There is now a digital solution to online shopping’s biggest obstacle.

By Madeline Brik.

With access to hundreds of retailers through a few clicks of a button, it’s no surprise that online shopping is now the norm for many shoppers. The one drawback to hours of on-screen window-shopping is the inability to try before you buy. Retailers are therefore introducing “virtual fitting rooms” to allow customers to get a feel for an item before putting their money towards it.

The turn to digital try-on experiences has risen out of mass in-person fitting room closures due to COVID-19. While shopping with a mask on is deemed safe, trying on clothing in confined, public spaces has remained off limits. Without fitting-room access and with social distancing measures in place, there isn’t much of an incentive to travel to malls and stores. Online shops had to rise to the occasion.

Retailers such as Macy’s, Adidas, and ModCloth have developed virtual fitting room experiences and most recently, the multinational American corporation Walmart launched its own virtual fitting room experience. Through immersive technology, consumers are able to upload a photo of themselves to the site, or choose from a collection of models whose body shapes and skin tones match their own, allowing them to “try on” different pieces from the retailers’ collections. The idea is to allow buyers to mix and match outfits from the comfort of their homes instead of running back and forth from the rack to the small changing spaces in a store.

To make the digital fitting room come to life, retailers have partnered with innovative tech companies to implement the interactive design. Walmart partnered with Zeekit, a female-founded startup based in Tel Aviv. The Italian fashion house Gucci has taken to augmented reality on its app, where consumers can point their phone camera at their feet to try on various shoes. Immersive digital experiences, such as augmented reality, are creating accessible spaces beyond just retail shopping journeys—but art and culture at large.

The benefits of a digital try-before-you-buy feature expand beyond customer satisfaction. The environmental cost of shipping from returns alone generates massive waste. According to Earth911, the nation’s largest recycling database, 5 billion pounds of returned goods end up in landfills each year. The statistics don’t come as a surprise since many companies have negotiated free returns as a shopping incentive to customers who don’t know exactly how an item will fit. With digital fitting rooms, there is a loophole to the long-time obstacle of uncertainty with online-shopping.

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