Virtual try-on marries augmented reality (AR) with a front-facing camera to allow shoppers to check out a new bucket hat or try on a pair of sunglasses on their own face – at the same size and scale as real life. But is this new flavor of AR a fun fad or a real shopping tool that retailers can use to drive sales?

Vertebrae, the technology leader in 3D & augmented reality (AR) solutions for retail, today unveiled a new consumer study that finds shoppers are turning to virtual try-on in record numbers to assess product style, fit, and color in categories ranging from eyewear and hats through clothing and cosmetics. This isn’t just about views and engagement: virtual try-on is shaping up to be an important battleground for 2021 sales with 7 in 10 shoppers (69%) who experienced virtual try-on reporting that they purchased the item.

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But, as consumers embrace virtual try-on, retailers need to keep up with expectations for simplicity, ease, and accuracy. Key findings from the online survey of U.S. consumers include:

Virtual Try-On Breaks Out in 2021
Use of virtual try-on has exploded and is poised to rapidly grow in the months ahead, driven by consumer demand for the new functionality and its success at driving sales.

  • Nearly half of all shoppers (44%) have used virtual try-on while shopping on a retail site, and the vast majority did so in the last year (75%).
  • Eight in 10 (77%) consumers who have never experienced virtual try-on would like to try it if it were easily available on a retail site.
  • Half (49%) of respondents are likely or very likely to buy from a brand if they offer virtual try-on.

Eyewear, Not Makeup, Dominates
Despite recent hype about makeup, use of virtual try-on is most widespread in eyewear. Eyewear also reigns as the category where consumers find this tool most useful.

  • Consumers overwhelmingly pick out eyewear and sunglasses as the #1 item that would be most useful to try on virtually in order to make an informed purchase decision (70%). In comparison, only 27% feel that makeup would be most useful to try on virtually.
  • Eight out of 10 shoppers (79%) are interested in using virtual try-on for eyewear if it is easily available on web or mobile sites.
  • Shoppers overwhelmingly trust eyewear brands themselves to deliver the best virtual try-on experience (47%), not Amazon (15%) or big box retailers (29%).

Simplicity Drives Sales
The key to success: keep it simple. Shoppers are more likely to buy from brands that offer virtual try-on, but only if it’s practical and doesn’t require extra steps.

  • More than 4 in 10 shoppers (43%) said they were very unlikely or unlikely to use virtual try-on if it required extra steps such as uploading a photo or entering measurements.
  • Consumers report the top 3 most helpful uses for virtual try-on are “I can see if the style is right for me” (63%) followed by “I can see whether the color is right for me” (51%) and “I get an accurate sense of the size of the item” (46%)

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“Virtual try-on is transforming shopping for entire categories like eyewear, hats, footwear, and soon clothing,” said Vince Cacace, founder and CEO of Vertebrae. “We are at an inflection point where both the technology and consumer demand is there, and our clients like MOSCOT, goodr, and CADDIS are seeing triple-digit lifts in conversion and order value from virtual try-on. The only question now is if other retailers are ready to respond. The survey reveals a huge opportunity for retailers to use virtual try-on to differentiate and drive sales, particularly as consumers expect the best experiences to come from the brands themselves.”

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