What’s your biggest pain point about shopping in stores? Mine is most definitely the rather stressful fitting room experience, especially if you’re going to stop by the store after a work day. Collecting clothes, trying them on in the harsh fluorescent light of the fitting room, looking for a store associate in case you want a different size – it’s not the most seamless experience. Why wouldn’t anyone rather choose the convenience of shopping online? A few days ago, we published a post about how social networks are jumping on the “Buy” button bandwagon. As commerce becomes pervasive, products are brought to consumers where they are, and everything including payment and checkout is made so easy. How will physical stores thrive and do business? There is plenty of scope for innovation here when it comes to fashion and apparel, and blurring the lines between the online and offline experience.
There is still something to said about trying clothes on in the store and the instant gratification of coming home with your new purchase. That being said, physical stores will not win unless they make that experience more convenient and enjoyable than it is right now. Today, shopping has gone way beyond the transactional aspect. Now, it’s all about experiences – pervasive shopping experiences.
Businesses are certainly recognizing this as they’re playing with the idea of “smart” fitting rooms. The technology is not gaining traction at the speed that one would expect but it will get there soon enough. Late last year, Nordstrom started testing “smart” fitting rooms powered by eBay technology in a couple of their showrooms. Tech-savvy brand Rebecca Minkoff also partnered with eBay to introduce a “connected store” in New York.
A very unique experience awaits shoppers as they enter the store: they use a huge interactive mirror to browse the collection, have items sent directly to a fitting room, and even order a drink! Once in the room, RFID sensors identify all the items. In case you end up picking something else up on your way there, that also gets quickly added to the list. Mimicking the online product recommendation process, every time you tap on an item, an accompanying panel shows related items and accessories. You can have different sizes, colors, or the related accessories sent to the room at the tap of your finger. You can even adjust the lighting. Pretty cool!
Needless to say, once you’re done shopping the checkout process is easy and smooth as well. No more lines. Earlier this year, Neiman Marcus installed a Memory Mirror in a few of their stores. This Memomi and Intel powered technology is different from the eBay technology. It takes stills and videos of the shopper and the shopper can then conveniently try on different clothes side by side, or different colors of the same outfit. It also incorporates the social aspect by letting you share your video or pictures with friends to get their opinion.
The first thing that strikes me is how much control these technologies put in the hands of the shopper. It’s all about eliminating the bumps in the current in-store experience which leads to frustrated shoppers leaving and choosing to buy online instead. They need motivation to shop in stores, and the fitting room is the perfect playground for implementing technology. These innovations emphasize the need for brands and retailers to become technology companies in the age of Pervasive Commerce. Companies will also get treasure troves of data about what clothes are being brought to the fitting rooms, what colors are popular, which items are converting etc. This data can then feed into seasonal and overall product development. This Customer Intelligence combined with Product Intelligence will allow businesses to offer a customized and tailored shopping experience.
Of course, there are yet many variables that need to be worked out. How will these technologies scale? What will be the return on investment? How secure is the consumer’s personal data? These questions will be answered at some point. Until then, it is critical to keep innovating and focusing on customer-centric experiences.