New technologies bring the advantages of real-world shopping to digital fashion scouting.

Online clothes shopping has come a long way from the beginnings of the Internet, when consumers were split between seeing it as the ultimate in convenience (infinite inventory without leaving home!) or a big waste of time (endless scrolling through products! And why buy without trying on?). More than ever, new technologies and strategies are helping to answer the critics and bring the advantages of real-world shopping to digital fashion scouting.

For one thing, online shopping need no longer be a solitary experience. U.K.-based Motilo, named Most Innovative Website at this year’s Guardian Awards for Digital Innovation, enables far-apart friends to create looks and shop together; in-house stylists curate the retail selections from websites around the world. We touched on how the social graph is changing retailing in last year’s Social Commerce report, making it easier for brands to enable sharing and discovery. And scrapbooking and curating sites—think Polyvore and Pinterest (and more product-focused sites like Fancy and Svpply)—let users share and discover with both friends and like-minded strangers.

Such sites make trolling through e-inventory more fun for those inclined to enjoy it and help others quickly hone in on what they’re most likely to want. Israeli startup Brayola has another approach to discovery, focused on bras: Users specify which bras they own and like, then Brayola cross-references this with preferences of other users and surfaces recommendations from e-commerce sites. True Fit technology, which retailers including Macy’s and Nordstrom recently launched online, also has users list items they own that fit well (people also provide specifics on their height, shape, etc.). The system references fit data from apparel brands and gets more refined as a customer uses it. Another, more basic approach is the online avatar. Tesco is testing a virtual 3D fitting room, accessible by its Facebook page: Users upload photos or enter body measurements, along with a photo of their face, to see how clothes look on their avatar.

As online shopping better approximates the advantages of physical shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers will in turn need to incorporate the best of the digital realm. Stay tuned for a look at how innovative retailers are doing that.