Are we saying goodbye to try before you buy? How digital technology is changing the way we shop.

It’s been a week of firsts for me. My first week working for Propaganda and the first of my weekly reviews of all things digital and social. I’m Thomas Atcheson, the new Social Media Manager and I’ve previously managed digital projects for brands like Orange and William Hill.

Talking of firsts, here’s a first from Debenhams who’ve launched an augmented reality shopping app. If you love your apps and enjoy shopping as well, it might be just the things for you.

It offers users the chance to try on one of their top ten party dresses by overlaying the product on top of the video image of you from a smartphone.

There’s one serious flaw with the campaign. To use the app you need to be in one of five city centres just moments away from the real shop. I can’t use it at home.

On one level, it’s a bit of fun, putting a photo of your mate in a dress up on Facebook, particularly if they’re a bloke. But on another level it does highlight the changing way we shop and the move away from the high street.

There’s an increasing move to buying clothes and other products that we’ve not tried or seen. Next, M&S and Debenhams are increasingly sending out garments through the post to online buyers. Online accounts for around 10% of clothes sold but figures from IRMG show online purchases rose by 21% in the last quarter compared to the year before. Find out more here.

If the way we buy clothes is changing, then retailers need to start thinking how they can help their customers in this new environment. ASOS and M&S are already replacing static images with video to show buyers how dresses hang and move.

But augmented reality is underused and often limited to in-store gimmicks. If my daughter can buy and swap virtual outfits in her Barbie Wii game, why can’t you apply the same principle to real clothes from a real shop? It’s not just about ‘that dress’ but the ability to click through accessories, shoes and handbags in your own home. There’s a business advantage too if these tools cut the number of returns made.

Nothing will replace the experience of in store shopping, but if you’ve got kids to drag round the shops or you’re just too busy, your laptop or smartphone might be the next best thing.

It’s not just clothes which benefit from change the way we think about virtual shopping as Tesco demonstrated with its subway food shop in South Korea which used QR codes to enable commuters to shop whilst they waited for their train home. How long will it be before more retailers bring virtual reality shopping into your home?

There’s been another first for Illamasqua and their new fragrance Freak.

Their revolutionary technology sees the scent of the fragrance and the packaging linked by a number of ‘sensory triggers’. The fragrance and the packaging contain identical triggers, so if a consumer responds positively to the packaging then they’re almost guaranteed to respond positively to the fragrance. Find out more here.

This heralds a new era in fragrance e-commerce, as customers will no longer need to sample a fragrance before they buy it.

Since the technology was incorporated into the packaging of their new fragrance ‘Freak’, the brand has received record-breaking pre-order sales and smashed their targets by 120%.

Posted by Thomas Atcheson.