The future of 3D scanning in ecommerce

Charles Carriere
President & Co-founder
June 21, 2020

When it comes to online shopping, few verticals have seen demand as high as the fashion industry. Our penchant for buying clothes and accessories online has caused the fashion ecommerce market to skyrocket to nearly $500 billion in revenue in 2018, with 57% of internet users worldwide having purchased clothing online. 

Yet, these numbers don’t show the full scope of the substantial changes occurring within the fashion market. Growing concerns around sustainability have led fast-fashion retailers like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21 to close stores or even declare bankruptcy, in the case of Forever 21. This all happened prior to the coronavirus outbreak, which caused online clothing sales to drop 34% due to shifting consumer needs.

All of this adds up to what one BBC journalist called an ‘existential crisis’ for the fashion industry. People won’t stop buying clothing any time soon - what will change, however, is the way in which they shop. A focus on individuality and sustainability is something the major fashion retailers haven’t fully come to terms with yet, but the potential for 3D scanning and AR/VR technology to help meet the future of online shopping is growing as a positive trend.

The Right Outfit, The Right Fit

One of the most pressing issues for fashion ecommerce retailers lies in returns.  As much as 40% of online purchases are returned, compared to the in-store return rate of 5-10%. These numbers can clearly eat into a company’s bottom line.

It’s not hard to understand why this is such an issue in ecommerce, for both companies and their customers. We’ve all had the experience of buying a shirt or a pair of pants that were advertised as being a certain size, but on arrival turned out to be far too tight or too baggy. Without being able to see, feel, and try on the clothing in person, we’re forced to make our best estimates with the written information and photos we have.

But there’s another way to ensure proper size, one that works down to the millimeter. With a user-facing 3D scanning app, users could scan their arms, chest, legs, and other body parts to ensure the clothing they order will fit perfectly. Forward-thinking retailers could receive this information after the user sends their scanned files and then use the 3D scan and extracted measurements to deliver out the right sized outfit. The customer gets the item they want and can wear it right out of the box. Meanwhile, the retailer can rest easy knowing returns are no longer the issue they once were. It’s a simple fix to a global problem, and one that could revitalize the fashion industry’s fortunes in a post-pandemic age.

Personalizing Your Wardrobe

Ensuring accuracy when selling off-the-rack items is important, but there’s another area where 3D scanning truly thrives. Most consumers don’t have the budget to shop for bespoke items, which are tailor-made to their particular body type and shape. What’s more, purchasing these items often requires multiple in-store visits for fittings and consultations, which only add to the final cost of the product.

User-facing scanners allow individuals to take measurements of their own body in just a few minutes. If retailers choose, they can ask for necessary measurements - chest span, arm length, wrist size, and more - and use that information to make tailored items for any customer seeking a custom fit. Retailers and brands could develop workflows around extracting this necessary information from 3D scans, offering a new method of online shopping for their fashion-conscious customers.

Building A Fashion Retail Future

The online market for bespoke products is nascent at this point due to the difficulty in ensuring accuracy. With 3D scanning, this issue becomes a thing of the past, allowing fashion shoppers to focus on a growing concern: ethical production. Fast fashion items are notorious for falling apart after a few wears, and rely on sweatshop labor to keep prices low and production high. It’s a system that amplifies inequality while adding far too much to our landfills.

Bespoke fashion can be offered at a fair rate, and manufactured locally from high-quality fabric. While the price is higher than mass-manufactured clothing, these items can last for generations with proper care. It’s part of an overall trend toward unique, one-of-a-kind items in our era of ecommerce personalization.

These shifts toward sustainability and personalization are by no means unique to the fashion industry. They are, however, a growing concern for shoppers across age groups and demographics. Ecommerce retailers who rise to meet the trend will see more success and greater gains into our post-pandemic future - provided they adopt the right technology needed to give consumers what they truly want.

Companies and developers interested in building their own 3D app can sign up for our Roux SDK to start building today. For businesses without a software development team, our Formed app can bring 3D scanning tech into your ecommerce in less than a week, without a custom app, reducing costs and adding a level of service beyond your customers’ expectations.

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