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AI AI in Retail AR/VR Artifical intelligence Augmented Reality Augmented reality in retail covid-19 Impact of COVID-19 Sales virtual dressing room virtual fitting room

Virtual Dressing Room to Increase Sales During COVID-19

virtual dressing room

COVID-19 has changed the way people worldwide behave daily, and nowhere is this felt more keenly than in bricks-and-mortar retail. For decades, retailers have been trying various customer engagement strategies to bring people in and let them browse samples and linger to their heart’s content. But the pandemic has made nearly all those experiences risky and undesirable. Personal safety wins out of the desire to try on clothing, jewelry, makeup, and other wearable products.

Increasingly, with COVID-19, retail businesses are turning to virtual dressing rooms as an alternative for their customers.

A virtual dressing room allows a user to upload a video of themselves and then renders an Augmented Reality image of the person modeling their perspective items.

Certain sectors of the retail industry have already been embracing Augmented Reality dressing rooms, most notably the cosmetics and jewelry industries. But many more retail sectors are adopting virtual dressing rooms, and the pandemic has accelerated the process greatly.

Artificial Intelligence in Virtual Dressing Rooms

Like many digital business applications, virtual dressing rooms are driven by recent advances in technology, from AR and VR to Artificial Intelligence. In fact, technology is advancing so quickly that one of the barriers to adoption is simply that many people don’t realize how good virtual dressing rooms can be if they’ve never tried one before.

But more and more consumers are trying them and generally like their experiences. As a result, the virtual dressing room market looks to have staying power even after COVID-19 becomes less of a clear-and-present threat. By 2027, the virtual dressing market is projected to be a $10 billion industry.

Virtual Dressing Rooms Becoming Mainstream

For several years, certain retailers have toyed with virtual dressing room solutions and related apps, although frequently, these have been limited in scope and with mixed results. However, the combination of technology-driven increases in quality and the pandemic driving customers away from physical store locations has led to a significant uptick in virtual dressing room adoption.

Global retail giants like Macy’s and Adidas have led the way in virtual dressing room implementation, with many smaller retailers following suit.

Amazon is also involved in virtual dressing room development, as its online retail model continues to gobble up market share.

For many retailers, embracing virtual dressing rooms is a necessity right now. They’ve blocked off their physical dressing rooms and forbade customers to handle merchandise like they once did out of fears that these behaviors will spread COVID-19. And many customers simply aren’t coming out to stores regardless.

In today’s retail landscape, the virtual dressing room represents an opportunity to recapture some of the lost business that’s crushing most retailers’ profit margins.

How Virtual Dressing Rooms Work

From a technical standpoint, the two broad technologies pivotal to the virtual dressing room are Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. These are huge domains that stretch far beyond the scope of a virtual dressing room solution, and it’s useful to understand just how these technologies apply here.

The virtual dressing room process begins with video capture of the person who will be trying on the virtual item. Often, the recording device is a mobile smartphone. A smartphone is an ideal vehicle because it contains both the camera to capture video and a screen to display the AR image of the person/body part with the wearable item modeled.

The video is parsed by human pose estimation algorithms that identify a range of key points or locators on the human body, which allow the application to understand the contours, size, and spatial location of the person. Often, AI deep learning routines are used to make these determinations. The accuracy of these AI-driven processes can be far superior to a human programmed process, allowing for far greater fidelity in virtual dressing room development.

Once the body’s dimension and location are fixed, the application then appends the item of clothing or accessory to the image on the screen, allowing the user to model that item virtually in a 3-D, photorealistic display.

Pros and Cons of Virtual Dressing Rooms

Like any business or technological innovation, virtual dressing rooms have their advantages and disadvantages when compared to the traditional model.

It’s important to grasp that virtual dressing room technology continues to develop and evolve, and as the process continues the industry will change. Former drawbacks may be mitigated, and advantages may heighten as supporting technology improves.

But even as some problems may fade in relevance, others may develop. The following pros and cons represent a snapshot of the short — and medium-term projections for the virtual dressing room landscape.

Benefits of Virtual Dressing Rooms

The most obvious benefit to a virtual dressing room is giving the customer the ability to sample and model products remotely. But for this to be worthwhile, the AR rendering has to be realistic enough to be useful. If a user doesn’t feel comfortable with the image they’re seeing, a virtual dressing room is a failure.

Fortunately, the science of capturing the human body and rendering it in a virtual environment is one that engineers and developers are devoting massive amounts of time and resources to. While virtual dressing rooms aren’t the most important or lucrative application of these processes, we reap the rewards of that development and innovation.

The real game-changer is the implementation of artificial intelligence in the video capture and rendering process. Deep learning algorithms can estimate and display the user’s full body, face, head, hands, feet, or any other specific body area with rapidly increasing clarity and accuracy.

This is taking us toward the point where the average shopper regards a virtual dressing room as roughly equivalent in quality to the physical experience. Once we’ve achieved that benchmark, the traditional dressing room is nearly entirely obsolete.

Potential Drawbacks to Virtual Dressing Rooms

Many of the current drawbacks to virtual dressing rooms are temporary issues likely to be addressed in the coming years.

People are excellent judges of the human form, especially their own. If a virtual dressing room image has minor imperfections, this can detract from the immersive experience and leave a customer uncertain about whether they can trust what they’ve seen.

In some cases, virtual dressing room solutions are close but to quite up to the highest standard, meaning that customers would prefer traditional ones if given a choice.

During this pandemic, virtual dressing rooms receive a bump simply by being the only realistic option for people looking to minimize their COVID-19 risk. However, at some point in the next year or so, countries will begin to get the pandemic under control via the release of vaccines.

At this point, the question is whether virtual dressing rooms will offer a seamless and accurate experience, one good enough to keep people using them when life can return more to normal. This is where the industry will be continuing to focus.

One final potential drawback worth mentioning is that virtual dressing rooms can pose a data security issue. The process captures users’ face and body data and background images from wherever the user is filming.

It would be possible for a developer to engineer a virtual dressing room solution that pulls biometrical data and geolocation data from its users. That data could then be used to create profiles of those users, allowing third parties to use this info in a variety of ways.

This particular concern is a universal one in our increasingly digital world, far from unique to virtual dressing rooms. But the video data captured here is particularly intimate, and users may have special concerns.

In 2020, the advent of COVID-19 has reshaped the retail landscape in a seismic way. Consumers avoid stores and businesses find the physical process of trying on and sampling wearable items riskier. In this environment, virtual dressing rooms are being adopted more and more.

But the virtual dressing room concept is more than just a quick-fix workaround for the pandemic. Hand-in-hand with the rise of online retail, virtual dressing rooms have the potential to supplant the traditional dressing room. As AI technology matures, a larger group of consumers will likely find themselves using virtual dressing rooms even afterlife returns more to normal.

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AI ai chatbots AI customer service AI in Retail

Artificial Intelligence Applications within Retail in 2020

ai in retail

Artificial intelligence and its applications have surely revolutionized the sectors pushing them forward in a new direction. Its application isn’t limited to the start of product development but continues post-launch and customer interaction.

AI integration is the retail industry

One of the sectors that are reaping the benefits of AI integration is the retail industry. However, there are still many questions that are being thrown out there. From what AI-technology or application has proven to be the most beneficial in retail to which innovations have the potential to change the retail game?

We need to keep in mind that artificial intelligence has not been perfected and is still in the stages of experimentation. Some results have proven to be positive and progressive, while others a complete failure.

Having said this, from 2013 to 2018, AI startups have raised around $1.8 billion –according to CB insights. These are impressive numbers and the credit can be given to Amazon which changes the perspective of AI integration within retail.

In a nutshell: AI in retail can be explained as a self-learning technology, that with the adequate data, only improves the processes further through smart prediction and much more.

How AI is Being Integrated into Retail?

AI solutions are still in the process of growing and progressing. However, there are certain applications within retail that have proven to be fruitful – not just in terms of the value it provides as a service but the benefits businesses reap afterward.

What are the top of the line applications of AI in retail? Let’s find out.

1) Cashier-less Stores

With digitization, much of the work-load has been automated and streamlined. Now, with the COVID wave placing human contact as harmful, cashier-less stores are an idea that is very much on the table. This idea of lowering the number of human employees working on a store and being replaced by AI-powered robots is not just a concept of the movies anymore.

Amazon is already on the case – with Amazon AI introducing stores that are check-out free. You must have heard about Amazon Go and Just Walk Out technology where the items being placed within your trolley are being examined and kept track of, so when you simply walk out of the shop, the Amazon account takes the money. Pretty interesting, right?

AI and IoT play a great role in creating this cashier-less store experience, relieving stores from having expensive operation expenses. With technology like Amazon Go, human staff members are reduced to merely six or so, depending on the size of the store.

2) AI-Powered Chatbots to Enhance Customer Service

The rise of the chatbots was possible due to AI integration, making them capable of conversing in a human-like manner. Moreover, with their ability to understand the query posed by the visitor, they can analyze and provide adequate assistance accordingly.

Safe to say, AI chatbots have elevated customer service, searching, sending notifications, and suggesting relevant products – all by themselves. These AI chatbots work wonders in retail as there are so many queries that are lined up mostly filled with product related questions. In addition, they also learn the buying behavior of the customer and suggest products that would match their search and buying intent.

Chatbots are the present and future of retail helping customers navigate through online stores and increasing the revenue of businesses in return.

3) Voice Search

Voice search is catching up with 31% of smartphone users globally using voice search at least once a week. While, in the year 2020, it is projected to grow to 50%. With Alexa and others, customers can simply ask for the desired product without having to type and visually invest in the process.

Voice search is definitely one of the demanded features in any software solution and software development companies (koderlabs dot com) would incorporate voice and text search to maximize the convenience.

4) Visual Search

Visual search is a term or technology not too familiar as of yet. However, this AI-powered system enables customers to upload images and find products similar to certain aspects of those uploaded images; like based on color, shapes, and even patterns.

AI coupled with image recognition technology is marvelous and can help significantly in the realm of retail. Imagine wanting a similar dress and just uploading its picture, you get suggestions of places either selling the same or something similar. You then can compare the price difference and go for the one that suits your best.

5) Mood Tracking to Elevate Customer Satisfaction

AI can detect the mood of your customers and provide you with valuable feedback that will allow your representatives to give assistance just in time. Take Walmart as an example. The retail giant has cameras installed at each checkout lane that detects their mood.

If a customer seems annoyed, they would immediately approach and try to help. So, with AI and facial recognition technology, stores can build strong relationships with their customers and ensure their satisfaction.

6) Supply Chain Management

AI in the retail supply chain can help retailers dodge poor execution and management that leads to major losses. With AI, calculating the demand for a particular product through analyzing the data that includes the history of sales, promotions, location, trends, and various other metrics allow retail stores to make a better future decision.

AI can predict the demand for that certain product and allow you to order just the right amount without having to deal with leftovers or shortage of it.

Since we are currently facing COVID that has placed the necessity of an online-smart-world, AI can predict through the data received from either the websites or mobile apps. Either way, the supply chain is effectively managed and processed systematically.

7) Product Categorization

With the usage of machine learning, the retail industry can easily classify millions of items from various sellers with the right category. For instance, sellers can upload the picture of their product, and machine learning will identify it and classify it accordingly.

Clasification helps automate the mundane and time-consuming task and can be done in a few minutes with the help of AI.

What more is that with such smart classification, customers are able to find the right products under the categories of their choosing.

AI in Retail Forecast

The retail executive’s survey conducted by Capgemini at AI in Retail Conference entails that the AI application of technology in retail could potentially save up to $340 billion each year for the industry till 2020. In addition, nearly 80% of these savings will come from supply chain management and return as AI will improve these processes by a large margin.

The global market for AI in retail is projected to grow over $5 million by the year 2022.

Wrapping Up

Artificial intelligence and Machine Learning-powered software solutions can really change the game for retail, especially amid the pandemic. Not only AI facilitates automation but provides a better insight into businesses by predictive analysis and reporting.

On the customer front, AI-powered chatbots and cashier-less stores provides convenience and futuristic shopping experience with improved customer service.

Although the pandemic has slowed down much of the progress; still, we can see considerable growth in AI-powered solutions geared to improve the retail industry and prep it for the times ahead.

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