As the world is extensively changing, the fashion industry, the fourth biggest sector of the global economy, has to adapt. Currently, it’s facing a lot of challenges. Thousands of brands and retailers exist in a highly competitive environment, needing to enhance business processes, boost sales, attract new customers online and offline and become eco-friendly.

In search of solutions to these issues, the industry has started to lean towards emerging technologies, like AR and IoT. Over the last decade, many shoppers have migrated online. The popularity of online shopping has been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As for 2021, 49% of global consumers shop online more now than they did before the pandemic.

E-commerce is a relatively new direction for the fashion business. Online retail has its own issues, but it also can be a platform for tools, solving some of the most pressing issues of the fashion industry as a whole.

Digital tools used in e-commerce can provide new ways to communicate with consumers and persuade them to make purchases online. At the same time, there are e-commerce solutions that can cut production costs and bring more sustainability to the fashion industry in the future in response to the economic recession and the environmental crisis.

AR is one of the most high-demanded emerging technologies because it has the power to help the industry players tackle a number of the mentioned issues. This technology is surely determinative for the future of fashion.  It can make online shopping a more efficient sales channel. There are five strong points that prove it.

#1: AR increases profitability

One of the most important opportunities that e-commerce gets from AR is the digital try-on technology. It enables consumers to try on virtual clothing (e.g., Snap, ZERO10, Clo-Z), shoes (e.g., Wanna Kiks, Kivisense, Vyking), accessories (e.g., Perfect, Hapticmedia, QReal) and beauty products (e.g., ModiFace, Virtool, Visage Technologies) almost the same way as in the physical world.

This is important because it’s crucial for people to understand if the product fits them before purchasing it. In 2019, right before the pandemic, 55% of consumers said that the ability to try apparel on was the key factor behind their choice to shop in brick-and-mortar stores.

It’s unlikely that consumers’ preferences have changed, but COVID-19 forced people to shop online. So, now more consumers are used to buying online but still want to try on the clothes. As a result, they purchase apparel on e-commerce platforms and then, after trying the clothes on at home, often return at least some of the items.

The global economic recession is also motivating people to buy more thoughtfully, and for many, it’s easier to retreat from buying an item they are not so sure about than to go through the procedure of returning it.

AR try-on lets consumers use their smartphone cameras to see how the digital version of the item they like is going to look on them. The experience can be highly realistic since there are already technologies that can do body tracking and segmentation and simulate different types of cloth.

It helps make firm and more conscious decisions. When consumers feel confidence in their choices, it motivates them to purchase more. So, the sales get a boost while the returns decrease, and returns are resource-heavy for retailers because returns increase the costs of logistics and reduce profitability of each declined product.

#2: AR makes shopping more sustainable

Sustainability is one of the biggest challenges for today’s fashion industry. At the moment fashion is one of the main polluters on Earth. A terrifying 11.3 million tons of textile are thrown in the garbage each year in the US alone.

The production of clothing contributes heavily to the environmental crisis because brands often produce more items than they can sell, especially when it comes to mass-market fashion. At the same time, humanity is clearly buying too much clothing.

A lot of shoppers find it easier to throw excessive items into a dumpster than to return them.

By promoting more thoughtful purchasing, AR try-on technology helps reduce the number of disappointing shopping decisions, thus decreasing textile waste. Moreover, as it stimulates a decrease in returns, it also cuts CO2 emissions from logistics.

In the future, AR try-on may even cut down on the production of physical clothing.  AR can be used not only to try on already-manufactured clothes, it can also help to try on concept pieces that don’t yet exist. Seeing and trying on concept clothing in physical form may bring some fashions to life upon the request of a consumer. Who knows what this practice could do to the fashion industry?

This means there will be no overproduction of non-demanded items, which may end up in waste.

Committing to sustainability is a contribution to a better future for the world. It’s also a path to improved brand loyalty. According to McKinsey, 63% of European consumers consider a brand’s promotion of sustainability as an important purchasing factor.

#3:  AR is the key to the Metaverse

The Metaverse is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to the future of society. In 2021 the number of internet searches for the word “metaverse” rose 7,200%. Mass adoption of the Metaverse is not happening right now, but it’s still going to be big in the future. AR gives brands and retailers a chance to start exploring the possibilities within the Metaverse and paves the way for the future of fashion.

There are two big sales opportunities that the Metaverse brings to brands: selling digital clothes for users’ avatars and arranging stores within the virtual space where people will buy physical clothing. The first option may sound delusional to some, but the prospects are actually impressive.

In 2021, internet users spent $60-70 billion on virtual goods within video games, so there are already a lot of people who are used to buying digital clothing, accessories, and cosmetics. The second option is going to turn the typical e-commerce shopping process into an immersive experience. It’ll add fun to usually a purely mechanical procedure.

The Metaverse also provides a chance to enhance marketing. It’s a place where brands and retailers can communicate with their audience and showcase their products. The Metaverse is going to enable sellers to make more personalized offers to their customers and develop better loyalty programs.

Of course, one can wait until the Metaverse is highly popular and has a broad audience. But then a brand or a retailer will have to chase those who decided to build their presence there earlier. It’s common knowledge that being an early adopter is much easier than catching up.

#4: AR helps to connect with Gen Z

Gen Z consumers are coming into power, and brands and retailers puzzle over the best ways to communicate with them. These young people have grown up with technology, and e-commerce needs to speak to them in the same innovative language. They also strive to make financially and environmentally wise decisions and see shopping as an experience rather than just a transaction.

As Gen Z consumers tend to thoroughly assess fashion goods before purchasing, it’s critical for e-commerce to provide them with the most convincing data. AR try-on is a tool that persuades them because it helps form a more informed opinion. Besides, it provides new possibilities to engage with Gen Z online, including through social media and the Metaverse.

Speaking of social media, young people consider apparel to be a means of self-expression and creativity. A post on a social platform often requires a statement look that’s going to be worn once and then either returned or forgotten. It’s not at all environmentally friendly.

Gen Z cares for the environment and makes an effort to reduce pollution. They can appreciate the advantages of digital apparel. Also, guided by the urge to protect the planet, they’ll love the production of physical clothes by request.

#5: AR facilitates the discovery of new talent

Starting out as a fashion designer isn’t easy financially. New fashion designers often have to invest their own money to create their first items and collections. They need to buy textiles, garment accessories, and other materials. To have an impressive presentation, they also need models and a show that requires a lot of resources.

AR is a more sustainable and financially savvy way for emerging creatives to showcase their collections to buyers, consumers, journalists, and influencers. In addition, augmented reality can make competitions for young fashion designers more inclusive and accessible, eliminating geography and money limits. Such contests may even move to the Metaverse.

As a result, the fashion industry will become more democratic, and more ingenious fashion designers will have the opportunity to be a part of the industry.

Selling clothes online is relatively inexpensive compared to running a brick-and-mortar store, but aspiring designers have to conquer their audience. They need digital tools for this too. Consumers are usually cautious with designers who are as yet unknown to them.  A lot of effort must be invested in changing the consumers’ minds.

Forecasting the future may look like a meaningless task because predictions can’t be 100% accurate. Besides, there are always some black swans waiting for their time to appear and change the game. But as for the ability of AR to improve e-commerce, it’s not even a prediction as it’s already happening.

The most forward-thinking brands and retailers are leaning toward experimenting with this technology. They see how it can solve their problems and give them new opportunities.

Featured Image Credit: Photomix Company; Pexels; Thank you!

George Yashin

George Yashin is the CEO & Co-founder of ZERO10, a leading AR fashion platform providing innovative tech solutions for brands entering the digital world.
He is an entrepreneur and founder of several successful ventures with 15+ years of experience in fashion, tech, visual arts, and product design fields.