A NEW ERA
The world of fashion has always been rapidly evolving. However, the emergence of Augmented Reality (AR) is an unprecedented feat. AR has made such a huge impact that has revolutionized how fashion brands operate. Consequently, brands can now display and market items in their catalogue in a much-improved way.
Before now, numerous problems were associated with buying fashion products from physical stores; likewise, via an e-commerce website, but all of these have changed. Augmented Reality enhances customers' shopping experience like never before and promotes brand loyalty.
While a more significant percentage of customers do not fully understand how Augmented Reality works, studies have shown that most people are willing to ride on this new wave.
Technology has driven businesses to new heights, and advancements, such as Augmented Reality and 3D visualization, have made things more creative in the fashion industry.
Customers no longer need to worry about their clothes fitting when buying online because just as you would try out an outfit in a brick-and-mortar store, AR allows you to find your perfect fit online. Let us take a more in-depth look into this groundbreaking success in fashion.
What is Augmented Reality?
In general terms, Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience in a real-life environment where real-world objects are enhanced using perceptual information gotten from computers. These perceptions may be visual, auditory, olfactory, somatosensory, or a combination of them all. In the fashion world, Augmented Reality is mostly visual.
Real-time information use via graphics and other virtual enhancement elements makes us appreciate the features of such items better. The technology picks up existing environments and integrates new data into them.
For instance, a customer who wants to try out some new clothes online can put up their measurements in a model and apply the particular clothing on the model.
This gives a near-accurate picture of what to expect when you finally wear the outfit yourself. Unlike virtual reality, AR does not shut out the physical world completely. Instead, it alters or modifies mostly in an exaggerated way.
History of AR
Augmented Reality has a rich history filled with different milestones and popular figures. Starting as an idea in L. Frank Baum's 'people' in 1901 took another 56 years before Morton Heilig, a cinematographer, could patent a visual, sound, vibration, and smell simulator.
Since then, the evolution of AR was rapid, and there have been several defining moments along the line. Below are some recent highlights in the history of AR:
- 1968: Ivan Sutherland crafted a prototype head-mounted display.
- 1990: The terminology, Augmented a Boeing researcher, Tom Caudell officially coined reality.
- 1998: NASA's X-38 spacecraft used AR for navigation.
- 2000: The first AR game was introduced, and over the next few years, smartphones featured AR apps.
- 2008: AR was first used in commercials by BMW.
- 2012: Blippar launched a novel cloud-based AR app.
- 2015: Microsoft announced its first HoloLens AR headset alongside its Hologram.
- 2016: Nintendo and Niantic launched the popular Pokemon Go.
Despite its recent history, AR is still generally considered a relatively new advancement in technology. Hence, the need to familiarize ourselves with its history. More so, AR's history gives us insights into the future with fashion.
How AR works
AR can be enjoyed in a broad range of experiences. However, there are there main groups for AR tools:
- 3D viewers: Viewers work by allowing customers to place life-size models (3D) in your environment, with trackers being optional.
- AR browsers: Optimize your camera display using contextual information.
- Gamers: Immersive experiences make some of the best games, as seen in Pokémon Go.
AR browsers and viewers are the relevant AR tools in the e-commerce world. All screens and connected devices can use Augmented Reality. As a result, there are hundreds of AR apps on iPhone and Android. Examples of connected devices are TV players, glasses, lenses, and other head-mounted displays.
There are five main types of AR; projection-based, recognition-based, location-based, superimposition-based, and outlining. Each of these AR types works independently. They can also work together with each other to create a fully immersive experience for the customer.
How is AR used?
Augmented Reality has several applications across all major industries. In the retail/e-commerce world, online shoppers use AR in the following ways:
- Comparing prices: Online shoppers can now compare prices more easily with AR on their smartphones or computers.
- Customizing avatars: You can personalize an avatar based on your body types to help you test clothes before ordering them online.
- Testing outfits: You can test your favourite outfit from different angles with AR. Furthermore, online shoppers can try out several combinations, colours, features, and accessories for an enhanced shopping experience.
- AR runway experiences: Runway shows are always expensive to produce. AR helps firms to reduce their carbon footprints in shows and help people adjust to the new post-COVID normal.
More so, companies can now recreate their events at different exotic locations at the same time. The London Fashion Week 2020 showed us a glimpse of what to expect from AR runway experiences.
Already worth several billion dollars in the tech economy today, AR has the potential to add much more value to the retail industry. Online stores can use AR to attract tech-savvy visitors and increase their customer base.
In addition, the idea of a smooth shopping experience generates more leads, sales, and ultimately revenue. In other words, both customers and online stores can use AR to their advantage.
Asides from try-on shopping, AR helps people to add fun filters on their Instagram stories. In essence, AR lenses, mirrors, and embedded experiences make shopping for customers much more exciting.
Features of Augmented Reality
It has often been said that imagination is your only limiting factor in AR. Features that enable virtual try-on, 3D animations, and graphics, have become the order of the day.
Brands now tap into the online shopping trend with user-friendly apps on smartphones and computers. Below is a list of recent AR features that could reshape customer shopping habits and the entire e-commerce industry in the years to come:
- Virtual catwalk: Asos, a British online fashion retailer, launched this feature. It offers customers better ways to view real-life products online.
- Lipstick try-on: Parisian cosmetic giant L'Oreal' has provided its AR tech to Amazon to help customers test lipstick using photos and videos on their mobile phones.
- AR shoes: Puma launched its first AR shoe, the LQD Cell Origin Air. 2D QR codes entirely cover the sneakers and give way to a vast array of experiences on phone cameras. This includes filters, fun effects, and games. Wanna Kicks app tracks your foot and puts shoes on them to see how it fits.
- Sunglasses try-on: Thanks to Dior, a French luxury brand, customers can now try sunglasses with their smartphones. The same brand produced one of the first 3D Instagram features with a lens that put stylized sequins all over one's face.
- Interactive fragrance displays: Macy's beauty department helps shoppers to discover their favourite products.
- Virtual fitting room app: Amazon developed this app to help online shoppers test items before buying.
- Livestreams: Balmain launched an app to allow people to enjoy live streams of runaway shows in AR.
- Fun filters: Fashion is all about making people feel good. Instagram and Facebook filters are a popular feature that many users love.
- Smart mirrors: Smart mirrors make products more accessible and help users be sure of what to buy.
Augmented reality features are almost in all smartphones and modern technologies. Apple's ARKit helps independent developers create iPhone-enabled AR apps; likewise, Google's Tango mobile, ARCore, and Facebook's AR studio.
In summary, AR features include 3D views of outfits, accessories, fashion events, and online stores in real-time, including animation, colours, and textures. Customers can see property locations on maps and call the e-commerce retailer directly. AR features follow three major trends, which include:
- Try-ons: Customers try products on screen. 3D models take product transparency to a whole new level.
- Enhanced in-store experience: Brands add A to drive traffic and encourage people to visit their physical stores.
- Increased engagement and interactions: Brands create outstanding awareness campaigns that include specific edge-cases revealing their identity.
Although there have been many AR implementations in native apps and wearables, it is safe to say that AR will eventually have numerous features integrated into the daily web experience for e-commerce.
For instance, Google's WebXR has introduced several new methods that show us what a fully immersive experience in the world of fashion looks like. The above features are only a few examples of how top fashion brands have leveraged Augmented Reality in their bid to stand out from among other brands.
Benefits of Augmented Reality
While AR technology is by no means a finished product, and it is still on the path to being user-friendly and affordable, AR has several advantages to consider:
- It improves decision making for online shoppers. Thus, customers can buy products with more confidence because they would have been double-duty about the price, size and fitting, and any other features. In summary, AR brings items closer to the customer.
- Layered data helps customers to know more about a product before buying. For instance, visual experiences in packaging and item use enhance customer experience by making shopping more convenient.
- It prevents unnecessary returns that might prove to be costly for both the retailer and the customer. Unsatisfied customers return millions of dollars worth of clothing every year. However, AR prevents this through try-on features.
- AR benefits the fashion industry through AR marketing campaigns that are targeted. It also helps to create special promotions and collections on devices within a local range.
- For e-commerce stores with physical locations, AR helps with in-store displays. Customers only need to hold their mobile devices in front of their preferred shop window to see models wearing the pieces.
- It provides insights into customer behaviour. Trends and patterns in the fashion industry can be studied with AR. For instance, smart mirrors can inform the brand on how to make better business intelligence decisions depending on whether customers are buying a particular item or not. Packages that have alternative outfits entice customers to repeat their purchases.
E-commerce stores have increased exponentially in recent years, and we have seen an unprecedented increase in online sales. More so, the massive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted attention away from physical stores to online clothing retailers.
Hence, AR is no longer just an option but a necessity. We might be gradually entering into the last days of video content for shopping.
Augmented Reality improves customer interaction with online stores. It also guarantees a seamless online shopping experience, which means more revenue for fashion brands and e-commerce stores and better customer satisfaction.
The fashion industry is over $2.5 trillion, and the integration of AR shows a promising future for everyone. Besides, AR is already taking over, and the future is fast becoming the present. Interesting predictions from Apple's CEO revealed that they expect Augmented Reality to be as big as the iPhone.
No doubt, AR is a game-changer because of how it brings customers closer to their fashion products. Moreover, the niggling pain point of ordering incorrect sizes online has been taken care of by virtual try-on. Nevertheless, despite this technology's excitement, we should be wary of a decline in human interactions and apply stricter safety measures to prevent any hazards from the use of AR.
AR is set for an explosion in the fashion industry. The digital transformation that comes with Augmented Reality has simply been stunning. From virtual try-on, camera activated logo, bright filters, to detailed product inspection, we are indeed in a new era.
However, technological advancements are needed to make Augmented Reality more user-friendly in the long run. Nevertheless, e-commerce stores can look forward to a bright future that guarantees a win-win situation for both customers and retailers.