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Are Virtual Fitting Rooms Brilliant or Fool’s Gold?

Brett Regan

Virtual Fitting Rooms

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Every occasion requires an outfit. Logging on for work? Outfit. Going to the gym? Outfit. Braving the grocery store? Outfit. Date night? Outfit.

Nobody understood this concept more than Cher Horowitz from the 1995 cult-classic Clueless. In fact, she was ahead of her time.

Not only did she have an elite wardrobe, she also had state-of-the-art technology to help make sure it was the best choice for the occasion.

Fast forward nearly three decades and the computer closet that blew us all away has returned in the form of virtual fitting rooms.

Using augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and a bunch of other modern technology, such as 3D body scanners and mirrors, virtual fitting rooms allow online shoppers to try on clothes without touching the product. Customers can see the size and fit before making a purchase.

This is the new toast of fashion ecommerce, and, with a projected market size of $18.31 billion by 2030, virtual fitting rooms are just warming up.

The buzz about virtual fitting rooms

If you are an online shopper who loves options, or you need something to help you pick the right size or color, virtual fitting rooms could be a useful tool. To ecommerce stores, however, they mean so much more.

An enhanced customer experience.

Virtual fitting rooms look awesome. For many, having the ability to see how a new shirt or a pair of jeans would look on them before purchasing and without having to go to the physical store sounds like a dream come true.

It’s different, it’s new, it’s trendy — it’s exactly what the fashion and retail world is all about.

Some of the biggest brands in the world have adopted virtual fitting rooms for good reason. It helps customers find what they are looking for in a unique way. In the name of delivering a cool customer experience, this checks a lot of boxes.

Bigger sales potential.

More engagement brings more customer interaction, and more customer interaction brings bigger sales potential.

This is what ecommerce platforms see with virtual fitting rooms and what solutions are driving as their main selling points.

Higher average order value and increased conversion rates sound pretty good, especially during times of economic uncertainty. If 3D interaction is the way to unlock it for the retail industry, virtual fitting rooms look rather enticing. 

A reduction in returns.

One of the most common reasons for a customer to return clothing they bought online is that it was the wrong size.

Returns are not only frustrating for the customers due to inconvenience, however. They are also equally frustrating for retail business owners because returns can impact the bottom line.

Having a virtual fitting room can remove some of the uncertainty around sizing and, ultimately,  can reduce bracketing and potentially limit the number of returns. 

The cautionary tales of virtual fitting rooms

For as positive as virtual fitting rooms can be to businesses and consumers alike, there’s more to the story that might turn others away.

Next-level technology is expensive.

High-quality 3D body scanning technology sounds expensive, and it is. Online store owners cannot simply snap their fingers and a virtual fitting room automatically appears on their ecommerce site, either. It takes time to get it correct, and it comes with a hefty price tag.

The platform, the technology, the secure payment system, the marketing, everything associated with a top-notch virtual fitting room can range from more than $300,000 to more than $640,000, according to FinModelsLab.

Without the cash and infrastructure in place, it would be difficult to accomplish.

Customer concerns.

Some people really love chocolate ice cream. Others prefer different flavors. At the end of the day, we all have our reasons for liking or not liking something. A virtual fitting room is no different.

Companies should be mindful of all users who might interact with virtual fitting rooms.

“We shouldn't think consumers are all the same and will respond in the same way because they don’t. Our research shows virtual fitting rooms can hurt the self-esteem of certain customer segments,” Huifang Mao, an Iowa State University professor and Dean’s Fellow of Marketing, said. “We want to make sure technology can help companies make money without hurting customer welfare.”

For every individual who loves it, there might be another who doesn’t, and it’s always important to understand that before moving forward.

Additionally, there are privacy and trust concerns and even class-action lawsuits to keep in mind. Customer security is paramount to success.

The lack of physical touch.

Online shopping is growing — fast. The staying power is absolutely real, too. 

However, there is still something about physical touch that some shoppers crave and it’s impossible for any technology such as virtual fitting rooms to completely scratch that proverbial itch.

To some, that silk shirt doesn’t look as silky online as it feels in real life.

The final word

Virtual fitting rooms are changing the online shopping experience, but is it the right move to add them to your ecommerce store?

For smaller businesses, probably not right now. For mid-market and enterprise-level businesses with the money, infrastructure, and resources to keep it going, there’s certainly less risk.

This is only the beginning, and there are plenty of things to iron out as the technology gets more advanced, but virtual fitting rooms have staying power and no larger retailer wants to get left behind.

After all, we should all want to get on Cher’s level.