Why Virtual Try-Ons are Key to Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion is a farce without virtual try-ons

From carbon-neutral T-shirts to sustainable shoes and eco-friendly hats, Santa will have his hands full keeping up with the more than $41 billion in projected online apparel sales — the top-selling category.

Yet one factor may undermine the industry’s otherwise noble march toward sustainability and place fashion brands on Old St.

Nick’s naughty list: product returns.

On average, about one out of every four online apparel purchases in the US gets shipped back, a return rate that dwarfs other product categories like electronics (11%) and books (7%).

This is particularly problematic considering that transporting returns generates more than 15 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the US annually, according to sustainability consultancy Eco-Age.

As the fashion industry grapples with its contribution to the climate crisis, brands must confront this kink in their supply chain.

High return rates can undo the good done by sustainable fashion efforts.

Why do people return so many clothes? Because consumers are really bad at guessing whether a product will fit to their liking, especially when evaluating them on screens.

Indeed, studies show that humans can vary widely in their ability to guess body size, texture, and weight.

It’s even worse when estimating for others.

Given that online shopping will only increase over time, is this an environmental cost that we have to accept? Not at all.

Brands can embrace a simple and effective solution to help consumers accurately select items and significantly reduce return rates: virtual try-ons.

A virtual try-on involves the use of augmented reality and LiDAR depth cameras on your smartphones to accurately overlay virtual clothing onto your physical body.

Once an experimental marketing tool embraced by innovative brands, virtual try-on technology is increasingly accurate in its fit estimation, becoming a more feasible solution.

Recent studies have shown that virtual try-ons can make consumers feel more confident and satisfied with their product evaluations.

More importantly, evidence suggests that brands using the feature can reduce return rates by up to 64% while increasing their ROI.

Selfies have never seemed more sustainable.

While virtual try-ons present a promising solution, they remain elusive for most US shoppers.

Only 12% of surveyed Americans report having ever used the feature.

Some brands are embracing AR.

One of the first to do so was popular eyewear manufacturer Warby Parker.

Still, while Warby Parker’s use of AR is promising, its green impact is limited, given that eyewear has a lower return rate and sales volume than apparel.

Even clothing brands investing in this space are only dipping their toes, with most try-ons limited to a small number of products.

That’s the case for footwear retailer Journeys, which allows shoppers to see how only a few styles fit virtually.

Adidas is in the same boat, allowing customers to us.

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