Indian Fashion Brands Arrive Fashionably Late to the Tech Party
Just like every other product-based industry, the fashion industry is also opening up to the adoption of virtual and augmented reality to create personalized customer experiences, which is then expected to drive increased sales. Customers engage with such brands throughout their purchasing experience as the latter provide them with the unique approach of interactive shopping.
This approach deploys emerging technologies, such as AR/VR and others, to enable customers to select their favorite products without being physically present in the store to try them on.
Despite such concerted efforts across brands, equally significant improvements have not been seen for their Indian counterparts over the past decade. It seems that now – more than ever – we need to catch up with these emerging trends and the technologies that contribute to their increasing popularity. But, where do we start?
AR/VR in fashion
Italian luxury brand Gucci created an AR-enabled iOS app that allowed customers to try on its ‘Ace Sneaker Collection’ remotely and virtually in 2019. Gucci also partnered with multimedia messaging app ‘Snapchat’ to offer a virtual try-on experience by offering the application. It was the first luxury fashion brand to partner with a social media platform to drive sales with an AR tool. Gucci’s entry into virtual reality has been very effective in increasing sales. According to Robert Triefus, Gucci’s executive vice president of brand and customer engagement, the brand is working toward an immersive shopping experience by merging physical and digital realities. The French sports fashion brand Lacoste also used augmented reality technology for a similar purpose—allowing customers in offline stores to digitally ‘try on’ their LCST streetwear collection and interact with additional content prepared by the company.
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In 2019, ASOS, the British online fashion and cosmetics retailer, has launched an experimental AR feature called ‘Virtual Catwalk’ to help users visualize clothes on human models before making a purchase. It also created a feature called ‘See My Fit’ in 2020 amid lockdown that gave customers the option to see how clothes fit 16 different models – ranging from sizes 4 to 18 – in a realistic environment. However, ASOS received a lot of criticism for not being inclusive enough, as there was no model over a size 18.
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Another interesting development in the global fashion sector is Timberland’s AR magic mirror enabling customers to virtually ‘dress’ themselves in select outfits. Additionally, Timberland partnered with Lemon & Orange to be one of the first brands to bring virtual fitting rooms to Mokotów Gallery, a mall in Poland.
Beyond the fashion hoopla
But it is not limited to fashion brands alone. Other industries are equally enthusiastic in their adoption of interactive shopping. For example, in the cosmetic industry, companies have incorporated AI and AR to provide better personalized experiences for their consumers.
One of the most notable developments in this sector is French makeup D2C L’Oreal which acquired Canadian AR specialist ModiFace in 2018. This acquisition allowed customers to select eyeshadows, concealer shades and lipsticks – among other products – and try them on a virtual mirror in live video.
Although prima facie considered revolutionary, it was soon found that it is not easy to understand whether the shades fit well, even if one can see it on their skin. The lip color feature is also wonky, as the color usually appears to be darker or lighter in real life. To add to the misery, the fake lip-plumping feature makes it worse for buyers who are simply looking for products that suit them best and not a practically-modified version of them. With L’Oreal buying Maybelline, one can use this try-on element on all apps that sell Maybelline products.
Last year, the popular Indian e-commerce company and cosmetic giant Nykaa said that it will bring L’Oreal’s ModiFace to beauty enthusiasts at home. But there are still no significant developments after the announcement.
Play catch up
In contrast to the international market, the Indian fashion and cosmetic industries have been slow in their adoption of immersive technologies. With much pomp and fanfare, online fashion retailer Myntra has launched an offline store for its private label, Roadster, in Bengaluru in 2017. CEO Ananth Narayanan claimed that the store would serve as an “experience zone” and planned to open 50 such stores by 2020. The store featured VR screens and large touch screens. The items had radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to enable customers to check in and out independently in a matter of 30 seconds. The offline store mainly aimed to increase brand visibility and also featured a VR zone, with four Samsung Gear VR headsets to watch a 360-degree video showcasing the “Roadster life”.
Myntra did not use VR to enhance the customers’ shopping experiences but simply used it as a promotional tool. This eventually led to the Flipkart-owned company succumbing to losses and shutting down the offline store in March 2019.
But not every brand used technology for promotional purposes alone. Omnichannel eyewear brand Lenskart has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak to launch virtual reality devices for its customers. They could see how frames looked on their faces from the website and make purchases without physically going to the store. It included facial scanning and analysis. Based on the face shape and size, it also recommended frames. The virtual reality device also offered a 360-degree view of the glasses. However, even if one could try glasses, the interface could be much smoother. Several users have reported that the device only shows one static view of their faces with glasses, but disappears once it takes you to the main page.
John Jacobs, a premium D2C eyewear brand, is also implementing augmented reality. But, unlike Lenskart, it captures video of the customers’ faces as they try on glasses. You can move your head left and right to see how it looks.
Now or never
While not many brands across fashion and cosmetics in India have been quick to adopt emerging technologies, several of them recognize that AR has the potential to fundamentally revolutionize and rethink the customer experience – be it apparel, accessories, footwear , home decor , or other products entirely.
Beyond the potential for conversion, AR’s ability to reduce the significant burden of item returns may be more attractive to brands and online retailers, as this technology promises to give their customers a technical method by which they can determine the size and shape of an item correctly and can confirm with confidence. product, whether it’s a sofa or a sweater.
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