Indians are very fussy when shopping online. According to a recent study by InMobi, a Bengaluru-based mobile ads firm, the average Indian e-commerce shopper will look at 100 products before zeroing in on one. Moreover, in case that product is an apparel and it does not fit right, the annoyance of the already fussy Indian online shopper could drive him right back to the good old `brick and mortar’ shops.
But to avert the wrath of the customer, what if an online retailer could actually get her to try on a dress virtually without worrying about returning it because of size issues? Maybe technology can further ease the supposedly-easy experience of shopping online.
Technology is instrumental in bringing this innovation and this is what abof.com, an online fashion portal for apparel, footwear and accessories, has achieved. abof.com, which is part of the Aditya Birla Group, is the first company in India to launch 3D virtual trial rooms.
What does this mean? It means that now we can try clothes in a virtual world and be our own judge.
Before jumping into how this technology is used, we should know why this is important for an online clothing retail company. While it is easy to buy mobiles, laptops and books online because there are no size issues involved, buying clothes online is difficult because most customers want to “try” out clothes to see if it will fit them. Because of size issues, the Indian clothing e-commerce ecosystem faces a 20 percent chance of return.
This means that a company that sells clothes online has to address this issue in the mind of the customer. So, merely offering discounts will not do—you need a differentiator.
Mahesh Tiyyagura, chief technology officer at abof.com, says that dependence on technology is what makes them unique. “The percentage of organized retail in India is very small, and the major hindrance for online retailing to grow into organized retail space is that people don’t buy fashion products unless they have a sense of how the clothes fit them,” he says.
So how does this technology work? People mostly know their weight and height, but are not aware of other body measurements. Keeping this in mind, abof.com in partnership with Metail, a UK-based company building virtual fitting room technology, developed a solution that projects apparels on mannequins. By simply inputting height and weight and analyzing open source data, the solution predicts other body estimates such as chest, waist and hip measurements using analytics.
“There is a lot of machine learning required for estimating body measurements. This calls for a lot of processing to get everything in place,” he says.
The mannequin is now the virtual self of the customer and gives her a fair idea of how the particular apparel will look like on her.
3D virtual rooms, which are currently offered only for women, were launched with the website and have been quite a hit. Since the launch, abof.com has reduced the product return rate to nearly zero. In addition, the conversion rate—that is, the percentage of people who buy the product after checking it out—for products available with 3D trial is 400 percent higher than the industry norm.
With this innovation in the bag, what is next for abof.com in the online shopping sphere? Tiyyagura said that they are now aiming at building an AI-based fashion system. He doesn’t discount the fact that this is a futuristic approach, but he also agrees that chances need to be taken.
“We were the first in the country to deploy 3D virtual trial rooms, and we differentiated ourselves. In the future, we need to chase another moon shot,” he concluded.