December 4, 2022

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Walmart rolls out virtual fitting room to help shoppers find clothes

Walmart debuted Choose My Model, a feature that allows shoppers to see how clothing would look on a person with a similar height, shape and skin tone. The technology is powered by Zeekit, a start-up that Walmart acquired.

Walmart

Walmart shoppers have a new reason to skip the fitting room.

Instead of trying on a pile of clothing, they can turn to a high-tech tool on the retailer’s website and app to do the heavy lifting.

The new tool, Choose My Model, allows a shopper to pick a person who resembles her height, shape and skin tone. The feature, powered by computer vision and artificial intelligence, shows how a clothing item would flow and fit on a similar body.

Choose My Model is the first implementation of Zeekit, a start-up that Walmart acquired in May for an undisclosed amount. Walmart, the country’s largest grocer by revenue, has made a bold push into fashion by launching new private labels, hiring fashion designer Brandon Maxwell and adding more national brands to its website. The technology takes that a step further by making it easier for shoppers to imagine how clothing would look without stepping into a store.

“Everything comes back to providing the customer with the confidence to make that purchase,” said Denise Incandela, executive vice president of apparel and private brands for Walmart U.S. “We want to have a best in class shopping experience online and we feel like this is shopping of the future and we wanted to lead the way.”

She said the new tool makes customers more likely to click the “buy” button, especially on items with a slightly higher price point or an unfamiliar brand. It could come with another benefit for Walmart, too, she said: a lower rate of returns.

Prior to the acquisition, major brands and retailers including Macy’s, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Levi used Zeekit’s technology.

Walmart is looking to apparel to drive online sales growth and fend off Amazon, too. Amazon unseated Walmart to become the top apparel retailer in the U.S. during the pandemic, according to research by Wells Fargo. Walmart’s e-commerce sales in the U.S. grew 11% in the most recent fiscal year or 90% on a two-year basis.

Walmart began testing the Choose My Model tool on its website and app early this year, said Cheryl Ainoa, senior vice president of new businesses and emerging tech for Walmart Global Tech. The feature, which is in Beta, is available on select items across Walmart’s exclusive brands, including Free Assembly, Scoop and Sofia Jeans.

In the coming months, Walmart plans to add items of other brands — including national brands like Hanes and Levi Strauss.

Ainoa said customers who tested the feature gave Walmart positive feedback, but wanted to see even more models who reflect the diversity of shoppers, regardless of ethnicity and hair color and whether they are petite, tall, plus-sized or curvy. Choose My Model launched with 50 female models and Walmart plans to add 70 more in the coming months, she said.

The next phase of the technology rollout will be a virtual try-on feature, which will allow customers to upload their own photos to see how clothing fits and even share that photo with friends to get their thoughts.

Ainoa said she is eager to see the technology available across more clothing items for another reason. She said she recently spent two hours trying on 10 different pairs of jeans.

With the Choose My Model tool, she said she could have narrowed to two pairs to try during a store visit — or skipped the trip altogether.