One drawback of online shopping for clothing: There's no fitting room. At a bricks-and-mortar store you can try on clothes and accessories in the fitting room to see how they look on your bod before buying.
For many, Walmart may have closed the gap. The discount chain has leveled up its online clothes shopping experience by launching a feature that will let you see how select clothes and accessories look on a virtual doppelganger of you before adding the items to your virtual shopping cart. You can also choose to upload a photo of yourself for the virtual fitting room experience.
Here’s how it will work: Shoppers go to Walmart.com or the Walmart app. For select clothing brands, including Sofia Jeans by Sofia Vergara, a button pops up that says “Try it on.” The shopper can select either taking a photo of themselves or choosing a model. With the model option, Walmart is aiming to offer a selection of 70 or so models with various body types that shoppers can choose that best fit their body type. Options range from heights of 5-foot-2 to 6 feet, with sizes ranging from extra-small to triple-extra-large. The virtual models have various skin tones and hair colors.
Walmart came into the AI-driven virtual clothing try-on technology through its purchase of Zeekit, a virtual clothing try-on startup from Israel, last year. It was folded into Walmart’s technology division. Zeekit had signed American clients including Macy's, but Walmart’s implementation reflects a huge leap in scale – and will probably be the first place many customers get to try the technology.
If you want to know how the sausage is made – or how the clothes get on your virtual self – just know it’s all in the algorithms, as Walmart Global Tech’s neural networks do the behind-the-scenes work, figuring out which products in what colors and sizes are available for your chosen image.
Besides Sofia Jeans, other clothing lines and accessories available for virtual try-on – Walmart calls Be Your Own Model – include Free Assembly, Scoop, ELOQUII Elements, Time and Tru, Athletic Works, Terr & Sky, No Boundaries, Avia, and The Pioneer Woman. Walmart says Levi’s and Hanes will also be joining the mix.
What’s the upside for Walmart (and other retailers, including Amazon, seeking to employ the tech)? For one, it could help curb the rate of returns, which the National Retail Federation pegged at $761 billion in 2021. Clothing accounted for more than 12% of that, a costly endeavor for retailers, who often pick up the costs of shipping and returns.
Other retailers using augmented or virtual reality as part of the shopping experience include IKEA, which lets customers use their phones to visualize furniture in their homes using The Place App. The Home Depot’s app allows customers to see how appliances, for example, would look in their homes with a 3D image using augmented reality. And customers of Warby Parker eyeglasses, Revo sunglasses and other eyewear vendors can virtually try on eyewear from anywhere to see how Warby Parker frames look on their faces.
Bob was Senior Editor at Kiplinger.com for seven years and is now a contributor to the website. He has more than 40 years of experience in online, print and visual journalism. Bob has worked as an award-winning writer and editor in the Washington, D.C., market as well as at news organizations in New York, Michigan and California. Bob joined Kiplinger in 2016, bringing a wealth of expertise covering retail, entertainment, and money-saving trends and topics. He was one of the first journalists at a daily news organization to aggressively cover retail as a specialty and has been lauded in the retail industry for his expertise. Bob has also been an adjunct and associate professor of print, online and visual journalism at Syracuse University and Ithaca College. He has a master’s degree from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a bachelor’s degree in communications and theater from Hope College.
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