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Fitting rooms: what’s the future?

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With the rise of online shopping, is the fitting room dead in the water?

Although online fashion sales are on the rise, a survey by Drapers shows that product returns are still relatively high. As shopping channels merge, the fitting room remains one of the key decision points in a customer’s journey. The more effective and enjoyable the experience is at this crucial point, the more chance a retailer has to convert trying on into a purchase. Stores that aren’t delivering in this area will be left behind; customers are now expecting more. Flattering lighting, a comfortable atmosphere, helpful staff and even details like temperature, can add up to a big difference on the bottom line. Larger cubicles feel less claustrophobic and promote a feeling of calm, while more fitting rooms reduce wait times. The aim is to ensure that there are no barriers to committing to the purchase.

For Swedish fashion brand Lindex we brought fitting rooms to the centre of the space, putting service at the heart of the offer and keeping it very much part of the shopping journey, rather than relegating it to a remote area behind the scenes. The fitting room space is also an opportunity to communicate brand personality – with our work for Mr Price in South Africa, the brand’s tone of voice comes though in fun messages on the doors. For Primark however, the challenge is simply too many customers, so we created messaging that talks about trying on at home and returns policies in an effort to take some of the pressure away.

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What is clear is that technology is vital to help at this key stage…

As part of our new concept for Oasis, iPads were put into fitting room cubicles to enable customers to browse other product and to ask for assistance, while in the lobby area there are iPads with Oasis’ website plus unrestricted internet access, to keep bored partners entertained and again reduce barriers to purchase. Staff are also equipped with iPads which allow them to quickly access product online and to check stock at the store they are in, as well as at local stores and online levels. These devices can also take payment, making a seamless customer experience without the queues. Taking this further, the new Burberry store on Regent Street features mirrors that recognise the product you are trying on and provide rich content, including the story of the garment, catwalk videos and complementary products you may like. This gives a feeling that you are buying into more than just the item, that you are buying a piece of the brand itself.

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What about other technologies?

Interactive mirrors that use augmented reality are still in their infancy, technology-wise. The decision to use technology needs to be for the right reasons and should enhance the experience. Browsing the extended range of choices for a garment you have taken into the fitting room and being able to push a button and have your choice brought to you is possibly a more compelling use of technology than the current AR solutions which can feel clunky and cold. That doesn’t mean that this won’t change over time, we just haven’t seen the technology demonstrate a compelling argument just yet. Adidas NEO, a new brand for young fast fashion, uses social mirrors connecting through Facebook and Twitter to allow customers to gain feedback from friends, which can be another valuable tool in capturing the sale, certainly in the younger categories. Selfridges’ new Women’s Designer Galleries has a different take, allowing the customer to photograph and even video herself in different outfits and play these back simultaneously, giving unrivalled ability for comparison. These can then be emailed to herself or a friend for the final nod of approval. Technology will certainly be a standard feature in years to come, as prices become more affordable, customers become more tech savvy and developments like AR become emotive and warm.

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So…

The perfect fitting room is a place of sanctuary where you are not hurried and the atmosphere is calm. Staff are on-hand but not intrusive, technology is supportive but not pushing product at you. Lighting is flattering – soft and from the front, not spotlights from the ceiling. The room is spacious, mirrors are generous, and there is a rear-view angled mirror. Doors are more contemporary and more easily maintained than curtains, and a small seat is a nice addition, being practical and a way of showing some brand expression. The look and feel depends completely on the brand, but getting these underlying values right makes a big difference.


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