AR social shopping a major Metaverse opportunity

AR social shopping a major Metaverse opportunity

Successful adoption of virtual try-ons could be a catalyst for the emerging virtual fashion space

Meta – the rechristened parent company of Facebook – is using AR to improve advertising conversion for its retail partners. In 2021, the tech giant partnered with try-on companies ModiFace (acquired by L’Oreal) and Perfect Corp to offer AR try-on for beauty products in its Instagram Shops. Snap’s AR strategy is tightly interwoven with its plans to enable social shopping on its mobile platform. In 2021, Snap acquired Vertebrae, a start-up using AR to create 3D visualizations of products, to improve its on-platform AR capabilities. More recently, in April 2022, Snap released its Dress Up feature, which allows users to try outfits on over their full body.

In April 2022, Meta acquired PreSize, a start-up using smartphone cameras to measure customers’ bodies and help them determine how clothing will fit. While not an AR company per se, the start-up’s technology could set the foundation for Meta to develop full-body AR try-on to compete with Snap.

Improving customer experiences

Augmented reality is also being applied in stores as in-person shopping makes a comeback. In-store AR can increase sales and improve the customer experience of trying out clothes or beauty products in an efficient, hygienic way. In June 2022, Walmart acquired its virtual try-on partner Memomi, a start-up that provides a suite of AR solutions including in-store mirrors that customers can use to try on beauty products, eyewear, clothes, and more. Similarly, Estée Lauder has adopted in-store AR for virtual try-on. The beauty company saw sales increase after piloting Perfect Corp’s try-on mirrors in a UK store. Estée Lauder now uses over 8,000 of Perfect Corp’s try-on devices across stores globally.

Image: Crypto kicks virtual sneaker for the metaverse from Nike and RTFKT Studios. When equipped with a RTFKT Skin Vial NFT, the look of the sneakers changes according to the traits of the vial. However, it can be used only by your avatar in the metaverse. Image source: Nike/RTFKT/

Simulating Ikea décor at home

Retailers outside of fashion are also adopting AR technology. In January 2022, Avataar raised a $45M Series B from Sequoia Capital India and Tiger Global Management to develop a platform retailers can use to let consumers view how products like furniture will look in their homes. Ikea launched an AR app where potential buyers can imagine how Ikea décor will look in their home.

Successful adoption of virtual try-ons could be a catalyst for the emerging virtual fashion space, which refers to outfits designed for avatars or outfits users can only “wear” via AR filters. For example, Brand New Vision and DressX recently raised seed rounds to support their NFT-based fashion items, while in December 2021, Nike acquired RTFKT, a start-up developing NFT collectibles of sneakers. All 3 of these companies offer AR filters where collectors can show off virtual outfits, ranging from relatively regular-looking jackets to sci-fi-inspired dresses that would be impossible to manufacture in the physical world.

The intense activity in the AR/VR space underscores big tech’s belief that AR will shape the future of digital experiences. However, it is too early to tell who will emerge as the clear winner among development platforms, especially when start-ups and tech companies alike have so far struggled with developing mainstream AR devices and experiences.

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