Meet augmented reality, your new personal shopper

The timing was right, “says Meghna Saraogi, co-founder and CEO of StyleDotMe, an augmented reality (AR) SaaS company whose AR technology platform, mirrAR, helps shoppers try out jewelry virtually. The software, released on 2017 as a store solution for inventory management, reached a web version in January 2020. Less than three months later, the country closed. “Stores were closed and the only brands that could connect with customers were the ones who had an online presence, “he says. Even hesitant jewelers initially began contacting Saraogi, asking him to integrate AR into their websites, which allowed his customers to try on jewelry at line.

Today, he says, mirrAR supports more than 250 brands, including Tanishq, PC Jeweler and Kalyan Jewelers. “On average, they have managed (via mirrAR) to reduce the rate of return by 32% and ensure sales conversion by 37%,” says Saraogi, adding that participation in digital platforms has increased exponentially for most these companies. “AR adaptation has grown rapidly since the pandemic.”

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The pandemic has certainly helped accelerate the pace of adoption, says Paul Mathew, a Bengaluru-based management consultant and expert in digital, AI and Big Data. Market research and data analysis firm YouGov notes that the most significant leap in online penetration of discretionary items can be seen in the clothing category, which went from 34% pre-pandemic to 45%; almost 67% of Indians showed interest in adopting AR / VR solutions for clothing.

Currently, however, RA works better for some items than for others (e.g., makeup) and its main use seems to be to help people narrow down options and compress purchase times. The economy for the year is still unclear. Retailers, even those who have invested heavily in installing AR (the cost of development could range from $ 5,000 to $ 300,000 or so) 3.7 lakh a 2.2 million), are not able to clearly indicate the impact on the conversion rate and sales. But there is some impact and they believe it will only grow as the technology improves even more.

RA, as its name suggests, is to enhance the physical world of the user with computer-generated inputs, using a device such as a smartphone camera, webcam or smart glasses. The first commercial use of RA, a technology developed in 1968 at Harvard in the United States, was in 2008, as part of a marketing campaign for the BMW Mini. Over time, global brands, including Nike, Macy’s and Michael Kors, experimented with it. Also in India, brands like Lenskart and CaratLane allowed customers to virtually try out their products. Dhamodaran Subramanian, CEO of Takeleap, a technology media company with offices in Chennai, Delhi and Dubai, estimates that AR-driven conversion could now be between 20-30%.

Several international and Indian brands are launching or expanding their RA technology and use. In July 2020, for example, Gucci partnered with Snapchat with its AR test lens for sneakers. And in May this year, Walmart announced the acquisition of Israeli start-up Zeekit, which had developed dynamic virtual equipment.

Closer, the Flipkart group acquired a 100% stake in Bengaluru-based AR start-up Scapic in November. According to Raghu Krishnananda, head of technology at Myntra, the company is already in talks with the Scapic team about its 3D modeling capabilities. “We are experimenting with AR / VR technology to build virtual testing capabilities for making beauty products and provide an immersive experience for users,” he says, adding that this will become an important part of the customer experience and convenience. in the future.

Beauty technology retailer Boddess, which launched itself inside the pandemic, has also invested in its own AR / VR products. These were useful during the pandemic. “Customers can make informed product decisions without going into stores,” says Ritika Sharma, founder and CEO of Boddess. It helps make virtual makeup tests work well, as Subramanian points out: Dynamic light settings in RA applications can combine color and texture to suit real-world lighting conditions. Dyuti Waghray, co-founder and partner of LipHue, a Hyderabad-based custom lipstick brand, agrees. When LipHue opened in 2019, it offered an in-store experience in two steps to creating custom lipsticks. After last year’s first blockchain, however, LipHue began deploying AR online. “We saw a lot of direct conversions in which people were trying to buy the lipstick on our website,” he says, adding that since then sales have increased considerably. According to her, about 70% of sales are online.

Despite the interest that consumers have shown in adopting AR / VR for clothing, the reality is that technology may need some time to catch up. “While it may be easy to imagine the benefits of virtually testing fashion, precise fit and complex features, such as multi-woven fabric, can be particularly difficult to effectively represent right now,” says a January paper from 2020 published by global consultancy Deloitte. In addition, body shapes vary considerably. As a result, it can be difficult to get a perfect or even good enough approach to the client’s body without real proof. Or at least very accurate measurements. “For a general adaptation, the image processing algorithms interfaced by the camera can be calculated,” says Mathew. “However, with tight clothing such as underwear, for example, it’s best to measure manually.”

A visit to the store can also be critical to customers ’decisions about other products. For example, when Gurugram, Haryana’s public relations consultant Mansi Sangal, wanted to take on shows last year, she started selecting some styles at Lenskart. “It helped me get an idea of ​​how it fit my face,” he says, but he went to the store for the actual purchase. Since he didn’t want to touch or try too many things in the store, he ended up looking at pieces he had already tried with AR and finally chose one. “Seeing it in person helped me validate the choice a little more,” he says.

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The need to confirm your choice in the store is especially marked for luxury products, where “the experience of touching and feeling an exquisite design is paramount to the purchase decision,” as Mathew points out. What would work best for luxury in general, he said, is a hybrid model: select something at home and head to the store for the final decision. “An RA / IA intervention can improve the selection and testing process.”

Take, for example, jewelry, a potentially important purchase. Ultimately, people may prefer to use AR to select items, entering the store to buy, Saraogi says. This will not only speed up the purchase decision, but can also provide access to more inventory.

“RA generates a lot more leads,” he says. “And that’s something that will only grow.”

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