Will virtual fitting room tech help Walmart achieve its fashion ambitions?

Discussion
Source: Walmart
May 17, 2021

Walmart has been on a multiyear journey to up its fashion cred and the latest milestone is last week’s announcement that it is acquiring Zeekit, a virtual fitting room technology firm.

Denise Incandela, EVP of apparel and private brands, who is leading the effort for Walmart’s U.S. business, said the acquisition was an important step as more consumers shop for clothing online and “not only want variety in styles, but also an inspiring and personalized digital experience that makes shopping for apparel easy, fun and social.”

Ms. Incandela, writing on a company blog, called the virtual try-on technology “a game-changer” that addresses one of the biggest challenges when it comes to selling clothes online. The tech will not only provide Walmart’s customers with a sense of how well an item will fit but how it “will actually look” on them.

The technology opens up an opportunity for Walmart to “deliver an inclusive, immersive and personalized experience for our diverse customer base,” she writes.

The virtual fitting room technology is expected to help Walmart grow sales of national brands such as Champion, Free People and Levi’s Strauss, as well as its growing lineup of owned labels, which now include ELOQUII Elements, Free Assembly, George, Scoop, Sofia Jeans by Sofia Vergara, Terry & Sky, Time and Tru, and Wonder Nation. The retailer also has a growing partnership with thredUP to sell second-hand clothing.

Shoppers on Walmart.com will have a choice of uploading a personal photo or choosing from model avatars that approximate their height, shape and skin tone to evaluate how a piece of clothing will look on them. The idea is to come as close as possible to replicating the experience that customers find when trying on clothes at in-store fitting rooms or at home.

The technology also enables shoppers to share their virtual outfits with others to get additional opinions before they make a purchase.

Ms. Incandela writes that Walmart was attracted to Zeekit as a result of its track record working with top clothing brands and retailers.

“Given its scalability,” Ms. Incandela wrote, “we believe Zeekit’s technology can also be used to create other fashion experiences, including the ability to build the world’s largest virtual closet and mix and match clothing seamlessly. These exciting technologies add a social element to the digital experience, allowing our customers to bring their unique personalities and preferences to shopping.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will the addition of virtual try-on technology mean for Walmart’s clothing business? What do you think Denise Incandela is envisioning when she talks about “other fashion experiences” that will be created by the technology?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Virtual try-on technology can’t save Walmart’s clothing cred."
"I think it’s a fun addition but it won’t revolutionize buying fashion at Walmart. Or anywhere else for that matter."
"Perfect timing as Walmart finally revisits its apparel brand portfolio and as making up for lost margin becomes a second-half mandate."

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20 Comments on "Will virtual fitting room tech help Walmart achieve its fashion ambitions?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

“Game changer” this is not, but it will certainly advance Walmart’s fashion aspirations. This type of try-on technology is not new, but it is becoming more pervasive. No doubt it will get better and more accurate over time, so this makes good sense for any retailer that is focused on growing their apparel business. And the idea of creating other fashion experiences with technology is likely true, however how this will manifest itself at Walmart is yet to be seen. What we do know is that Walmart is very much up for the experimentation and learning.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

Virtual fitting rooms are a prime use case for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and the virtual try-on technology for Walmart will create excitement and elevate its reputation for fashion. While AR is no substitute for physical fitting rooms, consumers will experiment with the technology and have fun, which will translate into more sales for Walmart.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Perfect timing as Walmart finally revisits its apparel brand portfolio and as making up for lost margin becomes a second-half mandate.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

I would hope Zeekit’s biggest impact would be on reducing the customer returns. If it can accurately show the fit, color, look, etc., it could reduce buyer remorse and non-quality related returns. But the success depends on how easy the technology is to use. Walmart should aggressively promote the usage and incentivize customers who try it out to accelerate wider adoption.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Two words we don’t often hear together – Walmart and fashion. Will this hurt? Nope, and it may help Walmart down the road, as Mark Ryski notes. But Walmart’s problem in trying to sell fashion to its customer base is not a technology issue, it’s a store brand image issue.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

You don’t have to be first to market to be bold and to become the best.

Walmart has made an acknowledgement that they are committed to delivering unparalleled value to consumers and personalizing shopping around fashion. They are also uniquely positioned to scale. I believe it is these two factors (experience and scalability) that will bolster Walmart’s clothing business.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I believe Walmart has been looking for that golden nugget in its apparel business for a long while. They have thrown things against the wall and created lines with assorted designers and hope they stick whether it is technology or buying other companies, etc. Target is and has been known for chic at affordable pricing from designers such as Isaac Mizrahi, Vineyard Vines, or Zac Posen. Both are big box retail, and both have had different results. Hopefully Walmart will eventually find the golden nugget.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

This is a smart move and it is good to see Walmart investing in technology that reduces friction for the customer. However as important as technology is, the biggest experience for most Walmart shoppers is what they see when they are in stores. And on that front, Walmart’s whole approach to fashion needs to change. They’ve introduced some interesting own-labels, like Free Assembly, but they way they merchandise it is completely unappealing and out of kilter with what they are trying to achieve with the brand.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I have tried on clothing before using virtual fitting rooms. Each one gave me an idea of what the garments might look like on me, but none were close enough to depend on.

Is this technology accurate? Does it measure every garment or does it use a standardized sizing that for women’s clothing isn’t standardized at all? Does it somehow measure the customer’s body? I think it’s a fun addition but it won’t revolutionize buying fashion at Walmart. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Unpredictable sizes (particularly for women) are a major irritation for customers and a margin concern for retailers. If this technology can create more predictability and can also be used to upsell, Walmart will really have a winner.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

This is where AR meets reality. Having a virtual dressing room is better than no dressing room at all. It’s still new – and a novelty. People will “play with it,” and it will be helpful for some to make decisions. As the technology improves and becomes more of “business than usual” than a novelty, so will the results.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

Try-before-you-buy tech will increase Walmart’s online traffic and clothing sales while reducing returns. It’s a smart move to support Walmart’s investment in apparel private labels, including a collaboration with designer Brandon Maxwell.

Walmart will capture more consumer data to shape and personalize its marketing efforts. “Other fashion experiences” could include virtual fashion shows and livestreaming campaigns with influencers to connect with consumers.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Your appraisal certainly aligns with my thought process (again!), Lisa Goller.

Liz Crawford
BrainTrust

Virtual try-on technology can’t save Walmart’s clothing cred. Prada doesn’t have virtual try-ons and they have no problem with their cred. Fashion is about style; Walmart is synonymous with the cheap and the mundane.

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust

I really love this and it suggests Walmart is really serious about fashion and apparel business expansion. AR, VR and new channels are likely to appear in the coming years as a way to sell product and this gives a good indication. It may also be a step toward the virtual changing room where clothing is custom made for each individual consumer. What Walmart does with this next will be interesting – will they offer it as a value added service to other retailers in the way that Amazon would if it were their acquisition?

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Kudos to Walmart for adding this important tool to their war chest. But as important as fit is, it is a distant second to the aesthetics and emotional appeal of the brand. Physical fit will be a confidence builder for the customer in e-commerce transactions, but emotional fit will come first.

Bindu Gupta
BrainTrust

Virtual try-on technology is not new but could be really effective in increasing online visits as there is a gamification element and it’s fun to engage with. For Walmart, its success will depend a lot the style of clothes, the ease of using the technology and if their target audience would find it useful.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

If it’s accurate and everyone — Ok, a lot of people — use it, then it will be useful (no it won’t be a “game changer”… Walmart’s clothing has lots of issues). Both of these, of course, are unknowns, so it’s hard to predict how it will turn out.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

Icandela’s “game changer” is ambitious if not down right wishful thinking. Will this be interesting to consumers who already buy apparel at Walmart? Sure. Probably. Will this convince consumers who do not already buy apparel at Walmart to give Walmart a try. Probably not. Walmart will need to amplify this technology to show consumers the benefit of personalized experience. Otherwise, it is a novelty that will have it’s time and then fade, like too many other apparel initiatives at Walmart. To that end, it may be worth considering the value this can bring to Walmart for use outside of their stores with other industry partners.

Casey Craig
BrainTrust
2 months 7 days ago

Based on intent data, the number one phrase searched by retailers is customer experience. Every retailer is trying to achieve the best customer experience possible. If virtual try-on is actually going to improve the customer experience, then that will help to drive revenue in the clothing business for Walmart.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Virtual try-on technology can’t save Walmart’s clothing cred."
"I think it’s a fun addition but it won’t revolutionize buying fashion at Walmart. Or anywhere else for that matter."
"Perfect timing as Walmart finally revisits its apparel brand portfolio and as making up for lost margin becomes a second-half mandate."

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