Wearables can take the urgency out of fashion retail

Wearable tech devices, linked to inventory information and analytics, could help retailers tackle a number of issues.
19 November 2018

Customers don’t need ‘razzmatazz’, they just need access, convenience, and service. Source: Shutterstock

In the late 1990s and early 2000s in the UK, Carol Smillie and Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen fronted a popular BBC TV show called ‘Changing Rooms’.

The premise was for two families to swap houses for a period of time and, utilizing a team of consultants, designers and handymen and women, lead a decoration project for their counterpart family. It was always against the clock and, inevitably, ended up in a mad rush to get the job completed in time.

In some ways, this feeling of urgency and lack of time is reminiscent of the mood often associated with customers in fitting rooms of the fashion retail variety. Shoppers looking to try on an item in their lunch breaks or after work have a small time limit.

The more that retailers selling fashion, accessories, and footwear can understand this mindset, and shape their propositions to cater for it, the better results they will achieve and the happier their customers will be, argues Robin Coles, Director at Inovretail.

How to set up fitting rooms

Many retailers have tried magic mirrors, digital screens for style inspiration, or Instagram-friendly imagery in their fitting room areas, and this all can have a positive effect in destination stores or concepts shops designed to create a buzz in the market.

But does that really solve the issues the customer is regularly looking for when they enter this situation? Those requirements tend to be speed of access, convenience, and service on hand from a staff member as soon as it is needed, Coles observes.

Frequently, a fashion shopper isn’t looking for razzmatazz behind the curtain – they just want to be able to try something on in comfortable surroundings, and then choose to buy or not to buy.

Having someone from the retailer located in the fitting room area at all times provides a powerful personalized interaction; it means there’s someone to consult if fitting rooms are busy, and it reassures consumers there is help at hand if they need new sizes or style advice.

Combine that with appropriate lighting, a la Debenhams’ new-look Intu Watford store, clean and tidy fitting areas, and on-brand messaging, and retailers will be well on their way to converting a sale.

Wearing it well

With a sales conversion made in a timely manner the aim of the game at this stage of the customer journey, there are other methods the fashion store associate can deploy to ensure that goal is achieved.

Having a member of staff around the fitting room area with a wearable tech device such as a smartwatch, linked to retailer inventory information and analytics, could solve and support a number of issues.

A simple data capture of what the customer took into the room, enables additional product suggestions to be made in the moment or for the store assistant to proactively request items from elsewhere in the store that provide an accessory to the products already in the shopper’s hands.

On a more straightforward operational level, the member of staff could check, at a glance, to see whether alternative sizes, colors, etc are available in the retailer’s store or wider supply chain, if and when the time-pressured customer requests them.

The results

At the coalface of the shop floor, customers are more likely to make a purchase. And back at head office, there are potentially transformational things occurring as a result of these interactions, with all the data relating to real customer journeys, garments tried on, replacements suggested, and time spent in the fitting room all fed into store-based analytics.

By crunching this information, retailers can draw up staffing plans, tweak product strategy – for instance, if the same items are being returned or not purchased time and time again – and more accurately reward fitting room staff who aid the sales conversion.