December 28, 2001, 12:00 AM

When it comes to online models, Louise Guay has high expectations

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Within a short time of deployment, consumers were expecting the model to be more than a model, Guay recounts. “People were treating it as an intelligent agent,” she says. “They wanted it to send them suggestions.” Furthermore, they wanted to be able to take their models with them as they shopped, they wanted to e-mail the model with outfits to their friends and they wanted to see their own faces on the model.

Over the years, My Virtual Model has speeded up getting the clothes on the model, introduced more accurate fit technology with its acquisition of EZSize and introduced an ASP service so retailers don’t have to host the models themselves.

Today, My Virtual Model is getting the word out about its successes. Over the summer, My Virtual Model trumpeted Lands’ End’s success with the technology. Lands’ End reported that use of the My Virtual Model at LandsEnd.com increased shoppers’ likelihood to buy by 26% and their average order by 13%. Lands’ End and My Virtual Model analyzed transactions between November 2000 and April 2001, with the data coming from Lands’ End’s server logs.

“These new findings prove it’s not only been a great feature our customers value, it’s also produced valuable returns for the company,” Bass says.

And the technology is good for more than online sales. A campaign to promote the use of My Virtual Model technology at Charming Shoppe Inc.’s LaneBryant.com created a boost in offline sales at Lane Bryant stores. Lane Bryant, which specializes in fashions for women size 14 to 28, says shoppers who tried the fitting technology at 3DME@LB at LaneBryant.com and then received a store coupon generated 233% more sales in-store than users of other online coupons and a 66% higher average ticket.

With My Virtual Model at LaneBryant.com, shoppers can fit more than 3,000 outfits online. Customers who create a model receive a 10% off coupon. LaneBryant.com is not an e-commerce site, but rather a shopping site that drives traffic to the company’s 650 stores.

A web agent

The future possibilities for My Virtual Model are endless, Guay believes. “We can add intelligence to the model, maybe even speech recognition,” she says. Further, the model could become a shopping agent. “It could represent you, keep your interests in mind,” she says. “It could gather information and prepare it in advance for you.” Such a model possibly would reside at a portal and view sites seeking beauty, entertainment or other information. Further, it could hold health statistics or security information about its owner, thus becoming a true virtual representation of the person on the web.

Consumers also are starting to look at My Virtual Model as a utility, Shtern says. “Users tell us they are looking for more places to use the model,” he says. “It’s like a Visa card. They wonder why they can’t just use it everywhere.”

The future of My Virtual Model, to a large extent, is in the hands of the consumers who use it to create themselves online. Ands Guay believes that My Virtual Model has usability beyond simply a clothes-fitting device. “A very important component of My Virtual Model is the user,” Guay says. “The users create models of themselves and then play a high-tech game of dress-up. In doing so, they discover themselves, who they are.”

Once they’ve done that, Guay sees the model as a way for people to express themselves on the web. The model could represent different aspects of the owner depending on where it is being used, presenting one image when in a chat room and another when dealing with an organization. In fact, that notion ties back to Guay’s interest in acting. “Like an actor, it could have multiple personalities,” she says.

Even several generations from today’s models that show shoppers how certain clothes fit at LandsEnd.com or LaneBryant.com, that’s a real load to be placing on the shoulders of fitting-room technology.

kurt@verticalwebmedia.com

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