Even Dressing Room Experiences Get Better

I just read an article in Forbes about new experiences that stores are designing into their dressing rooms. Here are some of the items discussed in the article:

  • Mitsukoshi, a Japanese department store chain, is experimenting with an “intelligent fitting room” that gives customers the opportunity to check available sizes and styles of the items they are trying from inside the fitting room.
  • Bloomingdales’ New York flagship store’s dressing room registers the items shoppers take in to try on and produces video and images of the merchandise. A touch screen gives shoppers the option to invite friends. By clicking on a url and logging on to a Web site, the friends can see the items being tried on and make comments. The shopper can then click on one of the recommendations, and make it appear in the mirror superimposed over his image, as though he were trying on the garment
  • Prada’s SoHo and Beverly Hills stores have tried responsive mirrors that allow shoppers to simultaneously see pictures of themselves in all the items they try on to help them decide which they want to purchase

My take: It’s nice to see really innovative approaches to an under-served experience like dressing rooms. There are a few key things that other firms can learn from these efforts:

  • There are many underserved experiences. Every company can find a number of “key moments” for customers that currently don’t meet those customers’ needs. 
  • Technology can really help. Over the last decade, consumers have been trained to use digital technologies — from cell phones to Internet browsers. So there’s more of an opportunity than ever to enhance experiences with technology.
  • Let customers drive your innovation. It is easy to throw technology at experiences and end up with nothing more than additional costs. That’s why companies need to focus innovations on the needs of customers.

The bottom line: Find places where technology can wow your customers.

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

5 Responses to Even Dressing Room Experiences Get Better

  1. The SoHo Prada store, done with IDEO and just about every other consultancy out there (sorry I don’t remember who) was a HUGE deal when it opened in 2002, with the magic mirrors and all the other Star Trek fantasticness on top of the architecture and so on. But I think lots of it didn’t work, or didn’t get used by staff and customers for various reasons. I’m just going off memory here but in a piece like this (and maybe Forbes did cover it and it doesn’t make the blog summation) I’d love to see a bit of a reality check to help frame the inspirational examples here…

  2. Laura says:

    Bad dressing rooms keep people from buying clothes. (Well, me at least.)

    Where I live, there is a shopping center that has an Express, Gap, and a DSW (warehouse-style shoe store), so I often hit all three in one trip. What a different customer experience in each!

    I constantly find myself with great coupons for Express (like $50 off a $100 purchase – they are aggressive via email and mail if you actually use them), so I try to stop in often because I like their ‘casual business’ clothes. I load up with tons of promising clothes in my arms and head to the dressing room. This is where it all falls apart.

    First, the dressing rooms are tiny and open onto the main floor, so it’s hard to get a private view of what you look like without parading yourself around the store.

    Then, there are pot/can lights DIRECTLY above your head and the rooms are so small that you can’t escape the awful, shadow-creating overhead lighting that highlights every single flaw on your body. (They would make even a perfect body look bad.)

    I end up leaving with nothing 90% of the time because the dressing room conditions make everything look bad on me. (I have actually started buying and returning what doesn’t work because I have a better shot by trying stuff on at home first.)

    Contrast that to the Gap, where they have large dressing rooms with soft lighting around a huge mirror. I call it supermodel lighting because it’s a soft frontal glow that makes everyone look good. I often buy stuff when I go in there – even when I am not really excited about it when I get it off the rack.

    And taking mirrors a step further, DSW has full-length mirrors all over the aisles so you can check out the shoes (that you can freely try on – love that), but they are totally ‘skinny mirrors.’ They make anyone look good. It may not be reality, but it sure feels good to be in the store and I am not afraid of those mirrors. 🙂

    It amazes me that Express has had the same horrible dressing room issues since I was a teenager shopping at the mall with my parents in a totally different part of the country (15 years ago!). Do they seriously not notice? Why does nobody in corporate care? They keep getting me back into their store with great customer loyalty coupons, but then they let me down the same way each and every time.

    These aren’t new technology examples, but IMO, many stores aren’t getting even the basics right. Simple lighting changes and avoiding putting in “fat mirrors” can sell a whole lot more clothing and create a happy customer experience. I *want* to buy your stuff, so PLEASE don’t make me look bad in it when I try it on in your store!


  3. Bruce Temkin says:

    Steve: Thanks for commenting. I thought I heard about some of this before, but I was just discussing the article. As for the need for reality checks, I couldn’t agree with you any more. That was the key point in my advice that starts “Let customers drive your innovation.” In that paragraph I also reference another post that talks about using the Real-Win-Worth It framework to evaluate any potential innovations.

  4. Bruce Temkin says:

    Laura: Great insight. A lot of experiences (including dressing rooms) don’t even deliver the basics.Bad lighting, poor space, and awkward mirrors are probably not the recipe for generating sales. And it has to be expensive for the Express (in terms of coupons) to keep trying to pull you back into the store.

  5. Brennan says:

    Mitsukoshi should take it a step further by allowing the customer to request a different size or even style (listed as in-stock on the the screen, of course) which would be delivered to the dressing room.

    Regarding the innovations at Bloomingdales, do you suppose that they have ocnsidered the potentially “adult” implications associated with providing live images on the net to remote users?

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