How Virtual Fitting is Changing the E-retail Landscape: Benefits, Limitations & Future Trends

Technology | 5 minutes to read

29th Aug, 2021

Explore how retailers have adapted over the past year to offer virtual fitting and digital try-on tools and how they can help engage customers. Learn more about the benefits, limitations, and prospects of these tools to make a smart decision.

Snapshot

    • The rise of virtual fitting and try-on solutions as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic

    • The business benefits and advantages of digital try-ons in growing revenue and customer engagement

    • Existing limitation and challenges of using the technology and what the future of virtual fitting looks like

     As the world came to a standstill in 2020, the traditional way of working, living, shopping, and interacting changed. The impact of these changes was the most profound on how people work (shifting to work from home and remote work) and shop (ordering everything through e-commerce platforms).

    Businesses have found creative solutions to ride through the disruptions caused by these changes. One such solution has been the adoption of virtual fitting and digital try-on technologies to boost sales and engage customers steadily. However, what is it about them that makes them so advantageous in today’s world? And are these benefits likely to sustain?

    Why did virtual fitting and try-on solutions go mainstream in 2020?

    The retail industry was one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Stores remained shut for most of 2020, and even when they reopened, it was with strict rules and with limited interaction. People were also hesitant to walk into stores for regular shopping needs and overwhelmingly favored the online shopping experience. This accelerated the further digitizing of the shopping process and also set off a competition to build the most engaging virtual shopping experience.

    To replicate the feeling of in-store shopping, many online businesses used virtual fitting and try-on tools to help customers ‘see’ how certain products looked on them. Most of these solutions used advanced augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technologies. They superimpose the chosen product on the customer’s live/captured image/rendered models accurately to portray how it is likely to appear.

    While such virtual retail solutions and tools have been in existence for a while now (consumer brands have been trying some form of these since 2012), their demand went through the roof last year. Today, clothes, accessories, footwear, jewelry, cosmetics, decor, furniture – all these products can be tried on virtually. Using smartphones and mobile devices customers can see if they are of the right fit, style, or appearance.  Leading retailers like Macy’s, Adidas, Modcloth, Sephora, Kohl, Levi’s, and even luxury brands like Gucci and Ralph Lauren have started offering digital try-ons and virtual fittings.

    The benefits of virtual fitting and digital try-ons

    Higher sales and retention

    The biggest reason why customers are wary of purchasing online products is the fear of the expectations not matching the reality. The provided product images and details sometimes obscure important information that can only be learned by physically inspecting it. Similarly, the lack of surety the right size, color, or preferred style further discourages people to shop online.

    Digital try-ons help remedy this challenge as they provide customers with a realistic impression of how the product would look like when used. The increasing degree of realism and accuracy in these tools means that people can try unlimited products digitally to find the one that is just right. In addition to reducing customer skepticism and doubt, it leads to higher sales, and also improves engagement with the brand and platform.

    Lower return rate

    One of the most significant challenges facing the e-commerce industry today is the high rate of product return. Since most e-retailers offer free shipping on returns, customers do not think twice before returning products. In fact, reports suggest that many regular online shoppers usually order the same product in multiple sizes or colors and only keep the ones that fit right. Digital try-ons help solve this problem as it helps customers visualize how the product will seem, whether it will fit, and understand better they will be happy with it. Studies suggest that digital try-ons can help reduce the return rates up to 33 to 36 percent.

    Personalized engagement

    Digital try-ons help build the right online shopping experience by personalizing the journey and enable customers to truly engage with the product and platform. With thousands of online businesses vying for the same set of customers and their attention span, this can help retailers stand out. Such tools offer the customers an experience that is unique, engaging, and intuitive. Furthermore, the data and usage patterns of the customer further help businesses understand their preferences, spending habits, and other purchasing patterns.

    Read more on how technology is changing the face of Indian retail

    What are the current limitations of virtual fittings and digital try-ons?

    Data and privacy concerns

    First and foremost, there are concerns about the collection and usage of customer data by businesses. Customers usually share real or live images or create virtual avatars based on accurate body measurements to use these tools. This begs the question of whether all this data is safely used and if there are mechanisms to limit its usage. Since most customers do not carefully read the terms and conditions of using digital services, they could be parting with more personal information than they realize.

    Longevity of the technology

    It has been observed that the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed forward the adoption of online shopping and its growth by nearly five years. However, there is uncertainty about the popularity of these technologies once the pandemic retreats and people start visiting stores again. Will people continue to use digital try-ons when they have the option to physically inspect the product before purchasing it? Only time can answer this question.

    Scope for improvement and trust

    Finally, virtual fitting and digital try-on technology aren’t anywhere close to replicating the in-store shopping experience for customers. This is not to say that the tools and underlying technology hasn’t developed over the past years, but it simply isn’t enough. For instance, deep learning algorithms and AI-powered tools can help visualize different body parts with increasing clarity and accuracy. However, they are still far from inculcating trust and acceptance from many customers. The fact is that for some customers, there is simply no alternative to touch, feel, and actually try on a product to decide whether they want to purchase it.

    The future of virtual fitting in a post-pandemic world

    Overall, the global AR and VR tech industry is pegged to grow up to $161 billion by the end of 2025. These technologies will be increasingly used in creating digital avatars, supporting online shopping, and helping customers try on products virtually. The use of virtual fitting rooms and digital try-on tools has risen among major retailers over the past year. Yet, it remains to be seen whether these solutions will continue to attract interest from businesses and customers after the restrictions related to the pandemic are eased.

    Experts suggest that a part of the millennial and Gen Z customer base might stick to these technologies for shopping. But, whether that will be enough to sustain their adoption and growth is not clear at the moment. The bottom line is that virtual fitting rooms and digital try-on solutions must continually improve to offer new experiences, meaningful benefits, and measurable impact on customer engagement. That is the only way for them to become a norm in the retail world, both online and offline.

    Quick read: Rethinking retail in 2021 with retail analytics and digital solutions

    Virtual fittings and digital try-ons: The conclusion

    There is no doubt that the advent of virtual fitting and try-on technologies has ushered in a new phase of customer engagement in the retail industry. These solutions have helped businesses ride through disruptions and retain customers in an uncertain market. Their continued improvement to cater to the needs of businesses and customers can establish them as a permanent feature of the retail shopping experience. However, the technology must be further developed and refined significantly before customers can seamlessly use it without any concerns.

    CTA: To learn how you can implement virtual fitting and digital try-on solutions at your store, get in touch with Denave experts today.

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