Walmart unveils virtual fitting room to encourage shoppers to buy more clothes

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Walmart is rolling out its latest version of virtual try-on, which allows shoppers to upload an image of themselves and see what items would look like.

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As some shoppers cut their spending on clothing, Walmart is rolling out a new tool that it hopes will get them to click the “buy” button.

Starting this week, customers can use a virtual try-on tool to see how a shirt or other piece of clothing would look on their own body. It is the latest feature the company has added to its website due to its acquisition of Zeekit, a virtual fitting room startup.

The retailer launched its first version of the tool in March, allowing shoppers to choose a model that resembles them in body type, skin tone and hair color. Later it was expanded from 50 to 120 models. Other retailers have also experimented with virtual try-ons, including Amazon, which has a tool that uses augmented reality to show shoppers what a shoe would look like on their feet.

The latest feature for Walmart, “Be Your Own Model,” leverages algorithms and machine learning technology originally used to develop more accurate topographic maps. Shoppers can use it to virtually try on more than 270,000 items from Walmart’s house brands, select items from national brands, such as Champion, Levi’s and Hanes, and some are sold on the third-party marketplace.

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Customers can choose both options, with their own image or a similar model. With the personalized tool, the website uses a scan of a person’s body to provide a more realistic picture of how a fabric falls, a color looks, or where a sleeve or hem falls — without stepping into a store.

Walmart is unveiling the new tool at a time when selling new outfits has become more difficult. As inflation drives up the prices of food, rent and more, consumers are starting to make decisions about where to cut back. The big-box retailer joined a growing list of companies, including Target and Best Buy, that lowered their full-year earnings outlook as people buy less discretionary merchandise. Walmart now expects adjusted earnings per share for the full year to fall between 9% and 11%.

However, budget awareness can have a silver lining for the discounter. The company raised its sales forecast in July as it saw a surge in shoppers seeking low-cost groceries and basic necessities, even if they’re buying fewer high-margin items. It is also attracting more customers with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more, the company said during its August earnings call.

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Denise Incandela, the executive vice president of apparel and private label at Walmart US, said she wants to encourage more of those customers to fill their closets at Walmart as well.

Walmart’s virtual fitting room tool uses algorithms and machine learning techniques originally used to create topographical maps to show what garments would look like on a shopper.

Walmart, virtual try-on, virtual fitting room

One way to do that is to try it virtually, which makes shopping for clothes more fun and easier while also taking some of the guesswork out, she said.

That’s also why Walmart has moved beyond basics like socks and T-shirts to more fashionable merchandise with higher price tags. It has a growing collection of private labels, including Sofia Jeans, developed with actress Sofia Vergara; Free Assembly, a menswear and womenswear brand designed by the former chief creative officer at Bonobos; and Love & Sports, an activewear brand created with fashion designer Michelle Smith and SoulCycle instructor Stacey Griffith. The website also has more well-known national brands, such as fitness shoes and clothing maker Reebok and children’s clothing brand Justice.

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Walmart largely launched those elevated brands on its website and then added some of that merchandise to select stores. The website is driving higher average retail prices for clothing items than retail stores, Incandela said, so the retailer wants to make sure shoppers have fewer reasons to leave items in their virtual shopping cart — such as having trouble choosing a color or arguing about how a dress might fit.

So far, she said, Walmart has seen an improvement on the first version of its virtual fitting room tool, “Choose My Model.” She declined to mention the conversion rate for purchases, but said it is higher for online shoppers who use the tool than for those who don’t.

“We’re doubling down a bit based on the consumer insights,” she said.

Now, she said, she’s thinking about the next step — such as encouraging store visitors to view the technology as an alternative to the fitting room or making the feature available for men’s and children’s clothing or eyewear.

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