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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Are We Ready For Virtual Dressing Rooms?

This is yet another technology which I am seeing more and more, but I am still not clear on the appetite of the consumer to use. The concept is for you to input (manually or automatic) your detailed body measurements into one of these systems and you can then see how you will look virtually when a certain garment, style and size is mapped to your body. Wikipedia states, a fit technology may be categorized according to the problem that it resolves (size, fit or styling) or according to the technological approach. There are many different types of technological approaches, of which the most established and credible are:
- Size recommendation services
- Body scanners
- 3D solutions
- 3D customer's model
- Fitting room with real 3D simulation
- Dress-up mannequins/mix-and-match
- Photo-accurate virtual fitting room
- Augmented reality
- Real models

Wow! As you can see there are all sorts of approaches being presented to retailers as an answer to shopping online or even for in-store customer experience? Here are a few solutions you might want to check out, Fits.me, Facecake“Swivel”, TryLive and  Styku. I find this all pretty neat except what results does it drive? Based on non-verified market data, results are pretty awesome! Conversion rates by overcoming customer hesitation show an increase of 57% with reduction in garment return rates of 35%. – InternetRetailer This is huge increases in revenue and cut in costs. The reduction in returns must be more than worth the investment alone! Wait, what does it cost? “On average, data compiled from about 50 clients of retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon show that online consumers return 20% to 30% of orders of apparel and other soft goods.” -Internet Retailer

So is everyone out there jumping on the bandwagon? Is it too early to decide which technology and solution is best? How hard is it to implement and more importantly manage? Will online companies like Amazon just now getting into apparel “wipe the floor” with brick and mortar apparel retailers? Is there a play for this technology as part of the customer experience helping in fact to drive consumers to stores to try on clothing in front of these new “magic mirrors” like Bloomingdales is doing?

I have a question that puzzles me? I remember an old statement when we planned for MIS internal budgets back at IBM, “first we will measure with a micrometer and then we slice with an ax after we see what choices we are given from above” we would joke. What does this mean? Well we can enter in all of these measurements  and with tools like Microsoft’s Kinect and get it down to a micrometer, but you still only have a few buying choices like small, medium and large? Companies like Levi’s who make as many sizes and styles that you can think of might do well with this technology but for the most part it is the manufacturer of the garment that is the problem. Size medium in one style or manufacturer is different than the other. So each garment has to be cataloged and then precisely mapped to an individual's style and measurements by some algorithm.  This is where the “secret sauce” resides! If I could have garments made on demand like some men and women suits are done with a tailor, but augmented with this virtual world that would be something!


Bottom line is this is going to happen and apparel retailers you need to start figuring out which of these technologies and solutions you will use. 

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