Virtual fitting room: what is it, and why does the fashion industry's future lie with it?

Elena Shostak

Photo: Elena Shostak Chief Executive Officer at {j:Mind.Systems}

If you are a CEO, you need to understand your clients and their customers deeply. Sometimes, you need to go online shopping and try CJM by yourself if you work with the fashion industry. After online shopping, go to your product and dev team — tell them the story of your customer experience and start writing. That's all. Let's start!

Many of you probably remember "The Sims," a viral life simulation video game. The player had the opportunity to build a house, start a family, and, most importantly, make the character look like himself/herself. You could pick up a hairstyle, make-up, set your body parameters. The game was like real life, where you could go to the mall to try on and buy things that suit you. The player could always customize everything to his taste. It was fascinating and exciting.

But who would have thought even 15 years ago that the online simulator's principle will not only be trendy but will become a lifeline for fashion business and retail in general?

The relevance of the problem: how will virtual fitting rooms replace offline shopping?

The COVID-19 pandemic has made dramatic changes to the usual offline shopping format. Since March 2020, hundreds of thousands of offline stores have gone into quarantine almost worldwide. This has led to a large-scale decline in revenue and "final closure of stores" for large international brands and local small and medium-sized producers. For example, H&M's sales in the second quarter decreased by 50%, and the company suffered 620 million euro losses compared to the same period last year. And Zara in June announced that it plans to close more than a thousand stores around the world.

McKinsey & Co. believe: if compared with last year, the fashion industry's total revenue will decline by 27-30% by the end of 2020. This red flag made everybody think that online retail is a way out. With an online store, quality delivery, proven online payment, and additional support for the user, you can survive the lockdown and keep things on an even keel.

But what is bad for one can be a window of opportunity for others.

Online shopping is spread all over the world and has already become an integral part of our lives. Accessories, shoes, clothes, lingerie, and other items — you can purchase all these online in one click.

But the question remains: what to do if the product does not suit me? Should I make a return?

According to statistics, out of 10 purchases, 5 are returned to the store. And the most common reason for the return is that the size/model did not fit.

The "gamification solution" — a virtual fitting room — solves exactly such tasks as "reducing the return rate" and maximizing customer satisfaction.

How do virtual fitting rooms work?

Let's take a closer look at how virtual fitting rooms work and how convenient they are for users.

A virtual fitting room is a digital version of standard offline fitting rooms. There’s only one difference. In a regular fitting room, you evaluate yourself in the mirror. And in virtual reality, the AI algorithm evaluates you and collects biometric data, VR & AR technologies project a picture, and the smartphone camera becomes "the best fashion advisor."

The cameras analyze your physique and movements digitally, and the AI overlaps the appropriate style and size of your clothing with your 2D or 3D image. The in-depth learning model can determine the key points of your body's joints and its shape in 3D. And then it's up to the user to choose.

According to the latest P&S Intelligence report, the expected growth in the use of this stack of technologies and smartphones will lead to an increase in online fitting rooms from $3,128.6 million in 2019 to $19,250.4 million by 2030, with an average annual growth rate of 18.5% between 2020 and 2030. Sounds very inspiring!

The popularity of online fitting rooms in the world

Virtual fitting rooms are gaining popularity, as they significantly reduce the failure rate and return rate to 20-38%, depending on the category.

North America has become a leader in the use of online fitting rooms. And it's not surprising: this region is a kind of "trendsetter." American companies have long been using AR, VR, and AI, have a developed Internet network, and the concept of "online shopping" has long been no surprise to anyone. But not only are online stores implementing virtual technologies, but many large North American brands like MAC have been using virtual try-on mirrors to attract customers for many years. Tommy Hilfiger has implemented an online fit assistant in its online store, which can calculate the user’s recommended size based on the entered parameters. And the 1822 denim website uses a 3D calculation of customer parameters and determines the appropriate size based on the algorithm.

Now, let's talk about Europe. According to Statista research, by 2026, the European AR/VR market will reach 50.55 billion US dollars. At the same time, the use of VR will expand and develop as enterprises unleash their full potential.

The most massive introduction of augmented and virtual reality technologies is in Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. And virtual fitting rooms and assistants are the most popular in these countries. For example, Adidas (Germany) and ASOS (United Kingdom) also use fit assistants.

Formex Swiss Watches brand uses AR-Watches app, a virtual fitting solution based on ARTag technology. To try on a watch, the user needs to print a bracelet with markers, put it on the wrist, point the camera, and the reading algorithm "puts" the selected watch on the hand. The user will be able to inspect the watch by turning the hand (within the bracelet's markers, of course).

And what about Asia? Here, the AR/VR market is predicted to reach $172.8 billion by 2026. Now the popularity of virtual fitting rooms is increasing in Asia. Thus, the Indian optical retailer Lenskart uses an online fitting room with eyeglass frames. By analyzing in real time through a camera the parameters of the head, the ears' location, and the distance between the nose and eyes, the app shows the client how he/she will look in the selected frame.

Conclusions: one gets used to good things quickly

The events of 2020 made the retailers face the fact: in crisis conditions, the winner is not the one who has a wider range of goods and more stores, but the one who has "digitized" all the processes necessary for the buyer in advance. An online version of the store is just not enough to be trendy anymore. And the virtual fitting rooms, which have been developing since 2005, have become very useful during the pandemic. And it's only natural that customers will continue to give greater preference to online stores, which allow them to select the right parameters of the product flawlessly — whether it's pants, sneakers, or glasses.

So, the simulation game came to life. How soon will the gamified solutions become commonplace in sales? And what else will be digitized? Under current conditions, we can safely assume that we will find out soon. Now it's up to brands and developers.

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