Chris Middleton reports on how the latest retail application of digital mirrors reflects a shift towards customer engagement and smart supply chains on the high street. That’s why other retailers, such as US giant Neiman Marcus, are following Mango’s example.

Vodafone is working with high street fashion retailer Mango on a programme to roll out digital fitting rooms to the company’s biggest stores worldwide.

In the new fitting rooms, shoppers can request different sizes and colours onscreen, and see a curated selection of accessories, complementary choices, or alternative outfits and – crucially – add them to their shopping carts.

The new in-store retail experience is based on a digital-mirror system, designed by Mango and developed by Vodafone in collaboration with Spanish smart systems and IoT specialists, JogoTech.

Saving choices on a smart watch

In the fitting rooms, clothes-tags are scanned – by barcode or RFID – and shoppers are able to contact floor staff directly from the digital mirror, which can switch between mirror and display modes.

Shop assistants receive the customer’s requests in real time on digital watches – and shoppers are also able to use their watches and smart devices to save the details of any outfits they like.

Retail transformation

This is the first phase of a digital transformation project for Mango that is designed to blend online, mobile, and in-store shopping, creating new ways for customers to engage with, and relate to, the brand.

Mango announced earlier this year that sales via mobile devices exceeded those from PCs or laptops for the first time over the Christmas period. Meanwhile, smartphones now account for seven out of ten visits to its online store.

The company now wants to blend the mobile channel with its real-world stores to deepen customer engagement, said Mango’s chief client officer Guillermo Corominas: “This is a really exciting project for Mango. We see the future of retailing as a blend of the online and the offline.”

Vodafone’s Internet of Things director, Stefano Gastaut, added, “This project helps put more power at the shopper’s fingertips and will bring Mango closer to its fashion-conscious shoppers and offer them more options and experiences than a conventional fitting room.”

Mango’s other technology partner, JogoTech, improves business processes by applying technologies that generate “quantifiable added value”, it says.

Its own JogoRoom system blends the digital fitting room concept with analytics and stock control for retailers. It also offers them in-store management facilities, such as the ability to assign requests from the fitting rooms to different zones on the shop floor, or to different assistants’ digital watches.

Smart outfits

Mango isn’t the only organisation looking at smart fitting rooms and enhanced applications for digital mirrors.

A shopper compares two outfits.

In the US, designer clothing giant Neiman Marcus is rolling out a similar system in its stores. Using the digital mirrors, shoppers can see 360-degree views of new outfits, save multiple options onscreen, and switch the colours without physically changing clothes – aka “trying on without taking off”, an augmented reality application.

Neiman Marcus has partnered with ‘memory mirror’ specialist, Memomi, which develops applications across a range of retail types. These include shopping for new spectacles, and previewing different beauty options on their own faces, without having to sit for hours having the makeup physically applied.

Meanwhile, Samsung digital mirror technology has been deployed in hair salons in South Korea, allowing customers to see themselves with different hair styles and colours. The system uses augmented reality, OLED displays, and Intel’s 3D RealSense cameras.

Read more: South Korea is the most automated country on earth.

Internet of Business says

Digital mirrors are not a brand-new technology. For example, in Hong Kong lingerie specialist Rigby and Peller has been deploying smart mirrors since 2015, while Novotel has been installing iFace mirrors in its hotels since 2014, to provide guest information and entertainment. There are many other examples.

However, this new ability to offer customers choice, deepen engagement, cross-sell, and speed up the in-store experience could be transformative for any retailers that can afford the up-front investment, and to link it with their internal stock systems.

Deployed strategically, digital mirrors could be a critical element in smart manufacturing and supply chains, matching stock to demand while reducing waste.

They may also be a data-gathering goldmine – subject to sensitive and transparent handling of customer data, especially when it comes to video. Indeed, the implicit presence of cameras in changing rooms may be a disincentive for some shoppers, and this will need careful management and control. Some retailers deploy them on the shop floor, rather than in private areas, for this reason.

That aside, digital fitting rooms may help retailers to solve a number of problems. One is that many shoppers go into a traditional fitting room once, try on items, and then either buy or leave, losing any opportunity for the retailer to engage with them during those critical moments.

Another is that economic uncertainty is keeping shoppers away from stores, especially those in the stretched mid-market, where differentiation and service are key to customer loyalty. Retail is increasingly about niche and depth on the one hand, and speed and convenience on the other. The mass of retailers that are caught in the middle need help to retain their customers.

In the UK, for example, the Office for National Statistics reported in January that the underlying pattern in retail sales is one of slow growth: just 0.1 percent, with declines across most main sectors. This is why many big names are turning to technology to help.

Tech Tape app.

New types of retail experience are certainly spreading, particularly in the US. For example, FindMine (“Sell more, work less, stay true to your brand”) is a New York-based venture that uses AI and machine-learning to help shoppers find their ideal outfits online. Luxury menswear retailer John Varvatos already deploys it on its ecommerce platform.

Elsewhere, a range of different apps allows buyers to measure rooms in their own homes and use augmented reality to apply furniture, fittings, and decor to those spaces. As always, the IoT is about data, personalisation, and more efficient, targeted, cost-effective systems.

So blending bricks and clicks with innovative IoT implementations is looking good for retail, especially for shoppers whose hands are always on their mobiles, at home and in the street.

Read more: Retail IoT: Shoppers demand AI, VR, and a better fit online, says report

Read more: PAL value chains: how IoT transforms manufacturing and supply

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