It seems like every year since the pandemic began, retail and e-commerce experts have been encouraging brands to focus and scale their digital offerings. And it makes sense to understand why: that initial investment that was placed in rapid digital transformation permanently changed the customer experience and expectations, and now they expect more.
While e-commerce has surged forward during the pandemic, it persists and continues to grow. Studies predict that e-commerce sales could grow from $3.3 trillion today to over $5 trillion by 2026.
There is nothing revolutionary about saying “e-commerce is here to stay”. But examining consumer trends reveals that brands must maintain momentum with their digital offerings to meet the demands of an ever-changing and increasingly web-centric customer base.
As brands and retailers look to the fourth quarter and beyond, leveraging digital tools that improve customer experience through personalization can help boost conversions, reduce returns and their associated logistics costs, and build customer loyalty in a highly competitive landscape.
Identify conversion pain points
One of the biggest challenges retailers face when assessing customer experience improvement points is identifying where the conversion dips are actually happening. Without a good understanding of customer experience shortcomings, this can lead brands to spend on features that may not initially be an issue.
Some of these conversion drop points can be basic: unconvincing copy, poor audience targeting, weak calls to action, etc. But for many apparel retailers, a major barrier to conversion is that customers don’t trust the size of a particular garment. With different fabrics and a lack of uniformity in sizing between different brands, customers find it difficult to visualize how a particular garment will fit them, which can lead to abandoning a purchase.
This lack of trust can also lead clients to engage in what is known as bracketing. Bracketing is when a customer buys three different sizes of a garment hoping it will fit. While not a conversion issue, this process is logistically difficult, time-consuming, and very costly for a retailer to process orders.
Virtual Fitting Rooms: Size Transparency and Customization in One
Customers today want the best of both worlds: they want the convenience of shopping from home and having their orders delivered while enjoying the personalized experience of in-store consultative shopping. As online shopping has become a priority for brands in recent years, these features aren’t just a perk, they’re standard. Studies show that 71% of customers now expect companies to provide them with a personalized experience.
Fortunately, this consumer demand has come to a point where technology has evolved to meet the moment. Virtual fitting rooms allow customers to enter their exact measurements to create an avatar that provides a realistic example of what the garment will look like on their body. This feature is the closest thing to an in-person fitting experience that allows for an unprecedented level of personalization for the customer.
Giving a customer the ability to see what a garment will look like on their body double has a double effect. First, it builds confidence in an accurate purchase, which increases conversion and reduces returns. Then, it creates a gamification engine within the shopping experience. Part of what makes in-store shopping so enjoyable is trying out different styles — even if it’s not something you’d normally wear — and seeing if it works for you. Having a full inventory at your fingertips that can be redeemed in seconds makes the shopping experience feel like a game.
Integrating virtual dressing rooms is a relatively small investment for retailers that can have a major impact. Several hundred styles can be integrated into a brand’s website in a matter of weeks, and the brands that have launched them have seen a 15-40% increase in revenue.
The long-term impact of successful personalization
By focusing on customer experience and deploying personalized engines like virtual dressing rooms and customer landing pages, brands can strive to build trust throughout the consumer journey. Investing in customer experience is an exercise in building long-term relationships with customers. Building a connection through personalization is a surefire way to build strong word-of-mouth about your brand.
Virtual fitting rooms are also a very engaging and highly shareable experience. In the age of user-generated content and social shopping, having platforms that customers can play on gives audiences a way to connect with each other and your brand.
Consumers are demanding more from brands these days, and so far, brands have risen to the challenge. Looking to the future, however, focusing on personalization and engaging customer experiences will separate the good from the really great.
Dave Sharma is co-founder and CEO of Perfectly, a virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) and AI-powered virtual dressing room solution that is being integrated into the e-commerce platforms of major retailers nationwide. He has over 40 years of experience leading large manufacturing and technology operations. He founded, established, divested and acquired several companies in the TTA-Transitair group of companies. He has also led international consortia in major infrastructure projects and staff numbers in the thousands.
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