About this project
Digitalization in the retail industry was catapulted forward by the pandemic, including the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual try-on (VTO) technology. Barely a decade ago, virtual try-on, which lets consumers visualize how a product will look on their body, was no more than a gimmick used by a handful of retailers.
Fast-forward to today, and it has evolved into a host of leading brands, with more brands set to follow suit. VTO’s rapid rise in popularity has largely been driven by its promised revenue generation and cost reduction benefits, but poor implementation of the technology could actually do more harm than good.
To help companies and developers of VTO solutions exploit the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls, we decided to complete an internal project to assess the usability of apps offered by selected brands. We looked at companies spanning footwear, cosmetics, eyewear, and jewelry and included household names like Ray-Ban, Gucci, Charlotte Tilbury, and Pandora in our research.
Turning insights into opportunities
The goals of the project centered around two main pillars:
- Firstly, we wanted to gather insights that would allow us to create an industry report with precise, actionable information about VTO solutions to help companies and developers maximize the impact of this technology.
- Secondly, we planned to use these insights to enhance our retail and ecommerce offering, applying what we learned to benefit our clients.
Shining a light on the VTO pitfalls to avoid
To identify the weaknesses and opportunities present in existing solutions, we divided the project into three key phases which are described in detail in the next section:
- UX audit
- User interviews and usability testing
We could see throughout our usability testing that users found VTO fun and engaging. It was also clear they appreciated having the opportunity to experiment with fashion trends and save time by narrowing down their options before arriving in-store.
However, our research showed that no company had yet managed to perfect the user experience of their VTO solution in a way that fully met customers’ expectations. Overall, we found there was still a considerable difference between the in-person experience of trying on a product and its virtual counterpart, especially in the visual sense.
In particular, we identified virtual try-on weaknesses in seven key areas:
- Technical problems preventing the use of VTO – such as issues with the virtual fitting room function and enabling camera access.
- General usability issues – like confusing wording, unexplained images, and an ill-placed logo that covered part of the user’s face.
- Problems with the visualization – including problems with the product not appearing exactly in the right place and concern over the accuracy of the visualization versus the product.
- Limited try-on options for multiple products – for example, not allowing the user to try on multiple products simultaneously to assess matching sets.
- Inconsistency in products available for virtual try-on – such as confusion over why users could try on certain products but not others.
- Lack of look comparison and sharing functionality – specifically, difficulty and frustration for users when attempting to narrow down their selections.
- Issues impairing the overall shopping experience – including contradictory price and availability information after redirection to the retailer’s online store.
Following the usability testing, we ranked the severity of the UX and UI issues we uncovered from minor to critical and presented our findings in an industry report, along with mitigation measures and potential opportunities.
Putting VTO solutions under the microscope
This is how we conducted each phase of UX research.
Surveying a broad user base
Surveys are a great quantitative research method for gathering a statistically relevant amount of data and assessing a product or service in a short time frame. Typically, they are used to measure and categorize attitudes or collect self-reported data that can help us track or uncover critical issues.
In our survey phase, following an initial week of desk research and preparation, we surveyed 300 respondents across two surveys and collected statements relating to their experiences with virtual try-on.
Using a commercial survey platform, we created a screening survey to verify candidates’ eligibility criteria and added an additional set of questions that allowed us to increase the survey sample to more than 300 answers. This approach allowed us to fill two needs with one deed – we reached the minimum threshold to make the survey statistically relevant and also identified many potentially valuable candidates for the later stages of in-depth interviews and usability testing.
We conducted the survey over the course of two weeks and analyzed the responses qualitatively, grouping problems and experiences thematically. We also used the survey results to help us plan the next stages of the UX audit and usability testing.
Conducting an expert UX audit
A UX audit is an efficient way to quickly uncover any issues that could have a negative impact on a product, service, or project, allowing you to take proactive steps to improve user experience and increase business value.
During the UX audit phase of our project, a Netguru UX Research Expert spent two weeks examining the VTO offerings of ten brands spanning footwear, jewelry, and eyewear. We chose these product categories as our survey indicated they were the areas in which VTO solutions are most commonly used. The brands we selected for this phase were Specsavers, Eyeconic, Ray-Ban, Candere, Pandora, F.Hinds, Jared, Gucci, Wanna Kicks, and Glassify. These brands use existing solutions from tech companies like Wanna, Tangiblee, and Ditto.
Starting the audit without the participation of users, the team checked the solutions’ visualization capabilities and the tools available to consumers using VTO. The audit revealed that embedding this function on the shopping path was particularly important and could affect the popularity of the tool. As a result, we extended the later scenario to a broader context, developing a list of "red flags" to include in the scenario and in-depth questions.
We also identified potential categories of problems, for example, looking for issues related to the quality of the visualization, which may be influenced by the amount of lighting in the room or the type of device.
The results of this UX audit helped us understand how we had approached the usability testing phase and allowed us to ask the right questions. For example, our findings highlighted that we needed to take a broader view and consider how a solution is embedded on the user’s shopping path. Consequently, we examined how easily users could find the VTO function, rather than the operation of the virtual fitting room itself.
Digging deeper with real users through usability testing
Usability testing enables you to observe how users interact with products and see whether they are functioning as intended and meeting users’ needs, including UI and design elements. This study allowed us to see what was working well and dig into the issues hampering user experience.
We worked with 18 users over the course of 21 days to complete usability testing and interviews based on the VTO solutions of four brands in four categories. In this phase, we looked at Wanna Kicks (footwear), F.Hinds (jewelry), Charlotte Tilbury (cosmetics), and Ray-Ban (eyewear).
Our interview and user testing sessions took around 60 minutes combined. We started by introducing the research objective to the user, then got to know them better. Based on the results of the screener and the interests we confirmed during the session, we matched users with two product categories that were in line with their usual shopping preferences. For example, we only tested a cosmetics brand’s VTO solution with people who would ordinarily buy cosmetics online.
We ended each session with a summary, where we could find out more about the user’s overall impression of a particular VTO solution along with the best and worst points of using it.
Generating value internally and sharing it externally
Like the retail industry, VTO technology is continuously evolving. At the moment, it doesn’t always provide a perfect experience, but it’s making progress, and thanks to the study, we were able to identify solutions that would likely set the standard for the future.
In addition, we were able to:
- Deepen our knowledge of the virtual try-on market, build on our understanding of the solutions available, and identify where the opportunities lie. We’ve since used these insights to develop our own VTO offering, including a virtual try-on demo, and enhance the service we deliver to clients.
- Share the information we gathered in an industry report, highlighting the common weaknesses to avoid and providing advice to help companies and developers get the most out of VTO.