The Potential of AR and VR for Retail Businesses

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By Rae Steinbach, Y Media Labs freelance editor

Advancements in technology have offered fashion retailers the opportunity to set their brand apart from the competition throughout the years. Technologies like augmented reality and virtual reality are the most recent software developments that have already started to show up at fashion shows. Some brands are even experimenting with ways that AR and VR can be used to improve the customer experience, whether that’s through native app design or in-store technological advancements. 

Currently, most of the uses for AR and VR in fashion seem to be more gimmick than practical application, but it does show some of the potential for this technology. If the role of AR and VR can mature in the industry, brands could use it  to remove barriers to purchase, reduce the rate of returns, and be leveraged to upsell and cross-sell products.

The Virtual Dressing Room

GAP

Gap is one retailer that has taken an interesting approach to the use of augmented reality in fashion. With their DressingRoom app, shoppers can select from five different body types and then they can see what clothing items look like on that body type. It shows a 3D model in the environment that the user is in, and the user can also take a 360 view of what the item looks like on the model.

This concept can be helpful to consumers, but it does have some limitations. Consumers have more than five different body types, and it does not solve the problem of getting the exact fit for the individual. It can work to provide an idea of what the item will look like, but it does not answer all of the questions that a consumer may have.

With development in time, ideas like the virtual dressing room could become more precise and more practical. Retailers could also integrate features for upselling and cross-selling items. When a customer tries a new dress, for example, the app could recommend items like purses and shoes that go with it. The customer could then see how the items look together by swiping the screen. The AR experience could also suggest items based on popularity, or based products user’s purchasing history.

Reducing Returns and Theft

This technology could help retailers to solve other problems. By taking consumers out of the physical changing room and making the experience virtual, it could work to relieve problems associated with theft and costly return policies.

In-store theft is a serious problem for many retailers. If more customers opt to try items on in a virtual dressing room, it reduces the potential for dressing room theft. Instead of trying the item on in person at a store dressing room, the customer is trying a virtual representation of the item. If the technology advances and becomes more universally adopted, it could cut down on theft and the potential for items getting damaged or lost.

Returns are another costly problem for many online retailers. People get the item, but then they find out that they do not like the way it looks or fits. If you could develop an app that would provide an accurate representation of the items look and fit for the individual, this problem could be reduced. With a better idea of the items real-world look and the fit, more customers are likely to be satisfied with the items they order. This will reduce return costs and re-orders for the retailer, while increasing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty on the consumer end.

We are going to see more fashion retailers using AR and VR in the future. These technologies are going to enhance the shopping experience for customers, and can be used to solve problems that have existed in the industry for years.

About Y Media Labs: Y Media Labs is a full-service digital agency on a mission to help its clients see what they cannot see themselves, and create incredible digital user experiences.

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