Fashion’s relationship to augmented reality

Fashion is entering a new relationship with augmented reality. This started with Valentino, who had a pop-up shop at South Coast Plaza in Southern California to highlight the brand’s purses. The pop-up featured a high-tech element with LED wall paneling, creating an immersive experience. There was also an interactive 360-degree photo booth with a panoramic image. Visitors to the store could use their smartphones to scan markers to experience the Valentino Garavani Roman Stud bag in a 3D augmented reality activation.

Valentino was just the beginning. According to ABI research, this year over 120,000 stores will leverage augmented reality in some way. AR-capable devices have an expected growth of over 4 billion.

Augmented reality is a new way for brands to engage with customers. It gives them the option to engage in products virtually from anywhere with their devices.

The terms augmented reality and virtual reality often see interchangeab use, but the augmented reality is only partially immersive. Augmented reality in fashion is already proven to increase revenue. One of the reasons is that when customers experience products before purchasing them, it makes them feel like they own them already, making them more likely to purchase. Augmented reality also allows brands and companies to upsell companion products and accessories.

AR is also proven to reduce returns. According to Statista, returns causes the fashion industry 550 billion dollars per year. Allowing customers to try on things in augmented reality before they buy them increases the likelihood they will like and keep the item once they physically have it. When Macy’s launched their “try before you buy” AR product visualization, they dropped return rates to less than two percent.

A sign that augmented reality is the future of retail is the number of tech companies and startup investors buying in. In 2021, Snapchat acquired Vertebrae, a company that helps brands create 3D versions of products. More AR clothing videos are also appearing on social media because of software updates from companies like Snapchat and Apple.

Another reason for the increase in fashion’s relationship with AR is a word we just can’t hear enough of since 2020: COVID-19. When lockdowns happened and in-person shopping came to a halt, brands had to get creative with their digital investments. AR made it possible for customers to try on clothes at home without needing the physical garment or being physically present in a store.

While the technology is far from perfect, it was a game-changing step for the fashion industry. Historically, returns are one of the biggest complaints retailers have. Any technology to reduce return rates is always seen as a blessing.

As demand for AR increases, more fashion brands will hop on board and further investments to develop these technologies will happen. With the growth of the metaverse, brands are trying to capitalize on new forms of AR and Web3 too. Brands have already begun creating virtual clothing just for metaverse content and there was an entire Metaverse Fashion Week. AR is here to stay.