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Why retail is betting on virtual try-on for growth

Virtual try-on technologies are having a moment in retail this year. Interest with our clients is off-the-charts and adoption is growing everywhere.

It all started with augmented reality mirrors and apps reshaping the way beauty consumers discover and try on products in the past five years. Now, fashion and accessories brands are finally subscribing to virtual try-on in a variety of ways with the hope of driving engagement, increasing sales and fighting back returns.  

Some of the most recent examples include Nike’s try-on shoe app launched this past May. It measures the shape, size and volume of feet in order to recommend to people the best size to buy in the sneakers they’re interested in. According to the brand, the accuracy is within two millimeters and the whole process takes less than a minute.

Gucci followed suit a month later with a try-on that enables users of its app to see the Ace Sneakers on their feet in real-time. Shoppers can look at the shoes from different angles, and take pics to share on social media. This pilot is powered by one of Current Global’s core technology partners, Wannaby – a Belarus-based startup that specializes in “augmented commerce”.

In the eyewear category, Ace & Tate launched a feature on its website where users can see what they look like in its sunglasses on screen. Michael Kors has also done this via Facebook. 

And in hard luxury, an experiential pop-up from Richemont in New York, called Arcadium, features a virtual try-on experience by Jaeger-LeCoultre that allows shoppers to try styles by placing a ‘marker’ bracelet on their wrist. 

So why is so much of this happening now? Three reasons:

1- Growing consumer expectations:  Virtual try-on was born in the cosmetics space – cutting its teeth with brands like L’Oréal through to Sephora. It gained ground as shoppers got used to the idea of being able to see their faces with all manner of filters on thanks to the realism on social apps including Snapchat and Instagram. What was once a tech-generated value that consumers took a while to understand, is now perceived as a right that is extending to footwear and eyewear. 

E-commerce is evolving to serve a time-stretched and more demanding shopper that is used to having everything they want at their fingertips. Included in that is the ability to see what something will look like specifically for them, before they hit purchase. It’s utilitarian. 

2- The tech has evolved: Behind this trend is the fact the technology has caught up to the expectation. It’s now smarter, more realistic and affordable. Five years ago, the artificial intelligence and augmented reality that was needed to provide realistic mapping to the human face or body, just wasn’t there. Many good teams tried and failed – mostly because market demand wasn’t enough to fund their growth. 

3- Reducing returns: The value of returned goods will rise from $350 billion in 2017 to $550 billion by 2020 in the US, according to forecasts from Happy Returns. A contributing factor to this worrisome growth is customers opting to shop from home instead of in-store. During our work sourcing solution partners for various retailers, we’ve observed virtual try-on solutions consistently delivering positive results – from a 20% increase in basket-size for Sunglass Hut to 120% increase in engagement in a brand app. The upside for brands lies primarily in driving conversions while reducing return rates since the more likely a product is right, the more likely the individual will both buy it and keep it. 

The human body, and the ability for virtual try-on of full clothing, has been developed in chapters. The challenge is to develop accurate visualization and mapping. We have dozens of tech partners with algorithms from the US to Eastern Europe to China that have accurately learned the face, flat feet (high-heels try-on is still in the works), and now are focused on the variations of consumers hands and ears. 

As accessory and footwear brands race to catch up on AR, it’s safe to say the next vertical to jump on board is sure to be jewelry. Tech companies are racing to develop realistic capabilities in that sector to establish themselves as category owners.

What about ready-to-wear? The technology is quite impressive and is already here, with two startups leading the way on mobile and in-store. But the high cost of the tech at the present moment has prevented widespread adoption. As the space moves fast with growing adoption of AR in consumer shopping behavior globally, we expect virtual try-on to be a staple in the corporate innovation toolbox for all retailers keeping up with the digital age. 

How are you thinking about virtual try-on? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more. 

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data e-commerce product social media technology

Amazon patents virtual changing room app with data-led style recommendations

Amazon is developing a fashion app that will allow consumers to trial outfits in a virtual changing room as avatar versions of themselves.

According to a UK patent filed by the retail giant, the app will mine user data to better provide recommendations on what they might like or need. After opting into data-sharing, users will have different data on their phones analysed, such as social media images of themselves and calendar events. Other information such as the weather where they live and where they like to spend their time will also be taken into consideration.

Images of the users taken from their phones will then be rendered into virtual avatars which will enable them to visualise recommendations. The user can then browse outfits and select likes or dislikes by swiping left or right.

The app will further allow users to discover new items of clothing by accessing different tabs such as “search by look”, “randomise” outfits, and “find more like this.” Wishlists and favorite outfits can then be shared on social media.

In recent years, Amazon has hinted at its ambitions of helping users better dress and shop in the home with a series of devices and patents. In 2017, it introduced the Echo Look which similarly analyses user photos to provide style recommendations; in early 2018, it introduced a patent not too dissimilar from this virtual changing room, where a smart mirror will virtually overlay clothes onto the user and place them in different scenarios; and in May last year, it began 3D scanning users in order to explore the future of fit.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 


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Events mobile Retail social media technology

Balmain launches app to connect customers to brand universe


Luxury label Balmain has released an app that aims to give consumers more access to the brand’s universe, in a mission championed by creative director Olivier Rousteing.

The app, which was released on iTunes yesterday, will allow users to engage with the brand in a multitude of different ways.

“The app is the final element of the strategy we are rolling out to launch the new monogram, the new logo, and to support overall the new communication strategy of Balmain,” the label’s CEO Massimo Piombini told WWD. “This is a way to connect with the next generation, with new customers, with a segment of customers that are close to the brand that are expecting from us these kinds of new features.”

For example ahead of the label’s upcoming couture show which takes place on January 23, users will be able to scan posters through the streets of Paris to trigger augmented reality content. Users will also be able to watch a livestream of the show, the house’s first couture collection in 16 years, as well as footage of the menswear show that is happening tomorrow.

To give brand fans a further glimpse into the brand, there will also interactive content around its new Saint Honoré flagship, which is due to open in February. The brand has announced that it will also be launching similar initiatives at key European cities in the future.

Under Rousteing’s helm, the 82-year-old label has been increasingly connecting with younger consumers through the lens of digital. In April 2018, it created a virtual reality experience at its Milan store based on the designer’s inspirations for the brand’s collections, while its latest campaign featured a cast of virtual models.

How are you thinking about digital innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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Editor's pick product technology Uncategorized

Nike taps into fit customization with app-enabled sneakers

Nike has launched a power lacing sneaker that allows users to customize the shoe’s fit through a dedicated app, called Nike Adapt.

The Adapt BB, which is targeting basketball players, uses the brand’s newly developed fit technology, FitAdapt, to adjust the shoe onto the person’s foot and give them the most comfortable and personalized experience. It is inspired, once more, by the self-lacing sneakers in the Back to the Future II movie from the 1980s; a dream that Nike has been chasing ever since.

It works by using pressure sensors to register the foot and activates a tiny motor and gear, which then tightens or, in other words, laces the upper side of the shoe. After it is securely attached to the player’s foot, the fit of the shoe can be adjusted either manually, by pressing a specific area on the sneaker, or by using a designated smartphone app.

For basketball players the sneaker is especially useful as they can adjust the fit of the shoe based on different moments in a game. For example, when the player is taking a time out or has finished the match and their feet are swollen after strenuous activity, the shoe can be loosened for comfort.

“We picked basketball as the first sport for Nike Adapt intentionally because of the demands that athletes put on their shoes,” says Eric Avar, Nike’s VP creative director of innovation. “During a normal basketball game the athlete’s foot changes and the ability to quickly change your fit by loosening your shoe to increase blood flow and then tighten again for performance is a key element that we believe will improve the athlete’s experience.”

Similar to the HyperAdapt 1.0 self-lacing shoe, the first one the brand launched to market in 2016, this model was put through a series of tests including temperature and end of life tests, as well as focus groups featuring professional basketballers.

This is an important phase in the product development of a Nike product, says the brand, as founder Bill Bowerman, an athlete himself, believed fit was the foundation of any athletic performance. “The Nike Adapt BB helps the athlete find their custom fit and provides uncompromising lockdown, feel and traction throughout a game, but we knew it would only be validated once the game’s best players tried it out,” says Avar.

Nike’s future ambition is to bring the FitAdapt technology to other sports and lifestyle products in its portfolio, meeting fit demands that differ depending on context and environment.  

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. TheCurrent Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce Editor's pick technology

YOOX combines AI and digital avatars in virtual try-on feature


Luxury e-commerce platform, YOOX is launching YOOXMIRROR, an in-app feature that acts as a discovery tool for users to explore new looks through a virtual avatar, Daisy.

On the app’s homepage, users can view nine fashion stories laid out in a similar style to Instagram Stories, divided into themes such as “Join the party” and “Check mate”.

Daisy, the avatar, has been introduced to showcase the outfits,  customizable by four different skin tones and hair colors. Users can then ‘swipe up’ to play mix-and-match with more garments and accessories. Daisy has also take over the YOOX Instagram account.

 “The introduction of YOOXMIRROR represents an important move for us, offering our customers something personalized and memorable which is also a brand-new way to explore the very best of YOOX, ” says Paolo Mascio, president of YOOX. “We are so excited by the potential of this initiative that we will not limit our avatar Daisy to the styling suite – taking over our IG she is going to become the personification of YOOX, allowing us an even more direct contact with our followers and customs.”

The feature is currently available for both men and women on the retailer’s iOS app.

The luxury e-commerce group has been investigating the different ways in which AI can provide users with a more personalized experience in the future, but also how it can enable its staff to deliver more efficiently. Last year, it opened a tech hub to investigate AI and the next wave of mobile technologies. Meanwhile, at the Wired Smarter conference in London in October, it announced it is introducing a new private label collection that is informed by AI, while designed by a creative team.

This post has been edited. The original version said users could also upload a full-body shot of themselves and view outfits in 2D overlaid onto them. This feature is not currently available.

How are you thinking about digital innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.


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Editor's pick mobile Retail Uncategorized

Nike’s new flagship empowers customers with seamless, unmanned shopping experience

Nike's new NYC flagship
Nike’s new NYC flagship

Nike’s new NYC flagship unlocks a new level of convenience by allowing customers to navigate the shopping experience in-store entirely on their phones, using the brand’s existing app.

Shoppers at the 5th Avenue store, called House of Innovation 000, can use the app throughout their entire visit and have a completely unmanned experience if they wish to do so. This includes using the “Scan to Try” feature that lets customers scan QR codes on products to get them sent to the fitting room for try on; “Shop the Look”, where a QR code will bring up a mannequin’s entire outfit, which the customer can order through their phone for home delivery; and most importantly, a self-checkout feature where the shopper can pay seamlessly through their phones on services like Apple Pay and PayPal.

Future retail locations around the globe will follow the same concept, blurring the lines between physical and digital.

Customers at home can even reserve shoes online to try on in real life. In this case, the items are placed in a locker with the person’s name on, which they can then unlock with their phones once in-store. The area has its own entrance, so shop-goers can be in and out in a matter of minutes.

The six-storey building also offers multiple environments built around specific needs, such as The Speed Shop, which has all the brand’s most popular items ready to buy; The Arena, a customization area where shoppers can order shoes in whatever color they want; and the Nike Expert Studio, offering one-on-one appointments with stylists.

Nike's new NYC flagship
Nike’s new NYC flagship

In addition to the digital and personalization features, the design of the store is modular, with walls that can be moved using a grid system. In as little as a day, it is possible to adapt the store into a completely different setup for a special event.

Nike’s first hybrid concept store opened earlier this year in Los Angeles as a lab for testing new retail ideas. After tracking members who had visited the store, they gathered that customers spent 30% more online later than those who didn’t have the in-person experience. Meanwhile in October, the brand also opened a similar concept in Shanghai where it has reported it is signing up a new member to the official app every two minutes.

In creating an entirely unmanned experience but still offering customers opportunities for personalization and interaction, Nike is striking a balance between two very different consumer speeds: convenience and experience.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns product Retail

Nike is dropping a new Air Jordan 1 sneaker everyday this week

Nike's "The Week of The Ones"
Nike’s “The Week of The Ones”

Nike UK will be releasing different iterations of its iconic Air Jordan 1 sneaker everyday this week as part of an event series it is calling “The Week of The Ones”.

The aim is to “celebrate the icon” of the Air Jordan 1 sneaker, which was first released in 1984 and has since cemented its status as “sneaker royalty, forever associated with streetwear, style and His Airness himself”, according to the brand.

The exclusive sneakers are available for European customers, and can only be purchased through the brand’s SNKRS UK app.

Upon opening the app, a GIF on an all-white design of the coveted sneaker will flash up in different colorways to reveal the editions available throughout the week.

The first two styles have already been confirmed at this point, called the “PSG” and “Not For Resale”.

Such a move from Nike comes at a time when we’re seeing an increase in retailers capitalizing on the hype around the streetwear inspired drop-culture. Barneys New York and Neiman Marcus recently embraced limited releases in their respective department stores in June of this year, and the newly opened MatchesFashion.com store in London is investing in refreshing its product assortment every two weeks.

Luxury brands have also been embracing this model, with Burberry as one example introducing monthly-recurring product drops of exclusive merchandise under the supervision of its new creative director Riccardo Tisci.

The phenomenon of streetwear culture and its impact on luxury specifically is analyzed in more depth on an episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent, where we interviewed Ferdinando Verderi, co-founder and creative director of NY-based agency Johannes Leonardo, and the man responsible for much of the work between Adidas and Alexander Wang.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

 

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data Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

Walmart’s Sam’s Club focuses on connected innovation in new store

Augmented reality in the Sam's Club Now app
Augmented reality on the Sam’s Club Now app

Walmart-owned member’s-only retailer, Sam’s Club, is set to open a new retail concept where it will be trialling innovative technologies including mandatory mobile checkout and AR-enabled packaging.

The space, which will be based in Dallas, Texas, will be the retailer’s innovation epicenter and act as part technology lab, part store.

The retailer’s mobile app will act as the central hub for the experience, with existing Scan & Go technology acting as the only way to shop the space, called Sam’s Club Now. Additional technologies will then be added and refined gradually.

Customers using Scan & Go can scan items to add them to the app’s shopping cart and upon leaving the store, a member of staff will scan for a QR code to complete the purchase.

They can also scan selected packaging to bring up more information on particular items, such as provenance, via augmented reality.

Sam’s Club Now
Scan & Go on the Sam’s Club Now app

Navigating the store will also become more seamless, as customers can search via voice for a particular item, and a map will lead them to the correct shopfloor location. The retailer forecasts that in the future this will be updated with beacon technology, which will allow members to receive a personalized map upon entering the store that will show them an optimized route for their shopping journey.

Additional features include a one-hour pickup of items ordered via the app, as well as electronic shelf labels that instantly update prices. In the future, the store also aims to optimize inventory and layout of shopping space by integrating 700 cameras in the club.

An integral part of the new retail format, however, will be its focus on retail staff. Associates are now known as Member Hosts, which is meant to better describe their new focus on improving customer service. “Eliminating friction doesn’t mean replacing exceptional member service with a digital experience,” said John Furner, Sam’s Club president and CEO. “We know our members expect both.”

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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mobile Retail technology

Target has a secret app for customer feedback

Target, Studio Connect, App, Customer, Review, Feedback, fast-fashion
Studio Connect

Target has developed a secret app with an interface that closely resembles that of Instagram to gather insights into the minds of its customers.

According to the retailer, the app’s main purpose is to gather feedback on product development, with an aim to drive better product selection and faster turnaround of stock to give the company a competitive advantage in the fast-paced retail space. Users can like and comment on pictures, much like a social media feed.

A designer asking for possible mothers-day catchphrases on a t-shirt, receives an average of 40-50 user responses in 24 hours. Furthermore, after an average of 10 hours the design team can already gather common themes and start to incorporate the feedback into its product development, reportedly.

Studio Connect, as the app is called, was first developed back in 2016, but is only accessible through a direct invitation by Target. It never has more than 600 members. Participants are selected by Target through evaluating online survey answers and check out feedback forms, after which they are then categorized into relevant marketing segments (such as if they having children in the household or not). This information is then also used to help the retailer analyze consumer patterns and understand more about its customers’ behavior. 

Target offers no monetary awards, although users can gather points that can be used for discounts and special offers.

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Studio Connect

The app has also been used as a crowdsourcing tool, with children encouraged to take part in a design contest and upload drawings of designs. Target’s creative team then found that many children were drawing a similar color pattern, which they then printed on a pair of leggings.

It has also helped the retailer to offer more inclusive clothing by gathering feedback by parents with disabled children, which resulted in the launch of a completely new clothing line.

Studio Connect is just one of numerous innovations by the retailer, which also recently invested in its beauty section by introducing augmented reality and text-to-chat robot.

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Editor's pick Retail sustainability technology

Lush trials AR product app in new package-free store

Lush Lens in-store in Milan

Beauty care brand Lush is trialling Lush Lens, a mobile app created by its in-house R&D team, that uses artificial intelligence and product recognition to allow customers to scan a product with no packaging to gain access to information.

The technology is currently being tested at the brand’s first ever “Naked” store in Milan, where all products are free of packaging.

Customers in store have access to four Fairphone devices loaded with the app. They can then point to any naked product – such as the brand’s popular bath bombs – to receive information, such as an ingredients list.

“With this prototype mobile app we’ve put new technologies (AI) to a good use in our mission to eliminate more packaging and further educate our customers on our unique cosmetics,” says Adam Goswell, who runs technology R&D at Lush. The app is expected to be rolled out globally and be available for download on customers’ own smartphones in the future.

In piloting this digital programme, Lush is hoping to engage with digitally-minded consumers in a way that both satisfies their mobile behaviors as well as their constant need for information on the products they purchase.

The innovation also ties back to the sustainability goals the brand has built its DNA upon – by creating solid products (such as shampoo bars, rather than in liquid form) it not only eliminates the use of packaging like plastics, but enables experiences that more easily involve image recognition.

As for the first Naked shop, which opened in Milan earlier this month, Lush is hoping to not only promote sustainable behavior with its lack of packaging, but also through a series of in-store events, such as workshops and film screenings that will allow customers to share and exchange ideas of living plastic-free.

Lush’s first Naked store in Milan