How Gaming Technology Is Powering This Virtual Fit Solution Set To Revolutionize Luxury E-Commerce
Virtual fit technology has never enjoyed widespread success but a new fashion tech company is set to change everything. Bods enables online shoppers to visualize how clothes of various sizes will look and fit in real life via an AI generated digital rendering of their actual body.
The company, founded by former model Christine Marzano recently secured $5.6million in seed funding from Stellation Capital plus fellow model Karlie Kloss and Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss.
Here’s how it works. Your unique avatar or ‘Bod’ is created from two uploaded photographs via computer vision and machine learning. Following the initial process which takes barely 10 seconds, users can make small adjustments via simple sliders. One can also effect the process by entering bust, hip, weight and height — size aggregator data pulls in the rest — however, the photos will provide a more faithful representation. Users need only create their Bod once as it travels via their profile.
The technology — both mobile and desktop enabled — uses 3D creation tool, Unreal Engine which powers gaming platforms such as Fortnight and is also used in TV shows like Disney’s The Mandalorian.
Beyond the overall look, heat mapping functionality allows users to zoom in to see where garments will fit loose or come up tight. “If you’re spending $1500 on a sweater you want to know,” says Bods’ Marzano.
Marzano first encountered the software when she was working in L.A., doing motion capture for characters within the computer gaming industry. “I kept saying I thought the technology could be used outside of gaming and because I had a background in fashion it was the place that made the most sense to me because I understood it and it was also where I had the largest network,” she says. She interned at a motion capture company to acquire the necessary learnings and launched Bods in June 2021.
Following a beta trial on the e-commerce site of buzzy New York based label Khaite, which does indeed sell aforementioned $1500 sweaters, the Bods virtual fit technology is being rolled out this summer on the e-commerce sites of three undisclosed luxury brands — both American and European — with more to follow through the end of the year.
The numbers from the Khaite trial speak for themselves. Session duration — notably after the Bods were created — increased by 93%, and there was an 11% increase in cart size. Mailing list subscriptions were up by over 100%, she says — “people who had been customers for years but had never signed up.” Returns data is still being gathered but anecdotally, people changed the size they bought in the brand’s best-selling sweater.
“Previously they had been buying smalls and extra smalls and returning them because the sweater is actually cropped but after using Bods the same people were buying it in medium or large and as a result Khaite changed its entire size guide.”
Aside from its photorealistic nature — which resonates with luxury fashion brands — another key reason Marzano chose to work in Unreal Engine was the software’s interoperability — between different metaverses for example.
However, while some of Bods’ partners do indeed want to avail themselves of such an export feature, Marzano is, for now, more concerned with enhancing utility within the more established e-commerce status quo.
“I’m a huge believer in Web 2.5,” she says — Web 2.5 being the way that brands are leveraging Web 3.0 assets in the context of current Web 2.0 business models — terming Bods as “a bridge to the metaverse.”
She remains skeptical as to the financial benefits of the metaverse in current form. “We’re not there yet. Sure, it’s getting brands more exposure but are they converting? That’s the big question,” she says, adding that “many metaverse experiences are currently just targeting Gen Z or gaming natives which is not the majority of luxury customers.”
Notably, the ages of the 7000 customers who built Bods with Khaite ranged from people in their 20s to 60 year-olds.
According to Marzano, “you’ve got to get your customer where they are right now and provide them with something that’s easy to use and that serves a purpose.”
“Then if a brand is doing a metaverse experience and they can just export their Bod, that makes a lot more sense than trying to get people to come to things that don’t seem like they’re fully baked.”
As to her own fashion background, that gave her major credibility when it came to enlisting luxury brands, she maintains.
“They trust that I understand their wants and needs, their language and that I’m not going to put anything on their website that doesn’t fit seamlessly with their aesthetic,” she says, citing everything from the avatar base garments to the fact that there are over 54 photorealistic skin tones based on the Fenty foundation line. “Most other tools offer seven maximum.”
“All the decisions were made looking through a luxury lens. The overwhelming response of those who tried the product on Khaite was that our solution looked the best and felt the most elevated. Many previous efforts came purely from the tech side who put out a product that felt disjointed from a fashion experience.”
Moving forward, Bods is developing its own website where users will be able to create a Bod in situ for use on partner sites. “We are also building out our platform so people can style items on our site mixed and matched from our partners,” Marzano reveals. Additionally, there will be options to purchase digital garments — both standalone versions and digital twins associated with real world product.
To start with, sales will be conducted via affiliate programs but Marzano is currently in discussions with brands regarding a Bods marketplace model along the lines of Farfetch