By Stefan Hauswiesner, CEO and co-founder, Reactive Reality (www.reactivereality.com),
Stefan Hauswiesner, CEO and co-founder of Reactive Reality, the augmented reality
leader enhancing e-commerce for retailers and consumers comments on the growth of
digital fashion in 2022, reflecting on a year of unprecedented growth in the sector, as
well as looking forward to 2023, predicting what is to come for big brands and the digital
The metaverse will completely change the way we shop
As we come to the end of 2022, it is clear that the time for virtual shopping technologies has come. Retailers like Walmart, Hugo Boss and Zalando have launched virtual dressing rooms and many others are catching up. Product launches on the Metaverse have become somewhat commoditized, with many brands experimenting with Web3 technologies and Metaverse platforms. Retails with physical stores seek to bridge the online and offline worlds with seamless shopping experiences. One key example comes from 00’s highstreet staple, Claire’s – formerly Claire’s Accessories – who launched ShimmerVille in Roblox last month, focusing on self-expression using virtual accessories that are also sold in their brick-and-mortar stores.
Further to this, Victoria’s Secret’s youthful sub-brand, Happy Nation, also collaborated with Roblox in June, launching a virtual obstacle course, where users could help donate physical pairs of underwear from the brand to Undies for Everyone, as well as view the latest capsule collection. Ralph Lauren announced a clothing capsule for players on the gaming platform Fortnite earlier this month, which is tied to a physical clothing collection with a limited edition version of the brand’s iconic logo. The London College of Fashion has released its favourite pieces in the form of a Virtual Try-on Snap Lens with the help of our 3D scanning solution.
These few examples show that not only has the metaverse allowed an entry point for new ways to discover fashion, but the luxury brand collaborations with online platforms can allow users access to items that would never usually be within their price range.
Metaverse vs high street
According to the McKinsey State of Fashion 2021 report, 30% of fashion executives see going digital as the biggest opportunity of the decade for their brands. The metaverse, and related technologies such as AR/VR, are enabling retailers to strengthen their brand & increase consumer loyalty, for example, enabling consumers to walk side by on the runway with the avatar models. This year saw brands like Balenciaga, Dior, Louboutin, and Gucci all launching entirely digital collections for the first time in their over 100-year existence, proving that with the right 3D capture technology, such as PICTOFiT, heritage brands can leap into the future of fashion at the click of a button.
We see physical and digital fashion not as opponents but as two very different entities that work in harmony, to improve engagement and boost sales. In 2023, more brands will take the leap bolting on virtual try-on technology to their online stores – something we already offer to retailers using the Shopify platform – and investing in experience technology that connects shoppers to the physical environment via magic mirrors. Thanks to omnichannel technology like PICTOFiT, shoppers will be able to access a shop’s entire stock online and in-store, allowing them to try items on exactly to their size and fit, and make suggestions according to their digital avatar. All of this will be available not only online but also in-store, meaning the retail journey is carried with you in your pocket from the website to the storefront and beyond.
VR is improving the fast fashion carbon footprint (BNPL, no sending back)
As we move forward to a Web3-focused world, the fashion metaverse offers a chance to rewrite some of fashion’s pain points.
Authenticity and transparency are now what customers want, so it makes complete sense that digital fashion is inherently the right answer for these needs. While we are in the midst of a cost-of-living and climate crisis, cheaper alternatives to satisfy retail needs, that instead rely on the user experience rather than the exorbitant emissions of physically producing clothes, offer consumers the modern update that luxury needs. Digital-only fashion combined with immersive technologies fulfils the customer’s desire to wear something new every day, to differentiate, to show taste and wealth, without polluting the environment and dependence on fossil fuels. Moreover, digital fashion never wears down and will always fit your (digital) body.
As luxury brands have released more and more of their collections into video games and Metaverses, this is increasing demand for the next stage of VR/AR
A recent global survey of more than 3,000 consumers from the analysts at Gartner found that 47% of people are already interested in digital clothing, with 87% of them having already purchased some form of digital fashion. It is inevitable that consumers will want to experiment with appearance, and that includes fashion. Since the early days of gaming, people have changed and adapted their avatars, expressing individual tastes and styles. It is no different when it comes to our own self-expression.
However, thanks to modern image digitalisation technology, items that were once aspirations in the real world, are available in the digital one. The metaverse, AR/VR and gaming are merging and we are here to help it.
What to expect from digital fashion in 2023
We’re already seeing an emerging bridge between the digital and physical worlds, and this trend will continue in 2023. This merger has two components: digital twin technology and 3D printing.
Digital twins are virtual simulations of real-world processes, operations, or products that can be used to test new ideas in a safe digital environment. Digital twins are being used by engineers and designers to recreate physical objects inside virtual worlds. For instance, Gucci’s recent launch in Sandbox of previously archived clothing collections. This twinning process allows designers and engineers to test under every conceivable condition without the high costs of real-life experiments. In 2023, we will see even more digital twins forming, from fashion, machinery, factories, and precision healthcare reducing mistakes and eliminating weaknesses.
After testing in the virtual world, engineers can tweak and edit components, and then create them in the real world using 3D printing technology. An excellent example that we saw of this was the well-known fashion brand, Hugo Boss, announcing a partnership with Adobe to better their early-stage design processes to reduce waste and improve the speed and effectiveness of the brand’s digital strategy and processes at every level.
The main challenges facing the XR industries in 2023 and beyond
It probably comes as no surprise in the current economic climate but funding for VR, AR, and Metaverse has slowed over 2022, likely due to companies and consumers struggling with basic problems, such as supply shortages, inflation and Covid outbursts.
Sceptics say the metaverse is collapsing. For instance, look at the mockery that Meta’s metaverse has received recently. Although displaying immense promise in VR and real-world applications (think retail, gaming, education and social media), immersive tech is still in its infancy, or perhaps its teenage years, at least when compared to what it will look like in near future. Most groundbreaking technologies are derided and labelled as stupid early on. Look at the first iPhone for instance; mocked at launch to become the template for all smartphones – the most widely used and successful devices in history.
However, in a decade, it’s likely that smartphones, as we know them, will become outdated just like the Blackberry did. All smartphones, if we will even call them that, will have adopted immersive features and will be able to engage with users’ senses far beyond a traditional two-dimensional screen. Touch, sight, hearing, and potentially even smelling and tasting will play a role in the immersive devices of the future. Such devices will ultimately be far more immersive than the traditional smartphone and the companies that are able to and willing to engage consumers with AR and VR experiences will win out.
Biggest drivers increasing the adoption of XR technologies in 2023
The metaverse is here and the concept has been proven to work. Companies like Snap, Meta, Microsoft, and Google have shown it’s possible. Now, it’s just a matter of achieving widespread adoption. The two biggest drivers of this in 2023 and beyond will be graphical improvements and more content.
A primary drawback of Meta’s metaverse, for instance, is its lacklustre graphical fidelity. Whilst grand in scope, graphically speaking, Meta’s virtual world is underwhelming. For many, the cartoonish appearance of Meta’s avatars is reminiscent of Nintendo’s Mii’s – the mini avatars that first appeared on our screens over 16 years ago. Consumers have come to expect high-level graphics from video games and developers are aware that XR tech needs to meet these expectations. At the end of the day, true immersion requires photorealistic visuals. In 2023, or at least the years to come, expect to see significant graphical improvements in user avatars and virtual clothing.
The biggest roadblock to XR/Metaverse adoption is the lack of content. By content, I mean everything that can be experienced in XR/Metaverses: games, social interactions, work environments, movies and experiences, virtual shopping, and virtual try-on. It takes time to create these things, and XR hardware platforms as well as Metaverse software are not standardised at all. Porting experiences to different platforms is prohibitively expensive. The Metaverse has been described as the “embodied internet” – but a critical aspect of the internet is missing: the ability to connect systems into a seamless experience. Only when users can traverse between Horizon Worlds, Roblox, Fortnite and Snap (and all the others), we have achieved something truly compelling for mainstream users.