Via TechCrunch …
A San Francisco-based, VC-funded startup called Oak Labs is running a trial on a slick virtual mirror in the dressing room of the Ralph Lauren Polo NYC flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York.
Instead of the oft-touted augmented reality parlor trick – stand here and we’ll let you virtually try on clothes – this trial is more about making the experience of clothes shopping faster, easier and better. The mirror is a navigable touchscreen that does things like sense the RFID tags on clothing brought into the room to try on, offers stylist recommendations and pages out for a store associate to bring up other items, or a different size for an item already in the dressing room.
The platform also ties in to smartphones and to store accounts, so purchase and checkout can happen before the shopper gets their street clothes back on and their shoes pulled on again.
“Tech companies, especially today, have a tendency to gravitate towards what is easy, which is why almost all consumers are in the ‘app fatigue’ zone,” said cofounder and CEO Healey Cypher. “Building new form factors, in retail nonetheless, is very challenging. We are making modular hardware, software that’s living and breathing, and working in brick-and-mortar, which presents a new host of challenges – from associate adoption to infrastructural dependency.”
That said, the company has a massive $4.1 million seed round to help it solve those challenges, as well as a strong initial retail partner in Ralph Lauren.
Speaking of, the Oak Labs isn’t just enhancing the experience for the consumer. Retailers using the technology will get all kinds of new data on their customers, including specific info around fitting room sessions (volume, duration, and conversion). Plus, they’ll be able to see which SKUs are most popular.
Oak Labs charges a one-time fee for the hardware, with recurring monthly licensing fees for the software, though the company wouldn’t disclose exact figures.
The idea is hardly new or original – see this post from a year ago involving eBay and Nordstrom – but it ninetheless looks well done. I like this sort of thing, because it gets away from expensive, finicky efforts like augmented reality that only have a short-term novelty effect. Yes, trying on clothes virtually has a certain Wow Factor and is therefore an retail “experience.” But it will get old quickly.
Instead, this speaks to the notion of using technology not so much as a visual experience, but as an enabler for making the whole shopping experience better. We’ve all tried stuff on, realized we needed another size, got dressed again, went and found that different size, done the whole undress thing again, wondered about the choices, and then got in a checkout line.
This, without argument, would be better. It’s unlikely to find its way into the dressing rooms at Target, but high-end fashion retail, you can see the appeal.