate where the future of VTO stands.
How is Virtual Try-On Used Today?
Many brands are reaping the rewards of adopting VTO technology. Now, you can visit an eyewear brand’s website, such as Warby Parker, and use their VTO feature to determine which frames will fit your face shape and personal style best.
You can even try on numerous lipstick shades, or find your foundation shade from Maybelline’s virtual try-on tool online. Retailers like Target and Wayfair have also integrated augmented reality furniture visualization tools, allowing shoppers to evaluate how a piece would complement their space before making a purchase.
They haven't all been amazing, either. Especially when it comes to clothing.
Why has Virtual Try-On for Apparel Brands Failed in the Past?
VTO technologies for clothing have been offered going back to at least the 1980s, with limited adoption and very little success. For VTO technology, there are different types of technologies and which to adopt depends on the goals a company has and what challenges they are looking to solve. Do customers just want to see what color or print will look like on their bodies? Do they need to solve for customers’ individual fit preferences?
Augmented reality try-on for clothing seldom reflects the true nature of an item's size and fit. Several VTO companies use a "paper-doll" approach, which involves placing a 3D clothing item (similar to photoshopping) over a user’s photo in a precise stance, without respect to how that item will fit on the user’s body when it arrives on their doorstep. This approach is great for choosing a color/print and can provide some insights on whether a user will like a given style on their body. But, it can distort the user's sense of their self-image when the item arrives and it doesn’t fit as expected. The latter can leave the user disgruntled and possibly skeptical of the VTO's accuracy. Developing an exceptional VTO experience that shows not only how an item will look, but also how it will fit is a difficult challenge.
A few VTO providers offer a non-augmented reality or paper-doll approach that allows users to compare the sizes of one 3D garment (primarily shirts) on their avatar with varying degrees of accuracy, both on the garment and avatar side. Allowing users to see full outfits and mix-and-match pieces from their current wardrobe that is no longer sold by their favorite brands has been unavailable.
Physical, in-store shopping experiences reign supreme in the absence of modern technology capable of truly dressing an individual's body and authentically visualizing the garment's fit.
That has been the case for virtual try-on, until now.
Getting to the Root of the Problem.
After conducting over 300 1:1 interviews with brand leaders in the apparel industry, Couture Technologies has developed several key VTO innovations from the ground up that enrich the online buying experience unlike ever before and provide an opportunity for VTO to deliver on past promises to reduce returns, increase conversion, and enhance the overall customer experience.
Couture Tech's patent-pending technology uses two photos or a minimal set of measurements from a user to accurately replicate their body shape into their virtual avatar. The technology displays a garment or a full outfit in high detail that realistically shows the drape and fit of the item in various colors and sizes. Users can save their purchases and try them on with new styles even after they’re no longer for sale on a brand’s website.
They take it a step further with their patent-pending FitMap™ feature, which uses color gradients to represent "Very Loose, Loose, Snug, Tight, and Very Tight" in terms of how the garment would fit on various areas of a user’s body.
These new features were created not just to increase customer confidence, but also to serve as a solution for both apparel brands and customers. Couture recognized early on that customers want garments that suit their own personal fit needs and didn’t want to be told what size to buy.
According to Pitney Bowes' latest BOXpoll study, US online retailers suffer substantial logistical and financial issues as a result of the high cost and rising volume of e-commerce returns. Based on the survey of digital and omnichannel businesses, online returns cost retailers an average of 21% of order value, with several brands reporting rates far higher.
“One of the grand ironies of e-commerce is that both retailers and consumers struggle with returns because each sees the other as making the process more difficult,” said Vijay Ramachandran, VP of market strategy for global Ecommerce at Pitney Bowes. “Three out of four consumers say their recent returns experiences have been inconvenient.”
Every aspect of Couture Tech’s solutions is directed towards improving the online shopping experience, and ensuring customers are empowered to choose items that will work best for their body and their personal fit preferences.
Eliminating Barriers to Entry.
Clothing companies will soon be able to use Couture Technologies' free RoboLoom™ software to import or produce their own 3D garments. This will shorten the product development cycle and make it easy to transform products into VTO garments, which can then be seamlessly integrated into a brand’s website.
Couture Technologies is committed to being a people-first company. It's important to give back to the industry and community, and democratizing access to such 3D garment creation software is crucial to empowering more individuals to enter this space. Unless creators go to a university or work for a company that invests a significant amount of money to get access to these kinds of design software, the options are slim to none.
The Bottom Line.
While virtual try-on may appear to be a significant expenditure for some apparel brands, similar investments have previously yielded substantial returns.
Snap paid $124.4 million for conversion-boosting AR shopping leaders Fit Analytics last year, but they've already driven $2 million in extra sales for advertising partners like American Eagle via virtual Snapchat pop-up stores in a single campaign.
"Personalization is so important — how do we make this personal to you, to your face, to your body, to your room—and that's where try-on and features like fit recommendations with Fit Analytics really come into play," says Carolina Arguelles, Product Marketing group lead for Snapchat's camera and developer products.
Recognizing this, brands are rapidly acquiring the companies that emerge. In just the last two years, Gap acquired VTO company DRAPR, and Walmart acquired Zeekit.
Customers are demanding a more personalized shopping experience. After a year marked by lockdowns, closures, and retail disasters, it appears that AR, AI, and VTO will be necessary to not just assist fashion and beauty companies to endure, but to flourish as well.
Have you tried out cutting-edge technologies like AR or VTO yet? Schedule a 15-minute demo to discover if Couture Technologies is the right fit for your apparel brand, or contact us if you have any questions!