Virtual Try-Ons Are In Vogue: How Do They Work?

As predicted by retail consultants and industry experts at the beginning of 2020, the pandemic has permanently changed the way we shop. 

According to India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), India’s e-commerce industry is expected to surpass the US to become the second-largest e-commerce market in the world by 2034. The sector will hit a $99 billion market cap by 2024 from $30 billion in 2019, at 27% CAGR, with grocery and fashion/apparel likely to be the key drivers of growth.


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One of the crucial factors leading to this growth, especially in the fashion segment, is the adoption of technology to offer virtual try-on experiences by online-first brands such as Rent It Bae, Lenskart and fashion e-commerce platforms such as Myntra and Limeroad. 

The try-on system has helped bring down massive return rates–the biggest challenge faced by e-commerce businesses blowing profit margins and hurting bottom lines.

Early attempts

Converting a traditional trial room into an online setup is, however, not new. In the US, glass companies such as Camirror, Smart Look and Ipoint Kisok were few of the first movers in try-on technology. Converse, a US-based footwear brand, introduced the technology in 2012 with The Sampler App developed for iOS. 

In India, the trend started around six years back with brands such as Lenskart, Myntra and Tanishq. While Myntra began working on an AR feature to help customers make the right fashion choices in 2017, personal shopping app, Voonik, acquihired TrialKart, a mobile platform offering a virtual dressing room experience, in 2015. 

In 2019, jewellery retailer Tanishq partnered with Milestone Brandcom, an outdoor specialist agency, to set up AR kiosks at Delhi and Bangaluru airports. A VR enabled technology called MirrAR allowed the brand’s customers to virtually try on the jewellery.

Plug and play

With pandemic pushing customers towards online shopping, the virtual try-on technology has helped make up for the touch and feel shopping experience. e-commerce software platforms such as Shopify, Woocommerce have made it easy for new-age brands to adopt the technology by offering a virtual AR plugin. 

The ease of use drove the adoption of 3D rendering and AI-led pose recognition technology. Besides glasses, shoes, apparel, jewellery and make-up categories, it has also become a norm for furniture brands such as Urban Ladder, Pepperfry. Such companies leverage advanced graphical visualisation and simulation technologies to get a 360-degree view of the products. 

Virtual try-on for glasses

Virtual try-on glasses combine computer vision, AR and image processing. The technology can be broadly categorised into 2D image superposition, 3D glasses superimposed on 2D face images, 3D face modelling, and AR technology based on a video stream. 

Lenskart has been offering 3D try-on using the futuristic technology by tech company DITTO that creates personalised eyewear shopping experience since 2016. The service helps Lenskart record the face of the user from various angles, and when a user tries the frame, it offers him or her a 180° view of the glass. Overall, it creates a 3D face model of the client with accurate scale, lighting and shadow.

Relationship between physical try-on and virtual try-on (Credit: MDPI Open access article)

Virtual try-on for apparel and shoes

Virtual try-on for apparel and shoes also uses a combination of computer vision, data science, machine learning, artificial intelligence and recommendation algorithms to provide an immersive user experience. For instance, Nike Fit, a scanning app, uses these algorithms to gauge the shape of a user’s feet to identify the right fit. 

Another example is a technology (3D configurator by Hapticmedia) used by US-based watch brand Baume to offer an interactive 3D demo. Additionally, the customers can also virtually try the watch using a paper wristband. 

VR vs AR

VR-based try-on allows customers to view a human model wearing clothes in a virtual setup. In contrast, AR-based try-on allows personalised models in a real-life environment. According to MDPI, AR-and VR-based try-on creates a more positive experience for the user than the traditional e-commerce interface.

AR-based try-on provides better 3D visualisation and more realistic virtual avatars, making the overall fitting experience more realistic than VR-based try-on. The users focused more on the accuracy of the model in the VR environment, whereas users focused less on the accuracy of the model in AR and more on the overall feel of the model within the real environment, the MDPI survey found.

The global AR and VR market is expected to reach $161 billion by 2025 a 48.8 percent compound annual growth rate from 2020. “I am deeply convinced that augmented and virtual reality will be the primary way we work, play, and connect for the next 50 years, just as personal computers and smartphones have changed the world for the last 45 years and counting,” said  Michael Abrash, Chief Scientist, Facebook Reality Labs in a blog post.

With various industries accepting AR and VR more than before, increased personalisation of digital avatars and online shopping becoming a norm, virtual try-ons are expected to future-proof India’s retail industry.

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Shanthi S
Shanthi has been a feature writer for over a decade and has worked in several print and digital media companies. She specialises in writing company profiles, interviews and trends. Through her articles for the Analytics India Magazine, she aims to humanise tech in India. She is also a mom and her favourite pastime is playing a game of monopoly or watching Gilmore Girls with her daughter.

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