Will digital technologies in on-line retail grow through as bamboo sprouts?

Digital technologies influence greatly modern system of retail. There is a new wave of innovative findings that are able to drastically change our world emerge every day. Today technologies do not restrict our business, but give a greater chance for market expansions. Clothes and footwear on-line trade is not an exception.

There are a lot of problems in the on-line clothes and footwear trade that are not resolving. Firstly, there is a clear tendency of stagnation of growth in consumer traffic in on-line clothes and footwear shops. Every year we can definitely see an increase of total sales, but it doesn’t reflect the dynamics of people’s needs in these products. The fact is that customers are dealing with the problem of size fitting while shopping on-line. On-line shopping system as it is right now is not designed for a safe purchase of clothes and footwear that will surely fit the customer by size. Right now it is a great luck to buy a fitting item. That scares most customers. New service that shops provide – to bring several sizes of an item for customers and possibility of free returns-doesn’t resolve this psychological and economical problem.

The solution is to create a service that allows contactless clothes and footwear fitting. These are virtual fitting rooms that include three components:

  • hardware module that creates human-like 3D image of customer’s body,
  • measurement center for digitization of main clothes and footwear characteristics, and finally,
  • an app that allows selecting digitized clothes and footwear accordingly to customers’ profile, providing them with high comfort level.

The main idea of innovativeness of that approach is that it will resolve the long-lasting fashion objective – to free customers of necessity to know their size and give them an opportunity to buy clothes and footwear that will answer not only to style demands but also to size comfort level. We are positive that the revolution in fashion industry will happen soon, when customers are going to buy clothes and footwear not accordingly to size labels on boxes and price-tags, but they are going to rely on digitization of specific forms of their bodies.

Virtual fitting rooms make the concept of “size” unimportant for clothes and footwear shopping. In that case size labels on shoe boxes or on tags with a price on clothes are irrelevant. For example, a customer can remotely try on different shoe models accordingly to actual internal volume of a shoe and their digitized feet profile. Plus, the app will choose only those models that fit the customer.

We can briefly rehearse the benefits that digital technology of contactless clothes and footwear fitting has.

First of all, there will be decrease of returns because of wrong size, it is something that many retailers wait for. High number of returns is pain in the neck of on-line retailers for a long time now. That index can rise to 50-70% for some segments in on-line clothes and footwear trade. Some may say that things are not that bad. Brand loyalty of regular buyers supposedly completely allays fears of choosing a size. Regulars will buy items of the brand as they did before. And it is right, but only partly and only in the case if the customer buys classics and repetitive models. However, when a brand creates and presents to the market new models, old fittings may not work. And the situation is all bad when customers find out a brand for the first time.  Human-like profile of customer’s comfort level that is created in virtual fitting room, allows them to choose clothes and shoes from any shop that uses contactless fitting services. A purchase becomes easy, comfortable and safe in choosing, and, of course, cheaper than in a store. And returns are gone as if it was a bad dream.

Using the service of remote fitting leads to an increasing conversion in an on-line store. Service leads to a high probability of a transition from viewing the product to its purchase because the customer not only likes the selected item visually, but it suited them in size. Conversion growth directly leads to an increase in the size of shopping carts and transactional value, i.e. economic value based on marginal reserves per square meter, on time-frame for inventory turnover and marketing costs.

Once a successful purchase, the customer becomes loyal to the shop, connected to the contactless fitting service. To put another way, we can see the increase of customer’s loyalty. Contactless fitting service by far is the system factor in the formation of a stable fandom of an on-line store or even a whole network.

The distribution of information about the emergence of convenient clothes and shoes on-line shopping in social media will inevitably cause a Domino effect. We expect blasting rise of attention to the purchases of clothes and shoes with the new remote fitting service. New customers from the number of Internet users who previously were reluctant to buy clothes and shoes on-line will ensure a growth in consumer traffic that are awaited by all on-line sellers of clothing and shoes. Of-line customers will also join the service, finding in it more advantages. Global clothes and footwear market will be open for every on-line customer. We are on a verge of lifting all geographic shopping restrictions.

Virtual fitting service creates a new model of interaction between customers and retailers as equal and independent partners. On the one hand the optimization of operations on remote fitting and clothes and shoes trade, consistently increases the level of service and on the other (as part of the development of Big Data) expands the ability of retailers to personalize the relationship with each customer puts these relationships on a personal level, which allows approaching the maximum satisfaction of mutual interests.

Building a new business model for on-line clothing and shoes retail is the path for more possibilities in making a profit, not only for retailers, but also for the manufacturers of clothing and shoes. New digital technologies that are implemented in the contactless fitting service, allow manufacturers to work very closely with their customers.

With statistics of personal remote purchases, manufacturers are able to analyze not only the trends of following fashion, but most importantly, to analyze their products according to the criteria of produced models’ convenience and comfort levels. Analytics of such experience allows you to create a database of anthropomorphic models of body and legs, which will be an invaluable treasure for producers in the framework of step-by-step solution to mass customization.

The virtual fitting brings the dream of manufacturers of the production of goods not for warehouse, but directly to each individual buyer closer to realization. The shift to the Industry 4.0 will change markets, will produce a redistribution of spheres of influence, will lead to transformations in the social sphere.

The impact of virtual fitting rooms on the global clothes and footwear market will be enormous. The tendency of customers to prefer to buy clothes and shoes in accordance with their comfortable body profile will force the changes of the retail market. These changes will be in both off-line and on-line segments. Off-line stores will work on the idea of personalized trade approach, implementing digital innovations associated with ideas of omniconnect, maximum utilization of VR and AR technologies.  On-line retail will increasingly improve the service of remote fitting, creating a physical closeness to off-line shopping (for example, by providing three-dimensional visualization of the product with the highest quality, creating modules of human-like measurements of customer’s body and legs at the point of goods delivery, allowing the customer to participate in formation of their comfort profiles depending on a purpose of a purchase). Only the future will show which trends prevail.

Outlined prospects are grand. However, can they be implemented? In our opinion, it may depend on whether the world leaders in retail business will be able see in time these trends and new insights on their prospects. This remark is not accidental. The scale of the task requires considerable physical and intellectual resources. Thus, we think that it is clear that market transformation of the on-line clothing and footwear retail cannot be implemented without the support of leading players of the market, i.e. on-line companies of a global scale. We are talking about, for example, American on-line retailers, such as Walmart and Amazon or Chinese companies that work on-line e-commerce, such as: Alibaba, Aliexpress, JD, Tencent, etc. Innovations are waiting for an attention from them.

On a brighter note, the support for start-ups that develop these themes is also an example of attention to innovative digital technologies. And so, some companies have already picked up the sprouts of new technologies in an on-line retail. For example, Amazon that noticed and then acquired the American virtual fitting start-up Shoefitr in 2015, gave the potential for its development. We see a similar situation with Japanese Internet giant Rakuten, which included in its assets Fits.me, whose pioneering developments on virtual clothes trying on afterwards received a powerful impulse in its development.

On the final note. The path to digital transformation of the retail clothing and footwear market is first of all the ability of business leaders to see the global perspectives of development, later joining the creative potential of the business with technical inventions. On the other hand, the processes of the emergence of innovative ideas are a constant flow in the intellectual and technical environment of entrepreneurs. They are unstoppable. This indicates the invincibility of the new in the process of global development. Ideas not implemented in one phase surely will be realized in the future. And this process we associate with the invincibility of growth that in nature we can see in a small sprig of bamboo.

Request for reposts indicate a link to Imigize.com and the author of the article – Valery Chernik. This is a project for 3D contactless shoe fitting. The name is pronounced as [ɪmɪdʒaɪz], Cyrillic – [Имиджайз].

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