Even before the pandemic, apparel companies that successfully bridged the gap between physical and digital realms were rewarded most handsomely by their consumers. The rise of ‘buy online, pick up in store’ (BOPIS) is a great example; 67 percent of consumers have leveraged BOPIS in the last six months and 90 percent of retailers plan to implement it by 2021. The convenience of that unique shopping experience is simply too good to pass up, especially in the face of COVID-19.
But the most forward-thinking companies have taken that physical-digital merger to the next level with digital showrooms.
Instead of merely scrolling through photographs, shoppers can virtually interact with every piece of clothing online. Consumers drag and drop products on virtual fixtures that offer 360-degree views or even video-led fittings of the items. They can even zoom in during the fitting to see every detail of the product up close and personal — fabric, buttons, zippers, everything. Each product is also accompanied by a product description and specific information such as sizing availability and color options.
Digital showrooms replicate the ‘touch and feel’ experience of traditional shopping better than any other alternative. You’ll almost forget you’re not trying clothes on in the store — except, of course, that you won’t have to wait in line for a fitting room.
The consolidation of traditional and digital convenience was already benefiting retailers pre-COVID. E-commerce sales account for more than a quarter of global fashion sales and the industry expects to reach over $829 billion in revenue by the end of 2024. And yes, these are still the projections even in the midst of a pandemic.
While COVID-19 caught the fashion sector off guard by disrupting global supply chains, temporarily and permanently shutting down brick-and-mortar stores, and interfering with the usual planning of clothing lines, the importance of brand adaptability has never been more obvious.
But the fashion industry has always been resilient by nature. E-commerce was a step into the future, and now COVID-19 has pushed for the widespread adoption of digital showrooms, with companies like BrandLab already experiencing 500 percent growth as a result.
As retailers introduce these tech-driven advancements into their operations, they also meet another consumer desire in the shopping experience: corporate social responsibility. Digital showrooms aren’t only convenient and instantaneous, they also support sustainability. Fast fashion is hurting the planet, so shoppers are increasingly looking to offset the industry’s emissions and wastefulness with their purchasing decisions.
Buyers no longer need to travel to try on products, and retailers also reduce the amount of textile waste since they’ll need fewer physical items to capture photographs that will be stored in their virtual showrooms. Brands can even create digital samples over physical ones without sacrificing product quality and transparency. As consumer demand for sustainable fashion grows, retailers need to rethink their offerings to not only enhance the way customers shop, but to make shopping a more ethical experience as well.
The most successful players in the fashion sector have never sat still. They fervently embrace new technologies they know will transform how customers engage with their brand, and digital showrooms are one innovation that will continue to future-proof the industry.