May 13, 2021 at 04:00PM

In the face of rising online sales and increased social commerce, Walmart said on Thursday (May 13) that it will acquire virtual fitting room firm Zeekit, an Israeli artificial intelligence (AI) startup, with the goal of boosting its efforts on both the eCommerce and fashion fronts.

In a blog post announcing the deal, Walmart said the acquisition is part of its ongoing effort to expand its assortment and meet the needs of increasingly online customers who want variety, ease and fun when shopping for apparel.

“Virtual try-on is a game-changer, and solves what has historically been one of the most difficult things to replicate online: understanding fit and how an item will actually look on you,” said Denise Incandela, EVP of apparel and private brands at Walmart U.S. “Zeekit will help us deliver an inclusive, immersive and personalized experience for our diverse customer base.”

Although no terms or specific launch date were given, Walmart touted Zeekit’s existing reputation in the apparel industry and said it would look to scale its expertise to new areas once the acquisition is closed. The retailer said Zeekit’s technology will enable customers to virtually try on numerous national brands, including Free People, Champion and Levi’s, as well as a mix of its own private-label lines when the system goes live on Walmart.com.

To use the virtual try-on feature, Walmart said customers can either upload their own picture or pick from a series of different models to best represent their height, shape and skin tone to instantly see themselves in any item of clothing. “They can even share their virtual outfits with friends for a second opinion,” Incandela said, noting that Zeekit will also bring an “inclusive and social experience” to digital shopping.

Addressing the Online Returns Problem

As Walmart moves to grow its online sales and enhance its apparel offerings, the company will increasingly feel the pinch of an estimated 40 percent return rate for eCommerce shoe and apparel sales. It’s a multi-billion-dollar problem caused by the ubiquity of free shipping and free returns, which virtual sizing solution providers are looking to alleviate.

“At this point, the free returns model has become completely unsustainable — and not just from a business perspective,” MySize Founder and CEO Ronen Luzon told PYMNTS. “Frequent returns of items bought online are also devastating for the planet. From both a green and an economic perspective, retailers need to cut down on returns.”

Walmart said Zeekit’s technology is scalable for other fashion experiences, including the ability to build virtual closets and seamlessly mix and match clothing. “We’re confident that with [Zeekit’s] expertise in bringing real-time image technologies, computer vision and artificial intelligence to the world of fashion, we’ll identify even more ways to innovate for our customers in our continued effort to be the first-choice destination for fashion,” Incandela said.

Walmart Buys Virtual Try-On Firm Zeekit In ‘Game-Changer’ For AI In Fashion …

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