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New technology lets customers share the look, in-store and online

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New technology has been launched that gives shoppers the chance to try on virtual clothes in-store and share the pictures they take on their social networks. By the end of the year, it’s expected that shoppers will be able to use the same technology from their homes.

Using the Von Bismark Wardrobe, shoppers can see themselves on a screen and use gestures to try on clothes sold by the retailer.

Once they’ve put together an outfit, they can take a picture and share it publicly or privately with their social network such as Facebook or Pinterest, allowing their friends to offer advice on whether the look works. The user an also buy any item they like by scanning the related QR code and adding it to their shopping cart.

The augmented reality-based technology comes from Irish start-up Von Bismark, and uses Microsoft’s Kinect camera and Intel’s Intel AIM Suite’s facial recognition software. They turn a digital display into an interactive mirror, where users can touch and move around physical goods.

Eoghan O’Sullivan, chief executive and founder of Von Bismark, said that in his previous digital agency business, he’d always seen augmented reality as a bit of a gimmick until he saw the Microsoft Kinect camera in action. “For me it opened up a whole world of possibilities – it means a person can now interact with a screen but doesn’t have to use a mouse,” he said. “The peripherals are hands, the gestures and movements. The barrier to someone interacting with someone has come down to being able to just move. That’s pretty incredible.” It also means that the hardware is now much more affordable, with a Kinect camera costing around £150. In-store the software is displayed on a bespoke screen measuring between 50ins and 60ins.

The technology also gives retailers potential opportunities to engage customers, offering discounts to shoppers who post a picture on Facebook or sign up to the ecommerce website using a QR scan. “We capture someone’s digital signature, then we know what clothes they looked at on the platform: that might be a blue jumper for 25 seconds, a grey jumper for six seconds, blue jeans with both,” said O’Sullivan. “We can then get in touch and say we know you liked the jeans, they’re now on sale. That’s a much more relevant conversation that retailers can have with customers.

“We do a lot of big data mining. Everything that happens in front of our camera is mined: we can tell their age, gender, height, clothing preferences, Facebook profile, how many pictures they took, and so on. You can get granular information from the physical world, which up to now has been almost impossible to get.”

Other available metrics, says O’Sullivan, include store-wide figures, such as the preference for colours or the size of the shoppers in each store, allowing retailer to tailor the stock they ship to each shop.

Von Bismark says a three-day trial of the Von Bismark Wardrobe, which took place in the Hugo Boss store in Dublin last month, pushed up footfall in the store by 110%. Some 200 unique interactions took place, lasting for more than 20 seconds each. Fifty pictures were shared on Facebook, resulting in 1025 Facebook picture likes, and an audience peak of 20,000 people reached by the brand through Facebook.

Dublin’s Hugo Boss store is owned by master tailor Louis Copland. He said: “Von Bismark’s new virtual wardrobe means our customers can cycle through my store’s stock in seconds. They can then try it and get their friends opinions by sharing pictures with them – making the whole shopping experience easier and more enjoyable.”

By the end of the year, the technology is also set to reach the home, thanks to the Von Bismark Passport. There, it’s hoped it will help solve the problem of returns. Shoppers will be able to save their own profile and access it through their own home PC or smart TV. The profile will tell them what size they are at different retailers and allow them to try on clothes from a variety of stores.

“This will be a real gamechanger,” said O’Sullivan. “It means you will be able to sit at home in front of own TV, or go into local retailer, take scan of body, store the scan, will be able to access it on smartphone, tablet, pc, will tell you what size you are in every retailer.”

He says that should help cut down on an ecommerce returns rate that can reach 50% at some street labels. “With millions of Microsoft’s Kinect webcams being used across homes globally and the proliferation of connected devices set to increase exponentially in the UK and Ireland (not to mention worldwide) it makes sense that consumers are now not only interested in just playing games online or watching their favourite TV programme when they want,” said O’Sullivan.

“The ability to always be connected is transforming our lives so why shouldn’t it transform our buying habits for the better. Our Von Bismark Wardrobe puts the consumer in control while enabling retailers and brands to better respond to their customers and streamline not only their ordering processes but also save money on their costly returns systems and create better customer engagement.”

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