As the world is changing, the fashion industry, the fourth sector of the global economy, must adapt. Currently, he is facing many challenges. Thousands of brands and retailers exist in a highly competitive environment, needing to improve their business processes, increase sales, attract new customers online and offline, and become environmentally responsible.
In search of solutions to these problems, the industry has started to turn to emerging technologies, such as AR and IoT. Over the past decade, many shoppers have migrated online. The popularity of online shopping has been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As for 2021, 49% of global consumers are buying more online now than they did before the pandemic.
E-commerce is a relatively new direction for the fashion industry. Online retail has its own issues, but it can also be a platform of tools, solving some of the most pressing problems for the fashion industry as a whole.
The digital tools used in e-commerce can provide new ways to communicate with consumers and persuade them to make purchases online. At the same time, there are e-commerce solutions that can reduce production costs and bring more sustainability to the fashion industry in the future in response to economic recession and environmental crisis.
AR is one of the most demanded emerging technologies as it has the power to help industry players solve a number of the mentioned problems. This technology is surely decisive for the future of fashion. This can make online shopping a more efficient sales channel. Five strengths prove it.
#1: AR increases profitability
One of the biggest opportunities e-commerce gets from AR is digital try-on technology. It allows consumers to virtually try on clothes (eg Snap, ZERO10, Clo-Z), shoes (eg Wanna Kiks, Kivisense, Vyking), accessories (eg Perfect, Hapticmedia, QReal) and beauty products (e.g. ModiFace, Virtool, Visage Technologies) almost the same as in the physical world.
This is important because it is crucial for people to understand if the product is right for them before buying it. In 2019, just before the pandemic, 55% of consumers said the ability to try on clothes was the key factor in their choice to shop in physical stores.
Consumer preferences are unlikely to have changed, but COVID-19 has forced people to shop online. So more and more consumers are used to shopping online but still want to try on the clothes. As a result, they buy clothes from e-commerce platforms and then, after trying on the clothes at home, often return at least some of the items.
The global economic recession is also prompting people to buy more thoughtfully, and for many it’s easier to back out of buying an item they’re not so sure about than to go through the returns process.
The AR trial lets consumers use their smartphone cameras to see what the digital version of the item they love will look like. The experience can be very realistic because there are already technologies that can track and segment the body and simulate different types of clothing.
It helps to make firm and more conscious decisions. When consumers have confidence in their choices, it motivates them to buy more. Thus, sales increase while returns decrease, and returns are resource-intensive for retailers because returns increase logistics costs and reduce the profitability of each declined product.
#2: Augmented reality makes shopping more sustainable
Sustainability is one of the biggest challenges in today’s fashion industry. Fashion is one of the biggest polluters on Earth right now. A terrifying 11.3 million tons of textiles are thrown away every year in the United States alone.
Clothing production is a major contributor to the environmental crisis as brands often produce more items than they can sell, especially when it comes to consumer fashion. At the same time, humanity is clearly buying too many clothes.
Many shoppers find it easier to throw excess items in a dumpster than to return them.
By promoting more thoughtful purchases, AR try-on technology helps reduce the number of disappointing purchase decisions, thereby decreasing apparel waste. Moreover, as it stimulates a decrease in yields, it also reduces the CO2 emissions of logistics.
In the future, AR fitting may even reduce the production of physical clothing. AR can be used not only to try on clothes that have already been made, but it can also help to try on concept pieces that don’t yet exist. Seeing and trying on conceptual clothing in physical form can bring certain fashions to life at the request of a consumer. Who knows what this practice could do to the fashion industry?
This means that there will be no overproduction of unrequested items, which could end up in waste.
Committing to sustainable development is a contribution to a better future for the world. It is also a way to improve brand loyalty. According to McKinsey, 63% of European consumers consider a brand’s promotion of sustainability to be an important purchasing factor.
#3: AR is the key to the metaverse
The metaverse is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to the future of society. In 2021, the number of internet searches for the word “metaverse” increased by 7,200%. Mass adoption of the metaverse is not happening right now, but it will still be important in the future. AR gives brands and retailers a chance to start exploring the possibilities of the metaverse and paves the way for the future of fashion.
The Metaverse offers two great selling opportunities for brands: to sell digital clothes for user avatars and to organize stores in the virtual space where people will buy physical clothes. The first option may sound crazy to some, but the prospects are actually impressive.
In 2021, internet users spent $60-70 billion on virtual goods in video games, so there are already a lot of people who are used to buying digital clothes, accessories and cosmetics. The second option will turn the typical e-commerce shopping process into an immersive experience. This will add fun to a usually purely mechanical procedure.
The Metaverse also offers a chance to improve marketing. It is a place where brands and retailers can communicate with their audience and showcase their products. The Metaverse will allow sellers to make more personalized offers to their customers and develop better loyalty programs.
Of course, one can expect the Metaverse to be very popular and have a large audience. But then a brand or a distributor will have to drive out those who decided to establish themselves there earlier. It’s common knowledge that being an early adopter is much easier than catching up.
#4: Augmented reality helps connect with Gen Z
Gen Z consumers are coming to power, and brands and retailers are grappling with the best ways to communicate with them. These young people have grown up with technology and e-commerce must speak to them in the same innovative language. They also strive to make financially and environmentally sound decisions and see shopping as an experience rather than just a transaction.
As Gen Z consumers tend to thoroughly evaluate fashion items before buying them, it is essential that e-commerce provides them with the most compelling data. The AR fitting is a tool that convinces them because it allows them to form a more informed opinion. Additionally, it offers new opportunities to engage with Gen Z online, including through social media and the metaverse.
Speaking of social media, young people view clothing as a means of self-expression and creativity. Posting on a social platform often requires an assertive look that will only be worn once and then returned or forgotten. It’s not environmentally friendly at all.
Generation Z cares about the environment and strives to reduce pollution. They can appreciate the benefits of digital clothing. Also, guided by the desire to protect the planet, they will like the production of physical clothing on demand.
#5: AR facilitates the discovery of new talents
Getting started as a fashion designer is not easy financially. New fashion designers often have to invest their own money to create their first articles and collections. They have to buy textiles, clothing accessories and other materials. To have an impressive presentation, they also need models and a show that requires a lot of resources.
AR is a more sustainable and financially savvy way for emerging creatives to showcase their collections to buyers, consumers, journalists and influencers. Additionally, augmented reality can make competitions for young fashion designers more inclusive and accessible, eliminating geographical and financial limitations. Such contests may even move to the metaverse.
As a result, the fashion industry will become more democratic and more resourceful fashion designers will have the opportunity to be part of the industry.
Selling clothes online is relatively inexpensive compared to running a physical store, but budding designers need to win over their audience. They need digital tools for that too. Consumers are generally suspicious of creators who are still unknown to them. A lot of effort needs to be invested in changing the mindset of consumers.
Predicting the future can seem like a meaningless task, as predictions cannot be 100% accurate. Plus, there are always black swans biding their time to show up and change the game. But as for augmented reality’s ability to improve e-commerce, that’s not even a prediction because it’s already happening.
The most forward-thinking brands and retailers are turning to experimentation with this technology. They see how it can solve their problems and give them new opportunities.
Featured Image Credit: Photomix Company; pexels; Thanks!