It seems like every year since the pandemic began, experts in retail and ecommerce have encouraged brands to focus and evolve their digital offerings. And it makes sense why: that initial investment that was placed into rapid digital transformation has permanently altered customer experience and expectations, and now they expect more.
While ecommerce leapfrogged during the pandemic, it persists and continues to grow. Studies forecast that ecommerce sales could jump from $3.3 trillion today to more than $5 trillion by 2026.
It’s nothing revolutionary to say “ecommerce is here to stay.” But looking at consumer trends reveals that brands need to keep the momentum up on their digital offerings to meet the demands of an evolving, increasingly online-focused customer base.
As brands and retailers look to Q4 and beyond, leveraging digital tools that enhance customer experience through personalization can help drive conversions, decrease returns and their associated logistical costs and build customer retention in a highly competitive landscape.
Identifying Low Points of Conversion
One of the major challenges that retailers face when evaluating places for improvement in customer experience is pinpointing where dropoffs in conversion actually occur. Without a firm understanding of where customer experience is failing, it can lead brands to spend on features that may not be an issue in the first place.
Some of these conversion dropoff points can be basic: uncompelling copy, poor audience targeting, weak calls to action and more. But for many clothing retailers, a key roadblock for conversion is customers not trusting the sizing of a particular garment. With different fabrics and a lack of uniformity in sizing across different brands, customers have a hard time visualizing how a particular garment will fit them, which can lead to abandoning a purchase.
This lack of trust can also cause customers to perform what’s known as bracketing. Bracketing is when a customer will buy three different sizes of a garment with the expectation that one will fit. While not a concern on the conversion front, this process is logistically challenging, time-consuming and very costly for a retailer on the order processing front.
Virtual Fitting Rooms: Size Transparency and Personalization in One
These days, customers want the best of both worlds: they want the convenience of shopping from home and having their orders delivered to them while also getting the personalized experience of in-store, consultative shopping. As online shopping has become more of a focus for brands in recent years, these features are not simply a nice-to-have, they’re the standard. Studies show that 71% of customers now expect companies to provide a personalized experience.
Thankfully, this consumer demand has arrived at a point when technology has evolved to meet the moment. Virtual fitting rooms enable 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 try-on experience that enables 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 twofold effect. First, it bolsters confidence in an accurate purchase, which increases conversion and reduces returns. Next, it creates a gamification engine within the shopping experience. Part of what makes in-store shopping so enjoyable is trying on different styles — even if it isn’t something you’d normally wear — and seeing if it works for you. Having an entire inventory at your fingertips that can be swapped out in seconds imbues the shopping experience with a sense of play.
Integrating virtual fitting rooms is a relatively low investment for retailers that can have a major impact. Several hundred styles can be built into a brand’s website in a matter of weeks, and brands that have launched them have seen 15% to 40% spikes in revenue.
The Long-Term Impact of Successful Personalization
By focusing on the customer experience and deploying personalized engines like virtual fitting rooms and customer landing pages, brands can work to build trust throughout the consumer journey. Investing in customer experience is an exercise in long-term relationship building with customers; creating a bond through personalization is a surefire way to build strong word of mouth about your brand.
Virtual fitting rooms are also a highly engaging and highly shareable experience. In the era of user-generated content and social shopping, having platforms for customers to play in provides an avenue for audiences to connect with one another and your brand.
Consumers these days demand more from brands, 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 truly great.
Dave Sharma is Co-founder and CEO at Perfitly, a virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) and AI powered virtual fitting room solution that is being integrated into the ecommerce platforms of the nation’s leading retailers. He has accumulated over 40+ years of experience leading large operations in manufacturing and technology. He has founded, established, divested, and acquired several business in the TTA-Transitair group of companies. He also led international consortia in large infrastructure projects and workforces of several thousand.