Fashion’s Marketing Evolution: Fashion-Forward Tech

by Sonya Naboka on Jan 09, 2024

AR solutions, including interactive marketing, digital fashion, gamification, virtual fitting rooms and try-on experience, are gaining considerable traction in fashion retail. World Market Trend Watch anticipates significant growth in the global augmented reality market within retail only, projecting a surge to USD 7204.62 million by 2027, with an expected growth rate of 24.1% from 2023.

What motivates decision-makers toward innovative retail solutions? According to the Sinus Institute, seven out of ten companies view immersive experiences as a standout factor that sets them apart in the marketplace, especially in terms of enhancing the customer journey. With consumers clearly exhibiting a preference for interacting with brands in an immersive manner – where a significant 78% of respondents express a desire to engage with brands in the metaverse (Capgemini) – digital retail experiences have matured as channels for communication. Let’s explore the evolving landscape of interactive digital marketing in fashion retail, and discover how global brands leverage VR/AR/XR/MR touchpoints.

Defining The Future Of Fashion Retail: AR/VR/XR/MR Solutions

All brands within the top 10 Statista Ranking of the most valuable clothing & apparel brands in the world from 2021 to 2023, by brand value, have recently launched AR/VR/XR/MR campaigns, spanning from purely digital to phygital experiences. How about exploring the main categories of existing solutions that enhance digital consumer journeys in brands’ storytelling?

Metaverse Entertainment:

Nike, the world’s most valuable apparel brand in 2021, developed Nikeland, a purpose-built metaverse space using the Roblox platform. This virtual arena allows its fans to gather, socialize, and partake in games. The Nikeland campaign also introduced collectibles, exclusive digital wearables for avatars in other Roblox environments. Drawing more than 7 million visitors, this initiative underscores Nike’s grasp of the significance of personalization and gamification for today’s consumers – especially younger millennials and Generation Z.

Digital Fashion & NFT:

NFTs, known as non-fungible tokens, grant unique digital identities to fashion items through blockchain assignment. These tokens are linked to diverse digital assets, encompassing ownership of physical goods, virtual garments for use within digital environments, interactive digital content, and digital replicas of physical creations. According to the Vogue Business Index, around 17% of the brands it surveyed engaged with NFTs in some capacity during 2021.

Notably, luxury brands like Dolce & Gabbana set impressive records; their 2021 sale of the Collezione Genesi, a nine-piece digital NFT collection, fetched a total of 1,885.719 Ether (Ethereum cryptocurrency), equivalent to nearly $5.7 million. Another significant case is Tiffany & Co.’s “NFTiff” collection dedicated to CryptoPunks, which sold out within 20 minutes, generating a total of $12.5 million. These developments not only diversify and advance marketing strategies but also establish a third revenue source for brands entering the metaverse economy, complementing traditional brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce.

Virtual Try-Ons:

According to META’s data, over 6 in 10 shoppers either use or show interest in AR-technology while shopping, and 25% of them anticipate gaining more confidence in their shopping decisions through its use. Zalando, fashion e-commerce giant, is stepping up their game with the launch of the “Try On” virtual dressing app on Snapchat. Dior took an early step in 2019 with try-on Instagram filters, demonstrating a pioneering approach to integrate digital fashion retail into everyday reality for an engaging user experience. With the rise of initiatives allowing customer interaction with virtual clothes or accessories, this phenomenon has become a significant online shopping trend, serving digital fashion transformation. 

Digital Fashion Shows:

Virtual fashion shows have emerged as a powerful instrument for digital fashion marketing. Gucci’s new creative director, Sebato de Sarno, recently debuted his first runway show for Gucci not only in the physical world but also across three major platforms: Roblox, Zepeto, and Chinese QQ. These virtual versions retained the original concept and offered global accessibility, allowing the brand’s fans to participate in the show. However, not all projects achieve anticipated viewership and audience growth.

Despite major fashion names like Balenciaga, Adidas, Coach, and DKNY participating in Decentraland’s Fashion Week, Metaverse Digital Fashion Week was critiqued by The Verge as “lonely, difficult to navigate, and pretty boring”. While virtual fashion shows promise lower costs and wider accessibility, they don’t always meet expected outcomes. 

Magic Mirrors, In-Store AR: 

Uniqlo’s pioneering “Magic Mirror” in October 2012 redefined fashion retail experience, allowing customers at their new San Francisco flagship store to virtually try on over 100 items. This fashion technology employs augmented reality to virtually overlay clothing and accessories onto a customer’s reflection, allowing them to visualize how various items look.

Following this innovation, other fashion players, including luxury department store Neiman Marcus, mass-market brand Superdry, and Speedo to implement AR try-on tech, simplifying in-store product trials. It’s worth noting that the use of interactive fashion experiences like Magic Mirrors hasn’t become as widespread as Social-AR filters or brands’ presence in the metaverse. Nevertheless, as many anticipate, brands will reassess the potential of such fashion tech innovations, as their performance improves.

Wearable Technology:

With Bershka (Inditex group), launching its first AR-wearable collection, “Wearable Art”, in 2023, it’s expected that numerous other brands will also embrace fashion tech. This shift not only redefines how consumers engage with brands but also revolutionizes their interaction with physical clothing.

AR experience developers elevate ordinary items, making them interactive and more valuable, thanks to the target tracker mechanic. How does wearable technology work? Presently, AR wearable technology primarily entails directing your phone’s camera to the graphic print, revealing a completely different clothing experience through additional augmented overlays. Interact with it, watch colors shift, listen to music – the possibilities are quite extensive.

In today’s evolving scene of technological progress, and the growing AR/VR hardware market (though not the leading slice of the AR & VR pie), lightweight and improved AR/VR glasses or headsets hold immense promise of becoming an integral part of our daily lives. As these technologies become a part of daily routines, it’s easy to predict a surge in demand for AR-wearables, much like the explosive popularity of NFTs. Both aim to boost brand value. Picture slipping on sleek glasses – your AR-enhanced clothes instantly become an infinite canvas of possibilities!

Exploring Tomorrow: The Evolution Of Fashion-Forward Technology

From metaverse entertainment to digital fashion NFTs, virtual try-ons, digital fashion shows, and cutting–edge wearable technology, fashion brands have adopted diverse AR/VR/XR/MR solutions to enhance consumer journeys and elevate brand value. Meanwhile, consumer behavior exhibits a strong inclination towards personalization, interactivity, and immersive storytelling, exemplified by the growing preference to connect with brands via the metaverse or AR-driven experiences. The trajectory is clear: today’s fashion isn’t just something you wear, but something you experience and personalize. Fashion brands are transforming into cultural hubs, letting people express themselves in unique ways. At the same time, people are taking center stage in this digital fashion world, co-creating with brands this vibrant digital culture. 

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