With fitting rooms still temporarily closed across its stores, H&M is looking to dive deeper into the virtual realm to offer its shoppers an alternative in-store experience.
H&Mbeyond., the Swedish fashion giant’s Berlin-based innovation lab responsible for developing and piloting new products and services, is collaborating with augmented reality and virtual reality technology provider Nexr Technologies to develop a “digital fitting room” enabling customers to try on apparel digitally, quickly and easily.
The first prototype is planned for summer. In select stores in Germany, customers will be able to have their bodies scanned and receive their personal avatar, an exact digital image of their physical likeness.
With the aid of an app, customers will be able to try on matching styles on their own avatar, thus assuring their purchase decision.
The technology is based on a 3D photogrammetry scanner developed by Nexr, which was further developed in cooperation with H&Mbeyond. The tech company’s 3D Instagraph team develops and distributes the in-house developed scanner systems, which create photorealistic 3D avatars in seconds. Meanwhile, its OnPoint Studios team offers all services around motion capture and animation and can animate the avatars directly and individually from the 3D scanner.
While H&M wants to offer customers an exciting virtual shopping experience with Nexr’s digital fitting room, the retailer also believes the technology may be able to help give a better understanding of how scanning solutions could impact returns behavior.
“We are always searching for innovative solutions and technologies that make the shopping experience in stationary retail more attractive and exciting,” said Oliver Lange, head of H&Mbeyond. “With the pilot project, together with our customers, we want to test whether ‘digital fitting rooms’ can help them choose styles, dress sizes and ultimately make a purchase decision—NeXR is a great partner for this.”
More companies are trying their hand at virtual fitting rooms as stores remain hesitant to bring back fitting rooms entirely. In May, as stores were starting to reopen after their temporary closures during the Covid-9 pandemic, body measurement app 3DLook said that 61 percent of consumers prefer to shop with a store that has an AR experience in place, and adding this component can boost conversions by 83 percent.
This is far from the first time H&M has dabbled in some sort of mixed, virtual or augmented reality experience, with the fast-fashion retailer introducing six AR filters on Instagram as part of its September promotion of a Kangol collection inspired by 1990s streetwear. The retailer has had ongoing collaborations with virtual reality and special computing company Magic Leap at numerous events since 2018, most recently at the 2020 NRF Big Show, but the partnership hasn’t been taken into stores or been positioned for a customer-facing environment.
In 2018, H&M first tested high-definition AR holograms for its Monki brand that could be viewed through a smartphone or tablet via nine outfits with “enhanced with digital effects.” This has been the more traditional use of AR in recent years, since customers could view these holographic fashions right in the room with them, offering a new way to get closer to the product without visiting a store.
Now, with the Nexr partnership in hand, H&M hopes it could bring the value of mixed-reality applications both outside the store and within it.
Nexr Technologies offers both hardware and software expertise, with its business units crossing areas such as 3D scanner systems, motion capture and animation and VR experiences to deliver “future-oriented” services and products that are connected within a unique value chain. The company’s agency, VRriday, is tasked with integrating the avatars into VR experiences and offers consulting, implementation and publishing of the VR experiences within partner businesses.