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The virtual dressing room trend: What retailers need to know

By Jordan Dooley

The global shift toward e-commerce has exploded in the past five years, and the multi-trillion dollar industry is only projected to expand. Yet for all the convenience of online shopping, some fun has been lost along the way.

Window shopping? Quaint. Picking things up just to put them down? Not anymore. Trying on that piece that fits the mannequin so perfectly to see how it will  fit your unique shape? Well, you can’t do that digitally.

Or, can you? Today’s shoppers are savvy and are getting more choosey. Retailers that manage to offer both convenience and experience are winning out on e-commerce business big time.

Enter the virtual dressing room.

Virtual Dressing Rooms Go Mainstream

Need new glasses? Upload a selfie and match frames to your face online instead of shlepping to a store. Just moved across town? Check out how couches will fit into your new space without ever leaving your living room.

This new way of shopping — using a virtual dressing room experience as opposed to the traditional brick and mortar equivalent — has gone from exceptional to commonplace as the trend becomes more popular with retailers and consumers alike. According to PwC’s 2018 Global Consumer Insights Survey, 60 percent of global citizens surveyed have experienced virtual reality while shopping.

Today more than ever before, individuals are asking for what they really want, and refusing to accept mediocrity in all aspects of life. You’ve heard about the plight of the millennial who wants to save the world, work flexible hours in a cool environment, and make six figures while doing it? Depending on your personal take, you might find that refreshing or frustrating. Either way, that same millennial wants to try on her lipstick before she pulls out her card, and retailers are hearing her loud and clear.

How Merchants Are Adopting the Virtual Dressing Room Trend

The advantages of a virtual dressing room extend to both retailers and their customers, and there’s lots of room to get creative.

With its Virtual Artist app, makeup giant Sephora lets customers try on products to their hearts’ content. Users can upload close-up facial shots so that they can virtually apply anything to their unique features, from eye shadow to bronzers and blush. The app ensures customers are sure and satisfied with their decision to drop $40 on concealer.

Making further use of these close-ups, the app allows shoppers to interact with the platform by watching tutorials on how to apply makeup products they might not know how to use. In this way, the beauty brand exposes customers to products they may have otherwise overlooked.

Other cosmetic companies, like Smashbox and Covergirl, have also invested in artificial reality platforms to enhance purchaser engagement. The goal is to get would-be-buyers across the finish line.

Traditional clothing retailers are following suit (no pun intended). If you’ve ever squeezed yourself into a traditional dressing room, you know they can be uncomfortable and time consuming. Whether you’re a big city shopper who tires of long lines or a rural fashionista who has to drive 30 minutes to the nearest mall, fitting rooms usually aren’t the highlight of your day. That’s why bridging the gap between a need to see how things fit and an aversion to seeing yourself bare in gas station-like lighting is starting to take off.

Gap has entered the virtual fitting room scene with an app called Dressing Room for trying on clothes before making a purchase. Users can access the app with any Google-Tango device. Customers have the ability to move their self-made avatar around so they can check themselves out from all angles in their new outfit.

Gap isn’t alone in the clothing space — several sites exist just to serve as virtual 3D fitting rooms. In these online “rooms”, window shoppers can enter their height and weight (as well as hair and eye color if the AI allows) to see how clothing will fit their exact body type.

It all comes down to customer experience — buyers want to be in control when it comes to spending their hard earned dollars.  

Taking the Dressing Room Home

Marketers have the task of making shopping experiences more seamless, and they have become experts at creating environments that make it as easy as possible to buy.

Virtual dressing rooms are a revolutionary first step. Adding the option for deferred payments takes the experience even further. Sure, virtual dressing rooms help shoppers visualize what they’re buying, but the experience still lacks that physical, visceral touch.

With the rise of payment solutions like Klarna’s Pay Later, e-commerce merchants can offer shoppers more payment options, including the ability to pay after they make a purchase. With Pay Later, shoppers can have their order delivered, test it out, and then pay for what they want to keep. That pair of jeans that looked so good in the virtual fitting room  aren’t so flattering in the stark light of reality? Send them back! You don’t need that kind of negativity.

In an e-comm environment driven by innovation and infinite options, customers are finally king (and queen) and it’s okay to act like it. Virtual dressing rooms paired with the ability to try before you buy are the latest way for retailers to bring the ultimate in customer experiences.

Interested in giving your customers what they want? We’re always ready to chat.