- Virtual try-on tech is taking the guesswork out of fit and offering more flexibility for customers.
- It may also be better for retailers’ bottom lines because it can decrease return rates.
- Virtual try-on tech comes in a few different forms using AI and AR.
- This story is part of “Revolutionizing Customer Experience With AI,” a series exploring the game-changing technologies driving customer interactions.
The way we shop is drastically changing, from buy-now, pay-later programs to livestream shows.
But as online sales have increased, so has the number of returns. Since it can be difficult to tell how something looks on you online, many customers have embraced “bracketing,” or buying the same product in multiple sizes or colors with the intention of returning whatever they don’t like.
Many stores have begun charging customers for returns to offset the costs. In 2022, Insider Intelligence reported that online returns cost the retail industry $280 billion. But what if there was a way to prevent so many returns in the first place?
That’s where virtual try-on technology comes in. Instead of relying on photos of models wearing the clothes, customers can see themselves in the clothes with virtual try-on tools.
“If you’re guessing how something might look or how it might hang on you from a picture of somebody totally different, then inevitably that’s going to lead to people being disappointed when they actually receive the item,” Alexander Berend, the CEO of the AI-imaging software company Anthropics Technology, said.
Virtual try-on is taking the guesswork out of fit for customers, and proving to be better for retailers’ bottom lines.
“Brands can expand the possibility of conversion and discoverability of their products and also reduce returns because customers would make more conscious decisions,” Natalia Modenova, a cofounder of the digital fashion retailer DressX, said.
How virtual try-on tech works
Virtual try-on tech comes in a few different forms using AI and augmented reality, or AR.
One way is an online-shopping model that allows customers to see themselves in clothing before they purchase it. Anthropics Technology has created an AI try-on tool called Zyler using this strategy.
While some tools require a full-body image of the customer, Berend said that Zyler requires only a few measurements and a picture of the customer’s face.
“We start from the clothes themselves and put the customer into the clothes,” he said, adding that this can be easier for customers to do since they can upload a selfie that they’ve already taken.
Then there is technology that could make in-store purchases easier. DressX is a digital fashion retailer that has been testing an AR mirror. Customers can stand in front of the screen and try on garments without having to physically change in and out of them.
“If you are not sure about what color of the dress you’re going to like better, you don’t have to take it on and take it off in a changing room,” Modenova said. “You can just swipe and see yourself on the screen and discover even more products from the brand than you would do if you would go in the traditional fitting room.”
Finally, there is technology that allows customers to purchase clothing that only exists online. Once a customer buys a digital-fashion piece on DressX, such as a dress or a jacket, the tech superimposes the piece onto a photo that the customer uploads. DressX uses AI and AR to ensure the clothing fits with a person’s body shape, pose, and — if it’s a video — movement.
“The time of purchase can be more interactive,” Daria Shapovalova, a cofounder of DressX, said. “It’ll provide more opportunity to understand if you really need this item or maybe you can wear this particular item just on your post on social media and then choose something that you will wear every day instead.”
Fewer returns, better for the environment
The selling point for virtual try-on tech is twofold. First, it can reduce returns by helping customers make more informed purchases.
“There’s a few different reasons why people return clothes,” Berend said. “People try it on and then they just don’t like how it looks on them, or it could be that it doesn’t fit, or it could be that you don’t like the feel of the clothes. Virtual try-on really goes to those first two in a big way.”
Brands such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis Fashion Rental, and Alfa Vega have used Zyler. “We’ve been seeing declines of about 10% in return rates from people using us,” Berend said.
Second, reducing returns is better for the environment because it saves on wasted inventory and shipping emissions.
In Europe, new legislation requiring fashion companies to cut down on waste could go into effect as soon as 2028, Reuters reported. “Fashion brands want to be aware of how else they can be more sustainable because there are certain guidelines for them now,” Shapovalova said.
While virtual try-on technology is readily available, retailers have been slow to adopt AI technology.
“The clothing industry tends to be fairly conservative,” Berend said. “We come from a tech background, which tends to be much more willing to shake things up and see what works.”
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