The latest trend in the Fashion Industry: Augmented Reality
11 min read
11 min read
by Aleksandra Stamatović
The world we live in is becoming increasingly digital. In 2021, buzzwords such as NFT and metaverse had gained so much traction that this shift to digital is driving somewhat a “gold rush” into developing and launching cutting-edge technology surrounding immersive experiences.
Let’s go over some types of immersive experiences before diving deeper into how they could be helpful to the Fashion Industry.
Virtual Reality, or VR, is a fully immersive digital experience that features computer-generated imagery and sounds. One can tap into VR waters using a head-mounted display, headset, and haptic controllers.
Augmented Reality, or AR, is a partially immersive digital experience as it works through a process of overlaying digital elements on top of the ones of the real world. The focus of AR is to blend the physical and digital world into a cohesive experience, supplementing your reality with additional strata of perception.
Mixed Reality, or MR, is an extension of AR because it allows real and virtual elements to interact in an environment. And it also allows the user to interact with virtual elements as they would in the real world. Mixed Reality is the newest among immersive tech, and its use cases aren’t as widely developed as in AR or VR, but it is deemed equally important.
There are many types and subtypes of immersive experiences. Still, the focus of today’s piece will be on the use of AR in the fashion industry and examination of how traditional brands are embracing this rather aggressive shift to digital compared to those born in the Web3 era.
The Fashion Industry wasn’t spared by the global crisis that struck the world over two years ago. Many brick-and-mortar retails found themselves grappling to survive with lockdowns and accessory health-crisis measures all over the globe.
The crisis did, however, speed up a shift to a digital retail experience already underway. For the ones who want to stay ahead of the competition, this represented an opportunity to increase their appetite for technology-driven experiences.
AR turned out to be the perfect fit for the Fashion Industry, seen as a tool that will help increase customer satisfaction, improve CX, drive sales and significantly diminish staggering return rates.
As it blends the physical and the digital world by CGI, fashion retailers can use AR to bridge the gap between the physical and digital retail experience, transforming one’s bedroom into a fitting room and offering a convenient solution to endless sizing struggles.
Louis Vuitton is an example of a traditional fashion label that has been experimenting a lot with AR. In recent years, LV launched several different AR products, teaming up with influential figures of the AR market, such as Dr. Helen Papagiannis and the like.
In October 2021, her work was featured as 1 of 200 visionaries in Louis Vuitton store windows globally. The artworks celebrate the innovative spirit & legacy of founder Monsieur Louis Vuitton and are on view in all 400 store windows worldwide. For this occasion, Dr. Helen has reimagined LV’s iconic trunk through MR experience, and the trunks will be part of Sotheby’s 2022 auction.
This is just one of many other digital projects Louis Vuitton is exploring. They also did a Travel Book collection that explores real and virtual voyages. The edition was published in 2019, and the pages would become animated and enriched with sound upon scanning with the Google Lens mobile app. That same year they collaborated with LoL and released AR Instagram filters that allowed users to try on branded accessories.
In more recent events, during NYFW 2022, Maisie Wilen presented their newest collection using 7-foot-tall holographic models. The virtual models performed in repetitive loops, featuring a blend of retro-futuristic clothes. The idea was to showcase a living GIF lookbook utilizing digital presentations and embracing the hybrid approach. In addition, the collection is available through their shoppable site, which also features AR versions of the models that allow fans of the brand to play with the digital assets in their own environments.
Another brand testing the AR waters was Burberry. They released an AR app in 2021, allowing the customers to play around with the customization of sculptures of Burberry’s pocket bags using their designer patterns, prints, and shapes from the “In Bloom” spring/summer 2021 collection and place them virtually within their home. The app was somewhat a continuation of their previous efforts of launching an AR shopping tool through Google Search technology, allowing consumers to see an AR version of the product at scale within the context of their environments. In addition, Burberry also launched an exclusive AR experience activated via QR codes that were available in their flagship store opening in Ginza, Tokyo, and a digital pop-up experience powered by Google Lens.
Retailers are widely adopting AR with the idea of producing virtual try-on technology. So whether you want to try out Gucci, Versace, Off White, or Massimo Dutti shoes, you can do that from the comfort of your home.
Chanel’s technology focuses on cosmetics rather than fashion elements. They developed a Lipscanner that relies on AI to take any image and match them to the perfect shade. Customers can test out the lipstick virtually using Chanel Try On feature and share pictures of their virtual makeovers.
Sephora ventured into something similar during the pandemic, given that customers were no longer available to try makeup samples in-store, allowing them to use Sephora’s Virtual Artist feature.
Virtual try-ons drove engagement, higher conversion and retention rates, and doubled the number of sessions in Q2 of 2021, according to reports from Erin Schmidt from Coresigh Research.
On top of the attention related to NFTs and Web3, with the newly uncovered KPIs, it makes all the sense for traditional brands to experiment and implement cutting-edge technology within their marketing, branding, and customer experiences.
Traditional established luxury household names aren’t the only ones trying to get ahead using immersive technology. Web3 fashion labels fully embrace it and rely on it for their core products.
A London-based fashion label, AUROBOROS, focuses on creating digital couture. They do so by allowing consumers to buy digital garments from their website and provide them with a clear photo which will enable the designers to customize their digital clothes precisely to fit the client’s shape.
Their debut was marked by launching the Biomimicry collection at LFW’s DiscoveryLAB and placing billboards and posters with QR codes that anyone could scan to unlock an AR try-on experience on Snapchat.
Another brand that has explored AR technology is RTFKT studios. They did it with digital sneakers and streetwear. They did it with digital sneakers and streetwear. As part of their marketing strategy, they sold NFTs of their digital pieces for $15,000. Elon Musk wearing their Cybersneaker at the 2018 Gala couldn’t hurt.
In December 2021, Nike announced acquiring RTFKT as a step towards embracing the metaverse and the ever-growing digital creative community.
Both newer Web3 brands and traditional fashion labels understand the importance and value of the development of technology. Still, immersive experiences are in their infancy period to an extent, there’s so much more the future holds when it comes to the integration of the two fields.
The majority of the experiences fashion labels are adopting right now are AR try-ons and very few have tried incorporating VR and MR in substantial ways. It is certain that interest, anticipation, and capital are likely to continue to center around immersive experiences, so will the fashion labels be more willing to adopt those and enrich their consumer experience in an attempt to get ahead of the competition.
According to McKinsey’s State of Fashion Technology Report from 2022, fashion companies invested between 1.6% and 1.8% of their revenues in technology. The figure is expected to almost double by 2030. Behind this forecast is a conviction among experts that the use of technology will create a competitive edge in both operations, and customer-facing activities. The expectations are that technologies such as in-store apps, robotics, advanced analytics, and immersive experiences will lead to exceptional customer experience.
Digital engagement rose significantly during the pandemic. People started spending more time online, creating new different shopping habits, and exploring virtual worlds. In the same report, it is shown that during 2021, people spent on average a bit less than 4 hours on their cellphones. Of the surveyed fashion customers who made the switch to online-shopping channels during the pandemic, 48% stated that the pandemic was the main reason for it. 27% of responders said that they did it for the sake of convenience, and 11% went with availability and promotions.
Although the first AR headset was first developed in 1968, this type of technology for many still feels like a piece of technology rooted in the distant future or a gimmick. What is important to understand is that AR today is what video content was just a few years ago. In the upcoming years, AR can in fact turn into a critical component of the eCommerce storefront, bringing in new customers and driving conversions.
Over 100 million consumers are already shopping with AR both online and in physical stores. In 2021 a survey conducted by Deloitte Digital and Snap Inc. surveyed 15,000 consumers worldwide. Although a huge chunk of respondents stated that they currently see AR as a “toy”, an astonishing 76% say that would like to use AR as a tool in their daily lives.
When it comes to the age groups being more comfortable with AR adoption, the numbers aren’t surprising given that Millenials and Gen Z make up the majority of all users.
According to Google’s 2019 AR Survey, 66% of people are interested in using AR for help when making purchasing decisions. Given how the pandemic has sped up the process, imagine if this same survey were conducted today – the numbers would almost certainly be much higher.
It’s difficult to get uninflated data on how AR will impact conversion rates, but according to Shopify, there are indications of it having strong potential. For instance, adding video lifts conversion rates 60% over buyers interacting with images alone. Merchants who add 3D content to their stores see a 94% conversion lift, on average. Ryan Smith, Product Lead at Shopify, says that these numbers alone are a great tell of buyers’ trust and behavior.
Fashion is one of those dynamic areas where nothing stays the same for long. The opportunities technology offers to this sector are continually evolving and as a result of the pandemic, the pace of this evolution is significantly higher. Decision-makers in the fashion world ought to consider ways to make use of cutting-edge technology, streamline operations and create value from sustainable innovation in the years to come.
AI, machine learning, blockchain, autonomous vehicles – the list of unprecedented technologies goes on and on. For Fashion and Retail, the most game-changing technology in 2022 and in years to come is AR – it is the means for industry leaders to engage their customers through an increasingly competitive shopping process. With it, retailers will be able to create a new way to increase customer satisfaction, and, in turn, higher sales.