How Is Augmented Reality Transforming the Fashion Industry?

Exploring how Augmented Reality powered shopping is transforming the fashion business thanks to early adoption and plug-and-play for the masses.

Although I would not describe the fashion industry as early adopters of technology, it does seem that technological innovation has still managed to take hold of the $2.4 trillion industry. Promising to revolutionise the entire business of fashion, there is one technology that is on the rise in this space and that is Augmented Reality (AR).

Augmented Reality Powered Shopping

In the last few years, we have been witness to how the pull of AR has been remodelling the fashion industry’s business model, especially in retail. The brands who have invested so far, have introduced blending real-time surroundings with animated design to their business, a change that is giving their customers the opportunity to interact seamlessly with the brand, in a way that was not possible before.

Augmented Reality

So it looks like AR-powered shopping could be the way forward. According to Vertebrae, although only 20 per cent of American consumers have experienced AR-powered shopping, three-quarters of customers in the US prefer augmented reality experiences over video content for shopping, gaming and entertainment. Overwhelmingly, their research also revealed, that the majority of customers would prefer to use AR technologies to help them with purchasing decisions.

Although AR is the kind of technology that will give fashion brands and retailers the opportunity to tailor make experiences for their customers, adoption of the technology has been slow. I think this is more to do with what is currently available rather than lack of interest. The truth of the matter is that the technology is still trying to find its feet, and when it does become that little bit more user-friendly (and affordable), I foresee both online and offline adoption of AR experiences increasing rapidly.

Enter The Brave

So far, there have been a few fashion brands that have dipped their toe into the world of AR. The ‘early pioneers’ of AR include companies like GAP Inc. who entered the AR space with Dressing Room, a Google Tango-enabled device which enabled users to use the app to customise an avatar based on their body type. The technology also gave GAP customers the opportunity to see how different pieces of clothing looked on them at different angles before deciding whether to purchase the clothing, which they could do directly from the app. The experience allowed GAP to offer its customers a seamless shopping experience while boosting their revenue, a definite win, win.

DressingRoom by Gap Inc. Image Credit: WSJ

Then there was LVMH’s Sephora. They introduced Virtual Artist in partnership with ModiFace. The app, which was reportedly downloaded over 10 million times, gave their customers the opportunity to try on various makeup shades and combinations using their front-facing camera on their mobile. As one of the first AR apps to move outside of the clothing fashion space and into the beauty space, the app’s success was not only revolutionary, it also helped increase the company’s revenue.

Besides the big companies, there have been a few smaller companies, like Wanna Kicks and Tenth Street Hats, investing in AR. They used the AR technology so they can give their customers the opportunity to see how accessories would look before purchase. By investing in AR features, the companies conversion rates increased by one-third which emphasises the potential that AR solutions could bring to both small and larger businesses in the fashion industry.

Plug-and-Play for the Masses

Recently, NexTech AR Solutions Inc. launched a Try-It-On AR experience that could be key when it comes to Plug-and-Play for the Masses. Looking to solve a problem, they used their patent-pending web-enabled AR e-commerce platform that enables fashion brands to provide a realistic experience for their customers. In a nutshell, NexTech’s AR has been designed to help consumers, purchasing above the shoulder accessories like glasses, headwear and jewellery, see what the product looks like on them.

Currently targeting small businesses that don’t have the budget or know-how, NexTech CEO Evan Gappelberg said: “One of the most significant pain points that remains in online retail for a consumer is the inability to try something on before they buy it.” Adding, “This often leads to frustration, the ordering of incorrectly sized items, and unnecessary returns that are costly to the retailer. NexTech’s new Try-It-On AR technology eliminates the issue by enabling retailers to offer a virtual fitting room to their consumers.”

One of the advantages of NexTech’s AR is that it is a web-based solution that can be added with just a few lines of embedded code into an existing e-commerce website. Its simple nature means that brands do not have to worry about investing in expensive app-only solutions or developing in-house AR technology. Instead they can use NexTech’s AR for a low monthly subscription fee that gives them access to a business changing plug-and-play solution.

As more and more consumers demand a seamless shopping experience filled with technological experiences, could AR technology be the natural choice for the fashion industry? Well, with advances in the technology taking place at super speed, I do not think that we will have to wait very long to see.

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Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.