One of the sectors to be truly overhauled by the digital age is clothing retail. E-commerce is a big hit with shoppers, with the availability of services like Asos which make browsing, returns, and payment easy and seamless online. Furthermore, subscription services like Trunk Club have tapped into habitual shopping
According to figures in the New York Times, “between 2010 and 2014, e-commerce grew by an average of $30 billion annually. Over the past three years, average annual growth has increased to $40 billion.” Alongside this growth, the brick and mortar retail sector—in shopping malls and on high streets—has struggled. In America, “store closures are on pace this year to eclipse the number of stores that closed in the depths of the Great Recession of 2008,” The Times went on to say.
One of the reasons why brick and mortar retail may be struggling so greatly is because it has hardly changed in several decades. Consumers now have higher expectations as a result of the plethora of choice and flexibility they can get online. Thus, if traditional retail wants to thrive, it needs to offer a shopping experience to consumers that they simply cannot get online. One of the ways they can do this is through advances in tech.
The traditional retail experience normally consists of browsing, fitting rooms, paper tags, and lines at the cash register. Research shows that consumers are actually still keen to do part of that process above in-store. According to Intel, a research firm, “a whopping 73 percent of the time, consumers browse online but then buy in store.” This means that by improving the browsing experience, retailers can tap into something that consumers already want.
A piece in Racked described what the fitting room of the future might look like if retailers tapped into the fact that consumers want a more experiential zest: “When you walk into the fitting room of the future, expect to see a mirror that will recognize the dress you bring in. The mirror will display your item, overlaying it on the screen, which would work almost like a virtual dashboard. If the dress doesn’t fit, make a request on the mirror’s interactive display for a different size or even a different color. When you do so, the sales associate on the floor will be alerted: “Nancy’s in dressing room three, she needs a size up in this dress, in this color; bring it to her now.” Even better, that call to action is moved up the queue to become the highest-priority task for the associate. The result? A new size delivered to you while you’re still likely to try it on.”
This technology would be based on RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, and would work much like a barcode, containing a number of variables about an item. Reducing some of the friction around trying on clothes in a dressing room offers a competitive alternative to having them shipped straight to your house, but that’s not all the retail sector can do to overhaul its in-store experience. Many shoppers require the input of friends on an item before they purchase it, and they largely attain this affirmation by sending selfies to their closest contacts. If stores could provide a higher tech way to give your friends a view of what you’re wearing, through, say, 365 mirrors that take pictures from every angle, they could gain a competitive advantage over the simple selfie at home.
Another potential technology we might see is augmented reality, or making the try-on process easier by rendering VR results of a dress while you’re wearing it. For example, “Try on a red dress and it shows up in the mirror as another available color — green, for instance. This magic is made possible by the power of augmented reality, which essentially superimposes data on an existing model. In this case, the color green would be transposed on the image of the dress you’re wearing to make it look green.”
While all these technologies are possible in theory, it will require front-runners in the retail industry to fully recognize the threat that e-commerce and subscription services pose to bring them into the dressing room.
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