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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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business digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

ICYMI: UK gov rejects sustainable recommendations, celebrating Karl, GenZ and TikTok

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • UK ministers reject plans for 1p per garment levy to tackle fast fashion [The Guardian]
  • ‘Karl for ever’: a joyful celebration of Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy [WWD]
  • Gen Z loves TikTok. Can fashion brands learn to love it too? [BoF]
  • How a £1 bikini revealed the changing shape of fast fashion [The Guardian]
TECHNOLOGY
  • The world is a mess. We need fully automated luxury communism [NY Times]
  • John Lewis to trial VR experience in shops [Fashion Network]
  • Amazon deploys ‘Pegasus’ robots in sortation centers [Retail Dive]
  • Training a single AI model can emit as much carbon as five cars in their lifetimes [Technology Review]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • H&M called out on “illegal” sustainability marketing [Eco Textile]
  • Net-a-Porter has started telling customers which brands are sustainable [The Independent]
  • More than half of British and American consumers want a more sustainable fashion industry [i-D Vice]
  • Prada sets goal to phase out virgin nylon by 2021 [BoF]
  • Ralph Lauren unveils new sustainability goals [WWD]
  • Banana Republic announces waterless dyed denim for 2020 [Fashion United]
  • Why we can’t relax about vegan leather [Vogue Business]
  • The North Face teams with National Geographic for upcycled plastic line [Fashion United]
  • Asos unveils ‘responsible edit’ [Drapers]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Verishop’s plan to be the Amazon of “affordable luxury” [Vogue Business]
  • Carrefour opens store with facial recognition and sensors [Retail Dive]
  • Pablo Isla defends ‘integrated model’ as a way to differentiate Inditex [Fashion Network]
  • Backstage and Story are very pretty. But, will they lure shoppers to Macy’s? [Retail Dive]
  • Gamification: the future of luxury retail in China [Jing Daily]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • The AI-driven social media network hailed as the next Tumblr [Dazed]
  • Mountain Hardwear launches AR app to bring outdoor gear to life [Retail Dive]
  • The future of marketing is bespoke everything [The Atlantic]
  • Mulberry bases new marketing campaign on British pub culture [Fashion Network]
  • MAC Cosmetics tries on YouTube’s newest AR ad formats [Retail Dive]
PRODUCT
  • Dolce & Gabbana becomes the first luxury fashion house to extend sizes [Fashion United]
  • Adidas and Ikea to develop products for home workouts [Fashion Network]
BUSINESS
  • Unilever acquires beauty brand Tatcha for a reported $500 million [AdWeek]
  • Chanel dispels rumors of sale after announcing a strong financial year [Fashion United]
  • Mulberry falls into the red [Drapers]
  • Kenzo parts ways with creative directors Humberto Leon and Carol Lim [WWD]
  • Topshop owner’s fall is fastest in UK high street memory [Vogue Business]
  • Revenue jumps 39% at Boohoo Group [Drapers]
CULTURE
  • Unilever boss warns of dangers of ‘woke-washing’ in ad industry [Sky News]
  • As drag goes mainstream, queer fashion designers reap business benefits [Fashionista]
  • It’s long overdue for fashion to think about people with disabilities [Hypebeast]
  • Streetwear’s big opportunity: women [BoF]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. 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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e-commerce Editor's pick technology

ASOS introduces augmented reality catwalk to showcase product

ASOS has introduced a virtual catwalk using augmented reality that allows shoppers to place looks in their physical space in front of them.

Using the ASOS app on iOS devices, users can point at a flat surface to pull up a 3D video of models wearing various products as though they are there themselves in person.

The experience currently exists for 100 of the ASOS Design line of products. Once placed, you can pinch to shrink or stretch the model to work within the room you’re in.

The online retailer has worked with UK AR company HoloMe on the initiative.

HoloMe CEO, Janosch Amstutz, said: “By allowing the consumer to bring mobile shopping into their own physical space, we can create a more intimate buying experience. We are excited to see how our technology can be used as a new way to communicate to the customer.”

Being able to visualize products through augmented reality in the physical space has been something homeware stores have played with for some time, but the move is a newer one in fashion.

ASOS was one of the early players to use video on its site – aiming to increase trust in its products and thus up conversions by enabling shoppers to see what things looked like in motion. This project is a build on that, making looks seem more accessible to consumers by viewing them in their own home.

The company has not shared details on the cost of the project or its potential for scalability. But, filming each model in 3D is going to be significant lift from a time and cost perspective at this point, which would make it a significant investment to push across its entire catalog of circa 87,000 products, or 5,000 new ones a week.

ASOS is often trialling new technologies. Recent other projects include an AI-enabled sizing tool, a shopping guide using Google’s voice assistant, as well as visual search.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global 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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Campaigns Retail

Magnum partners with Benefit for interactive pop-up in Shanghai

Magnum hosted a temporary beauty store in partnership with Benefit offering products and experiential activities to celebrate the launch of its new premium flavor range.

Taking place at the Réel Mall in Shanghai the pop-up made use of augmented reality and an interactive LED wall to bring its “Release your Beast” theme to life. A lion, polar bear, leopard and tiger were viewable as 3D characters, which visitors could take pictures with in a photobooth and then share on social media.

At the Benefit Beauty Bar, guests could test the brand’s latest products and book make-up artists. The environment included life-sized Benefit eyebrow pens and giant customized ice-cream installations.

The pop-up had a total of seven zones with a variety of activities. It attracted around 25,000 guests during the time it was open (May 24 to June 9).

Magnum has used the concept of “Release the Beast” in a couple of campaigns. In 2017, it teamed-up with fashion brand Moschino for a film on the theme starring Cara Delevingne and Jeremy Scott. Before that, to launch the Magnum Double ice cream in Singapore, it asked guests to release the beast of their passions in fashion, art, music and taste.

How are you thinking about immersive experiences? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion 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 hear more.

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business digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media Startups sustainability technology

ICYMI: France to stop burning clothes, inside product recommendations, the role of automation in retail

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • France to end disposal of $900 million in unsold goods each year [NY Times]
  • Inside the multi-billion-dollar online product recommendation economy [BoF]
  • Automation in retail: an executive overview for getting ready [McKinsey]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Amazon’s Bezos says robotic hands will be ready for commercial use in next 10 years [Fashion Network]
  • Can technology keep fake handbags out of the marketplace? [Fashionista]
  • Beyond the data breach: How retail is addressing cybersecurity [Retail Dive]
  • Can “drone delivery” technology make your skincare more effective? [Vogue]
  • Apple introduces ‘sign in with Apple’ to help protect your privacy [Tech Crunch]
  • Prada’s Lorenzo Bertelli sees startups as path to innovation [Vogue Business]
  • Amazon rolls out AR lipstick try-ons via L’Oréal’s ModiFace [Mobile Marketer]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Can Kering grow and be sustainable at the same time? [BoF]
  • The beauty industry’s having an environmental awakening, but not all redemption is created equal [Refinery29]
  • Those tiny hotel toiletry bottles are on their way out [NYT]
  • Gap Inc. to source all cotton from sustainable sources by 2025 [Fashion Network]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Ikea is transitioning its print catalog to Pinterest [Digiday]
  • McDonald’s and Disney top first-ever brand audio rankings [Campaign]
  • Is China ready for LGBTQI marketing? [BoF]
  • Is WeChat’s new social commerce feature a game changer [Jing Daily]
BUSINESS
  • Retailer Revolve gets 2018’s third-best U.S. trading debut [Yahoo]
  • The RealReal files for IPO [Retail Dive]
  • Topshop named mostly like to join ‘retail graveyard’ [Drapers]
  • The Modist secures investments from Farfetch and Nicola Bulgari [Harpers Bazaar]
  • Louis Vuitton sees ‘unheard-of’ growth in China [BoF]
  • Lacoste owner buys The Kooples [Drapers]
  • How China tariffs could make your sweaters and pants cost more [BoF]
CULTURE
  • Catwalk cover-up: how the west is falling for modest fashion [The Guardian]
  • Miley Cyrus takes a stand for reproductive rights with Marc Jacobs [Vogue]
  • ‘The models have bellies, hips and thighs that jiggle’: the rise of body-positive swimwear [The Guardian]
  • The Nike London flagship now has plus-sized mannequins [Teen Vogue]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. 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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Editor's pick mobile technology

Nike to debut AR feature to help customers find the perfect fit

Nike is set to introduce a new augmented reality feature in its app to enable shoppers to find the perfect size shoe.

With this new feature, Nike will relieve the customer’s fear of buying shoes without trying them on, a common problem when purchasing online. By using their phone to scan their feet, customers will be able to know the ideal shoe size for all the brand’s footwear.

To do so, they have to stand next to a wall and point their smartphone at their feet. Then the app will use two AR circles to level the phone and start the scanning process.

The app will measure the shape, size, and volume of the feet, and match the results with a mix of purchase data and artificial intelligence, resulting in the right shoe size. According to Nike, the accuracy is within two millimeters and the whole process takes less than a minute.

The hope is that better fit might drop returns. It can cost double the amount for a product to be returned into the supply chain as it does to deliver it, as stated by the advisory firm KPMG in the UK in a 2017 report.

The new feature will also affect sales in brick-and-mortar stores. The data of the customer will be stored in the Nike app, and associates can access them by scanning a QR code from the app. This will speed up try-on and product recommendations, while also giving insights for inventory decisions.

Expected to launch in July in the US and later this summer in Europe, the AR tool could additionally help minimize health consequences due to incorrect sizings, like toe deformity, corns and calluses. According to industry research released by Nike, over 60% of people wear the wrong size shoes.

How are you thinking about 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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product technology

Google brings AR to product search, opening up fashion possibilities

Google is introducing a new augmented reality technology for its mobile search engine that will allow customers to see 3D renderings of a number of visual product results.

Users will also be able to place these into the real world through their phone cameras, using AR.   

According to the tech conglomerate, partners from the world of fashion, tech, automobile and more, will be making their products available for the mobile search enhancements. These include names such as New Balance, Target Corp, Samsung and Volvo.

The new feature was announced at Google’s developer conference on Tuesday alongside a flurry of other developments such as extended privacy, new smart speaker features and more. The new AR technology feature will be released later this month.

It was demonstrated on stage with the example of shopping for a pair of sneakers. A customer searching for a pair of New Balance shoes, for instance, will come across a visual search result that has the option of a “view in 3D” button. When tapped this will transform the image into a three-dimensional rendering that can be moved by swiping on the phone screen.

Another tap on a “view in your space” button pulls up the user’s phone camera and drops the sneaker into their immediate environment using AR technology. The user can then move closer to the sneaker and see it from different angles by walking around it.

“Say…you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes. With New Balance, you can look at shoes up close, from different angles, again, directly from search,” explained Aparna Chennapragada, vice president of Google Lens & AR on stage. “That way, you get a much better sense for things like, what does the grip look like on the sole, or how they match with the rest of your clothes.”

With the new launch, Google makes it easier for retailers to tap into AR technology by offering the service directly through its search engine, with no additional development beyond the 3D rendering needed by the brand itself.

Recent examples of other brands using AR technology include Puma. The brand just launched a sneaker that activated AR content through a dedicated app.

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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Editor's pick product technology

Bose and Coachella team up on audio augmented reality festival experience

Festival-goers at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival this weekend will be able to access exclusive audio content via Bose’s new audio augmented reality sunglasses.

The audio company has worked with Goldenvoice, the creators of the festival’s app, to enhance the platform with audio features that only work once paired with the smart glasses.

“We’re proud to see this exclusive content made available through Bose AR at Coachella,” said Crystal MacKenzie, head of marketing for Bose AR. “Fans who pair their Bose Frames with the app while attending the show will be able to spend more time looking up and seeing what’s going on around them, while accessing information that will help make their experience even better.”

The Bose AR sunglasses feature small speakers integrated into its frame, which for this experience will push real-time updates on the festival’s schedule, as well as notify wearers of when their favorite act is about to perform.

The smart frames will be available to buy at the festival grounds and Bose’s ecommerce website, for those who wish to purchase it beforehand.

This marks the first time that Bose’s new smart glasses and audio augmented reality technology will be featured fully operating in a consumer-facing scenario. At this year’s SXSW festival, the company introduced the glasses for the first time alongside a host of apps that have its technology plugged in. The aim was to showcase the many different applications the smart feature has, such as a tool for the blind, or enabling golfers to know the next hole information without having to check their phones.

Recently Huawei and Gentle Monster also announced their take on smart glasses, which allow for phone calls and voice assistant interaction. Tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft are also all said to be working on their own versions.

Additional reporting by Camilla Rydzek.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. The Current Global 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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Editor's pick product Retail

Puma releases sneaker that triggers interactive AR content

Puma has released a new sneaker that activates augmented reality filters and more content once scanned by the user.

Wearers can scan the LQD Cell Origin AR with a dedicated app, that then uses machine learning and AR tracking technology to ‘read’ the shoe, and trigger the experience on their phones. Users can then experiment with AR filters, learn more about the shoe and even play an interactive mobile game.

“LQD CELL Origin AR is PUMA’s answer to a world in which the line between reality and the virtual realm becomes increasingly blurred,” says the brand.

AR filters show the shoe seemingly bursting into flames, while more styles will be released within the next month. “Inside LQD CELL” is a feature that allows users to learn more about the shoe’s construction, displaying it in its separate layers. Meanwhile, the LQD Dash game challenges players to avoid digital objects from hitting them, and they can even re-scan the sneakers to gain more ‘lives’ within it.

The app also connects to Puma’s website where customers are able to purchase the shoe and other styles within the family, if they haven’t done so already.

Users don’t need the physical shoe to activate the content, however, as the experience can recognise a flat image of the shoe, therefore can be triggered by scanning an image of it on a computer screen.

AR is a popular technology of choice for sportswear or streetwear brands hoping to engage with their young user base. Last year, adidas deployed AR at ComplexCon, much to the frenzy of festival-goers. Previously, Nike had experimented with the technology on everything from a city-wide scavenger hunt to a location-based Snapchat activation.

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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Editor's pick product technology

Gentle Monster and Huawei team up to launch fashion-focused smart glasses

Korean luxury eyewear label Gentle Monster has partnered with Chinese technology giant Huawei to announce the launch of a range of smart glasses.

The range was introduced yesterday (March 26) at Huawei’s P30 Pro launch event in Paris as ‘one more stylish thing’ the company would be introducing to their hardware range this year.

The smart glasses will have integrated microphones and speakers, which through Bluetooth technology will allow wearers to pick up calls by simply touching the frame, as well as activate a voice assistant. The glass range will come in both prescription and sunglass frames in a variety of styles.

Speaking about the partnership during the launch event, Huawei said both companies were trying to make the glasses look as normal as possible, and designed for user’s everyday life. “I really appreciate Huawei because they realize that the eyewear comes first and the smart comes later,” added Hankook Kim, co-founder and CEO of Gentle Monster to WWD.

Unlike previous smart glasses that have been introduced to the market such as the Google Glass (which was discontinued in 2015) and Snap Inc’s Spectacles, the product will not feature an embedded camera. This was a conscious decision to show a focus on wearability and design, as opposed to tech functionality.

Huawei is not the only tech company developing smart glasses, however. Google, Microsoft and Apple are rumored all to be working on AR-enabled models, while at this year’s SXSW festival in Texas, Bose introduced its own version of an AR platform for frames.

Wearable technology has been on a constant evolution as consumers struggle to become accustomed to the concept beyond smart watches. Paul Dillinger, VP of global product innovation at Levi’s, spoke about this last month when hinting on future plans for its Project Jacquard jacket with Google. For the designer, consumers will only invest in smart accessories if they also look good once turned off. Dillinger also spoke about the smart jacket at length on the Innovators podcast in early 2018.

Additional reporting by Camilla Rydzek.

How are you thinking about product innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. The Current Global 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.