February 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Try Me On

(Page 2 of 2)

The MimicMe technology, which is built on LiquidPixels' dynamic imaging platform, starts at about $2,000 per month, a cost that Men at Work says it is able to recoup from increased sales. "On average, we earn this back," Wijnen says. "The conversion rate is going up and the basket size is going up. We've seen double-digit increases."

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Other retailers are singing the praises of other fit simulators and virtual fitting rooms. Media coverage and social buzz boosted unique visitors by more than 800% after United Kingdom-based Banana Flame introduced its Webcam Social Shopper tool in July, according to the e-retailer's director, Chandra Saria.

The technology, developed by Zugara Inc., allows a shopper to use her webcam as a virtual mirror. The shopper selects a garment, stands back about five feet from her computer so that the PC's camera can frame her, and the Zugara system positions the garment over her body. She can adjust the garment's position by moving her arms to the right or left to swipe virtual buttons on the computer screen. Shoppers can take photos of their selections and share them via Facebook, Twitter or e-mail.

Danish social shopping comparison site LazyLazy.com deployed the Webcam Social Shopper last month and saw its conversion rate immediately jump. "17% of our visitors are using this and they are converting two to three times more," says CEO Søren Filbert.

Another provider, Estonia-based provider Fits.me, which launched its technology in 2009, lists among its retailer clients Gilt Groupe's Park & Bond brand and U.K. web merchants Barbour By Mail, Pretty Green and Hawes & Curtis. Since Hawes & Curtis introduced the Fits.me system in May 2010, the retailer has seen a 57% higher conversion rate among customers who use the technology compared to those who do not, Fits.me says.

Similar to Embodee, Fits.me uses robotic mannequins with artificial muscles that simulate the shape of shoppers' bodies. The company says its models are based on more than 30,000 three-dimensional human body scans. Fits.me charges six to 15 cents every time someone visits the Virtual Fitting Room, regardless of how many products they try on, a spokesman says.

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New online fitting-room systems keep popping up. In January, FaceCake Marketing Technologies rolled out a virtual dressing room product dubbed Swivel and Cisco Systems Inc. launched its StyleMe platform.

U.K. retail chain John Lewis Plc plans to install StyleMe in store kiosks in the coming months and on its e-commerce site shortly thereafter.

Like Zugara's Webcam Social Shopper, the StyleMe product uses cameras and motion sensors. "It will never replace trying something on, but it will certainly narrow things down and encourage people to try things they wouldn't have before," says John Lewis' head of multichannel strategy Simon Russell. "Shoppers who use more than one channel to buy from us spend three and half times as much on average. So StyleMe is a major part of our strategy going forward, as online sales are about 21% of our business."

Online versions of store dressing rooms will become more common, says Fits.me CEO and founder Heikki Haldre. "Nobody can quite imagine a brick-and-mortar apparel shop to operate without a fitting room," Haldre says. "Yet $31 billion worth of clothes are being sold in the U.S. on the Internet every year without first being tried on."

That's likely to change if consumers find these new virtual fitting-room technologies really do help them find the perfect-fitting pair of jeans or cocktail dress.


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