“Non-essential” shops in England are now open again along with hairdressers, salons, as well as outdoor hospitality. So what can shoppers expect when they go to their favourite shops? Well fitting rooms are open for the first time in over a year, provided retailers are able to implement measures to minimise the chance of Covid spread.
There is a lot that can be done to help shoppers as they venture back to high streets and retail parks. The fitting room is, for me, something of a bastion of bricks and mortar retail. The experience of actually trying on items for fit and feel cannot be replicated online (although it comes close with AR and VR) and I am sure that many shoppers will be excited about the opportunity to try things on in store again. The fitting room is also a key selling space for brands and, with smart staff and technology applied in a perceptive way, it is an area where not only are sales made but relationships deepened and loyalty earned. We have seen a trend with retail brands across Europe to move their fitting rooms to more central locations within the store which I see as a recognition of the importance of the fitting room in the shopping experience.
In the Netherlands, we are currently only able to shop for clothing and other non-essential items if we book an appointment with a retailer. It’s a bit cumbersome and certainly eliminates the chance of a spontaneous shopping spree but I can see the benefits in booking a time to visit a store as it prevents overcrowding, limits the chance of infection as shoppers wait in line outside premises, and allows retailers to make the best use of their staff. This shop by appointment strategy could form the way in which fitting rooms are used. The lack of fitting rooms for the last year means that their availability has the potential to become a premium offering, something that can be used as a reward for shoppers who have signed up to a loyalty programme or have been identified as key clients. It could also potentially be something that could generate its own revenue with fees charged for use of the fitting room at different times of the day similar to the way click and collect and delivery slots are priced depending on demand.
A shopper who has booked time in the fitting room could use a store app or website to browse product and identify the items that they’d like to try on and these could be ready for the shopper for when they arrive in store. Perhaps the shopper, who has booked a session in a fitting room could check into the shop using a QR code when they arrive. The action of checking in would notify store staff who could ensure that the fitting room is ready with selected (and potentially complementary additional items) laid out, ready to be tried on. To minimise contact with store staff, the shopper could be told via app or welcome screen which fitting room they have been allocated. Once in the fitting room, the shopper can use screens in the room to find out more about the products they have picked including manufacturing processes for those concerned about sustainable shopping. Shoppers could find additional items, request new sizes or products and perhaps even select their own ‘try-on music’ playlist. With full-length screens, shoppers could see what they would look like if the item was a different colour or styled with different accessories. With cameras and appropriate privacy permissions, they could even dial in friends for a second opinion. When their session is done, they could purchase products within the fitting room using contactless payment or select the items on screen and have them delivered to their home.
There really are so many opportunities to optimise the fitting room experience for shoppers and brands. The global pandemic has forced industries of all kinds to rip up the rule book and explore what could be possible. I’m excited for the chance for brands to build back stronger and better, and for the part that technology will play in giving us all a safer, flexible and more enjoyable customer experience.
Harry Horn is an ever-curious expert, keen to explore opportunities, share ideas and make technology benefit both business and individuals. In his decade at Scala, and now, as part of the STRATACACHE family of tech companies, Harry has seen the rise of online retail and the transformation of bricks and mortar retail spaces. An aficionado of integrated technology, Harry has a wealth of experience in applying dynamic digital solutions to transform business — from digital signs at scale to practical uses of AI, VR and AR in store. An advocate for giving customers the best experience as well as creating business efficiencies, Harry is a master of retail marketing, driven by a passion for customer insight and new technology.