AR and VR In Fashion Retail (Guide)

Fashion brands work hard to flatter customers and make them feel good about themselves in order to inspire purchase behaviour.
Now it’s becoming more of a reality, and forward-thinking retail brands are incorporating AR (Augmented Reality) and and VR (Virtual Reality) technology into the customer experience, both in-store and online.

As shopping trends continue to evolve, and the retail environment becomes more competitive than ever, finding new ways to engage with shoppers has become key. Today, mobile retailing has hit a certain level of maturity, accounting for almost half of all online transactions in Europe in 2017, and many retailers are considering AR and VR as their next big move.

While we’re seeing the beginning of AR and VR adoption, there’s still not a definitive picture of how it will be used across the retail sector. Ikea’s Place app allows smartphone users to envision what their home might look like with a new sofa; while Alibaba recently installed AR fashion mirrors in shopping centers during its Singles Day event. Both offer glimpses into the future of retail.

A look at wider-scale adoption requires a closer examination of the ways shoppers are currently blending their online and offline activities. Webrooming (browsing products online before buying in-store) has grown in popularity, with studies from 2016 estimating that 82% of consumers engage in the practice. 

AR, in particular, represents an excellent opportunity to enhance this omnichannel approach to shopping. AR fashion mirrors, homeware previews, and user demonstrations all represent more immersive ways of building on how people are already shopping. L’Oreal’s AR Makeup Genius app is a great example of this. 

Offered in-store by beauty counter assistants, it allows users to preview what different cosmetics might look like. With purchasing cosmetics being notoriously difficult online, given the specifics of shades, this app provided a solution to meet that challenge, while also marrying online and offline shopping worlds.

Retailers across a number of industries have integrated AR technology into the in-store experience. It’s a smart move, especially considering 61% of consumers prefer stores that offer AR experiences — and 40% of them would pay more for your product if they have the chance to experience it through AR.

Lacoste, for example, created the LCST Lacoste AR mobile app that customers could use to virtually try on shoes. The app also created AR experiences with window displays, in-store signage, and promotional postcards.With this technology, the apparel retailer aimed to engage a younger audience. 

The app promoted the LCST shoe model, “the urban-savvy younger brother of Lacoste.” And the investment paid off: More than 30,000 users engaged with 3D products while using the app. They quite literally put the shopping experience in the customers’ hands.

American Apparel is another clothing brand that has also equipped customers with mobile app-driven experiences. They encouraged engagement with in-store signage and displays similar to the Lacoste example.


Essentially, a shopper would open the app and scan a picture of signage. The app would then pull up product details, including customer reviews, color variants, and pricing. Another retailer instead incorporated AR into their in-store mirrors. Cosmetics brand Charlotte Tilbury took AR out of customers’ hands and onto the “magic mirror” on the wall. 

They partnered with Augmented Retail solutions and software provider Holition to install AR-enabled mirrors in their store. Fashion brands have already used augmented and virtual reality to bring the catwalk to life and enable people to watch it outside the immediate venue.

At a Paris Fashion Week, an AR fashion show enabled audience members to scan models using a dedicated smartphone app to reveal hidden designs. The models wore black and white clothing where the design was mostly obscured; only by scanning it could the real item of clothing be revealed on the audience member’s smartphone.

The role of augmented reality (AR) is set to be transformative, he argued, and that’s particularly the case when it’s applied to retail.
Those words were echoed in an interview with Apple CEO, Tim Cook, published by Vogue magazine around the same time, in which he said he believes AR will impact everything from runway shows to shopping.

The introduction of Apple’s ARkit, a developer platform for augmented reality, and the subsequent launch of iOS 11, which hosts it, has paved the way on iPhones and iPads. Google’s ARcore meanwhile, brings the same to Android. Although fashion is just getting started with applying AR and VR technologies, already the industry is talking about the next step – using this tech in personalizing and customizing of products.

Apparel brand Timberland, for example, used AR mirrors to let customers try products on more conveniently a virtual fitting room created with Kinect technology. They turned this fitting room into one of the main window displays, which was a strategic move to drive more foot traffic.

Shoppers would stand in front of a camera and see a virtual version of themselves on a large screen. They could then choose different products to try on without even having to step foot in the store, let alone search for their size and go through the fitting room experience.

Topshop is another apparel brand that used Kinect to create virtual fitting rooms. They partnered with AR Door to create this experience for customers in their Moscow store.

One unexpected brand that has introduced AR to the in-store experience is Toys “R” Us. They worked with PlayFusion to create a “digital playground” through the Play Chaser app. The app isn’t geared towards the shoppers who convert — it’s targeted towards the end user: kids.

With the app downloaded on a mobile device, children can unlock AR-enabled activities. The mascot Geoffrey even comes to life, bringing the brand back into the experience. The app has more than 100,000 Google Play downloads and a 4-star rating.

Lowe’s also uses AR paired with geolocation technology for their mobile app-powered in-store experience. Using Google Tango AR technology, Lowe’s in-house product innovation lab created an app that makes the physical shopping experience easier and faster. Customers can create shopping lists in the app, which will then guide them through the store using the quickest route possible.


Incorporating Augmented Reality Into Your Product

Some brands have gone as far as to incorporate AR into the actual product, enhancing not only the shopping experience but the overall brand experience too. For example, Adidas launched a line of sneakers that unlocked an AR for customers at home. After buying the sneakers, customers would take the shoe home and hold it up to their computer’s webcam so it could read the embedded code on the tongue.

Customers would then find themselves in a virtual world which they could navigate through using their sneaker as a controller. Incorporating AR into your product may require more capital due to the research and development and investment in stock. 

It may be a good idea to test the waters with a smaller AR initiative to make sure it resonates with your target market.

Perhaps one of the most creative examples of AR in retail is Airwalk’s “invisible” pop-up shop. With geolocation and AR, Airwalk created a virtual pop-up shop to promote the limited-edition relaunch of the Airwalk Jim. Shoppers would download the AR app through which they would learn the location of the pop-up.

On the flip side, VR is much more limited in use for in-store and warehouse employees as it more immersive, but it can prove to be useful for training, product demonstrations, and games in certain areas.

How Will AR And VR Revolutionize How Retailers Connect With Customers?

For example, luxury fashion house Gucci recently launched scannable ads for its spring 2018 campaign ‘The Gucci Hallucination’ using both VR and AR. Customers who made a purchase at 52 selected Gucci stores were given artwork from Spanish artist Ignasi Monreal’s in the form of tickets which offered customers access to in-store VR devices that showcased a 360-degree panorama of Monreal’s campaign artwork. 

At the same time, other scannable ads in the form of window stickers from Monreal were available for customers to discover in AR via the Gucci app.AR and VR to revolutionize how retailers connect with customers. Fast-fashion giant Zara recently dabbled with AR as well, placing AR displays in 120 stores around the world. 

The AR feature offered customers the chance to view its Zara Studio Collection on models which features a sensor in stores or window displays through the Zara AR app and then buy the looks with the click of a button. AR is becoming more of a mainstay piece of technology for retailers, as you can see from many of the inspirational examples.

AR possesses the ability to lead customers through four stages of marketing. These four stages are in the form of creating awareness, building everlasting loyalty, conversion of purchase decision into buying an increasing consideration. AR helps the retailers holistically move through these phases. 

On the other side, AR can grant access to the in-store experiences of a fashion store which in turn is beneficial for the growth of a particular fashion brand. By providing real experiences to the customers, the fashion brand can make sure that the customers are easily persuaded which is, in fact, a great way to boost the sales.

It is this “real world” element that differentiates AR from virtual reality. AR integrates and adds value to the user’s interaction with the real world, versus a simulation. Virtual reality (VR) provides a computer-generated 3D environment that surrounds a user and responds to that individual’s actions in a natural way, usually through immersive head-mounted displays and head tracking.


AR and VR Startups & Companies Specializing In Fashion Retail That You Should Know About:

OBSESS is a platform that enables brands and retailers to create Augmented & Virtual Reality shopping experiences for mobile. Customer can access digital information and media associated with in-store merchandise through an app. Customer can also find videos and recommendations that help in making in-store purchase decision.

AVAMETRIC is a digital 3D software platform that provides automated content creation for brands, retail, and e-commerce sales tools. Its technology enables brands to deliver accurate 3D rendering of their apparel & Accessories on customizable digital body models for web, mobile, and AR. 

Avametric technology creates digital garments that faithfully reproduce their real world equivalents.

VIRTUSIZE is a virtual fitting solution that enables online fashion retailers to illustrate size and fit for consumers. Their solution has been developed alongside designers, pattern makers and industry leading online retailers who share our view that garment comparison is the only way to clearly and objectively showcase size and fit.

MODIFACE, acquired by L´Oréal in March 2018, is an augmented reality-based application that allows users to simulate live 3D makeup, skincare assessment and photo-realistic hair coloring.

HOLITION: Formed as a venture startup to explore and expand the role that technological innovation can play in communicating with today’s new digital consumer, Holition is a synthesis of luxury marketers, retail specialists and cutting edge leaders in 3D technology (e.g. Magic )

The 21st century technology have become increasingly important retail tools, solving new challenges. Moreover, in an era of increasingly diverse shopping options for retail customers and of intense price competition among retailers, merchandising has emerged as one of the cornerstones of the modern fashion industry.

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