Brands are using AR technology to create distinct and engaging customer shopping experiences
In-store shopping. Online shopping. Virtual shopping. This may seem like the natural progression of the customer journey in industries across the board - except in fashion.
Brick-and-mortar stores came first. Their goal - to help buyers arrive at purchase decisions confidently. The ability to try clothes on for size, timely assistance, and excellent customer service are the features of a good in-store experience, ensuring customers return time after time.
Online stores arrived later. The prime motivation - to offer convenience that in-person shopping often fails to provide. Buyers embraced the online experience, for reasons of convenience including lower waiting times and quicker checkouts.
In most sectors, customers choose one experience over another. But in fashion, buyers want businesses to integrate the tactility of an in-person shopping experience with the agility of an online one. And this is a feat companies can achieve by incorporating augmented reality (AR) technology into their customer journeys.
One area brands are looking to impact with AR technology is product returns.
The National Retail Federation estimates that $428 million of merchandise was returned to sellers in 2020.
Garments form a large portion of these returns, given online shoppers buy different sizes of clothes online in order to try on at home, often indulge in impulse buying, and tend to shop in bulk because they are not confident in their buying decisions.
Brands are now using AR to allow buyers to ‘trial’ garments virtually. Buyers shopping for garments online can now check how products look on them through AR tech. They can instantly see if a product fits their body type and personal style preferences, even checking how product designs will appear when stretched. With AR fashion technology, they can also view a product in different colors, at different angles, and even explore design variations of a particular product before buying.
In recent AR trials, 80% of customers surveyed agree that the technology increased buyer confidence, and helped them make quicker and more informed purchase decisions. This in turn reduces the return costs as well.
Some companies are going further and implementing AR trial rooms in their stores. This, they believe, makes shopping more convenient for consumers, reducing the time shoppers spend changing clothes.
Besides making garment trials convenient, AR fashion technology is also helpful in generating novel and immersive consumer experiences, and improving brand awareness.
Consider the case of Bloomingdales. The company has already incorporated AR gamification in its online shopping experience to improve engagement and boost customer interest. Being one of the few brands with virtual stores, the brand has also generated interest in its products and differentiated itself from its competitors.
Lastly, businesses that invest in AR fashion technology understand what makes their customers tick. Many are already partnering with companies like Enhance to create 3D simulations of their products for customers to interact with. Talking advantage of new interaction data, they are better understanding customer intent.
As more companies realize AR fashion technology's benefits, they will line up to include it in their buyer journeys. Meanwhile, they can see how their peers are using the tech in order to better understand how the technology can better fit into their own customer journeys.
In 2022, Burberry launched an AR functionality to promote its new signature bag. Potential buyers can zoom in on the bag in order to understand the craftsmanship, and even ‘open’ the bag and peer into it to explore the inside. Additionally, customers can view the scale of the bag, its color variants and more, in order to make an informed purchase decision.
This isn’t the first time that the British fashion house has introduced an AR-based campaign. Back in 2020, the brand partnered with Google to enhance its shopping experience with mobile web search. When shoppers used google to search for its products, they could observe a 3D projection of the product on a real background.
Since Burberry integrated its 3D product projections onto Google Search, it created an engaging experience which attracted potential buyers towards the brand’s official website.
Asos is another brand that is using AR fashion technology innovatively. In 2020, it used technology to replace in-person fashion shoots. The brand managed to map its products onto 3D models, but still kept the presentation of the product realistic. Perhaps more importantly, Asos’ customer experience stood out from its competitors, increasing brand awareness.
More recently, Lacoste developed an AR campaign for its new streetwear brand ‘LCST’. Users could scan trigger images of products, try on products virtually through the app, and even take and share images on social platforms. Being one of the first global 3D and AR campaigns of its kind, Lacoste managed to engage over 30,000 new users, generate recognition and drive sales.
Going by Facebook’s IQ survey, 75% of business leaders already anticipate using AR technology by 2023. Brands, especially in the fashion sector, that want to stay relevant must adopt AR technology in order to upgrade their buyer journeys to surpass those of the competition.