Product and Specification

We have developed an innovative and unique product which encompasses 3 aspects of online shopping. We have developed proprietary software which takes the Gerber/Lectra or other digital manufacturing version of a garment which is used for cutting and manufacturing and processes it into 3D Studio Max format which can be used in a games engine environment to dress an avatar. This operation can be applied on a mass scale to over 10000 garments at a time. We have linked with the University of Ulster to develop an avatar creation process for the individual shopper which can then be used and adapted as required. We then bring both of these together to create the shopping experience. The potential of the product can be seen by viewing the video below:

The application is designed to improve the buying experience of online apparel shoppers by providing them with the ability to “try on” and model clothes, shoes and accessories using an avatar customised to their body shape and appearance. The virtual apparel will have a real world equivalent that shoppers can purchase from within the virtual store environment. Shoppers will be able to invite their friends to either share their virtual shopping session or to join in and have their own avatars try the clothing. This product will enable shoppers to try on clothes on their actual body shape and size thereby reducing the frustration of ordering items to home only to find they do not fit or look well. The online retailer purchasing this technology, will have both a reduction in costs and an increase in sales because of having this new and unique shopping experience for its customers.

For an average online retailer with a turnover of £10 million the cost of returns is normally about 10% of sales. The cost of this product is on average 2% of sales but also increases turnover due to the attraction of new customers. There are obvious benefits for the online retailer.

As an additional product we have developed a demonstration model for online grocery shopping using a personal avatar and we have created online versions of a Marks and Spencer and a Tesco store and these can be viewed in the Visualise section under the Other Technology Applications option.

Market Size

The online clothing retail market in 2014 was £5.5 billion in the UK. The online sales in Europe is approx €25 billion and the market in the USA is approximately $25 billion. The recent Mintel (2014) projections for online shopping figures by 2017 are £10 billion for the UK and € 50 billion for Europe and $50 billion for the USA. We have had discussions with a number of the large High Street retailers such as Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Boden, Monsoon, Primark, Republic and a number of smaller retailers exploring an online presence. All are very favourably disposed towards this type of initiative with Marks and Spencer working with us through their Head Office in London in developing the Batch Processor prototype.

The size and scope of the online market has been itemised earlier. Traditional retailers such as M&S, who are working with us, have now gained experience of online retailing and understand that their physical stores can be used to enhance their overall customer loyalty by approaching mixed channel strategies: establishing strong links between the in-store and online offer is now essential. The end game is for online and in-store sales channels to simply blur into one, becoming fully integrated. John Lewis' online fashion re-launch and M&S' web store are examples of these retailers trying to move in the right direction but most mid-market sites still have some way to go before decoding the latest trends and selling stock in an integrated and easy-to-use way, similar to Net-a-Porter at the luxury end. The risk though is that as consumers' expectations rise, a bad online experience will increasingly affect loyalty, not just to the web store but to the brand's high street stores as well. So, retailers must continue investing not just in the virtual shop but the online experience as a whole, in order to nurture such long term relationships.

As part of the research process Entec Studios commissioned Market Solutions (NI) to undertake a limited programme of end-user research. This was designed to explore reaction to the concept and to take cognisance of any issues that consumers may have and identify any suggestions for improvement.

For convenience two focus groups of women were selected, one group being in the age range 18 to 24 and the other from 25 to 40. The focus groups were interviewed in Belfast, as previous work which had been undertaken in this area, in both GB and ROI, has illustrated broadly similar consumer behaviours in these geographical markets.

The overall reaction to the concept of was positive, and it was perceived as a novel and interesting innovation. This opinion grew as the respondents became more familiar with the proposed features.

There is enormous potential for expansion within this industry as this is a product which, from all predictions, will continue to grow globally. In recent television news articles regarding the growth of the Post Office business because of an increase in online deliveries, it was predicted that over a third of all purchases by 2022 will be done online. If you consider that currently online sales in the USA are $25 billion with over 30 billion euros for Europe, then this product in its final state will be in very high demand throughout the world.