According to research conducted by bizfeel.com, while almost 57 per cent of consumers prefer online shopping, 31 per cent consumers like shopping offline, while only 12 per cent said that both ways would work for them. Online shopping comes with several benefits like it’s time-saving, convenient, available 24/7, and offers lower prices and deals. The Bizfeel research, at the same time, also underlines few drawbacks of online shopping as pointed out by consumers. These include the inability to touch, feel and try a product, lack of physical shopping experience, the possibility of damage and fragile items, lack of interactivity, scam and fraud issues, and delay in delivery.
Sizing and actual look of the garment
The ill-fitting and wrong size contribute to the maximum number of returns of the garment purchased online. Moreover, because of the size confusion, the customers tend to buy multiple sizes of a garment to choose the best fit, ultimately retuning the rest. To encounter such issues, technologies like 3D, Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are helping retailers to assist their customers in finding garments of the right fit.
3D Robe: 3D solution for online retailers
3D Robe, based in Australia, provides a 3D solution to online retailers. The solution helps the e-commerce retailers to display their products using 3D techniques for better visualisation including look and size of the garment. The product displayed in 3D can be viewed from all the sides including a short video that displays how the garment will look in motion.
The technology works by converting the 2D designs into 3D files, which can be uploaded on the website. “Having worked in this specific area for a few years now and with companies coming up with target specific areas that complete the virtual fitting room, I believe the biggest opportunity in the market is for brands to convert to 3D digital designing. This is what the focus of 3D Robe is. Having smart digital 3D files of retail items completes 70 per cent of the fitting puzzle in my opinion,” said Natalie Johnson, CEO and Founder, 3D Robe.
Commenting on the feasibility of a technical solution to solve the sizing challenge for the online retailers, Natalie explains that there are two main concerns while buying a garment online. First, the surety of buying the right size of garment, and second, whether or not the garment will suit the body type. “For these reasons when I shop online, I usually buy multiple sizes of an item knowing one size would fit me better and I could return the ones I don’t need. The online shopping experience, for me, is mostly educated guesswork of brands I already know and own items of as well as things I think I will like, often influenced by how nice the photo of the item looks. Naturally, this can be quite deceptive and lead to a disappointing experience.”
“A lot of companies are trying to fix the issues of a virtual online fitting room, but the problem is a bit complex, and therefore, there is no global solution yet,” explained Natalie. She further elaborated that a complete 3D virtual online fitting room requires to fulfill the following four criteria including 3D digital garments from the brands on smart files containing live details of the size, fit, fabric, allowing customers to try clothes virtually and see the fit while in motion. Second is a 3D customer avatar where customers can try the garment on digital models created using their measurements. Third is the Overlay algorithm that allows matching that item of clothing with the customer’s body (like matching the shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, waist to waist, etc.). Fourth is UX which allows zooming the avatar from all angles and moves it like a normal human body to see the fall of the garment during motion.
“I have still not seen any ‘one-stop-shop’ 3D solution that I have confidence in and that can do all four components. Therefore, I don’t think the technology is efficient or accurate enough yet to work together. They certainly have the potential to do so and it will happen. Whether it will be an independent universal solution is yet to be seen. There is also a big problem of scaling up quick, cheap and efficient ways for getting live customers’ body measurements accurately. 3D scanning booths exist, but they cost up to US $ 1,000 and require a customer to go to a specific space to get scanned. Therefore, they are not particularly cheap or convenient. The solutions that require customer photographs or videos to make avatars aren’t accurate enough for taking measurements,” concluded Natalie.
Time required for product delivery
Initially, when online retailing came into existence, customers had to wait for almost a week or sometimes even more for a product to arrive. This would not fulfill the need of the customers who wanted the product in a shorter duration or immediately. For this, many retailers successfully managed to shorten their delivery time and provide special offers like prime membership by Amazon that guarantees one-day delivery. However, many of them have opted for a technique like Buy Online Pay In-store (BOPIS) which gives customers the leverage to shop for a product online and pick that up from the nearest store immediately.
Vinculum India, with global headquarters in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, is one such company that helps retailers manage their online operations. The Vin eRetail is a one-stop solution for retailers with automated catalogue listing, orders and return management, inventory management, point of sale, and automatic replenishment system. “Our solution Vin eRetail has a powerful layer of 150+ ready product integrations with global sales channels (online marketplaces and retailers), 3PLs, ready plug-ins for front-end platforms, ERPs, and financial software. This helps retailers to scale faster across the globe,” informed Amit Kulshrestha, Chief Product Officer, Vinculum Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
The Vin eRetail 020 Suite is coupled with ERP/warehouse system that offers click & collect and ship from the store functionality, thus assisting them to establish 020 (online to offline) strategy. The software makes it possible through the real-time view of the in-store inventory and order management functionality with ready integration to web stores, marketplaces and last-mile fulfillment companies.
The customers can place an order through any of the online websites like Amazon or Flipkart and then choose the nearest store to pick up the order. The software helps the retailers with a real-time view of inventory from across all its channels, so that when a customer tries to click and collect or reserve and collect, he is properly served with the availability of the product on reaching the store. This is further ensured by consistent product information across all its channels. Also, the system should ensure that for any purchase happening online and pick up offline, the same information is uploaded across all its channels.
Face to face interaction
Offline shopping allows face-to-face interaction with a store associate that helps customers with their shopping decisions either by showcasing different product options or giving them recommendations. While the online channels do not have any feature that would assist the customers shopping online with any recommendations or solutions to any problem. However, every gap has been fulfilled with the help of technology. The retailers are using chatbots to encounter the issue. A chatbot is a piece of software that conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. These programmes are trained to answer and provide solutions to basic questions. For example, a customer can ask these bots for the query on product order number or recommendations on a particular product. Not just that, today these are also trained with styling tips to give fashion advice to the customers.
Virtual Spirits, a part of VSprits Technologies, provides chatbot solutions to business, e-commerce, university, cars, healthcare, travel, support, finance, and government. Encapsulated with machine learning and bot analytics, these bots are designed to continuously learn from the new conversation and make them better. The AI keeps on scanning hundreds of new conversations to learn new questions and improve recommendations. Moreover, bot analytics uses a variety of analytics including conversation tracking, reporting and chat intelligence to gain insights and perform optimisation.
The chatbot solution for e-commerce and website provides solutions like shopping assistance, online sales, customer support, and marketing. Retailers using these chatbots can provide sales assistance on products and any queries throughout the day. The chatbot can be integrated with the product catalogue, allowing customers to find products through messaging. The other feature includes customer support with information on delivery, shipping, cost, status, estimated delivery time, etc. Moreover, the conversation can be shifted to a human representative when needed. The chatbots can also assist the customers in the checkout process by helping them in any blockage in the process. This also serves as a guide to e-commerce customers offering suggestions, upselling and cross-selling.