Tech Provides A Uniform Online Fit, States Arup Chakraborty

By : |August 19, 2020 0

If you walk into any shopping mall to buy apparel today, your experience will be very different from what it was before March. Regardless of the country you live in, you will crave for the ‘touch, feel and try’ experience. But you will be unable to do so in most cases. You will either be afraid to touch surfaces for fear of being infected by the coronavirus. Or the owners of the mall won’t allow you to use their fitting rooms to try clothes for the very same reason.

The fact is that this pandemic has changed the way we live and work. And with the government- and self-imposed quarantines coupled with physical distancing, the retail sector is still figuring out ways to address the challenge of this ‘New Normal’.

In zones where the virus is still spreading, retail outlets (except grocery stores and pharmacies) are reluctant to open shutters. Other areas are witnessing a huge reduction in physical footfalls in retail outlets and malls. This is because many people fear contracting Covid-19 in crowded areas.

All these factors have taken a heavy toll. Twenty-one private and public retailers including Brook Brothers and the Ascena Retail Group filed for Chapter 11 this year, according to BankruptcyData.com. The figure is more than twice the number filed for the same time period last year, according to a July 27 CNN article.

The business has also been very slow for the hundreds of bespoke tailoring shops that one encounters when walking down the streets of New York or that of any major city around the world. These businesses have very short sales cycles, hence get hit harder.

The good news is that as people begin going to the office, they will need new clothes. Further, as schools plan to re-open, parents will buy new uniforms for their children. Medical staff, too, will require a steady supply of dresses. So will police officers, firefighters and postal workers–the uniform market alone is globally pegged at about $16 billion. Besides, the $3 trillion fashion industry would require a range of costumes and designs.

Being innovative in this ‘New Normal’ world helps. Some retailers like Levi’s, Metro Shoes and Fab Alley, for instance, have launched initiatives such as ‘home visits’ and ‘stores-on-wheel’. This is to tackle the issue of fewer footfalls in stores, according to a July 26 article in FE.

Footwear brand Bata India, too, is setting up mobile shops at apartment complexes. FabAlley has introduced its ‘Indya by Appointment’ service for its ethnic wear brand, wherein the company shares its catalogue with customers through WhatsApp and then delivers the products to their homes, the article notes. Metro Brands has adopted a similar approach.

In this ‘New Normal’ situation, going digital can not only help these uniform manufacturers stay afloat but also help them rake in substantial profits. Technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), computer vision, 3D, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/ VR) will continue to play a big role as a great value add-on in a customer digital journey.

Retail giant Zara, for instance, uses AR for in-store displays. Customers can hold their mobile phones in front of a select shop window and see models wearing pieces from the latest line. Gap uses the ‘DressingRoom’, an AR app lets customers try on clothes anywhere using a Google Tango-enabled device. Wannaby’s Wanna Kicks is another ARiOS app. It enables customers to try on different pairs of sneakers from the 3D models available.

However, simply selling clothes online won’t help. Tape measurements are giving way to virtual fitting rooms. So it is important to get the right fit. It’s here that companies such as Stitch Fix, Wide Eyes and our own Mirrorsize, too, have similar and reasonably-priced technology options like virtual fitting apps.

We at Mirrorsize, for instance, have a patent-pending 3D body measurement app. It uses AI, advanced computer vision, deep learning models, and mesh processing to instantly provide precise body measurements. The app can also provide measurements for both tight- and regular-fit clothing and shows users their 3D avatars too. Our app has helped us sell more than 20 deals in the last few months despite the pandemic. It has also helped our clients increase their business and stay relevant.

Prior to this pandemic, our clients — who come from geographies as diverse as the US, Europe, Australia, Pakistan, Morocco and India — would send staff with sets of sizes to do trials at their customers’ sites. Their clients would, then, call their employees to check out these sizes at the scheduled time. This would lead to more time spent at the site.

Besides, these companies would also have to deal with employee absenteeism that could delay projects. With virtual fitting rooms and apps, employees can get their clothing delivered to their homes, making it a safer exercise.

The global school uniform market values at the US $19.63 billion in 2020. It is expected to reach the US $ 32.32 billion by the end of 2026, according to Cole Market Research. The global medical clothing market is forecast to touch USD 99.9 billion by 2027, according to Fortune Business Insights.

Given the huge market potential, retailers who get their technology act together will do well even in these trying times.

About the Author

Arup Chakraborty is Founder and CEO of Mirrorsize.

Arup Chakraborty is Founder and CEO of Mirrorsize.

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