Virtual fitting rooms will change fashion work forever

By Kui Kamau

Online shopping has made it easier for people to buy everything. As fewer workers are needed in brick-and-mortar stores, nearly 600,000 retail jobs disappeared in the U.S. between 2018 and 2022. E-commerce is taking over, with data showing that employment in the sector grew by almost 64% between 2007 and 2020. With U.S. e-commerce sales expected to reach $1 trillion in 2023, employment in the sector is expected to grow to 450,000 by 2026.

“We’ve already seen retail jobs being lost because of AI, and that’s only going to continue,” said Taiwo Meghoma, a leading fashion expert. “Jobs in fashion that we thought couldn’t be lost to technology are already being lost. Even tailoring.”

About 20.5% of global apparel retail sales are e-commerce, generating a total global revenue of about $357.4 billion. Despite the positive outlook, returns remain a persistent challenge for consumers and retailers. For shoppers, the process of returning an item typically involves packing it up, printing a shipping label, and returning it to the shipping location—which 66% of people consider the worst part of shopping.

Retailers are also having a hard time, with 30% of online purchases being returned. Since the cost of returns can be anywhere from 20% to 70% of the original sale price, retailer margins can take a big hit.

For a long time, luxury goods in particular have considered themselves immune to trends. A decade ago, finding some of the big luxury brands online was impossible. Even today, brands like Louis Vuitton of Paris have barely dipped their toes into e-commerce and don’t allow outside brands to sell their products.

“The future of work in fashion, like other industries, will be data-driven. Designers of the future need to be as comfortable with spreadsheets as they are with bed sheets,” Meghoma said.

This shift towards data-driven decision-making is revolutionizing the fashion industry. By integrating data analytics, designers can predict trends, optimize supply chains, and personalize customer experiences more effectively. The intersection of creativity and technology is creating a new breed of designer who is skilled in both artistic and analytical skills.

“AI offers enormous potential for emerging talent, without the barriers and biases of the past,” said Prof. Layton Reid, “you have to be part of it to influence the data sets it drives if you really want to be relevant.”

Reid is a visiting professor at the University of West London and co-founder of Ikenga, an organisation working with Soho House in the UK to support underrepresented groups in the creative industries, including fashion.

However, online retailers continue to bridge the gap between digital and virtual spaces. Glam Labs addresses this challenge by making the virtual shopping experience as close to real-life as possible.

Its mobile app, with more than 180,000 monthly active users, offers real-time and photo try-on features that can be accessed via mobile cameras. Using neural networks, Glam Labs’ Virtual Try On technology lets users try on clothes virtually before buying, with a realistic representation of how they would look in real life.

“This technology is incredibly precise because it captures every detail of the item as it is handed over to the buyer,” said Glam Labs CEO Pavel Shaburov.

Glam Labs’ technology not only creates an engaging experience for customers and makes shopping more enjoyable, but it also has the potential to bridge the gap between online shopping and traditional retail by solving one of the major drawbacks of online shopping – the inability to physically try on products before purchasing.

Virtual try-on solutions can boost conversion rates by providing a more interactive and engaging shopping experience. Customers are more likely to make purchases when they can see how a product looks on them in real time, leading to higher conversion rates and increased revenue. Studies have shown that virtual try-on technology can increase sales by up to 30% and reduce returns by 20%, improving retailer margins. Cosmetics giant Avon Products saw a 320% increase in conversions and a 33% increase in average order value using its virtual try-on technology.

Glam Labs technology was designed with the needs of Millennials and Generation Z consumers in mind, who are a growing group in the market and are comfortable using these technologies.

Virtual try-ons allow shoppers to share their experiences and looks on social media, providing organic marketing and increasing brand visibility. Additionally, customers can personalize their shopping experience based on their own style preferences. These are significant benefits, considering that 83% of Gen Z shoppers view online shopping as more of an experience than a transaction. These changing consumption patterns will also profoundly impact the future of work for those in retail.

Such digital solutions will give retail workers access to a treasure trove of data collected on customer preferences and behaviors. This data can be analyzed to gain insight into fashion trends and more effectively adapt marketing strategies. As online retailing declines, online retailers will have greater financial capacity to expand their operations and workforces.

“It’s a great way for e-commerce companies to increase revenue, reduce inventory and expand their workforce,” Shaburov said.

With average e-commerce net margins running at just 4% to 7%, every dollar can count. E-commerce retailers are taking notice—the virtual matching market is expected to quadruple to more than $25 billion by 2032.

In the future, Glam Labs plans to improve the Try On technology by adding more artificial intelligence and augmented reality features.

“We’re just starting to tap into the power of virtual try-on experiences offered by retailers,” Shaburov said. “This is a generation of experimenters—the fashion shopping experience will continue to evolve in a digital world and will never be the same.”