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AI & I : THE NEXT CHAPTER FOR ONLINE CLOTHES SHOPPING

Kate Ferreira


Online clothes shopping is both a pleasure and a pain.

Ecommerce has opened up a whole new world of clothing to online shoppers, but it involves a degree of gamble in terms of fit and finish. What this means is that returns (and the logistics thereof) are the flipside of online shopping for the “etailers”: something they have to offer to meet customer service standards, but a drain on resources.

Now artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality is about to change the game.

British retailer, Asos has recently deployed technology developed by Zeekit - an Israeli startup. Embedded in the Asos website is Zeekit’s virtual fitting room functionality. According to an article on CTech (calcalistech.com), “Zeekit’s platform uses real-time image processing technology and augmented reality to allow its users to virtually try on an article of clothing from an online catalog.”


VIRTUAL FITTING ROOM

So what does that look like practically? A shopper can take a photo of themselves at home, to meet certain criteria, and upload that picture to the site. Then as they scroll through images of the clothing on the site, they will see themselves “wearing” the clothes, instead of a person model or dressmaker’s model. The app matches the clothing to your body, not just as a simple overlay, but to meet your proportions to simulate actual fit.

Zeekit’s website describes it as follows: “Zeekit uses its patented technology to map a person's image into thousands of segments. Clothing is processed in a similar manner and the equivalent points of the two are re-mapped into one final simulation, showing a person dressed taking into account body dimensions, fit, size and the fabric of the garment.”

It's technology that has really excited the fashion industry. Zeekit has raised some $15 million in funding, and is in the process of pursuing further partnerships. Some of those partners are well-known and major fashion businesses, such as Adidas and Tommy Hilfiger. On the retailer side, the same tech is also embedded in the Walmart and Macy’s websites.

The BBC’s technology programme Click, and presenter Lara Lewington, recently reviewed the functionality, and the short segment is available to watch on their site: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p08gt4vw


A SHOT IN THE ARM

With Covid-19 shutting down countries and cities around the world, retailers have seen huge dips in business. And some are simply not expected to recover. Here in South Africa, Edgars executives have described Coronavirus as the last straw for their struggling business. But technology-led solutions like this may just be the shot in the arm clothing retailers need, as long as they are fit to meet the next step of the buying process: fulfilment.

Again, here in SA, fulfilment (delivery) is a major challenge. Most online retailers have resorted to using expensive couriers as the postal system has all but collapsed. Clients are anecdotally happy to pay for the delivery of their orders, but – understandably – not for returns and replacements. Having a much better idea of fit could then, arguably, give shoppers the confidence they need to increase their online spending.


Other ways to reach Kate is via LinkedIn or Twitter

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