Here, ITC, a global IT services and solutions company, share their fifth guest blog with us. Written by Preethi L and Priyanka Sarkar (Process Consultants for Retail and Soft Goods at ITC Infotech), this blog explores what is know as the ‘Virtual Dressing Room.’
“Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”
asked the Wicked Queen and the mirror answered,
“Famed is thy beauty, Majesty.”
You will recognize the famous quote from Snow White’s story. Have you ever wondered if such mirrors could be real? Behold, the day has arrived! Augmented Reality is enhancing the physical world with a virtual world, and the magic mirror has now become tangible.
And this wizardry mirror is known as the Virtual Dressing Room. It is the virtual equivalent to an ‘In-Store’ Trial Room. It allows customers to try on different clothes virtually on a mirror, share them on Social Media and get opinions (just like the Wicked Queen could).
Customer Engagement and Satisfaction is the key to gain competitive edge, and brick and mortar retailers are exploring the possibilities to improvise the “In-Store Convenience” quotient for their customers. It is a recognized fact that customers loathe long queues outside trial rooms and the hassle of trying numerous items. To provide a premium Customer Experience, retailers like John Lewis, Topshop, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Burberry, Neiman Marcus, Jealous21, Being Human, and Lakme have already implemented the Virtual Dressing Room technology.
On the other side, it is a challenge for Online Retailers to offer a “Store-Like” shopping experience to their customers. Most e-Commerce retailers offer a convenient buying experience, but they have not been able to engage the customers. Virtual Dressing Room technology helps recreate the experience of trying the outfits and asking peers for their suggestions. It has been implemented by retailers with online stores like Nordstrom, QVC, H&M, Warehouse, Pretty Green, Tesco, Levi Strauss, Kohl’s, Landsend, Maxim, Lenskart, Zovi, Myntra, Flipkart, Fashionara, Yepme, Mom & Me. They also engage customers by giving them the option to share pictures and looks on social networks.
Virtual Dressing Rooms make it easier for the customers to virtually try on as many outfits as possible and in various sizes before making the buying decision. It also saves the store employees the pain of re-folding numerous garments and arranging them back on shelves. This has helped retailers reduce customer returns due to fitting or appearance issues and reduced the associated costs. Also, in such a setting the conversion rates are found to be higher than normal. By giving an opportunity for matching and accessorizing the clothes, Virtual Dressing Rooms have potential for up-selling products to customers.
How does Virtual Dressing Room (VDR) work?
VDR is a sensor enabled technology which scans contours of the body and displays how a selected clothing and accessory would look on a particular person when worn. In physical stores, this is achieved by combining the technology of Motion Capture and Augmented Reality. A catalogue with product details like description, price, sizes, colors and images is uploaded into the Virtual Dressing Room Database. Motion Capture technology scans the silhouettes of the body and allows the user to scroll through the catalogue with simple hand gestures or voice commands to select products. Augmented Reality super-imposes the selected 3D image of the product with the live video feed of the customer’s silhouette and displays how the chosen style looks on them. The super-imposed model or picture of the product will then track the movements of the customer so it appears as if the customer is wearing the virtual item in the video-view.
For e-Commerce, the VDR system is equipped with body sizes to construct virtual fitting through uploaded photos or live images streamed by the customer. Customers can click their pictures using a web/phone camera or use an interactive web-cam application and then click on the product they want to try.
Social Media Integration and Analytics have enhanced the capability of VDR technology. Besides enhancing shopping experience, retailers can also use Social Media integration as a marketing tool by engaging with customers. Analytics enabled by Virtual Dressing Room empowers the retailer with firsthand knowledge on Consumer Behavior, enables Personalized Marketing and also aids to forecast the Size Mix more accurately. Analytics can report how long a shopper spends on a product and SKU, and can support VDR to act as a personal stylist to recommended colors and styles to customers.
In a fast moving fashion cycle, there is huge data handled in the VDR system. Updating the catalogue details is tedious and a major challenge. Errors of missing data, data duplication and incorrect data prove very costly. Many of these retailers have ready-data in PLM and it will be very convenient if this data can flow into the VDR system, reducing the time and effort to manage the Product Data.
Can the Product-Data Management of the VDR system be made effortless?
Most of the relevant data required for virtual mirror catalogues sits in the PLM database. This data can be pulled into VDR system through integration without repetitive manual data entry. PLM consists of a centralized product repository to share and control all forms of product development information throughout the value chain. PLM Library Modules like Color, Material, Measurement and Construction of PLM can be specifically useful for VDR which address “Made to Measure” markets. The following figure lists an example of attributes which will link the PLM to the VDR system.
With PLM being widely adopted as an enterprise solution, taking a progressive approach by integrating it with front end systems like Virtual Dressing Rooms will enable the retailers with advantages of PLM.
Style Performance Analytics
Customers buy a style for one or many of the attributes in the design – color, fabric, fit, trims, and embellishments. SPA enables leveraging this by breaking down the style into its individual design attributes and ranks them according to sales value. Visual dashboards assist designers and merchandisers to collate and understand design attributes of the top or bottom moving styles and aid them in decision-making. A region wise view of customer preferences can be mapped for firming up the category allocations. The new design collections that come to the market are essentially a mix and match of these best-selling attributes combined with fresh designs. This results in more favorable options for the customers and enhances their loyalty to the brand.
So, the next time you visit your favorite store don’t be surprised if the mirror tells you how you are looking…