Will an AR try-on app cut down on online clothing returns?
Part of the reason returns have become such a significant part of the online apparel shopping experience is because there’s no great way to get a feel for how clothing fits without first trying it on. But an augmented reality solution that’s been gaining popularity abroad has gotten some funding, and made some partnerships, that might make it easier for U.S. shoppers to make the right choice the first time around.
The Metail app allows users to virtually try on clothing by superimposing digitized versions of garments onto a virtual “body” within the app, according to Business Insider. The 3-D modeled version of the clothing is created taking into account features such as fabric texture while the simulated body created in the app factors in size and weight. The U.K.-based startup received a round of funding led by TAL, a Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturer that purports to make one in every six dress shirts sold in the U.S. Metail hopes to use this as the foundation for a U.S. expansion.
Returns have become a costly problem throughout the e-commerce world, as explored in a Financial Times article. In the U.K., returns cost retailers 60 billion pounds ($77 billion) yearly. In apparel, there’s the added concern of customers treating the ability to return clothing as merely a part of shopping. Iain Prince, supply chain director at KPMG, told Financial Times that almost a fifth of online fashion purchases include items with similar characteristics. This would indicate that customers intentionally over-order, try everything on and send back what doesn’t meet their needs.
In part, the extreme ease of returns Amazon.com offers may be creating an expectation by consumers that other retailers simply can’t afford to match. Amazon has made no-questions-asked returns (and sometimes even replacements for products with no need to return the original) an expected part of the e-commerce experience.
Metail is built specifically to allow users to try on many items in a short period of time, Business Insider reported. But the question remains if even highly-convenient AR experiences can discourage the order/try-on/return model.
- A retail startup that allows people to try on clothes digitally just got a £10 million boost – Business Insider
- UK retailers count the cost of returns – Financial Times
- Can augmented reality solve the virtual dressing room problem? – RetailWire
- Nordstrom tests smart fitting rooms – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see Metail and similar apps putting a dent in returns of apparel items purchased online? What will determine if such apps become popular among clothing shoppers?