Augmented reality is allowing customers to see what clothing and accessories will look like on them through virtual dressing rooms.

The pandemic meant big gains for a lot of e-commerce companies as people began buying everything from groceries to work supplies online. But sales for clothing and accessories fell in 2020 since those working from home and limiting social gatherings didn’t need to freshen up their wardrobes like usual.

Now that life is returning to normal for many, clothing retailers are trying new ideas to get people to buy. And when it comes to buying online, customers want to be able to see what clothes will look like on them before they click to purchase.

Virtual try-on is something companies have been working on so that customers can use their phones to get an idea of what apparel or accessories might look like on them. The ability to use augmented reality to virtually try-on glasses, makeup and watches has been around for a while, but clothing has eluded many online sites. It’s much more difficult to create the nuances of fabric texture and movement on a digital body than to superimpose eyewear on a selfie. 

Not only can virtual try-on capabilities possibly persuade people to buy more clothing online, it could also cut down on the amount of returns.

How does virtual try-on features work with Snap?

During one of last year’s earnings calls with investors, Snap’s CEO and co-founder Evan Spiegel mentioned how virtual try-on features could help businesses save money. 

“We believe that helping people find the right size and improving the try-on experience could both increase conversion rates for purchases as well as reduce the rate of returns for online shopping.” Spiegel said.

And Snapchat is one of the platforms farthest along when it comes to giving customers the option of a virtual dressing room. 

Brands like Lululemon, Puma and Gucci are using the app’s camera features to allow users to take a full body selfie and then see what outfits will look like on them. It’s not perfect. At times, the results look more like the clothes are placed on top of the body instead of the body actually wearing them. But being able to see color, potential fit and proportion is helpful.

To use the feature, go to Snapchat’s Lens Explorer and then tap ‘Dress Up’ in the upper left-hand corner. You’ll see offerings from dozens of brands and influencers that allow you to virtually try-on clothing and accessories. The app asks you to step back so it can take three full body pictures of you (these will be saved for future use as well). Then, those digital photos of you will virtually try on the outfit you are considering. If you decide you want to buy, a handy ‘Shop Now’ button appears which takes you to the brand’s website.

How does Amazon’s virtual try-on feature work for shoes?

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Amazon has jumped in with its own version of virtual try-on for shoes. Only select brands are offering this feature, but shoppers can look for the button underneath products or type “virtual try on” in the search bar. Right now, you’ll see mostly sneaker-type offerings from Crocs, Adidas, Hey Dude and others. Once you tap the Virtual Try-On button, simply point your phone’s camera at your feet to see what those shoes would look like. You can view them from every angle and try different colors. Snap a pic and send it to friends for a second opinion. Amazon also offers some eyewear and T-shirts for virtual try-on. For now, this feature is only available for iOS with Android coming soon.

Walmart isn’t using augmented reality, but is giving customers lots of options when it comes to the people modeling the outfit they’re considering. Choose My Model allows shoppers to select from 50 models who range in height from 5’2” to 6’0” and sizes from XS to XXXL. The models also have different skin tones and body shapes so customers can choose one that looks closest to themselves. Select brands like Time and Tru and Hanes give online shoppers the option with more to come. For now, it looks like only women have the choice of editing their model and it’s not yet available on very many pieces.

Denise Incandela, Executive Vice President, Apparel and Private Brands for Walmart said in a press release that the vision is to provide “every person the chance to see themselves in any item of clothing found online.” Walmart will add more brands in the coming months.

The more realistically customers can see themselves in the apparel they find online before they buy, the more likely they’ll be happy with their purchase when it arrives. Fewer returns and more customer satisfaction is the name of the game and virtual try-on is helping businesses and customers win.

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