August 30, 2011, 1:21 PM

How’s this blouse look? A webcam tool can answer that question for shoppers

U.K. fashion e-retailer Banana Flame boosts traffic with a virtual mirror service.

Lead Photo

Enabling apparel shoppers to use their webcams like a dressing room mirror has boosted traffic for United Kingdom-based  fashion e-retailer Banana Flame. Last month the web merchant integrated Zugara Inc.’s Webcam Social Shopper, which allows customers to use the cameras built into their computers to test colors, fits and styles, says the retailer’s director, Chandra Saria.

The technology works like this: On each product page, shoppers see a button that reads, “Got a Webcam? See How it Looks.” The Webcam Social Shopper feature, which is built on Flash, detects the presence of a webcam and asks permission to access it. Via a prompt on the consumer’s computer screen, the tool then instructs the shopper to stand back four to five feet from the camera. The virtual garment then positions itself over the shopper, whose image appears on the computer screen.

The Zugara tool can detect the user’s motion, so to adjust the garment the shopper moves her arms to the right or left to swipe virtual buttons on the computer screen, which adjusts the position and scale of the garment on the shopper’s body. Shoppers can take photos of their selections and share their favorites via Facebook, Twitter or e-mail.

While the retailer would not offer details on how the feature has affected sales, it did say that, since implementing the tool last month, it has received a lot of press coverage and chatter on social networks, which combined to produce the following results:

• Unique visitor traffic on has increased 841%.

• The number of unique visitors who add an item to their cart has jumped 182%.

• 39% of visitors to the site click on the Webcam Social Shopper tool.

• 2% deny permission for the tool to allow Flash access to their webcams.

• 75% of those who click on the Social Shopper tool use the motion-capturing features.

• 45% of those who click on the feature end up taking at least one photo.

• 17% of users who take a photo download it to share via e-mail; the retailer gave no figures for Facebook and Twitter sharing.

While Banana Flame is the first retailer to integrate the Webcam Social Shopper into its entire site, Zugara also says it has worked with the National Guard, Nestle and fashion e-retailer on marketing campaigns and games that use its motion-capturing technology. A large retailer in Europe that Zugara declined to name plans to launch a similar feature for its shoppers, says Jack Benoff, vice president of product and marketing. The company charges a yearly licensing fee for the technology that is based on the amount of use by consumers, not sales.

Benoff says Zugara does not aim to have shoppers use the Webcam Social Shopper to determine the right fit. “We are not going to be calling this a dressing room or fitting room because with the technology today, you just can’t deliver on the promise of gauging an item’s fit,” he says. “The WSS is the at-the-rack moment when you stand in front of a mirror, hold a garment up to yourself or show it to a friend and say, ‘What do you think?’”

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