Augmented Reality App Provides Virtual Fitting Room for Shoppers

UPS has used augmented reality technology to take the guesswork out of shipping, and Wal-Mart has used it to do the same for buying furniture. Tobi.com, an online apparel retailer, is now hoping an augmented reality platform can help ease some women’s fears about buying clothes online.

Tobi.com is the first retailer to try Fashionista, a new augmented reality tool from Rich Relevance, a San Francisco-based developer of product-recommendation tools for e-commerce sites. The platform, which was developed in conjunction with augmented reality specialists Zugara, allows shoppers to see an image of clothing superimposed over themselves on their computer screen as if they are holding it up in front of a mirror.

The idea is to take some of the mystery out of buying clothes online — will it fit? Will it look good against my skin color? — and let shoppers see how the garment might look floating in front of them, if not quite on them. The application also allows women to give a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to each item, which will generate other outfits that fit their preferences. When they are ready to check out, the garments they gave a thumbs-up will be waiting for them in their shopping cart.

David Selinger, CEO of Rich Relevance, hopes the application will let e-commerce sites sell clothes at the same rate as brick-and-mortar stores by better simulating the experience.

“If you stand in the door of a Nordstroms and watch people walking out, you will see most people carrying one or two bags filled with clothes,” said Selinger. “But if you look at the order data from most online retailers, the average order size is 1.2 to 1.5 [items]. That’s completely backwards.”

Fashionista also allows users to post virtual photos of themselves wearing the garments to their Facebook profile, or send them in e-mail messages, so they can ask friends for feedback.

“The objective with this is, let’s bring some of that fun back into the shopping experience, so you can be exposed to hundreds of items in five or 10 minutes, say which ones you like and don’t like, and then be able to buy the ones that you do,” Seilnger said.

The debut was set to coincide with the start of the holiday shopping season, which is a time when consumers increase their non-gift-related shopping as well. Selinger said that there were a handful of other online retailers in the “integration and experimentation phase” with Fashionista that should be rolling it out in the next few months.

Although the application could work with men’s fashion as easily as women’s Tobi.com has chosen to implement it solely with its women’s line for now. That makes Fashionista somewhat unusual, in that the majority of augmented reality applications so far have been geared toward men.

The application itself doesn’t allow for display ad space, but Selinger said it could be tweaked to work with advertisers. For example, “if Marc Jacobs wanted to do a display ad campaign leveraging Fashionista, Tobi.com could filter the products that are recommended to the consumer based on that source URL.”

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