What Amazon’s virtual sneaker try-ons mean for fashion

Augmented reality shopping has become a fundamental way to buy certain products online, as beauty and furniture brands can attest. Amazon knows this too, having for years let customers see what a sofa or table looks like in their own living room before buying it.

Buying fashion this way, however, is another story. Although AR trials are gaining momentum in this category, especially with accessories, they are not as fundamental to the overall fashion shopping experience. Tech makers have to solve a myriad of problems, from body sizes and shapes to believable renderings of digital fabric and physics, like gravity. Amazon should know about these challenges as well, as it already offers virtual try-ons for t-shirts. Developing digital clothing fittings isn’t easy – if it were, there would be little need for services like Prime Try Before You Buy, née Prime Wardrobe.

No more WWD

Shoes are simpler fodder for AR. So it’s no surprise that Amazon is now dipping a leather-covered toe into the mix, with virtual sneaker try-ons.

The technology isn’t new – savvy social media users have been playing with digital kicks for years now – but it misses the point. There were many one-off campaigns across different platforms, but suddenly Amazon launched thousands of virtual styles across major shoe brands, covering both Adidas, Asics, New Balance, Puma, Reebok, Saucony and many more. . The notable exception is Nike, which pulled its products from the market three years ago.

In other words, with a single update, the e-commerce giant is going beyond social media to bring this digital experience to a massively broad consumer base for a high-value product category.

Consider it a notable AR fashion shopping integration.

Not that it’s perfect. Sometimes sneakers don’t sit perfectly on the foot. Turn the wrong way or too quickly, and a heel or toe pops out. There’s also no idea how its physical counterpart might fit the viewer’s actual foot in real life.

But it is a starting point. Muge Erdirik Dogan, president of Amazon Fashion, said in a statement, noting that the group “looks forward to listening and learning from customer feedback as we continue to improve the experience and expand to more brands and styles”.

In other words, it’s a “test and learn” situation, as it has been since Amazon first started looking into augmented reality in 2017, when the company started using Apple’s ARKit developer tools to power furniture purchases and eventually eyeglasses.

But Amazon and others’ interest in the technology should be obvious. In 2020, one billion people used augmented reality, with a 94% higher conversion rate for products offering virtual experiences, according to data from Shopify. And yet, research from WBR Insights found that only 1% of retailers said they had adopted mixed reality at the start of 2022. 63% plan to deploy it or at least plan to deploy it in the next two years.

Some of that momentum could come down to the hype of the Metaverse or Web3, as brands seek to understand their stakes in the future virtual world. But here and now, if augmented reality and even virtual reality give consumers an idea of ​​what to expect when they receive products, it could help mitigate a huge return rate. At the start of 2022, the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail presented a sobering view of the previous year: apparently product returns jumped 16.6% on average in 2021, compared to 10.6% l previous year and amounting to more than $761 billion in merchandise value.

The race is on to unlock virtual fashion chases now, and it takes place in various corners of technology and e-commerce. While start-ups like Metrics in bold partner on viewing features and securing funding to advance its remote fitting solution, social giants like Snapchat are diving deep to understand digital clothing and virtual body mechanics.

Meanwhile, Walmart, one of Amazon’s biggest competitors, is taking a different approach to visualization. In March, the big-box store and its e-comm rival launched “Choose My Model” trials, a computer vision, neural network-powered feature that circumvents the challenges of personalized fashion AR by allowing consumers to choose from 50 computer-generated models to find one that looks just like them.

It seems like an easier and faster route than the complex business of digital shoe and clothing fittings. But Amazon seems keen to fix the problem, and it’s just getting started.

Register for WWD Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Twitter, Facebookand instagram.

Click here to read the full article.