In today’s era of ChatGPT and countless apps, Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are two technological advancements that have stood out, managing to revolutionize our lives. They have even found their way into fashion retail. In today’s era of virtual-first, physical later shopping, VR & AI are making the shopping experience considerably more enjoyable for customers.
According to a joint report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and the Retailers Association of India (RAI), India’s retail industry is expected to reach the $1 trillion mark by 2027. This growth is largely due to the increasing use of AI and advanced analytics which allows retailers to collect and analyze vast amounts of data to enhance the overall customer experience and make more informed decisions.
Virtual Shopping Experience
VR is a computer-generated simulation that replicates an environment that simulates physical presence in places in the real world or an imagined world. Be it fashion based shopping or consumer goods, almost every retailer in India is upgrading its stores and online platforms to win its consumer’s satisfaction and enhance their shopping experience.
This technology also helps consumers in saving time and effort and make quick and better shopping decisions. VR headsets like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR add to the experience.
It also helps consumers see how a product will look like in their homes or offices before making a purchase. This feature is particularly useful for furniture, home appliances, and electronic gadgets. This feature has helped consumers make informed decisions, reducing the number of returns and increasing customer satisfaction.
According to Abhishek Maloo, Senior Director – Flipkart Fashion, technology has truly revolutionized the way people shop for fashion on Flipkart.
“A few important areas where technology has enhanced our fashion shopping experience includes creating personalised journeys (providing customized suggestions based on their previous purchases and preferences), facilitating access especially for first-time e-commerce shoppers through our vernacular interface, enabling virtual try-ons, showcasing possibilities through augmented reality, creating interactive experiences through live shopping and voice search.”
“Today, more than 40% of new shoppers explore Flipkart for the first time through fashion and newer technologies such as VR, AR and AI play a key role in enabling this,” he adds.
Showrooming: A Reality With VR
VR has also made showrooming more accessible. Showrooming is the practice of going to a physical store to see a product and then buying it online at a lower price. With VR, consumers can now skip the first part and simply visit a virtual showroom from the comfort of their homes.
Virtual showrooms have allowed retailers to showcase their products to a global audience, increasing their customer base.
AI: Understanding The Consumer’s Mind
Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think and learn like humans.
AI has found its way into several aspects of shopping, including
- Chatbots: Chatbots employ AI to mimic conversations with human users. They are used in online retail to help customers find products, respond to inquiries, and complete transactions. Because chatbots are accessible round-the-clock, there is less need for human customer service. Customers can receive advice from chatbots in real-time, which makes purchasing more convenient.
- Personalized Recommendations: With personalized recommendations, customers get product suggestions based on their browsing history and purchase history. This feature is particularly useful for online shopping, where customers may not be able to see the product before making a purchase. Personalized recommendations increase the chances of customers finding products that they are interested in, increasing the likelihood of a sale.
- Product Search: Product search helps customers find products based on specific criteria, such as colour, size, and brand. With this, customers can find products that meet specific needs, increasing the chances of a sale.
Indian Brands Using VR & AI
- Lenskart: The brand’s 3D face modeling offers preferences and historical information to help purchasers choose frames more quickly, effectively, and amusingly. Customers can digitally test out the eyeglasses with Lenskart’s 3D face modelling tool. When a user tries on a frame, they can swipe on the image to turn the head to the left and right to view the glasses from various angles after the technology takes multiple measurements of the user’s face to virtually map it.
- Amazon: Consumers can use Augmented Reality to on try shoes virtually before buying them online. Other online retailers too are providing similar experience its shoppers to try on makeup, apparel and accessories.
- Westside: The chain has installed VR pods in its stores for a 360-degree view of products – customers can use these pods to see products from all angles before finally buying them.
- Tata CLiQ: The brand has partnered with Haptik and has incorporated AI-powered chatbots to assist customers with their queries and to suggest products based on their previous purchases and browsing history. It also uses VR to provide customers with a 360-degree view of products, enabling them to see products from all angles.
- Shoppers Stop: The company has installed AI-powered digital kiosks in its stores that provide customers with personalized recommendations based on their browsing history and purchase history.
- Bata: Footwear brand Bata implemented an AI-powered video analytics solution to boost in-store sales, operations, and customer happiness. Developed by AI, the platform leverages the store’s video infrastructure to execute data collection and insight generation on smart conversion and audience segmentation.
- Myntra: The e-commerce giant has recently launched a feature called ‘My Stylist’ It’s comparable to having a personal style advisor that suggests whole outfits and looks to customers using artificial intelligence (AI). With this function, customers will find it easier to discover the correct garments, revolutionising fashion and lifestyle purchasing.
- Tanishq: The jewellery store offers a virtual experience using Augmented Reality (AR) so that consumers can try on jewellery virtually. Tanishq offers these at its outlets at Delhi and Bengaluru airports.
- Purplle: Infused with the latest technology, this beauty aggregator’s app offers personalization to its consumers along with a virtual skin analyzer. The skin analyzer on the platform analyzes a consumer’s skin and provides product recommendations best suited to solve your skincare concerns.
While on paper these technologies sound fantastic, the truth is that VR and AI are expensive to implement, especially for smaller merchants.
Other challenges include educating store owners and staff members about these technologies to give consumers the right support and a positive experience. This is mainly because many Indian customers still view VR and AR as a luxury and are generally unaware of their potential and in India, there aren’t many institutions teaching cutting-edge technology like VR and AR. Only a small number of people have specialised in gaming, data science, AI, and AR/VR.
Technology: Way Ahead
Technology is here to stay and will only keep evolving. It has the potential to transform the retail industry in ways that have never been envisaged before. AR, VR, AI, chatbots combined with 5G network would continue to provide us with new kind of shopping experiences on regular basis. Those who embrace this technology will likely gain a competitive advantage over those who do not.
AI is expected to be used in several key areas like drone delivery, fraud detection, tracking customer satisfaction, price predictions etc. This new virtual shopping world is going to be the part of our real world forever. It can improve customers’ purchasing experiences by making the transactions easier and smooth while simultaneously ensuring their safety and security at all times.
Despite challenges, acceptance has occurred in several of the industry’s main areas, such as travel, education, healthcare, and home décor, among others, and would continue to expand in recent years. It is evident that AI is necessary for traditional and modern retailers to keep customers secure, happy, and satisfied throughout their journey, the road ahead seems extremely promising.