Is the pandemic reshaping our online fashion shopping experiences?

4 Minute Read

6 examples that show how innovation is intersecting with eCommerce in fashion

The Corona pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns have us sitting at home, missing real-world experiences. We can't go out to meet friends in the same way, we can't travel the world at ease, and we certainly can't go out and shop for new, stylish clothing items to add to our wardrobe like we used to. For all of the above, we have been pushed to more digital and online alternatives - which most of the time do not adequately replicate the real-world, human experiences of touch, feel, and hearing.

Digital commerce is the "new normal". While research shows that new consumer purchases are currently centered on the most basic needs, people are also shopping more consciously, buying local, and are embracing digital commerce. Consumers are going digital to connect, learn and play. Fashion companies anticipate that this trend is here to stay and are trying to adapt.

However, when it comes to buying new clothes, the conventional online shop leaves a lot to be desired. The stringing together of 2D images of a model wearing the product is simply no substitute for trying on the clothes yourself, and thus frequently leads to unhappy purchases. This may please the parcel industry - they now have more work than ever due to the increasing deliveries and return shipments - but the strain on the planet due to increased CO2-Emissions can leave a bitter aftertaste to online shopping. If digital commerce is the inevitable way forward, then innovations are needed to help make the overall experience more pleasant for shoppers. Even before Corona, fashion brands were trying innovative digital concepts for their online shops. The pandemic has forced those efforts into overdrive as brands and companies are pushed to rethink and, in some cases, create completely new business models.

We want to introduce you to six examples where companies are doing things differently and attempting to spice up the digital shopping experience 🚀

1. Online shopping with augmented reality Instagram filters

Instagram pushed into the online shopping arena when they introduced their checkout feature back in 2019. At the end of the same year, they launched a new augmented reality shopping feature that allowed consumers to “try on” products digitally before buying them. This feature was used by Dior for their Spring/Summer 2020 collection. Consumers could use an augmented reality filter to try on the pieces before purchasing.

What stops more clothing brands from using this interactive feature more widely? The technology is not ready yet. Phone Cameras cannot distinguish all body parts with good enough accuracy; the human limbs just allow for too many shapes, sizes, and poses. This could lead to frustrating shopping experiences for clothes. For the moment, digital shopping experiences based on this kind of tech are limited, and best-suited to brands selling makeup (See example from MAC below), glasses, and hats because the face is more stable.

Online shopping with augmented reality Instagram filters

2. Virtual stores. Virtual reality

Augmented reality brings the products to the consumer. Virtual reality, on the other hand, brings the customer to the products. Ralph Lauren, among others, is making use of this technology. With the help of the virtual reality platform, Obsessar, shoppers are no longer bound to the endless carousel of product photos. As an online shopper, you enter the shop as usual through virtual "doors", can move through the shop like on Google Maps, and click the products you like. Once clicked, a pop-up opens with the product page containing all the necessary information as well as the "add to shopping cart" button. Additional gimmick: Just like in the real store, music plays to sweeten the shopping experience. (Check out the example below)

Virtual fashion store

3. Perfectly fitting shoes thanks to feet scanning

Did you know that three out of every five people are likely wearing the wrong size shoe? This has always been a challenge for online shoe shopping. The issue remains bigger than ever during the pandemic with limited possibilities to try shoes on in-store. Nike made an attempt to address this problem pre-corona, but its current relevance seems to be even more fitting. Since 2019 customers using the Nike shopping app, see the option "Nike Fit" when choosing a size. This is a scanning solution that uses a proprietary combination of computer vision, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and recommendation algorithms. It does this by measuring the full shape of both feet, offering the ability to know your truly perfect fit for each Nike shoe style.

App to check out the feet size with simple scanning

Using the smartphone’s camera, Nike Fit scans the customer's feet, collecting 13 data points mapping the foot morphology for both feet. Once scanned, the app offers a best fit recommendation for the desired footwear.

Using the smartphone’s camera, Nike Fit scans the customer's feet, collecting 13 data points mapping the foot morphology for both feet. Once scanned, the app offers a best fit recommendation for the desired footwear.

4. Diversity in body type and size matters

Women in similar black dress in variety of skin color and body shapes

The individuality of the human body with its different forms and shapes makes it hard to know what size we should choose when shopping online for clothing. This is especially true if the items we want to buy are cut in a way that is meant to hug, shape or highlight our figure. Online size guides created by the various brands are of little help with that either.

ASOS tested a feature called "See my fit" at the beginning of 2020 which could be a game-changer for this challenge. In partnership with Zeekit, a company specialized in Augmented Reality, they developed a tool that allows shoppers to see what their clothing selection would look like on different body types. In the trial phase, they offered 16 different body types from which a customer could choose to see how a product looks on it. The aim of this tool was to help customers make more informed purchasing decisions as it shows how products look on models that more closely reflect individual customers.

However, after the trial period, the feature was taken out of the store. Since then, ASOS has not commented on its future use.

5. Measure twice (virtually); Cut once. Sizing up customers in a different wayUnpsun app preview with scanning laser on top of person

Unspun is tackling the same challenge as ASOS in a different way. The robotics and digital apparel company developed a technology with which they design their jeans digitally and specifically around the individual customer in 3D. This not only has the advantage that the jeans fit perfectly, but you can also customize them. First, the customer chooses the style of denim and cut they want. After placing an order, the customer can use the Unspun app to create a body scan of themselves, which then creates a 3D avatar which the company then uses for the final production of the jeans

6. Product Passportsretraced product passport with journey in Outland Denim webshop

Outland Denim decided to invite visitors to their eCommerce store on a product journey. With the help of the retraced transparency widget, shoppers can travel Outland Denim's supply chain, learning about the processes that go behind the making of their jeans. Customers can also learn about the suppliers involved, the materials in the product, and check out "proof points" that related to Outland's claims for environmental and social sustainability, such as fair payment, and low water usage. The interactive supply chain journey feature ultimately allows shoppers to get more insights about a product prior to purchasing and helps brands build a new line of communication with potential customers.

A new era for interactive shopping

These examples show that the current online shopping experience has the potential to grow and innovate during the COVID 19 pandemic. So, to answer our question in the title: Yes, the pandemic is definitely reshaping our fashion shopping experience. Fashion brands will continue to invest in new shopping solutions, to ensure that customers can fit the right items that not only fit their unique preferences but also their bodies and their values.

Women retraced style on lapto and showcasing managing supply chains

Tai Ford