How has virtual and augmented reality transformed the online shopping experience?

The fashion industry has to make lots of sacrifices in 2020, from the closure of our favourite high street stores to reduced sale incomes. So as the world turns digital, fashion and beauty brands are venturing into the world of technology to upgrade the online shopping experience for their customers.

These new technology innovations are unfamiliar to the traditional in-store shoppers, so as brands are reinventing the shopping experience, their customers need updating on how to use VR and AR technology. Augmented Reality (AR) is known to add digital elements to a view through the camera of a smartphone, where enhanced objects are placed alongside the real-world environment. Virtual Reality (VR) is known to transport you into a range of real-world or imagined environments, giving you the complete immersion experience.

Virtual Try-on of Trainers on Gucci app

In an article by Forbes in 2020, it revealed that globally, 49% of consumers shop online more than they did pre-COVID-19. While only 5% of shoppers plan to try a product in store in the next six months. Augmented reality has allowed brands to market their products through creative, immersive experiences to engross their consumers. Investments in AR technology have swiftly increased in the past few years, and has gained the attention of some of the leading fashion houses. In 2019, Gucci experimented with AR features on their app which allowed customers to try on their popular ‘Ace’ trainers. The feature allowed customers to review the upcoming shoe collection and virtually try-on the various trainers. Now any future or regular customer of Gucci can download their app and try-on trainers, eyewear and nail polish.

Back in 2019, ASOS also ventured into the world of AR technology. ASOS are known to use advanced technology on their platforms, therefore launching a virtual catwalk was the most logical step forward for them. Although this feature does not guarantee how their products will look and fit on the customer, it brings the items to life and customers can see how it will look from a 360-degree angle, creating an immersive online shopping experience. Companies such as VRex have developed virtual reality technology into a practical tool that can be used in any thriving industry. We spoke to Rune Vandli, Founder and Product Developer at Vixel to discuss what opportunities their pioneering technology creates and how VR is becoming the leading marketing tool for fashion.

He said: “Big companies like Amazon purchased game developer studios to experiment using VR and game technology for fashion and entertainment One of the things they looked at was doing stimulations on catwalks, so you could sit around the catwalk and see a model of yourself walking and wearing different clothes. Basically another way of shopping rather than looking at flat images on your laptop while online shopping.”

Vixel developed their VR technology which allows companies to hold virtual meetings inside these virtual reality experiences. By wearing a VR headset, business owners, CEOs and employees can enter 3D models of their stores or buildings and virtually hold meetings inside the model. Rune said: “Decision making time for important projects has been reduced by 90%, reduced from 10 weeks to 1 week on decision making for their projects. We have has a 600% increase from before COVID to after.”

The good thing about the field of fashion? It’s adaptable. Not only has COVID put a halt to our favourite hobby: shopping, but has even left Fashion Week catwalk shows no choice but to turn digital. London Women’s Fashion Week for Fall/Winter showcased fashion designers upcoming collections between Feburary 19th-23rd, 2021. No live audiences were allowed at LFW for the first time ever, with all catwalk shows pre-recorded and broadcast online on the British Fashion Council’s website.

Credit – Grazia
Virtual Fashion Show

Another company that has successfully reinvented the online shopping experience is Obsess. Founded by Neha Singh, Obsess uses AR and VR software to serve 360 degree and 3D experiences through virtual stores and showrooms. She said: “Obsess was launched to turn online shopping into a fun, visual and discovery-driven experience – from today’s monotonous database-like experience with a grid-of-thumbnails on a white background.

Virtual stores provide brands the opportunity to get a higher ROI (return of investment) on their existing physical locations – by making them accessible remotely to a larger audience. With the Obsess platform, brands can also create unique, branded and contextual digitally created virtual stores to showcase their seasonal collections, new product launches and for their marketing campaigns.”

These virtual stores and showrooms are imperative after the effects of the coronavirus and changes in key fashion events. They are all accessible on a phone or computer, developed in graphically rich, high-resolution which allows buyers to see products in more detail.

Similarly to Obsess, ByondXR transforms retail space into a virtual environment by also creating 3D stores and showrooms. ByondXR are currently working with three of the top largest retailers in the world, including Target, Lancôme, L’Oréal and Calvin Klein. By creating these unique marketplaces, brands and retailers will see an immediate incline in customer engagement to all generations. Marc Loeb, Head of Global Sales enlightened us on how ByondXR can transform the way we view fashion online, using XR (real and virtual environments generated through computer graphics) technology

He said: “We are transforming the fashion lifecycle in multiple ways. With the ability to view a digital collection before sampling, to digital line review meetings and interactive market weeks with clients. We work with brands in both B2B and B2C. ByondXR offers brands a way to showcase their brands in a new and interactive way, making shopping online a new experience.

ByondXR Virtual Store

Our XR stores are embedded 3D virtual experiences on the brands website.  This gives customers the ability to explore the brand from the comfort of their homes on their phones. Our platform is built for mobile and 96% of our users are on their phones.”

Even after the era of COVID is behind us, the online shopping experience should continue being immersive and memorable. Software and technology will continue being developed for years, so why shouldn’t we use it to our benefit?

Who wouldn’t love to try on clothes from the comfort of their own bed? As if shopping couldn’t be any more exciting! Let us know on Twitter @Fashion_North if you would ever try virtual online shopping?

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