E-commerce businesses face a variety of customer-related challenges as a result of operating in a dynamic environment. Let's talk about how brands can use virtual try-on, a subset of augmented reality, to overcome these obstacles and pave the way to their success.
The augmented reality (AR) market has grown so rapidly that it is expected to be worth $88.4 billion by 2026; with an estimated 31.5% CAGR from 2021 to 2026. Due to its ability to overlay interactive layers over the camera feed – combining ease of use with interactivity – it has already been used by multiple industries to improve the customer experience; thus making the offer available 24h/7.
A great example of a user-ready AR solution is a virtual try-on app, which allows customers to participate in a highly personalized experience that (almost) replicates a professional on-site consultation.
But first, let's go over why your e-commerce business should think about incorporating an AR solution into its strategy.
Table of contents:
- AR for e-commerce
- Problems of localized offers: (try to) try before you buy
- Update your wardrobe with virtual try-on
- The benefits of using virtual try-on in retail
- The limitations of a virtual try-on experience
AR for e-commerce
Extended reality (XR), which includes augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR), is redefining the customer experience by allowing brands to improve interactions with products before, during, and after the purchase. The key distinction is that virtual reality "replaces" the real world by immersing the user in a head-mounted display, whereas augmented reality "overlays" 3D models onto the camera feed. The third technology, MR, attempts to strike a balance between the two.
Augmented Reality is considered to be the most accessible technology in the XR spectrum due to its ability to be experienced on a variety of commonly used devices, such as smartphones, tablets, wearables, laptops, TVs, digital mirrors, or specially designed connected devices such as glasses, lenses, and even AR fitting rooms. It analyzes environmental data gathered by device sensors and overlays additional contextual information (in 2D or 3D) on top of that image.
According to Wikitude, 32% of shoppers are regular users of AR, and 73% of smartphone users are very satisfied with their AR experiences. Such data demonstrates how the e-commerce market has embraced technology and continues to use it to grow by attracting mobile users. Let's now look at one of the most influential types of augmented reality (AR), which promises to boost brand loyalty and awareness: the virtual try-on tool.
But before that, let's take a quick moment to think about the problems that on-site look-oriented brands are facing right now.
Read: Virtual Reality in Education: Challenges and Innovations
Problems of localized offers: (try to) try before you buy
The dressing room, as the place where customers can find the right fit and style before making a purchase, is commonly viewed as the heart of the shopper’s journey. A customer's ability to try on several items they like can make or break a sale, but it also increases customer satisfaction as they can use their purchase right away and be certain that the size is perfect for them.
Although the solution is convenient, some stores have begun to struggle with some issues:
- Around the time of the new collection's release, some sizes/models began to sell out, making it impossible for customers to fit the desired items on-site. The lack of (usually popular) sizes then drove some customers to the competition, as they weren't willing to wait several days for a restock.
- Some items' quality has suffered (they have become dirty/wrinkled, worn out, or broken) as a result of the buy/return policy and the ability for everyone to try everything. Some items were stolen.
- Sale seasons are difficult to manage; due to long lines, some customers decide to checkout items without them trying on, resulting in more returns within 30 days. This also means that more employees are required during sales seasons, as customers tend to overfill their carts and then leave half of the items in the dressing room to be sorted.
- Regular-size products are being used instead of testers (i.e. make-up).
- It’s hard to showcase a whole collection in a limited space. Some models look bad while hanged/folded – they need an additional set of hanger strings to mimic a body fit.
- Brands must constantly expand (to multiple branches), which increases rent, wages, and media spending.
All the above issues could be solved via the introduction of an AR-powered try-on app, which – as the sales supportive concept – has been available on the market for some time now.
Read: Mixed Reality: What It Is and How You Can Use It in Business
Update your wardrobe with virtual try-on technology
Virtual try-on, in essence, allows a customer to use their camera-equipped device to browse through detailed 3D models of items via an app. The model can then be superimposed over themselves, allowing them to determine whether a product is a good fit for them (because the camera can measure the body and recommend the best size) – and make a purchase.
What's more, they can already wear their planned outfit to ensure that the item is perfectly suited to the occasion. And if they are still unsure, they can share their video feed with a friend. Optionally, retry the item several times. This way, customers can try on (virtual) clothes, accessories such as shoes, jewelry, glasses, hairdos, makeup, or other “visual” elements.
All that from the comfort of their own home.
The only action required to visit a brand's store is to download its app, which simplifies expanding the brand's influence to new locations or markets. And by doing so, they not only subscribe to your marketing lists but also provide a steady stream of real-time data about their preferences and emerging trends, allowing your brand to tailor its offer to even the most sophisticated tastes.
An app ensures that the product is clean, fixed, and available on demand. The availability of size or pattern can be checked globally, eliminating the need to call several stores in a row to see if the desired item is still in stock. AR try-ons have become extremely popular as social media filters as a result of constant advancements in the fields of facial mapping technology (facial recognition), machine learning, and 3D modeling. It is widely used to support make-up, glasses, jewelry, small accessories, and other beauty-related/fashion brands that sell "looks" rather than "names."
And, above all that, the AI-powered try-on solution is simply enjoyable.
Let’s now move on to the advantages of incorporating AR into your e-commerce business.
Benefits of using virtual try-on in e-commerce
User content personalization
Retailers frequently customize content to meet the highest customer expectations. This is especially true in the fashion industry, where virtual mirrors have already been used instead of mannequins – by displaying promoted collections over scanned 3D images of window shoppers. As a result, you can simply find out the size of the clothes you like and see how they look and fit your body on a digital screen in front of you. The items can then be purchased using a personalized link.
Mixing in-store and online shopping experiences
Shopping, in general, should be regarded as a pleasurable activity. We see an item ad, click on it, and buy it. Unfortunately, because the majority of the most enticing offers appear to be sold out within minutes, customers frequently click away from the 'out of stock' notification. Even if they don't, they may have difficulty purchasing because they are unsure whether their body type/size matches the model. Or became disoriented while looking for a long-lost tape measure. Furthermore, they may be concerned about color matching or material quality.
In fact, the more quickly your customers browse your offer, the fewer products will end up in their shopping carts. And if they do not complete their purchase right away, they may become extremely vulnerable to the competition's targeted ads.
AR could address all of these issues by allowing the user to virtually try on the item before purchasing it. The app can then recommend the correct size, provide different color variations, and, most importantly, a “buy now” button for a quick purchase of a personalized item. It can also suggest trying on a complete look, which increases sales of complementary items.
A product to fit all needs
Although most brands strive to offer a diverse range of products for various types of customers, they frequently opt for a specific aesthetic to promote the collection. Beautiful promotional photos are typically taken to convey a specific mood. Items come in matching sets with trendy accessories like makeup, fully-decorated interiors, lighting, and so on.
This does not usually translate into our daily lives, where an item is purchased to fit the occasion/wardrobe – and sizing may vary from brand to brand. Virtual try-on could solve those problems because the items are now adjusted to our actual size, wardrobe, or room, providing a better fit to specific needs.
Customers can now virtually try on various types of products before purchasing them. Statistics show that 19% of online shoppers order multiple variations of a single product. What's important here is that AR helps customers avoid disappointment and choose the best products for them. As a result, both online and brick-and-mortar store return rates tend to fall. AP shortens the customer journey and increases store conversions regardless of whether the customer shops for items online or in-store.
Data collection on customer preferences
The information about the products that customers choose to try using AR-enhanced shopping reveals a lot about their interests, personal preferences, and purchasing habits. Retailers could use these insights to provide more personalized advertising and marketing campaigns.
Increasing brand visibility and awareness
AR is an excellent tool for increasing brand awareness among a larger audience. Mobile apps with cutting-edge augmented reality features will help a brand provide users with one-of-a-kind experiences. The use of augmented reality in retail marketing strategies allows brands to be creative in their interactions, creating a channel for instant feedback.
The limitations of a virtual try-on experience
Before you decide to utilize AR technology, you should consider the most problematic aspects of its current state.
Firstly, you must be aware that the AR component requires two things: a working app that is compatible with the majority of popular mobile operating systems (iOS and Android are a must) and at least several detailed 3D models of your products. This entails taking multiangle photoshoots of each of your products in each color version and/or combination, including i.e.: shoe soles/shoelaces details, ornament closures, and so on. The pictures are then used to manually replicate the items with a graphic engine. And even after that, the products will be available to showcase only within your branded app, which may take some convincing (to download it).
This brings us to the next issue, which is related to the essence of augmented reality: the models are superimposed over the camera feed. This could result in one of two scenarios of a broken experience. The object can still be interacted with, but the layer may sometimes glitch or mismatch (e.g., float or scale incorrectly), appear unnatural in bright light or take a long time to scroll through the suggested combinations (as they have to be downloaded). Such problems can demotivate customers and drive them away from both the app and the brand.
Then there's the issue with some devices' sensors, which may fail to correctly map the body part – which is especially problematic for small accessories like jewelry and makeup in dimly lit rooms. However, even in bright light and with the most modern camera, we may still receive the flat overlay over the 3D camera feed.
In fact, you should be aware that getting the virtual try-on right usually entails investing a significant amount of money and resources. And as a rule of thumb, you should always work with an experienced software company that begins the collaboration by assessing the project risks and potential with a discovery session to reduce AR app failure.
Because, if done correctly, the results will be spectacular. Take a look at Nike's virtual shoe fitting app, which is still a shining example of how to properly create and use virtual models, as well as how to properly add fit recommendations.
Read: What (Really) is the Metaverse?
Virtual try-on technology - conclusion
Giving customers the ability to virtually test out a product before making a purchase decision is becoming increasingly important. With restrictions on movement and limited access to in-store experiences, brands are actively pursuing alternative methods to enable customers to experience products in real-time augmented reality prior to purchase.
Many consumers are willing to use augmented reality as a result of the rapid development of smartphones, 5G networks, and AI technologies (AR). According to the Gartner Consumer Survey, 30% of Gen Z and Millennials expect retail companies to use augmented reality and virtual reality to improve the online shopping experience.
Big brands will likely maintain a competitive advantage in AR-enhanced selling until Apple or Google makes the virtual try-on tool more widely available. For the time being, industries that manufacture physical products can start with configurable AR, a simple and low-cost solution that allows customers to view and configure a wide range of product variations while increasing sales.
And remember, every day, the number of retail brands expands. If you want your brand to stand out from the crowd, use tools and tactics that your competitors have not yet used. And if you are interested in using augmented reality for your brand, please contact us for a free consultation.