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Macy’s tests mobilized fitting rooms as in-store transformation continues

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August 20, 2015

Macy's is testing smart fitting rooms

Macy’s is testing smart fitting rooms

The fitting room is shaping up as the next frontier in the mobile transformation of in-store experiences, with Macy’s currently testing a program in one store and other retailers exploring similar strategies.

Macy’s is testing mobile technology developed by Hointer at a store in Manhattan Beach, CA, enabling shoppers to select different sizes and colors of products found in the store to have them delivered to a fitting room. The app directs users to the appropriate fitting room and a tablet inside continues the experience, enabling shoppers to select additional sizes if something does not fit.

“Customers told us that it’s frustrating to stand naked in a fitting room with a wrong size at hand and not being able to quickly request a larger or smaller size,” said Nadia Shouraboura, CEO of Hointer. “They also told us that once they are in the fitting room, they want to try on many things and be done and they don’t like going back to the shop floor. Also lugging piles of clothes is no fun.

“We learned that some apparel items are all about grab and go, like a t-shirt or a pair of socks, and those items are easy to buy online,” she said. “Many other apparel, like bras or swimsuits or jeans or shoes are much easier to buy when you can try them on and find the perfect fit.

“So we are going to expand into those apparel categories.”

Smart fitting rooms
Hointer leverages mobile technology, etags and in-store sensors to create a smart showroom, where only one example of a piece of clothing is on the floor for shoppers to look at. A micro-warehouse operates behind the scenes, locating and delivering items to the fitting rooms in under 30 seconds through a chute.

Hointer launched as a men’s denim store in Seattle and is now offering its platform to other retailers. Its leader, Ms. Shouraboura, was the former head of supply chain and fulfillment technologies for Amazon.com.

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Macy’s is testing the technology in the swimwear and active wear departments, where only one piece of clothing per style is on display. When shoppers find something of interest, they can scan an items tag with the Macy’s app to select the sizes they want.

As a leader in mobile and omnichannel retailing, this is just one example of how Macy’s is experimenting with mobile.

“Manhattan Beach is just a small one-store test in its early stages,” said Jim Sluzewski, senior vice president of corporate communications and external affairs at Macy’s. “We have no learnings to share or plans for expansion at this point.”

In-store transformation
A majority of purchases are still made in-person and the in-store experience matters more than ever to shoppers, according to a new report from Synchrony Financial. The survey found that 73 percent of shoppers conduct research during their visit and 87 percent purchase in person. Additionally, 64 percent said in-store visits had a greater influence on their purchasing decision than online research.

These findings underscore why traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers have been quickly scaling up their use of mobile to enhance the in-store experience over the past couple of years. From in-store modes on their apps to order online, pick up in-store services, customers are reportedly clamoring for such omnichannel experiences as they become more comfortable with incorporating mobile throughout their daily activities.

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Smart fitting rooms are a growing part of this trend.

“By now, most retailers have an in-app bar code scanner that allows customers to look up available inventory such as alternate sizes and colors in their favorite store and others nearby,” said Lauren Hand, marketing director at GPShopper. “This is one of the most-used app features by our clients’ in-store shoppers. Features based on peer-to-peer communication – like Checkout Now and Assist Me – are growing in popularity, as well.

“We’re seeing more and more retailers marrying the two to create Smart Fitting Rooms,” she said. “Features like this are already playing a huge role in retail and will only continue to do so.

“They increase loyalty and satisfaction, and retailers can use them to drive both app downloads and in-store visits. Being able to summon the help of a store associate via your phone to try on a different size or skip the checkout line adds a layer of convenience that’s exclusive to app users shopping within your four walls.”

Scalable solution
Ms. Shouraboura reports that Hointer is working with a number of retailers to leverage its platform.

Additionally, last year, American Eagle Outfitters leveraged beacons to offer small rewards for trying on apparel. Users of the American Eagle mobile application received in-app messages that notified the consumer of deal incentives for trying on clothing.

More recently, the retailer launched a back-to-school contest, in which customers trying on items from its Denim X and Flex lines can enter through text for a chance to win a prize.

For retailers interested in incorporating mobile into their fitting room experience, it is important to keep in mind that not all aspects of mobile make sense here.

“Some parts of mobile experience do not belong in the fitting room and could be distracting or uncomfortable,” Ms. Shouraboura said. “For example, customers told us they don’t want any cameras and that’s clear.

“On the other hand, many customers told us that the main reason they come to the store is to touch, feel and try items on,” she said. “Making fitting rooms enjoyable to use is very important and mobile offers a practical and scalable solution.”

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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