08 Oct How the latest retail omnichannel experience stacks up
This week, swimwear brand Seafolly launched interactive smart mirrors in their fitting rooms for the first time, following the footsteps of fashion retailers Mango, Ralph Lauren and Rebecca Minkoff who pioneered use of the technology in their stores. The intent is to offer greater convenience for the customer, improve brand engagement and increase sales conversion. Here we investigate whether this owned media experience lives up to the promise.
It is a reality that retailers in general have not aligned digital experiences in-store with ease and convenience of online experiences. As the CEO of Oak Labs, one of the smart mirror manufacturers rightly points out, “Consumers are outpacing the ability of retail. They expect everything to be faster and easier, but when they step into the store, things haven’t actually changed that much.”
Digitising the in-store experience
Advanced interactive fitting room mirrors use RFID technology to recognise the items a customer has brought in with them, rendering the products on the screen. The mirrors show other available sizes and colours for each item, as well as recommended products based on what you’ve brought in. A call button connects to a salesperson’s tablet on the floor to call them to the fitting room Other features like different lighting settings and language options enhance the brand experience. Customers can also pay directly by tapping their phone to the mirror. So customer convenience gets a tick!
It is often thought that ecommerce yields better data than bricks and mortar retail, but the most advanced interactive mirrors let retailers know conversion rate per item, time spent in fitting room and conversion rate per fitting room visit. This fitting room customer data can inform decisions like which products to display together on the floor which boosts shopper basket size. Remarkably, Minkoff’s CEO credits the technology for tripling the brand’s expected in-store clothing sales.
Increasingly retail chains are stripping out personal service with a view to saving costs and allow for cheaper prices. But I think they are misreading what people want from their physical store. If I go to the effort of walking into a store, of course I expect low prices, but the reason I am shopping in a physical environment is to receive expertise & recommendations I can’t get online.
Smart mirrors definitely make dressing rooms more aligned to the online shopping experience but in my opinion, are a poor substitute for real personal interactions. If the salesperson is there to bring you the clothes you clicked on in the dressing room, why not just ask them in the first place!?
Today’s retailers should strive to make the online and the physical shopping experiences amazing, whilst acknowledging their customers have fundamentally distinct expectations of the two.