Retail Trends

Fitting Rooms Are The Tipping Point Of The Store

Did you know that shoppers who use fitting rooms are seven times more likely to make a purchase compared to shoppers who simply browse inventory on the sales floor? That statistic is powerful and at the same time puzzling, while the store footprint has evolved to incorporate more digital touchpoints, the fitting room has not.

The fitting room offers the most lacklustre experience in the entire store. The current fitting room experience is awkward and broken. Fitting rooms are often messy, fitted with poor lighting, cramped and lack any digital touch points.

It is a clear friction point along the purchase journey, as the vast majority of shoppers trying on apparel don’t go back a second time. In other words, if they bring something into the fitting room and it doesn’t work out, they simply give up.

And understandably so. The concept of the store fitting room has not changed in more than a centenary.

Today’s in-store shopping experience is fraught with problems - shoppers wait in long lines, have difficulty reaching sales associates, experience the inconvenience of redressing to seek out additional sizes and colors and worry about leaving personal items behind while returning to the sales floor. At the end of that experience, the shopper often has no idea how much their items cost and are forced to wait on additional lines to check out.

If getting shoppers into a fitting room can significantly increase sales, why aren’t more retailers trying to enhance the fitting room experience to create a connected consumer journey?

The Use of Retail Tech is Exploding – But Not in the Fitting Rooms

If you walk into any retailer today, you will likely see technology in full force. Take a trip to modern brands like M.Gemi and you will see store associates employing tablet devices to access a powerful mobile app that incorporate clienteling and mPOS functionality to engage more deeply with customers. Apple’s associates eliminate checkout lines by using mPOS systems and Wal-Mart offers interactive kiosks in their toy departments to offer customers an endless aisle of products.

However, until very recently, we haven’t seen significant innovations in the fitting room. A select few have attempted to enhance the fitting room experience.  So called “magic mirrors” – interactive devices in fitting rooms of select high-end retailers – have shown to be too cumbersome, are difficult to integrate with existing systems and are prohibitively expensive.

The Fitting Room of the Future – Is Here Today

Leveraging recent advancements in mobile, retailers can now avail themselves of technology that fundamentally changes the fitting room experience – for the better.

iPad and Android tablet enabled fitting rooms complete with a shoppable app offer extensive functionality that makes the fitting room experience profoundly more pleasant for the shopper. The fitting room app displays each item the consumer is trying on, including item color, size and price. With a simple tap on the screen, customers can call for assistance from a sales associate, request additional sizes, styles and colors – based on real-time inventory information - and view a running subtotal. The in-room screen will also suggest product recommendations that complement the items already selected, effectively acting as a personal shopper for the customer while providing upsell and cross sell opportunities for the brand. In all cases, communication between customer and sales associate requires a simple tap on a screen. The shopper can even complete the entire checkout process from within the fitting room itself, to avoid waiting in a line at the register.

Importantly, all of this functionality simplifies and modernizes the try-on process for the consumer, making more efficient use of their time in the fitting room and increasing the likelihood that they will try on more items. This is particularly helpful for apparel retailers, for whom customers must typically disrobe before committing to a purchase.

And while this technology dramatically improves the in-store experience, fitting room apps can be seamlessly integrated with store associate apps, which in-turn can be integrated with customer facing store apps, to further enhance the customer journey.

Before ever entering a store, customers can curate a selection of items that they’re interested in trying on from a retailer’s app. From within the app, they can add these items to a cart, locate the closest store, send a message to a store associate and set up an appointment to come in-store and try on the items. Using geofence notifications on the store associate app, the store associate knows when the customer is near the store and can ensure the fitting room is ready when the customer arrives.

To complete  the journey, the store associate can also leverage clienteling capabilities within the store associate app to pull-up a customer profile, use an mPOS system to offer digital checkout with no wait and stay in touch with the customer after they’ve left the store via the in-app chat feature to provide notifications of discounts, promotions and new product arrivals.

The Modern Fitting Room is Simple and Affordable

Retailers and brands can now access technology that seamlessly facilitates communication and information flow between the shopper in the fitting room and the store associate, thus creating a pleasant and efficient shopping experience by removing friction, this will undoubtedly lead to increased sales. And this technology is both affordable and easy to implement.

Previous attempts at similar functionality came at a hefty cost, more than 30x what a system costs today. And while significantly less expensive, today’s technology is more durable, more functional, shrink wrapped and simple to integrate and deploy. What used to take months to integrate now takes mere weeks.

The goal of retailers should be to create a positive user experience for shoppers looking to try-on and purchase products within the store. There is, without question, a direct correlation between a positive customer experience and deeper engagement between customer and brand.

While current advancements in retail technology have enhanced virtually all other aspects of the purchase journey, innovating the fitting room experience has remained the elusive missing puzzle piece.

Until now.

The store of the future is here and the modern fitting room will play an increasingly important role in its evolution.

Read All Nitin Mangtani Articles On Forbes

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