For over a century now, Red Wing Boots has been crafting what many consider to be the world’s premier work boot. They’re loved, cherished and trusted in every industry no matter how tough nor how dirty the job.
Mechanics wear Red Wing’s to protect their toes from heavy machinery that might take a tumble. Oregon Lumberjacks wear Red Wing’s to hunt down big trees in rough slippery terrain. Plumbers and carpenters wear Red Wing’s in and out of people’s homes because of their sturdy yet walkable design that doesn’t cut corners when it comes to aesthetic.
Being that most Red Wing Boots run $250+ a pair, the hundred-year-old shoemaker knows they have some serious selling to do on each pair. This is why Red Wing trains their sales representatives to be experts in every aspect of the boot to deliver an incredible experience to potential customers. Most sales representatives know every detail of the boots that cling to their store walls, down to the very stitch.
I experienced this phenomenon first hand when I was preparing for my trip to Minsk, Belarus. I knew it was going to be cold and snowy, so I wanted a boot that could battle the wet slippery terrain while also looking fashionable.
When I walked into the Red Wing store in Nashville, Tennessee I was immediately greeted by a smiling face. He made some small talk with me, building rapport, then began asking a series of questions that would help him find the perfect boot for me.
What size shoe do you wear? Well, we better take a quick measurement to be sure.
What will you be wearing them for?
What’s your budget?
How often will you be wearing them?
After he was finished with his questions, he went to the back of the store and approached me with three large boxes each housing a slightly different boot model.
He then sat me down and began slipping them onto my feet, lacing them up and asking me to move around in them. While he was helping me try on my boots, he was telling me the history of Red Wing, when they were founded, who founded them and the beautiful craftsmanship that goes into each boot.
All in all, he spent over an hour with me and once I left the store (with a pair of boots in hand) I was blown away by the customer experience I had received.
The physical elements of the customer experience digital retail is lacking.
Red Wing is one of the last living examples of physical retail at its purest form. Stepping into one of their stores takes us back to decades ago... to the retail world our parents and our parent’s parents shopped in.
Shopping was much different for them. When mom and dad or grandma and grandpa were in need of a new pair of shoes, they jumped in the car and cruised down to the local retail store.
They would walk in and be greeted by a smiling clerk that would call them by their first name. They would then tell the clerk what footwear they were looking for and the clerk would then search the shop for the perfect pair of shoes or heels or boots. In many cases, the clerk would even help the shopper slip the shoes on and off like the Red Wing sales representative in the short story above.
It was a different kind of experience. It was tailored. It was personal. It was genuine. It was physical.
Today, as shopping has moved to big multi-chain retail stores and websites, shoppers have traded in “experience” for “convenience”. Now, it’s easier than ever before for shoppers to get exactly what they want when they want, no questions asked. And, if they are shopping online, they can get what they want when they want... without ever leaving the comfort of their own home.
While this revolution in retail has been fabulous in the convenience it offers shoppers, it has been detrimental to the shopping experience, heavily lacking the tailored, personal, genuine and physical aspect that in-person retail does so well.
Fortunately, we have something that might just change everything. Something that might have the power to bridge the physical retail world and the digital. Something that might interconnect both convenience and experience. And, if you keep reading, we will tell you all about it.
What is Virtual try on?
What if retailers selling online could offer the same level of customer experience that a brand like Red Wing offers in person?
While at first glance, this question might sound a bit far-fetched, the technology that exists today makes it possible to offer incredible customer experience, even when a customer isn’t in the same room as a sales representative or stylist.
Emerging technology like Augmented Reality is allowing retailers to bridge the physical and digital worlds for customers shopping from their smartphones and laptops.
While unrelated to the retail space, perhaps the most infamous example of Augmented Reality is Pokemon Go, which swept across the world back in 2016 allowing users to travel anywhere physically and catch pokemon virtually on their smartphones.
This, along with developing technology in other gaming spaces created a heightened awareness among consumers in regards to both Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, which eventually crossed industries and gave rise to the idea of integrating AR and VR experiences in online shopping.
Two reasons brands need to be investing in virtual try on.
While there are a few examples of AR and VR in online shopping, the one that offers the biggest opportunity for retail brands is The Virtual Try On.
The Virtual Try On harnesses the power of Augmented Reality Technology to allow consumers to Virtually Try On products like sunglasses, shoes, makeup and clothing by utilizing the camera on their smartphones and laptops.
While previously creating Virtual Try Ons were extraordinarily difficult for brands to do, fast-moving startups make the set-up process much easier. Below, you will find two reasons brands should start investing in virtual try ons.
1. Virtual Try On offers massive product and brand differentiation.
Today, it’s harder than ever before to stand out in the sea of online retailers that are competing for customer attention and their business.
Brands are fighting this challenge by investing in paid advertisement, which works to a certain extent. Though, if you’ve ever played around with paid advertising you’re well aware it can be an uphill battle.
Paying for clicks can only grow a business for so long, eventually, brands have to drive customers by Word of Mouth (WOM) and heightened brand awareness... all of which can be accomplished through product and brand differentiation.
Product and brand differentiation happens in two ways:
- Creating exceptional video, photo or written content that entertains, educates or inspires the customer.
- Taking advantage of emerging technology and innovation like Augmented Reality to create
The online retailers who are smart aren't fighting the paid advertisement battle and are instead taking advantage of Virtual Try Ons to really stand out.
Brands like Vint & York are in a highly competitive retail space... eyewear. They’ve gone about differentiating themselves from their competition by allowing their customers to virtually try on glasses before making a purchase. This has provided a unique customer experience that in turn has generated buzz around their brand, their products and the experience as a whole.
Imagine being one of the first brands in your space that allows customers to try on your products from their smartphone screens? Imagine the word of mouth and engagement that experience would drive? Our point exactly. You can learn more about here.
2. Virtual Try On can cut back on returns.
The arch-nemesis of all online retailers is the dreaded “return”. Every time a brand sends a customer a product in the mail, they risk losing money. For whatever reason, be it the fit or the color or a change of mind, customers return products they’ve bought all the time.
A retail thought leader by the name of Steve Dennis who used to work as the Chief Operating Officer at a major online furniture retailer said returns could run as high as 30% in certain categories. The idea of losing money on 30% of the products you ship is scary, some might even argue that it’s life-threatening for growing retail brands.
You might be wondering... why don’t retail brands stop offering free returns and such overly generous return policies? Well, the truth is that they can’t.
Online retail is such a competitive space that not allowing customers to return what they don’t want could cause a mass exodus. So, brands are between a rock and a hard place.
Perhaps one of the biggest sells for Virtual Try Ons is the fact that it cuts back on returns. Customers can see how something fits and looks on them before ever whipping out their credit card. This helps the customer develop a more realistic expectation of what they’re receiving in the mail.
The result? A large drop in the rate of returns... which will save brands money, time and energy
The move to implementing a Virtual Try On for your online retail store is obvious. It’ll help your brand stand out through customer experience and it’ll cut back on the costs associated with shipping.
But, how would one go about creating a Virtual Try On application? As mentioned, previously it was quite difficult. The technology was there but developing it and integrating it with your products was no small feat. Fortunately, Banuba has made this process seamless. You can request a demo, here.
By Cole Schafer.