Just a quick post to point you in the direction of the latest retailer to integrate our virtual dressing room software, The Webcam Social Shopper (WSS). Malaysian based Zawara just redesigned their entire site, and took that opportunity to integrate WSS into their product detail pages. If you want to see it in action, please click here.
The patent, USP #8,275,590, relates to the simulation of trying on one or more virtual-wearable items within a video feed, the ability to use gestural controls to navigate through the interfaces and take pictures to share with your friends, all from within the WSS interface.
WSS can be used with a wide variety of “video feeds”, such as via PCs, tablets, smartphones, depth-sensing cameras (e.g. Kinects), connected TVs, kiosks, eyewear (e.g. Google Glass)… you name it. In essence, WSS relates to what is now commonly referred to as a “digital mirror” or a “virtual dressing room”.
Other features of the patent and/or WSS include the following:
ANY VIRTUAL, WEARABLE ITEMS: This isn’t just about trying on virtual clothing. Virtual Jewelry, glasses, watches, purses, and anything else that’s “wearable”.
SIZING & FIT: The method of using body part detection & recognition to determine a wearable item’s size and fit is covered.
SOCIAL SHOPPING: This element is actually covered in two ways.
Taking photos with the virtual, wearable item(s) and sharing them via social networks.
Multiple people trying on virtual, wearable items simultaneously, and having a shared shopping experience within a video-chat or conferencing environment.
GESTURE, MOTION AND VOICE CONTROL: Using gestures, motion and voice control to interact with, manipulate and purchase virtual, wearable items directly within the virtual dressing room interface.
Why is this patent important? Augmented reality powered “virtual dressing rooms” will play a critical role in retail’s multi-channel future, and it should be noted that we’re not alone in our thinking. It’s a vision of the future now shared by companies like Forrester, eMarketer, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft & eBay (note: we’re not claiming that these organizations endorse our platform, just that each of them support the space in general. Please click on the links above to see how).
So what does this “virtual dressing room” of the future look like? Imagine several friends video chatting. Ashley’s in front of her connected TV; Kara’s curled up on her couch, tablet in her hands; and, Christina’s out walking her dog, clutching her smartphone. Nothing too groundbreaking there, but now imagine that instead of simply chatting, they’re actually shopping together too. They’re browsing; trying on dresses, necklaces, glasses and hats; giving each other feedback; and, recommending items to one another. You see, the virtual dressing room of the future makes internet-connected shopping a truly social experience from any device.
Example visual representation of the virtual dressing room of the future.
As we alluded to earlier, cameras are now native in virtually every internet-connected device that people buy. And as hardware (and software) improves, the camera will ultimately function as another input device, right alongside the mouse/keyboard and the touchscreen. The camera (and microphone) though will allow for the most natural interface out of the three, an interface controlled by gestures, motions and one’s voice. In fact, we’re already seeing these types of interfaces in Samsung’s Smart TVs and in Microsoft’s Kinect. And it’s this “natural user interface” (NUI) that will provide the framework for the “virtual dressing room” of the future.
“We’ve been working on our commerce platform for nearly four years. Our first patent protects our current vision for the Webcam Social Shopper and aspects of our future vision for the platform in multi-channel retail.” said Matt Szymczyk, CEO of Zugara. “Our goal has always been to fundamentally change the way people shop. And today we took a huge step towards achieving that goal. It’s incredibly reassuring to know that the innovations we have been making in the retail space are finally recognized through the granting of this patent.”
Zugara is changing the face of multi-channel retail. Since 2009, we’ve been developing the Webcam Social Shopper (WSS), a patented commerce platform and interface that provides retailers with a more social, visual and fun experience for their shoppers.
ABOUT THE WEBCAM SOCIAL SHOPPER (WSS)
The current iteration of WSS utilizes augmented reality to turn a shopper’s webcam into a real-time interactive mirror. So a young woman can actually hold a dress up in front of herself, just like she would at the rack in a store, and immediately validate if an item’s style/color is right for her. No downloads, no plug-ins, no paper markers… it just works. www.webcamsocialshopper.com
If you are interested in licensing our patent or technology, please contact info@zugara(dot)com.
Easy To Integrate And Affordable For Retailers Of All Sizes, Over 140 Retailers Have Already Downloaded The Module
Contact: Press (at) Zugara (dot) com
Los Angeles – July 10, 2012 – Zugara’s award winning online merchandising software, The Webcam Social Shopper (WSS), is now available as an official module for PrestaShop’s apparel merchants worldwide. PrestaShop is one of the fastest growing ecommerce platforms in the world (with over 127,000 stores and counting), and the launch of “WSS For PrestaShop” marks the first time any ecommerce platform has offered an augmented reality (AR) module to its e-tailers.
The module provides PrestaShop’s apparel retailers with immediate integration of a piece of software that turns their shopper’s webcams into interactive mirrors, instantaneously providing a more fun, visual and social experience. To do this WSS uses a webcam’s live video feed, a motion capture interface, AR and Facebook/Twitter integration to replicate that offline moment at the rack where a young shopper holds a dress or blouse up to herself, turns to a friend (or the mirror) and asks “what do you think, is this me?” (video demo below)
“Retailers are finally realizing that the bulk of their revenue, be it online or offline, is tied directly to the experience that they provide online” said Matt Szymczyk, CEO of Zugara. “WSS was developed to give retailers an actual online shopping experience right ‘out of the box’. It’s fun and engaging; It’s proven to help sell clothes; and, it’s a word of mouth marketing platform. In sharing their looks, and asking friends what they should and shouldn’t buy, shoppers are also sharing the retailer’s content as well as their tacit approval of the site.”
“WSS for PrestaShop” also marks a substantial leap forward in affordability and ease of integration for augmented reality retail applications. Its integration wizard was developed to give “average people”, not developers, the ability to install WSS into their store(s) quickly and easily. And with a 30 day free trial, as well as a low “pay only for what your shoppers use” CPC (cost per click) pricing model, retailers both large and small can benefit from WSS.
“Last time I checked over 140 retailers had already downloaded our module,” said Matt. ”Today’s a day for Zugara that’s been three years in the making. To see this sort of immediate response from retailers is incredibly validating. And this is just the beginning, our new ecommerce platform API was developed so any platform can easily offer WSS to their retailers.”
For a better sense of how the technology works, here’s a quick “How To Use WSS” Video:
“WSS For PrestaShop” has been localized for the following languages: English, French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Chinese, Turkish, Dutch and Russian.
WSS has a history of helping retailers improve conversions, engage shoppers and drive word of mouth marketing. (LINK #1) (LINK #2)
“WSS For PrestaShop” was developed in conjunction with French IT services company Nemesis-Technologies.
Want to know what “real shoppers” think? A young blogger recently took WSS for a “test-drive”. (LINK)
Since 2009 Zugara has been developing the Webcam Social Shopper (WSS), a piece of merchandising software that helps apparel retailers to provide a more social, visual and fun shopping experience for their online shoppers. WSS utilizes augmented reality to turn a shopper’s webcam into a real-time interactive mirror. So a young woman can actually hold a dress up in front of herself, just like she would at the rack in a store, and immediately validate if an item’s style/color is right for her. No downloads, no plug-ins, no paper markers… it just works. www.webcamsocialshopper.com
Headquartered in Los Angeles, with offices in Singapore, Zugara supplies WSS to e-commerce platforms, retailers, resellers, brands and agency partners all over the world.
Nemesis Technologies is a French IT services company offering services internationally. Well known for its reactivity, its dynamism and collaborative work, Nemesis Technologies is a leader in the field of computer science. www.nemesis-tech.com
THE SHOPPER’S WSS EXPERIENCE:
1) The shopper is interested in an item, but not sure she wants to buy it yet. So she clicks on a call to action on the retailer’s product detail page.
2) An overlay is launched, her webcam is activated and the she takes a few steps away from her computer.
3) The dress she was looking at is instantly placed right in front of her. Now she can have that “at the rack moment” and better judge if the color and style are right for her.
4) Using just her motions, she can now snap photos and see additional colors of the dress.
5) Finally, sharing her photos (so she can find out what her friends think) is incredibly easy.
Well, we have some more data for you. Back in February I told you about how Mattel and their agency, Attention, used the Webcam Social Shopper (WSS) to help fans of all ages step inside “Barbie’s Dream Closet” (more info). We now have three months of data on barbiethedreamcloset.com, and I thought you’d be interested in being brought up to speed on the results (spoiler alert: it’s doing really, really well):
As you can see, WSS usage is trending upwards, and the people using it are highly engaged.
If you’re interested in a more “raw” look at how people react while they’re actually using WSS, here’s a quick little video we shot while at Fashion Week. Don’t worry, it’s not some cheesy marketing video, just a bunch of candid reactions from people:
Have you seen the coverage of these “3D Virtual Fitting Rooms”? Thanks to the power of the Microsoft Kinect several of these hacks products have entered the market over the past few months, and they’re getting a bit of media attention (wait, here’s another one that just launched yet is claiming to be the “first”). Because of these articles, I’ve been asked by a few people for my thoughts on these 3D Virtual Fitting Rooms, hence the post below. Hopefully this post will initiate a bit of dialogue among us, and whether you agree or disagree with me, I’d love for you to weigh in below.
So, without further ado, let me give you a run down of our thinking on 3D Virtual Fitting Rooms:
Depth Sensing Cameras – The cameras these executions are using are cutting edge and offer (developers) some huge opportunities to create compelling motion/gesture based user interfaces, and overall more sophisticated augmented reality user experiences. A depth sensing camera’s functionality is simply leaps and bounds more advanced than the average person’s webcam… it’s not even close. To borrow a Larry Miller quote: “It’s the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it.”
Powerful Hardware Systems – When we’re looking at In-Store 3D Virtual Fitting Rooms, developers are able to control the hardware that’s powering the experience. That means they can create significantly more powerful applications since they don’t need to build software for the hardware the average user has at home (like we do). This is definitely a benefit.
Foot Traffic – These types of systems are pretty novel, and initially people will be interested in playing around with them. So if you’re one of the first stores to utilize the tech, you’ll probably generate a bit of extra foot traffic, and a bit of buzz.
At Home Hardware & Penetration – All of these 3D Virtual Fitting Rooms claim to work in people’s homes. And technically, that’s possible. They can be made to work in a home, but I’m going to get right to the point: do you have a depth sensing camera at home? Probably not. In short, that means you can’t use the 3D Virtual Fitting Room. The fact is PCs and connected TVs are a few years away from having depth sensing cameras integrated natively, so realistically your only opportunity to have a depth sensing camera at home is to own a Microsoft Kinect. So, let’s assume you have a Microsoft Kinect at home — after all, as of March there were already 10 million units sold. First off, as we discuss consumer reach, is should be noted that that number pales in comparison to the PC numbers Intel noted recently: over 1 million computers are sold daily and there are 1.5 billion in use. Second, Microsoft hasn’t announced details around commercial licenses for the Kinect. And that’s important. Will a retailer have to pay 50 grand to create Xbox applications? Will Microsoft take 30% of sales and kill any margins? Will they even allow a third party shopping application on X-Box Live or will they “reject” them when submitted? These are all questions that today we don’t know the answers to. So, if only a minority of people even have potentially compatible hardware, and those that do have no ability to access the software… how can people realistically use a retailer’s 3D Virtual Fitting Room at home?
Content Is King, And There Is No Content – This one will be quick: Manufacturers/Retailers don’t have 3D assets of their clothing items, and as of today 3D assets for augmented reality are cost prohibitive to produce. And without clothes, it’s not a very compelling “fitting room” is it?
“Fit” Just Can’t Be Done – Even if retailers could create perfect looking 3D assets in a cost effective manner, these alleged “3D Virtual Fitting Rooms” can’t accurately portray fit (i.e. where a garment would actually bunch, hang, or bulge on a person’s very unique body), or provide shopper’s with the tactile feedback that’s such a key component of the “promise of fit”.
What’s The Value-Ad For The In-Store Shopper? – Question: What exactly does the spate of 3D Virtual Fitting Rooms add to the current in-store shopping experience? It’s new… and different, sure. But does it truly help the shopper shop? Once they get past some initial “wow factor”, will it continue to add to the shopping experience? I mean, the actual dress is three feet away on a hanger. If they’re at home, I get it. It can help them to better visualize what the item might look like on them. But why would a shopper that’s in a store prefer to “hold up” a digital dress, rather than feel and interact with the real deal? They made the effort to leave their homes, and come to a store. Why would they then opt for an experience they could pretty much have at home on their laptop?
As I’m sure you can guess, in my opinion the “bad” outweighs the “good” for today’s crop of 3D Virtual Fitting Rooms. The technology is incredibly powerful but I think that the realities of the current marketplace make this technology an unwise investment for retailers. To be honest, if a retailer has the luxury of being on a development timeline that lasts a few years and can afford some R&D, then my advice would change. But with budgets being tight, if a retailer wants to make an impact today, I think it’s way more prudent for them to start with a 2D experience online. It’ll cost less; will be easier to produce/execute; will be usable by significantly more of their shoppers; and, already has data to support its effectiveness.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts below… And you can find me on twitter here.
You gotta love it when you’re “randomly” checking out a video on CNN (because it’s titled “Augmented Reality Revamps Online Sales”) and you stumble upon the fact that a demo of your product is heavily featured. Of course, it would have been nice to have actually been credited for our work… All in all, it’s still an exciting day for us. If you’re interested, the video is below (the section featuring the Webcam Social Shopper begins around 47 seconds in).
One of the great things about ecommerce is that ROI has always been seemingly straight forward and easy to measure. All the necessary data is right there, at every retailer’s fingertips. They know what they invested, and they can measure the direct effect that that investment had on their business. But it turns out that in today’s marketplace, only measuring an online investment’s affect online no longer gives an accurate look into that investment’s true ROI. That’s because what retailers do online, directly affects whether or not they are driving sales in store too.
In a recent Forbes op-ed Raj Rao (global director, eCommerce and Digital Marketing, 3M Corporate Marketing) cites a ComScore report that states that 2/3rds of shoppers begin their shopping process online, usually on the retail site itself. The report also notes that nearly half of shoppers who begin their search on retail sites make a purchase in the physical store, while 40% transact online. Think about that. More of a retailer’s site visitors will end up purchasing in store, than on the actual site itself. Obviously, measuring ROI is no longer as straight forward as it once seemed.
The data above, and his own experiences point Rao towards the following conclusion: “Marketers must rise to the challenge. The solution isn’t banner ads or page take-overs that consumers despise. Instead we need to do the hard work of true marketing and ask: What is the consumer experience at retail sites, and how can I positively impact this?”
It probably comes as no shock to you, but we here at Zugara agree with Mr. Rao. Today, online retailers are content providers. Publishers. And just like in any other content driven business, the retailers that produce the best content, the best experience, will win. So what do you think? What stores are “doing it right”?
(Warning: Shameless Self Promotion) Oh, and speaking of online shopping experiences… have you heard of our product: The Webcam Social Shopper?
Are you familiar with SocialVibe? Odds are, you’ve seen their work. They power user-initiated brand engagements on some of the web’s most visited networks. Networks like Zynga Games and Pandora. If you’d like more information on SocialVibe, Fast Company ran a great piece on them the other week.
Recently, we partnered with SocialVibe and Deutsch to create the “Anthem Blue Cross Webcam Exam” for Zynga’s network. It’s a fun, interactive Augmented Reality “Check-Up” that reminds people of the importance of seeing a Doctor regularly. It actually uses facial tracking to allow people to naturally interact with several Doctor’s tools, like that thinga-ma-bobby that they use to look at your eye (sorry for using such technical language).
Below, is a demo link for those of you that want to check it out. I’ve also embedded a few screencaps below as a mini walk-through to showcase the engagement. I’d love to get your thoughts on the execution in the comment section, and as always, you can find me on twitter here.
In the past we’ve addressed some of the technical limitations that we see with the mobile augmented reality space in general. In this post, I want to get very specific and address why we don’t currently develop our ecommerce augmented reality software for the mobile market (as we get this question a fair amount). For those of you that are unfamiliar with our software, The Webcam Social Shopper, I’ve embedded an introductory video below.
Sorry, for some reason we’re having trouble embedding the video. If you don’t see it above, you can view it on YouTube here.
Okay, so back to the question at hand: Why don’t we develop for mobile? The short answer? It’s simply not strategic to do so. Let me explain our thinking:
The Addressable Market Is Just A Fraction Of The Computer Market
Our shopping application functions like a mirror, so that means people need to have their screen, and their camera facing the same direction (AKA a forward facing camera). For the computer market, that’s just the way it works… but in the mobile space, that essentially leaves us with two consumer devices: the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
Like all businesses, we need to be laser focused and strategic with both our financial and human resources. So let’s look at where we can have a greater impact now. Let’s look at the potential consumer reach for PCs, iPad 2s, and iPhone 4s:
Sources: In September, The Daily Beast stated that 30 Million iPads had been sold. Back in March at the iPad 2 launch event Steve Jobs noted that 15 Million iPads had already been sold.
iPhone 4: 50 to 75 Million sold (note: we don’t know how many of these are replacements for a previously purchased iPhone 4).
Sources: At the recent iPhone 4S event, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that the iPhone 4 accounts for half of all iPhone’s sold. Back in March Steve Jobs noted that since 2007 Apple had sold 100 Million iPhones.
Okay, so let’s put the combined iPad 2 and iPhone 4 sales at the high end of that range: 90 million units. It’s an impressive number, but those sales totals are just 6% of the PCs that Intel states are “in use”… and it should be noted that Intel also states that PCs are selling at a rate of 1 million per day. And here’s another metric for you: 93% of digital traffic is consumed by PCs. That means that the entire Smartphone and tablet market (i.e. not just Apple’s two most recent product launches) accounts for only 7% of digital traffic consumption.
So, when looking at the addressable markets, it’s pretty clear that the computer has the upper hand.
It Would Be A Horrible Experience For The Shopper
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the PC market didn’t dwarf the mobile market. Let’s assume everyone had a Smartphone and they all had forward forcing cameras. There’s still a rather large usability issue keeping us from developing for those devices. And that’s the arm length of the average person. If you noticed, in the video embedded above, the young woman is standing roughly 4 – 6 feet away from her computer. That’s because she’s visualizing if a dress’s style is right for her, so she needs to see her entire body. If you’re holding a Smartphone in your hand, you just can’t hold the phone far enough away to have that experience. And at the end of the day, if we aren’t providing an amazing experience for the shopper, than what the heck is the point?
Now I get it, mobile, especially the iPhone and the iPad get an overwhelming amount of media attention. Are they revolutionary products? Yes. I’m not debating that. Is the future bright for mobile? Of course. But that’s the future, and as a company we’re focused on how we can make the biggest impact in people’s lives today (and over the next 5 years).
Did you know that one day after download, only 20% of users come back and run an iPhone app? And after a month, that number drops to 5% (chart). For us, it’s not about producing an augmented reality app that people won’t use but will get us covered by the press. It’s about measureable impact. It’s about disrupting the way people shop online today, and providing them with a significantly better experience. On computers we can do that. On mobile devices, we can’t.
What do you think? Are we right? Wrong? As always, you can find me on twitter here.
In the past we’ve shared the data we’ve collected on our augmented reality work. But we truly love it when others in the industry share their findings as well. Below, you’ll find data from a study that the folks over at Hidden Creative conducted on Augmented Reality and the Sales Process. I’ll let their information below speak for itself, but I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments…
From Hidden’s Blog:
100 people were shown a display advert for a child’s toy, while another 100 people were shown the child’s toy as an interactive augmented reality experience. Each person was then asked two questions:
Would you consider buying this toy for a child?
How much would you consider paying for the toy?
The duration of engagement the audience had with each format was also monitored. Let’s look at the headline figures:
Likelihood to buy
After viewing the 2D printed display advert, out of 100 parents, 45% would consider buying the toy for a child. Out of those who viewed the augmented reality experience, 74% of the parents would consider buying the toy for a child.What we found even more intriguing was the price point at which the parents were prepared to make the purchase.
We Are Organized Chaos (WAOC) is Zugara’s (www.zugara.com) interactive marketing and advertising blog where we’ll be featuring some great projects and discussing upcoming trends in the digital world. Work — good and bad — will be critiqued. Hope you’ll enjoy reading our insights and thoughts on interactive.