We’ve been told the way we shop at our favorite stores is on the cusp of major and innovative change for years. Now we’re seeing retailers incorporate interactive technology to give the traditional shopping experience a digital makeover.
Cross-posted from Mashable
Activations from digital signage to iPads to interactive displays to augmented reality encourage shoppers to browse broader collections and try inventories on — without having to visit the dressing room.
“The conversation with retail partners for the past few years was about how they can encourage customers to share out their experiences in store, be it a photo of an outfit they tried on, or a great service experience,” said Sam Ewen, CEO of The SuperTouch Group, an experiential marketing technology company helping retailers create unique in-store experiences.
Those concepts we heard about years back are finally becoming reality.
Augmented reality is expensive, but it’s coming
We started hearing about augmented reality and virtual dressing rooms as early as 2005, Ewen says. “It’s only now that technology, specifically Kinect, is getting closer to catching up and concept videos you may have seen are becoming more realistic. But we’re still not there yet.”
But technology needs a bit more time to match consumer expectations.
“Virtual reality and augmented reality shopping still isn’t to a point where you experience the same sensuality of trying on clothes and seeing how they complement the contours of your body,” says Jeremy Bergstein of The Science Project.
“Shoppers don’t want their dressing room experiences ‘disrupted’ by technology. They want their time to be enhanced.”
Shoppers don’t want their dressing room experiences ‘disrupted’ by technology. They want their time to be enhanced.
Despite the explosive growth of online shopping, as epitomized by Warby Parker, buying clothes is still wedded to in-person shopping, a reflection of the consumer’s hesitation to digitize such an incredibly personal process. According to a 2013 study by Alert Technologies, brick-and-mortar retailers that get shoppers into their dressing rooms will convert 67% of them to buyers.
Matt Szymczyk and his team at Zugara are working to increase sales conversions by making enhancements with their virtual dressing room, but still require consumers engage with in-store textile. In its pilot, the Virtual Style Sense (VSS) technology increases inventory and choice for consumers, without taking up additional retail space.
Zugara announced last week at London’s Retail Business and Technology Expo that VSS allows consumers wearing a retail garment to cycle through additional colors and styles available in the retailer’s portfolio, without having to change clothes.
“The problem with the virtual dressing room and in-store augmented reality experiences is asset creation,” Szymczyk says. “Every piece of inventory would have to be textured and 3D-rendered and then engineered to interact and fit on vastly different body types in a real-time experience. That would assume $2,000 to $3,000 per inventory item, and once you start thinking about that as a cost each season, you’re talking big numbers for retailers right now. VSS provides a unique in-between phase for brick-and-mortar businesses.”
Szymczyk says his team has received a huge response from retailers, and has plans for activations in the U.S. in the next few weeks. “Take a T-shirt as an example. You can now try on just one shirt and see how you look in the striped version or green or hot pink without having to change.”
Linda Smith, CEO and founder of FaceCake, spoke with Mashable previously about the Clueless Closet becoming a reality. She says while virtual dressing rooms still have technology limitations, there are undeniable opportunities for retailers.
The bigger win is social media integration
FaceCake allows customers to try on accessories, eyewear and even makeup through AR and an interactive mirrored screen, while a gesture-enabled user interface allows for intuitive sorting through retailer inventory. “What’s really a huge opportunity for virtual dressing rooms is really the ability to capture and share in real-time with your friends,” Smith said.
FaceCake’s technology also allows consumers to compare two different looks side-by-side, but now you can both see and share two entirely different looks side-by-side in real-time and share those two looks with friends. “When given a choice between two necklaces or two dresses, there’s always a standout choice,” Smith says. “What Kinect and AR can do for us right now is allow retailers to showcase more inventory, and allow consumers to make more educated choices.”
So while this concept video from Kinect for Windows may not be realistic just yet, we’re told they’re working actively with brands and agencies leveraging the API to push AR further and generate more sales.
Looks like we just may have to keep changing ourselves and wait a few more years for the full augmented dressing room experience.