Fashion retail technology and augmented reality in the retail space are fast evolving and a space to watch, in particular, how brands are better connecting and providing the ultimate brand experience via these new technologies. It is indeed a fascinating time for the retail industry, and for shoppers to shop. Vanessa Ching looks into developments in this space.
Customers are always seeking out the ultimate brand experience and many brands and retailers are still trying to figure out their path, or lacking in effort. With augmented reality, visual search and new retail technologies in the picture, the innovative retailer who dares to experiment and can cast an eye to the future will win.
Shoes-on-the-go and the emotional dress
When it comes to dressing, your clothes can be your canvas and whatever you like it to be, on a particular day. ‘Hackable sneakers’ by ShiftWear takes shoes-on-the-go to another level. With a mobile phone app and e-ink, you can change the pattern and colour of your shoes in real-time with your own designs, or library of images and patterns. The shoes are waterproof and use rechargeable kinetic batteries.
Along with your shoes, you can also literally match what you are wearing with your emotions, this time without having to use an app. Made from a colour-changing textile, Kimbow, an interactive dress designed by fashion technology designers Eef Lubbers and Malou Beemer, automatically changes its shade depending on your posture which is a telling sign of your state of mind and emotions.
Smart mirrors and ‘live feed’ digital clothing rail
A UK-based company, Holition, has developed and created Magic Mirrors all over the world where people can try on clothes, lingerie, shoes and jewellery. Holition’s global deployments have been installed at premium retail stores including Selfridges, Harrods and Dover Street Market in London, Isetan in Tokyo and Bloomingdales in New York.
Meanwhile, Rigby and Peller in Hong Kong has outfitted its store with a smart fitting room mirror for bra-shopping customers. This allows its customers to ascertain what bra size works for them. The in-built camera in the smart mirror scans the shopper who needs to hold their arms out and rotate slowly in 360 degrees, and recommends the ideal bra size.
Innovation site Springwise reported the installation of the UK’s first ‘live-feed’ digital clothing rail in department store Tyrers, which displays items ranked by real-time social media ‘likes’. The installation is set up by O2, whose research cites that shoppers take social media trends into consideration for their shopping decisions.
How does the live-feed clothing rail work? Selective clothing items on the Facebook and Instagram pages are also available on the clothing rail at the store. When an online shopper ‘likes’ an item on the social media page, a physical meter at the store will be activated and record the number of ‘likes’ in real time, showing the possibilities of syncing between online and offline shopper behaviour.
A beauty counter in the palm of your hands
Face by Holition is an immersive virtual cosmetic experience using innovative technology where smartphones and tablets act as a mirror to try on and experiment with the latest colours, shades and textures of makeup.
Trying out cosmetic products in a shop can be frustrating — wrong colour, wrong look and a hand smothered with endless lipsticks and powder — the virtual makeup application allows the user to try before they buy. As it is real time, users can be as playful and creative as they like while trying out the different makeup combinations; it is not a selfie but a real-time video feed from a phone or iPad.
When applying the virtual makeup, Face by Holition uses accurate face-tracking technology which ‘sees’ and locates the features on a face. It is intuitive enough to discern between the skin of the lips, eyes and other facial contours, allowing the virtual makeup to stay in place when smiling, talking or nodding.
The ground-breaking technology led by Holition’s female developers gives cosmetics retailers a great opportunity to directly engage with their customers by offering a ‘try-before-you-buy’ option. The retailer can also see what the user searches for, tries on, or buys, and if the user comes back for another virtual try on. The easy-to-use experience lets users try out new colours, save a look and share with their friends or click to purchase.
Meanwhile, Holition has been commissioned by nail polish brand Sally Hansen to create ManiMatch, a virtual try-on application for nails where different nail polish colours and textures can be applied in real time from any mobile device. The app incorporates realistic visualisations with integrated real-time light reflection as well as a personalised skin tone analysis. Holition developed ManiMatch using a modified version of its successful immersive virtual cosmetics app, Face by Holition. The software was redesigned and customised using complex and innovative patent-pending technology.
Other innovation by Holition includes an application for Uniqlo where up to 120 different coloured T-shirts could be tried on. In 2012, Holition helped create for Dunhill in Shanghai the world’s biggest holographic fashion show installation, with 64 real models changing their clothes according to the seasons. This changing seasons are projected live into a dome-shaped hologram by Holition. In the first two weeks, 3.5 million people saw a short clip of the show on the social media networks.
In 2012, Holition created an interactive ‘gesture’-driven in-store experience for jewellers such as Georg Jensen, where like the film Minority Report, shoppers could wave at the screen to move elements of a ring around to create their own unique ring. Holition also created the world’s first 3D real-time augmented reality jewellery app which could be launched directly from a print ad in Tatler.
“Point, snap, pay” experience
iQNECT’s visual search app enables magazine readers to access interactive digital content simply by taking a picture of any page’s images with their smartphone. Performing this familiar action instantly brings up content such as videos, invitations, exclusive digital offers or coupons — and most importantly, the option to instantly buy the item photographed without having to go to a website or store.
Apart from enhancing the reader’s experience and enjoyment of the magazine, visual search technology captures the critical moment when peak consumer interest is met, providing instant additional product information and the ability to click ’buy’ within a single app.
The iQNECT app also provides ways to deepen engagement with readers, including augmented reality capabilities that let users virtually try on products by viewing real-world items through their smartphone screen. Publishers such as C True can use this technology to add huge value for advertisers, who traditionally had no way to directly or instantly convert a reader’s product interest into a purchase.
“We challenge the belief that print is a dying medium,” said Niamh Byrne, chief operating officer, iQNECT. “Visual search acts as a bridge between the sumptuous tactility of print media and the instant responsiveness of m-commerce. The technology enhances readers’ magazine experience by instantaneously connecting them with content and m-commerce options that relate exactly to what they’re reading. For publishers and brands, that means the point of inspiration and point of sale can now be virtually indistinguishable — dramatically lowering drop-off rates and raising the ROI of any creative campaign.”
Her World Thailand, the first of C True’s magazines to work with the iQNECT app, enables readers to view videos and exclusive product offers by taking photos of the magazine’s cover, features, and selected advertisements; and instantly purchase the exact or similar items found in the magazine’s pages. All purchases occur without the reader leaving the app, maintaining high levels of security and data protection while delivering a seamless ‘one-touch’ buying experience.
“Magazine readers — and consumers more generally — are already accustomed to photographing and sharing print media that they love,” said Laikram Lerdvitayapasit, managing director and publisher of C True.
“iQNECT’s platform allows publishers to monetise this behaviour in a clearly quantifiable way that simultaneously increases reader engagement with our and our advertisers’ content — all within a fast and intuitive back-end platform that permits huge creative latitude in advertising and marketing campaigns,” added Lerdvitayapasit.
The partnership marks iQNECT’s first commercial venture in Thailand, adding to a number of partnerships around Asia with companies including Dove, Cinime, Ben & Jerry’s Ice-Cream, and a major agency network in China.
Digital trying before buying online
Meanwhile, in Singapore, editorial content has become shoppable. Virtual fitting company Metail has partnered with Singapore Press Holding’s e-commerce portal, SheShops the Online Store, where a retail platform is integrated into editorial content, allowing readers to try on the outfits they see directly in the portal.
When shopping online, Metail’s survey revealed that the biggest appeal of e-tail therapy for consumers is convenience (33%); however, the biggest frustration is uncertainty about sizes, with one in four saying they are put off shopping online because they are not sure which size to buy (25%) or if it will suit their body shape (23%). Furthermore, nearly two-thirds (62%) feel that the photos used by most online stores are not reflective of their own body shape, with 42% saying they would feel more confident about shopping online if the retailer recommended a size for them.
“Consumers are not always confident that what they click will be what they receive, and so retailers are missing out on opportunities to convert prospective customers into sales.” — Kelvin Au, Managing Director, Metail Asia
Metail has created a technology platform for online retailers, which allows shoppers to try on an item of clothing before they buy it. By entering three basic body measurements, users are able to generate their body avatar — known as MeModels — which is up to 92% accurate of their own body shape. Users can also enter their waist and hip measurements to increase the accuracy to 96%, and can further personalise their MeModel too by editing skin tone and hair colour.
Managing director of Metail Asia, Kelvin Au, commented: “E-commerce has opened up the world of retail, but it is far from perfect. Consumers are not always confident that what they click will be what they receive, and so retailers are missing out on opportunities to convert prospective customers into sales.”
Au continued: “Our MeModels have proved to be an effective customer engagement tool. On average, Metail users spend 3.5 times longer on the site and our retail partners have reported a 30% increase in sales per visitor.”
Now, consumers will be able to browse over 200 items of clothing, ranging from dresses and skirts to tops and trousers from fashion labels including Carrie K, Chi Chi Von Tang and Antipodium. Readers will be directed to the online store through SPH titles: HerWorld, Female and Cleo.
Manage your wardrobe
For busy professionals in Hong Kong, wardrobe-on-demand PAKT helps to organise your wardrobe. Its offsite clothing management services include a butler, high-resolution photo catalogue, individual garment tracking, pressing, dry-cleaning and repairs services. According to PAKT, it plans to expand into clothes sharing, trading and donation on a mobile app.
Nicolas Kohl, PAKT’s technical director, said: “PAKT is about much more than simply putting your wardrobe at your fingertips. We are creating a community which is a virtual space where you will be able to manage, share, rent or even donate the clothes you no longer wear to charity.”
With all the new technology helping shoppers to buy better and to shop more, one definitely needs all the help one can get in managing one’s wardrobe.