Like many sectors, the fashion industry saw a noticeable change in consumer behaviors during the pandemic. With customers being unable to go to shopping malls and designer stores, online e-commerce sales boomed. In fact, in 2020, approximately 30 percent of all fashion sales occurred through e-commerce sites. And interestingly, this shift in customer shopping habits is not expected to decline but instead grow. Analysts predict that fashion industry sales for 2021 will exceed $100 billion in total with a sizable percentage from online purchases. As a result, many clothing stores and designers are interested in developing a better virtual dressing room.
Fortunately for the fashion industry, retail technologies now exist that have the potential to meet these needs. Digital wardrobes can be readily created through several apps and platforms today. As a result, there are an increasing number of virtual dressing room startups interested in making a splash. While each one has the means to create 3-D clothing images and models, not all are the same. And based on current development, digital wardrobes have a long way to go before widespread adoption. Regardless, innovations are occurring rapidly, and many fashion retailers cannot wait until a quality virtual dressing room product is available.
“We believe that helping people find the right size and improving the try-on experience could both increase conversion rates as well as reduce the rate of returns.” – Evan Spiegel, CEO and Cofounder, Snap, Inc.
Investing in the Virtual Dressing Room
With the recent growth in fashion sales online, major investors are making moves. Recently, Snap, Inc., acquired a virtual dressing room company called Vertebrae. This company works with Fossil, Herschel, and other European fashion retailers in creating digital wardrobes. In essence, they create 3-D images of the companies products through digital clothing simulations. Customers can then explore these images on 3-D models to gain an appreciation of their look. At the same time, DressX, another virtual dressing room company, received $2 million in seed money funding. Supported by Artemis Fund, DressX allows customers to try on digital wardrobes in real-time online. They too are considered a leader in the field.
As is the case with technological advances, new potential continues to emerge. This allows more recent startups to sometimes gain advantage over older ones. In this regard, Revery.ai represents a newer virtual dressing room company. Based in California, it received its initial funding from Y Combinator worth $125,000. Compared to DressX and Vertebrae, which use 3-D modeling and image editing, Revery.ai has a more advanced system. In addition to being completely automated, it allows customers to create their own avatars that look more like themselves. And their technology allows clothes to hang better, giving it a real-life appearance. Most importantly, Revery.ai is able to scale its clothing images, adding a million catalog images weekly.
“People were stuck at home, and it drastically influenced the way they were shopping, so brands are becoming less conservative in terms of technology and online tools to interact with their community.” – Vlad Vodolazov, CEO and founder, Clo-Z
Additional Developments in Digital Wardrobes
The need for virtual waiting room platforms are relevant currently given the shift in consumer shopping. In fact, some fashion companies employing digital wardrobes are seeing their sales conversion rates increase three- to five-fold. But there are other areas where digital wardrobes have become popular as well. In recent years, several new companies are offering outfit generator apps to help customers mix and match clothes. These creation apps vary in what they offer, but all of them encourage users to explore different styles and colors. And all utilize some type of machine learning and algorithms to help identify the types of designs someone prefers. (Read more about the explosion of content creation apps in this Bold story.)
Dozens of these outfit generator apps now exist today. Though they are not exactly virtual dressing room apps, they do create digital wardrobes for users. The Fashion Robot is one app that allows users to select their size and then upload various pics of apparel. Virtual Outfits is an AI-based application where customers can shop and design while sharing with an online community for feedback. And ClosetSpace is another where users can upload their existing clothes as well as new selections from retailer sites. Based on the number of companies in this field, it’s clear that digital wardrobes and virtual designing have broad appeal.
“Clearly, there is still room for improvement. Real-time cloth simulation is going to be critical for making these experiences feel more authentic.” – Matthew Drinkwater, Head of the London College of Fashion’s Fashion Innovation Agency
Future Directions in Digital Wardrobes
Online clothes shopping as well as the pandemic have fueled the developing of virtual dressing room sites. But adoption of virtual and augmented reality offerings has also. In fact, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg suggests that there will be an increasing demand for fashion for digital personas. Imagine users purchasing digital wardrobes online for their own avatars. Some suggest this may be one of the next burgeoning fields in the fashion industry. This would introduce a completely new market for fashionistas to explore. And one that designers may want to begin investing in as well. Consumers have not yet shown such a product demand currently, but that may well change as the digital world expands.
Virtual dressing room sites and outfit generator apps will definitely improve in the years to come. Many are quite limited at present, and some are not realistic enough to be very appealing. But deep learning and artificial intelligence is changing this quickly. Likewise, there is tremendous competition in the field, and investors are beginning to see their potential. Avatar creation will get better, and clothes will increasingly look more and more like real-life images. This looks to be one of the final pieces of the Come-to-Me Economy in the fashion world. (Read more about the rise of the Come-to-Me Economy in this Bold deep dive!) Thus, when this does finally happen, it will clearly be a gamechanger for the fashion industry.