Virtual try-on and AI product photography

Virtual Try On and AI Product Photography

The future of the e-commerce shopping experience

There’s no denying that in the age of social media, we have become a visually-driven society.

But did you ever imagine that typing a simple, five-word prompt into your computer could make a completely computer-generated image in less than 60 seconds? 

This is reality now, and it’s just one of many ways that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) technology can be applied. For the average person, these technologies are a fun tool to play with (who hasn’t wanted to see what they would look like riding a unicorn off into a fireworks show?)

But for the world of e-commerce, AI and AR technology bring a whole new dimension to the visual side of your business.

Two major innovations of AI for e-commerce are virtual try-on technology and AI product photography. In this article, we’ll explore how these technologies came to be, how AI is transforming the world of e-commerce, and how you can use it to your advantage as you grow your business.

AI: Transforming the world of e-commerce

Within the past few years, many businesses have incorporated User-Generated Content (UGC) into their marketing strategies. Rather than the brand or organization creating content to post, users of a platform like Instagram or TikTok create content that promotes the brand, in the form of reviews, comments, photos, videos and social media posts. 

UGC is often seen as more authentic and trustworthy than branded content, as it is created by real customers who are sharing their genuine experiences rather than a blatant attempt by a brand to convince you to buy their product. 

With the rapid growth of AI technology, a new generation of UGC has unfolded: AI-generated content (AIGC.) Ranging from AI video generation and writing to AI voice synthesis, this technology unlocks enormous potential for use by businesses. 

Gartner, a leading technological research firm, predicts that generative AI will enter a production maturity period (a.k.a., reach its full potential) within the next 2-5 years, which is indicative of huge growth for AIGC within that same time frame. 

According to BusinessDIT, AI-enabled e-commerce solutions like AIGC are estimated to be a $16.8 billion by 2030. As of right now, 51% of e-commerce companies already use AI to improve their customer experience.  

If you’re not already using AIGC or AR technology for your business, you might feel behind the curve. Read on for the key ways these tools can help you rise above the competition and keep winning in e-commerce for years to come.

AI in product photography

Those dark, grainy iPhone photos might have been okay when you were running your business out of your mom’s basement, but now that you’re trying to establish a presence in the e-commerce space, they just aren’t cutting it anymore.

But hiring professional models can be expensive, not to mention time-consuming. Plus, you run the risk of investing resources in a photoshoot only for it to not come out exactly like the vision in your head.

Today, there’s another tool at your disposal — AIGC. 

AI has a few advantages that can enhance traditional photography. Rather than being limited to the concept and photos from one shoot, you can produce hundreds or thousands of product images in a fraction of the time it would take to organize a single traditional photoshoot (this also makes AI-generated photography more cost-effective.) 

  • Image-generating models — Tools like Midjourney, Canva and Microsoft Image Creator are easily accessible, and can generate high-quality images from scratch that are indistinguishable from those of a professional photographer. 
  • Photo enhancement tools — Advanced AI algorithms from tools like Retouch4Me and Vance AI start by identifying the best background to complement your product. Then, they enhance details, correct colors, and optimize lighting, ensuring the finished product aligns with your brand’s aesthetic and can stand up to the intense competition in the e-commerce marketplace. 
  • Automated Background Removal and Editing: AI tools can remove or alter photo backgrounds, making product images look cleaner and more professional without manual editing. This is crucial for maintaining a consistent visual identity across your product catalog. 
  • Style Transfer: AI-driven style transfer technology can apply the look and feel of one image to another. This means you can adapt the aesthetic of your product photos to match your brand’s unique style or campaign theme consistently, enhancing brand recognition. 
  • Virtual Staging: For brands selling products like furniture or home decor, AI can digitally place products into various interior settings, helping customers visualize the items in their own homes. This not only elevates the shopping experience but also enhances the perceived value and appeal of your products. 
  • Scalable Image Generation: Similar to image-generating models, AI can create variations of product images by altering colors, textures, or styles, providing a comprehensive visual selection for customers and reducing the need for extensive photo shoots.
  • Dynamic Imaging for Personalization: AI can dynamically adjust product images displayed to online shoppers based on their preferences, browsing history, or demographic information, creating a more personalized and engaging shopping experience.
  • Quality Control: AI tools can automatically inspect product images for quality assurance, ensuring that all images meet specific standards before they are uploaded to your website. This helps maintain a high level of professionalism and consistency across your online presence.
  • 3D Product Visualization: Leveraging AI, brands can create 3D models of products from standard photographs, allowing customers to interact with the product virtually. This immersive experience can significantly boost engagement and conversion rates.

Additionally, the accuracy of the algorithms used by these AI tools ensures that every image maintains a consistent quality and style, which is incredibly challenging to achieve in DIY photoshoots. 

Virtual try-on technologies

Built on AR technology, virtual try-on capabilities give your business a competitive edge, and by allowing your customers to see what your product would look like in their lives before they make a purchase, they can spell a huge value-add for consumers. 

Essentially, virtual try-on technology uses computer vision and machine learning algorithms to allow users to see how a product, such as clothing, eyewear or makeup, would look on them without physically trying it on. 

Companies like Amazon have also used similar technology for items like furniture — using the camera on your smartphone, you can see how the bookshelf in your cart would look in your living room, in real-time. 

You don’t have to be particularly tech-savvy to access these solutions, either. They’re available in AR frameworks like Apple’s ARKit & RealityKit or Google’s ARCore. 

For instance, ARCore combines the virtual and real worlds using a smartphone’s camera features like motion-tracking, environmental understanding, and light estimation. 

There are numerous benefits to implementing virtual try-on for your e-commerce business. 

  • Fewer returns — Returns pose a significant cost to product-based e-commerce businesses — up to $550 billion annually, according to Snap’s Global Product Marketing Lead. According to McKinsey, 70% of returns are due to poor fit or style. Having the opportunity to picture what a product would look like in real life could help reduce the number of returns, and increase the number of happy customers.  
  • Increased sustainability — Fewer returns also mean a reduced carbon footprint. This is important not only in terms of environmental impact, but also for building brand loyalty — a recent NielsenIQ study found that 78% of US consumers say a sustainable lifestyle is important to them. Investing now in the things that matter to your customers will win you lifelong shoppers in the long run. 
  • Improved customer experience — Offer your customers the gift of convenience — they don’t need to leave the comfort of their homes to virtually experience a world of products for their homes, pets, closets, etc. 

Keeping the human touch

One common fear is that brands that use AI technology for their e-commerce businesses will lose their sense of humanity and authenticity. 

There are a few ways to combat this: 

  • Stay authentic. Avoid over-editing or altering images in a way that misrepresents your product.
  • Keep humans involved in the process. There’s a fine line between using AI to streamline the process of editing images or rendering virtual try-on experiences and making your e-commerce experience completely robotic. Human creativity is essential to ensuring AI enhances your brand rather than takes it over. 
  • Personalize the experience. Incorporate interactive elements into virtual try-on experiences that mimic the personalized attention customers would receive in-store. For example, allow customers to customize their virtual try-on experience based on their preferences, and create personalized recommendations based on each customer’s preferences and past purchases. 

Warby Parker is one example of a brand that has done an excellent job at incorporating both AI and AR technology while maintaining an overall authentic, human brand experience. The eyewear brand’s website and app allow customers to try on Warby Parker’s frames and see how they would look on their faces. But they’ve also maintained a strong human element through warm, personal branding, and their Home Try-On option. 

Is there an AI for figuring out how to use AI?

Not that we know of . . . at least, not for that express purpose.

That’s why Nogin is here to help. We know that thanks to the ever-evolving nature of the e-commerce world, it can be tricky to navigate — and there’s no rulebook for evolving along with it. 

We want to help you decode AI technology and show you how successfully implementing AI can keep your business ahead of the curve.  

To find out more, set up a free introductory convo with one of our Nogin experts. We can’t wait to meet you!

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