July 25, 2021

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What are Virtual Fitting Rooms and Why Should Retailers Use Them?

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A virtual fitting room is a type of technology that allows shoppers to try on items virtually. 

Shoppers can virtually try on clothing items or beauty products without physically touching the item itself. The augmented reality (AR) or artificial intelligence (AI) technology places the item over live imaging of the customer, so they can check the size, style, and fit of a product they’re thinking of buying.

It’s predicted that the global virtual fitting room market will grow from $3 million in 2019 to $6.5 million by 2025. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 13.44%.

Interested in creating your own virtual fitting room? In this article, we’ll walk you through how virtual fitting room technology works (with examples), and the advantages for retailers.

Table of Contents

What is a virtual fitting room?

A virtual fitting room allows shoppers to try on items without touching them. It works by overlaying an item on a live video feed of a customer. The shopper can see the size, style, and fit of an item before they buy it. 

Also known as virtual dressing rooms, this type of technology has become more popular since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Clothing products saw a 43.5% decline in retail sales during the pandemic—the most dramatic decline of all sectors. Global lockdowns meant shoppers were unable to buy products in-store. Even when those retail locations opened up again, people were more hesitant to try on clothing items, worried it increased their risk of exposure to the virus. 

Virtual fitting rooms, however, reduce that risk dramatically. People don’t touch the items they’re virtually trying on but still get the chance to see what a product looks like on their own body shape. 

How virtual fitting room technology works

Most virtual fitting rooms work using augmented reality. In this case, a webcam scans a person’s body to create a 360-degree 3D model. 

Other virtual fitting rooms are powered by artificial intelligence. Similar to augmented reality, AI uses algorithms and machine learning to create full-body 3D models of the shopper standing in front of the camera. 

The 3D model created by AI or AR is combined with radio frequency identification (RFID). This is another technology that scans the products a shopper has taken to the virtual fitting room. 

Virtual reality technology overlays the scanned products on the 3D model of the shopper. That way, they can see what the item looks like on—without needing to physically try it on.

Various retailers are creating their own software to do this. Apple’s augmented reality platform, ARKit, can be used to create virtual fitting rooms for iOS applications. Amazon also reportedly patented its own “blended-reality” mirror, which works using augmented reality.

The benefits of virtual fitting rooms

There are multiple benefits a virtual fitting room can provide for retailers.

Support online sales 

Some 40% of shoppers would be willing to pay more for a product if they could experience it through augmented reality. Another 71% would shop at a retailer more often if it offered AR technology.

Retailers can take advantage of this and install virtual mirrors in their brick-and-mortar stores. There’s no need to dedicate valuable retail space to changing rooms. Instead, that space can be used to showcase stock and create visual merchandising displays

It’s estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to ecommerce by five years. Virtual fitting room technology is excellent for retailers trying to bring their brick-and-mortar business online.

Configure in-store virtual fitting rooms to ask for a customer’s email address or social media login when they start a new session. Or, add the items a shopper tried on to a customized online dashboard for them to purchase later. 

Either option creates an omnichannel shopping experience—which has been proven to nudge in-store shoppers to spend 4% more and online shoppers 10% more. 

Convenience 

Did you know that 97% of consumers have abandoned a shopping purchase because it wasn’t convenient enough? 

Choosing the correct clothing size from the hanger, walking over to a physical changing room, and swapping their clothing is inconvenient. Virtual fitting rooms, on the other hand, eliminate all of that. Shoppers can walk over to a virtual mirror and quickly see what the clothing looks like on them—no changing needed. 

Build connections with customers

Customer loyalty is a long-term goal for most retailers. We’ve all seen the statistics that prove it.

Increasing customer retention by just 5% boosts profits by 25% to 95%.

To build long-term relationships with customers, you need to first build a connection with them.

Virtual fitting rooms play a role in that process. Research shows that half of all women and men no longer feel safe trying on clothes in fitting rooms. If you’re allowing shoppers to try items on virtually in the comfort of their own home or in the middle of a safe retail store, you’re solving a huge problem for them.

If you needed any more convincing: 34% of shoppers think virtual fitting rooms make online shopping more fun. That’s a surefire way to get customers coming back

Reduce return rates

High return rates plague fashion brands. It’s an administrative headache and cuts into profits (especially if you’re offering free returns).

It’s estimated that 30% of ecommerce returns happen because the size is too small. Another 22% happen because the customer ordered the item in a size that’s too big. 

Offering a virtual fitting room helps solve that problem. Shoppers—regardless of whether they’re trying on in-store or online—get to see what the item looks like on their body…without needing to touch it. 

Yael Vizel, co-founder of Zeekit, a retail technology company, says Zeekit has seen a 36% reduction in return rates since using virtual fitting rooms.

The limitations of virtual fitting rooms

Customers still can’t physically touch items

If you’re using a virtual fitting room for your ecommerce store, there’s still a risk that people won’t buy the items they’re trying on. 

Some 82% of shoppers said they want to view and touch products before buying them online. While virtual fitting rooms help shoppers see what items will look like on their body, they’re unable to feel the fabric. 

Will people adopt this technology post-pandemic?

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic changed shopping habits. There’s a fear amongst retailers that any technology they implement now will be irrelevant post-pandemic, when shoppers return to in-store browsing. 

However, up to 65%%20of%20consumers%20plan%20to%20use%20touch-free%20retail%20services%20(like%20BOPIS and contactless payment) even when the pandemic is over.

Distrust of virtual items looking the same 

Ever bought something online that looks totally different to the item that arrived in the mail? 

While virtual fitting room technology is advanced, some shoppers still don’t feel confident in its ability to portray items how they’d look in real life. They fear that items overlaid on a human body may be altered—and won’t look the same when they’ve bought it and try it on for the first time.

The technology can seem complicated

Virtual reality technology only became popular within the retail industry over the past decade. Retailers like Adidas, ASOS, and Macy’s are employing virtual fitting rooms in their stores and ecommerce platforms. 

Because of this, there’s an idea that virtual fitting rooms would be an out-of-reach investment for smaller companies. Terri-Anne Turton, founder of The Tur-Shirt Company, explains: 

“I’d not considered a virtual fitting room because I saw it as something the big brands do—not small businesses. I’m a small company with a limited marketing budget, and thought AR technology was too big of an investment for me to make. 

I’ve quickly realized by being a unique, innovative small business that I absolutely should use a virtual fitting room, and that it is accessible to my brand. We shouldn’t assume something is out of reach just because the big brands are doing it.

Terri-Anne Turton, Founder, The Tur-Shirt Company

The easiest way to get started with AR retail is to use a premade application. There are several available through the Shopify App Store, including Hero, YouCam Makeup, and Jewelfie.

5 examples of virtual fitting rooms

Warby Parker

Warby Parker is a DTC retail company that sells eyeglasses exclusively through its website. In a bid to make shoppers feel more confident in their online purchase, it launched a virtual try-on feature through its iOS app. 

The feature uses Apple’s ARKit and TrueDepth technology to show glasses on a shopper’s face. They get a 3D model of the product to see whether it suits them before committing to buying it.

This will make it easier for returning customers to buy glasses without trying them on, but we’re really excited about it as a tool for people to narrow down their home try-on choices.

Knix

Before COIVD-19, Knix did most of its business through two showroom stores. 

The retailer prided itself on giving incredible customer experiences that helped customers find their perfect fit. However, lockdowns meant it had to move its business online. Knix created a virtual fitting room for ecommerce customers to get the same service as visitors to its physical stores. 

Now, Knix’s website hosts thousands of virtual fittings every month. The vast majority (97%) of available time slots to date have been booked.

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Source

Gucci 

Luxury retailer Gucci partnered with long-term AR pioneer Snapchat to create its first four AR shoes after shopping malls closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

It created a virtual lens that overlaid a digital version of the shoe onto a shopper’s foot. Tied with a Shop Now button that directed shoppers to its online store, Gucci reached 18.9 million Snapchat users and reported a positive ROAS from the AR campaign.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren also experimented with augmented reality. The retailer installed virtual mirrors in its in-store fitting rooms. 

Cameras inside the mirrors use RFID technology by Oak Labs to detect which items a shopper has brought into the fitting room. The technology combines this with product data—like available sizes, alternative colors, and product recommendations if the ones they’re virtually trying on aren’t quite right.

Ralph Lauren said its virtual mirrors have an engagement rate of 90%. It can also use data from the virtual fitting rooms to tweak its retail strategy. 

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Charlotte Tilbury

It’s not just fashion retailers that can use virtual fitting rooms to engage in-store shoppers.

Beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury installed a virtual mirror in its flagship London store. Shoppers could walk up to the mirror and see one of 10 famous makeup looks on their own face. They could take a photo of the makeup look and email themselves a list of products used to create it. 

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Charlotte Tilbury Westfield London Magic Mirror from Holition on Vimeo.

“All the looks are simulated using Holition’s highly advanced real-time tracking and realistic visualisation in combination with skin tone detection and a recommendation process for suggesting a best look. Each look takes into account the customer’s skin color and tones, thereby achieving a perfect natural blend.”

After using the virtual mirrors, Charlotte Tilbury found shoppers were more likely to purchase cosmetics in-store. 

Get started with your own virtual fitting room

The key to succeeding in modern-day retail is giving customers the shopping experiences they want. 

Long gone are the days of visiting a store, queuing for a fitting room, and changing clothes. People want convenience—something a virtual fitting room delivers, regardless of where the shopper is browsing. They’ll reduce return rates, build connections with shoppers, and support online sales.

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