The Hidden Cost of Bringing the Internet Into the Fitting Room

As long as I have been working with fitting room technology, there has been an ever present din. More than a din actually- it’s a compulsion. Technologists are compelled to turn the living room into a fitting room and the fitting room into the living room.

The agreed upon method for making that fitting room into a living room is to bring in as much of the desktop computer e-commerce experience as possible.

Hyberbole aside, there is just something about the fitting room that makes an easy target for the web experience. Technologists that haven’t spent much time in the environment have some things to consider. That is what I will be exploring here.

I will put it bluntly:

As retailers, we need to keep these two things as separate as possible. Here are three reasons why.

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1) You’re Devaluing Your In-Store Experience

Every time you give ground on the line between online and in-store, you’re making the value proposition of your store weaker. Strong branding, influential store design, and merchandising create a compelling customer experience, and invite the customer to be present as they shop.

Inviting the in-store customer to interact in the two-dimensional world of the web experience would be okay if there was a reciprocal value boost to the online or whole brand. However, it’s a game of diminishing returns.

Imagine the strongest brands you know clearing out a section of the sales floor and dropping in a bank of computers. I know, I have seen it done too… and every time I have seen it come right back out.

To those of you scoffing that your Millennials and Gen Z are demanding it, based on numbers of mobile purchasing, I challenge you to look at it another way. These buyers are being trained, one way or another, as consumers. The more we take away from the store and give to the web, the more they will cozy into the world of fickle loyalty and price driven competition. That has upside in some places, but major downside in others.

2) Take the Word Omnichannel Out of Your Vocabulary

There is online, and there is offline. The word omnichannel has become a vacuous boardroom nod to anything that moves information between where it’s collected to where it’s used. It had value in the infancy of telling the connected retailer story, but we’re past that.

Instead consider:

  • Are you offering customer value for the information they are sharing with you?
  • Are you able to smoothly show the customer things that they care about, wherever that is? (Hint:not just on a mobile screen)
  • Are you able to pivot on real-time data in-store and automatically online?

If the answer to any of these things is no, don’t think your brand is in the stone-age. This is not an omnichannel effort. We’re not chasing a trophy that says “we’re the most omnichannel retailer” we are chasing a great experience that compels our shoppers.

Don’t lust after an omnichannel fitting room. Instead, create a fitting room experience that make your customers comfortable and engaged with your associates who are excited to deliver your brand promise.

3) Your Customers Are More Time-Conscious Than Ever

Point blank: There are many more slow technology users than their are wizzy technologists. When you stick an iPad with your website on it in your fitting rooms, you’re asking for a big fat inefficient bottleneck.

Anything that presents up-sell/cross-sell or look book type presentations needs to follow the rules: edit, edit, edit. This needs to be something that is one tap in any direction with one goal – the Try-On!

The retailers that I work with who use customer surveys as the decision point on fitting room technology all have one thing to say – our customers are here to try-on our clothes and they will not stand for a slow down.

I get it. I also browse online from that aforementioned couch and plan which stores are going to get my time and money when I get to the mall.  And when I get the merchandise in my hand, don’t slow me down.

So when I have made the trip and entered the fitting room I need interaction and connection, not a full social media shoutout platform with online ordering.

long-checkout-lineIf the experience is not edited heavily this is what you end up with instead:

  • Walk-offs due to lines of customers waiting for a fitting room
  • Training the customer to just stay home and order online
  • Associates performing the dual role of sales associate and IT trouble shooter
  • Fitting room avoidance resulting in at home try-on and returns gutting your associates morale
  • Clunky or expensive scalability

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Summary

So where does that leave us? Glad you asked.

Everything about your fitting rooms should do the following:

  • Facilitate a positive and personal connection between a customer and an engaged associate. They are the best tool in the store. Never forget that.
  • Provide a consistent experience across your whole brand. This is where a lot of you will say “Yea! Omnichannel.” Don’t confuse customer engagement with a unified voice across across all your channels with the ambiguity that is OMNICHANNEL.
  • Look at the most successful brands and acknowledge that this consistency is key.
  • Make your shoppers’ priorities your own. If you’re offering a loyalty program, it better not be a time sink! Make it a total plus for the customer. The right time to offer credit is when there are more items in her fitting room than there are dollars in her wallet.
  • Make every client comfortable by making sure your fitting rooms are fit for your customers.  Appropriate size, lighting, mirrors, and color are just some of the elements that show your customer you respect them and value their business.
  • Don’t talk about omnichannel, even one more time, until you succeed in at least these things. Crawl before you walk.

And last but not least:

  • When you think about your fitting room strategy your objective is to be real-life, substantial, and present. Doing so will create loyal and emotionally connected customers who will seek out your engaged in-store experience every time they shop.
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