Why virtual try-ons could be fashion’s holy grail

Boosting profits and keeping customers happy — why virtual 'try-ons' are the fashion industry's holy grail.
10 November 2020
  • Luckily, with retail outlets closed or restricted, fashion retailers have been able to up their game online
  • But with customers that expect fast and free returns, margins can be tight 
  • Virtual try-on apps can offer a solution to get the fit right before purchases are made

E-commerce was a gift for retailers when physical outlets were closed. But selling online means dealing with a different type of customer — one that expects to be able to try on clothes and other apparel and return for a full refund if the style’s not right or the fit’s too tight.

It’s estimated that between 30% and 50% of all fashion purchases are returned. This cuts heavily into the retailer’s margins. But not offering free returns risks customers abandoning for another competitor altogether — it’s not as if online shoppers are lacking choice. 

The solution? To innovate, of course.

Enter virtual ‘try-on’ applications. Already used by brands like IKEA and Home Depot for customers to preview furniture and products in their homes using augmented reality, getting this right with clothing has been a ‘holy grail’ in the online fashion industry for a long time.

Due to the individual characteristics of the human body, making this technology accurate and reliable for everyone is very difficult, but there’s progress being made by a number of tech firms and retailers. 

French luxury brand Dior recently collaborated with Snapchat to allow its users to test their new models from the comfort of their own homes. To do so, customers would just need to click or scan the QR code from the Snapchat app, and to select the model of sneakers they want to try on and visualize them directly on their feet with Snapchat’s AR technology.

Orders can be placed directly from Snapchat or Dior.com and the results of the try-on, of course, can be shared on the app.

Prior to Dior, Champs Sports became the first sportswear retailer to offer AR try-ons for sneakers using Snapchat’s new technology. In August, Hoka One One, the maker of athletic apparel owned by Uggs maker Deckers Brands, created a mobile shopping experience featuring an AR pop-up store and virtual try-on of running shoes

Other brands, including Clearly, Essie, Kohl’s, Jordan Brand, and Sally Hansen, offered virtual try-on experiences on Snapchat. AR try-on and e-commerce experience are another sign of how Snap is integrating its advertising technology with online shopping, as digital business-to-consumer (B2C) commerce becomes a bigger priority for social media companies. 

In fact, in its most recent earnings announcement, Snap touted AR experiences as a key growth driver in helping brands engage with its predominantly younger audience. More than 180 million of Snapchat’s 249 million users engage with AR every day for an average of 30 times.

Technology firm Zeekit has worked with retailers such as Adidas, Macy’s, and Modcloth to help shoppers get an idea of what an outfit will look like on them by uploading a full-body photo to mix and match garments.

“The crisis in the retail world has also created an opportunity to reinvent and revolutionize the way this industry operates,” Yael Vizel, co-founder of Zeekit, said earlier this year.

“Right now it’s all about personalization. We live in the era of the selfie generation and Zeekit is taking that to the next step, giving every brand and retailer the opportunity to extend their presence into the reality of their customers’ lives.”

According to Zeekit, early data has shown the service to help reduce return rates for its retailer partners by 36%.

AR has proven that it can add enormous value for consumers in the shopping journey given that physical retail must evolve. And for retailers, the revenue gains could be huge.