AI fitting rooms and home try-on concierges are being heralded by some brands as the future, but can digital really change the way we shop for the better? A report by Mollie Rofe.
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Despite its long-standing resistance, luxury fashion has finally embraced the looming reality of a digital world, and with that, realised the online potential. Amid the uncertainty and chaos of the last 18 months, fashion has found flourishing success online, but can digital transform the currently unparalleled in-store experience and certainty of purchasing in the flesh?
Discovering unlimited products at the mere tap of a keyboard, we have had months to become comfortable shopping from bed, and fine-tuned our online prowess. An effortless dopamine fix, shoppers no longer need to brave the mall crowds to find the perfect wardrobe addition.
While this might be well-suited to impulse, low-cost purchases - what does this mean for premium and luxury retailers who rely on the in-store experience as their point of difference? Can digital really become the pinnacle of fashion, or does it lack the human connection we desperately seek?
Creating a personalised experience was once reserved only for top tier customers, or VIP’s. Now, thanks to a mix of artificial intelligence, automation, human-curated design and contact through the likes of Live Chat technology, we can experience entirely customised shopping at the click of a button.
Digital-first brands like Glossier, Realisation Par and Pangaia set out to prove physical stores are, in reality, an accessory - not the retail cornerstone legacy brands believe they are.
Exploring methods to enhance every touchpoint, online brands have reached dizzying heights, proving collection launches can be delivered entirely through cultivated communities, considering email and social media channels first.
Social media has swiftly become the flagship store for many brands, generating awareness, connection and accessibility like never before.
We are now able to directly ‘tap to shop’ a piece that has caught our attention amid scrolling, and add to cart within a matter of seconds. No longer needing to scour stores for a piece we've admired in print editorial, instead, we now have the power to instantly recreate an ensemble from the palm of our hand. Content creators shoot endless lookbooks of curated outfits, immediately grabbing our attention and elevating the product experience beyond mannequins and hangers.
It’s not just gifted clothing influencers are wearing either, with brands beginning to explore social media promotion through intricately designed 3D rendors, allowing for more content, without the need for wasteful product unboxings - changing the face of PR sampling.
However, many still believe digital is disconnected to the tactile reality of shopping in person, with the inability to try and touch a barrier for greater growth. Facebook disagrees.
The dominating platform suggests social media will completely transform the way we shop in the future, firmly investing in virtual technology to bring the fitting room home.
While AI fitting rooms have been trialled by big names such as ASOS and The Iconic, the technology has been out of reach for smaller, local brands. 61% of shoppers want to embrace virtual try-ons at home, confident in the power of augmentation and AI technology with the rise in eerily realistic Tiktok and Instagram filters.
Innovative brands tend to agree, dipping their toes into the technology and exploring a world beyond in-person discovery, most notably with the likes of Balenciaga launching their Fall ‘21 collection through a bespoke video game (pictured below).
While social media and virtual reality may be taking the fashion industry by storm, there's nothing quite like trying a new piece on. Feeling the quality of fabric against your fingertips, and slipping into a silhouette that transforms your confidence.
Luxury brands understand this instant connection like no other, having carefully harnessed an environment to foster love at first sight. But with shoppers hesitant to return to stores, premium brands need to get creative to fulfill the rush of endorphins we’ve come to expect.
Partnering with London-based brand, Shrimps, newcomer Harper Concierge believe they have the solution to deliver unparalleled luxury online, introducing a courier concierge 'try before you buy' service at home, with a personal stylist on hand.
Payment is only taken for the pieces you want to keep, and means you can try each item on in the comfort of your own home, alongside your existing wardrobe.
The VIP concierge try-before-you-buy service entirely removes the hassle of returning unwanted or ill fitting items, and allows you to try on multiple pieces and sizes just as you would in-store - minus the hoards of shoppers and unflattering fitting room lighting.
The past 2 years have created significant challenges for retail, however brands who have fully immersed themselves into the possibilities of a digital-first world have flourished.
This time apart has provided us with space to rethink the way we shop, and to connect and become comfortable with a new, much more virtual experience.
Will luxury join the future, or stay stuck in the past?