Dutch Apparel Brand C&A Stitches Up Cooperation With Chinese AI Startup to Try On Virtual Fitting
Liu Xiaoying
/SOURCE : Yicai
Dutch Apparel Brand C&A Stitches Up Cooperation With Chinese AI Startup to Try On Virtual Fitting

(Yicai Global) June 13-- After running in China for a decade, C&A, a European fast fashion brand is finding business in the country ever harder.

It is therefore joining hands with a high-tech company in a quest to offer virtual fitting services that feature significant interactivity with consumers.

Haomaiyi, an e-platform owned by Shanghai Fitting Room Information Technology Co., will cooperate with C&A to launch their AI-based offline experience shop in the second half of this year, Haomaiyi announced at the CES Asia (Consumer Electronics Show Asia) recently held in Shanghai.

The company expects to help each consumer find clothes perfectly matching their figures, appearance and interests by offering virtual fitting solutions, Huang Zhongsheng, Haomaiyi co-founder and chief executive told Yicai Global.

With its virtual fitting room, consumers only need to sequentially don clothes of interest and check their fit in a virtual fitting mirror to decide.

Haomaiyi's database includes the data of over 10,000 Chinese female figures obtained by 3D-scanning, per the firm's promotional materials. With graphics and machine-learning technologies, an infinite number of figures can be generated. Haimaiyi can also shape corresponding 3D images in an intelligent manner from 2D face photos from users.

"Users' virtual figures can be generated in only several seconds, and the similarity to their actual faces and figures can be more than 90 percent," said Huang.

The intelligent ruler-free figure measuring system the company developed can re-configure a precise figure model of any user within only one minute in an intelligent manner, with the average margin of error of each dimension controlled within 1.5 centimeters.

The cooperation between Haomaiyi and C&A in their shop on e-commerce platform tmall.com has been ongoing for several months. Compared with the greater costs for labor and materials in physical stores, cooperation in online shops seems easier.

Behind C&A's sales growth, "We can say the virtual fitting room has certainly contributed, but its contribution is difficult to quantify," Gao Huan, C&A's e-commerce chief, told Yicai Global

Based on their estimates, prospective customers with access to online virtual fitting showed a two-time higher conversion rate than those without, she added. "Counting on various data obtained about users, we, as the brand party, are able to provide a series of value experience services tailored to their future needs. At the same time, via user Big Data, we can also solicit feedback concerning upstream links in supply chains, such as product type design, size setting, channels and regional goods allocation, in a move that seeks a more effective operation among designers, manufacturers, consumers and logistics chains."

Haomaiyi is now paid by the piece in its cooperation with the brand party, "With a piece of clothing costing several dozens of yuan or so, the brand side just needs to send the sample clothing to us, and we will be responsible for the ensuing shooting and modeling," Huang said.

Although China's apparel e-commerce industry pulls in nearly USD145.3 billion (CNY1 trillion) in operating revenue each year, one of two pieces of clothing sold online can be regarded as unsold in the absence of 'fitting' experiences, Huang noted.

The above wording may go too far, however. Yicai Global has learned from insiders engaged in e-commerce that online apparel brands see far more refunds than offline ones, with a return rate ranging from 16 percent to 40 percent in general for e-commerce clothing retailers.

Haomaiyi has partnered with other apparel brands other than C&A as well, "Usually it takes half a year on average to test the cooperative program before the brand party can achieve around a corresponding 10-percentage-point fall in its refund rate," Haomaiyi senior marketing manager Lin Jiawei told Yicai Global.

In addition, data offered by Haomaiyi indicated that after entry into the virtual fitting room, a prospective customer will try on more than 50 sets of additional clothes for matching and thus stays in the room for over four minutes. Even these several minutes will have a role to play, because the longer users stay, the more likely brands can present their products and win over customers.

Nevertheless, not all brand businesses are willing to bet on the prospects of this high technology. This is because partial consumers may make their purchases merely due to the sense of allure generated by models on the catwalk. "In many cases, buyers display irrational consumption, with impulse purchases driven by fascination with attractive models. But it may not be true the other way around," E-commerce clothing brand Eptison founder Du Lijiang told Yicai Global.

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Keywords: C&A , Tech , Startups , Retailer , Netherlands , VR , AR , Fashion , Haomaiyi