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Walmart Now Lets Online Shoppers ‘Choose My Model’ to Optimize Fit

Walmart finally offered more details into how the Zeekit virtual fitting room technology it acquired last year falls into its upcoming plans. The mass merchant is launching a feature called “Choose My Model” in an effort to help online shoppers skip the in-person fitting room experience and view how clothing fits on a similar body.

On Walmart.com or the retailer’s mobile app, the Choose My Model experience currently lets customers select from 50 models between 5’2” and 6’0” tall that can display clothing from sizes XS through XXXL.

Customers can determine the model that best represents their height, body shape and skin tone to understand how any given garment will look on them. Walmart expects to expand on the current model selection, with nearly 70 additional options launching in the weeks ahead to open the experience to an even wider range of sizes, skin tones and hair colors.

Denise Incandela, the executive vice president of apparel and private brands, Walmart U.S., described the digital fitting room technology in a company blog post.

“One of the most frustrating aspects of shopping for clothes online is understanding how an item will actually look on you,” Incandela said. “With Zeekit, our goal is to deliver an inclusive, immersive and personalized digital experience that will better replicate physical shopping.”

The experience, currently in beta is now available on select items across Walmart’s portfolio of exclusive, elevated brands and private brands, including Free Assembly, Scoop, Sofia Jeans by Sofia Vergara, Eloquii Elements, Time and Tru, Athletic Works, Terra & Sky, Wonder Nation, No Boundaries, Avia and The Pioneer Woman.

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If an item is part of the Zeekit experience, customers will see the prompt to select a model on the product page.

If an item is part of the Zeekit experience, customers will see the prompt to select a model on the item page.

Some of Walmart’s national brands will add the virtual fit experience in the coming months, starting with Levi’s and Hanes, on Walmart.com and Walmart Marketplace.

The new feature is powered by Walmart Global Technology’s neural networks, which analyze catalog images of garments to create a dressed image using computer vision algorithms across a diverse set of Walmart model images.

Walmart leverages the neural networks to determine the different variations available in a single product, such as size, available color options or even sleeve length. The new system is able to capture all these variations when displaying the options.

While Walmart initially said the Zeekit integration would also include a social sharing feature that would let friends give each other feedback on virtual outfits, that option is not yet live.

Clothing retailers need new tech-driven experiences as consumers flock online to purchase fashion, especially as returns become a bigger issue every year. A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey indicated that more than $761 billion in merchandise sold across 2021 would be returned to retailers—marking 16.6 percent of total U.S. sales. Apparel saw a 12.2 percent return rate.

A recent survey from sizing solution Presize.ai revealed that just 34 of the 100 participating retailers employed some sort of size recommendation technology, while 23 failed to show the clothing on a model. Of those that do, just 45 percent included the model’s measurements for reference. Meanwhile, the company’s data suggests that more than 65 percent of returns are size- and fit-motivated.

“Sizing issues [have] various negative implications on stakeholders in the e-commerce fashion industry,” the report’s authors said. “The user experience is significantly affected by size uncertainty, leading to a low conversion rate between the viewing and the purchase of selected wear. Additionally, the reception of clothing that does not fit mostly leads to a return, having a weight on the environment, as well as affecting the profit margins of retail companies.”

Zeekit’s integration comes as Walmart aims to be a more serious fashion player, recently launching spring collections designed by Brandon Maxwell, the former “Project Runway” judge who became the creative director of the retail giant’s Free Assembly and Scoop private labels last year. The combo brings together Maxwell’s designer fashion expertise with Walmart’s more affordable prices.

Walmart has steadily invested in fashion in recent years. It acquired plus-size fashion firm Eloquii in 2018, and added collections from Sofia Vergara and Ellen DeGeneres. The retail giant also partnered with Bluestar Alliance in 2021 to bring the revived tween brand Justice to its stores and online ahead of the back-to-school season.

Incandela called the Choose My Model feature “just the beginning” of Walmart’s virtual fashion ambitions, indicating that the retailer also has plans to launch a virtual try-on experience. Though the retailer didn’t elaborate on what this might entail, the forthcoming virtual try-on might be similar to the augmented reality, phone-based systems that other fashion retailers have tested.

“With Zeekit’s visionary team, powered by the Walmart Global Technology platform in partnership with our fashion merchandising and e-commerce site merchandising organization, we have the incredible opportunity to revolutionize how our customers shop for clothes online,” Incandela said.

The exec, who has sought to expand Walmart’s private-label fashion portfolio over the years via the Free Assembly launch and the resurrection of the Scoop brand, said the retail giant has already seen a strong customer response to Choose My Model.

“The extraordinary, positive customer feedback out of the gate underscores our opportunity and ability to solve a common online shopping problem and build a true, personal connection between Walmart and our customers,” Incandela said.

In Walmart’s fourth-quarter earnings call, CEO Doug McMillon said the retailer saw strong global sales in apparel, as well as food and consumables, with total revenues in the quarter rising 0.5 percent to $152.9 billion. Sales of U.S. general merchandise, which includes categories like apparel, entertainment, toys and sporting goods, increased in the low-single digits to close 2021.

Prior to being acquired, Zeekit had partnerships with major brands and retailers including Macy’s, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Levi Strauss & Co.