Most of us are familiar with the typical fitting room experience: Standing in front of a less than spotless full-length mirror, cycling through various changes of clothes in an often fruitless effort to find something that fits and looks right.
Now imagine an entirely different fitting room experience — one where the mirror rests on top of an interactive LCD panel. It still reflects your image, yet it’s also capable of transmitting computer images. With the touch of a finger, you can flip through various clothing combinations, request assistance from a salesperson and even make purchases.
This “magic mirror” can also deliver stylist recommendations, read RFID tags and work in concert with your smartphone to make shopping easier and more efficient. The whole experience is seamlessly integrated, merging many of the best elements of online and brick and mortar shopping.
Demonstration versions of these “magic mirrors” have been around trade shows for the last few years, but they’re now moving beyond mere prototypes and becoming one of the more interesting new real-world applications in retail and digital signage. A variety of companies, ranging from modest startups to major industry players, are either developing this technology, or integrating it into their retail offerings.
How retailers are using magic mirror technology
Ralph Lauren was one of the first major retailers to experiment with magic mirrors in the fitting room, installing the technology at their flagship NYC store in late 2015. Along with offering style recommendations and allowing guests to request new items from inside the room, the display also allows the light inside the room to be adjusted — a plus for those who dislike the harsh, unflattering fluorescent light that often floods fitting rooms.
Sportswear seller Lululemon, already famous for cornering the worldwide market on yoga pants, has taken the technology one step further. Rather than confine the technology to the fitting room, Lululemon placed a magic mirror display in the middle of its sales floor at its NYC and Vancouver locations. The display allows guests to access concierge-style services, offering things such as restaurant recommendations, show times, or a list of nearby fitness classes.
The e-commerce giant eBay is also making a strong push into the space, as its magic mirror technology has been on display at Rebecca Minkoff stores for more than a year. Here the focus isn’t strictly on mirrored digital signage. According to a recent feature in Wired, eBay actually employs cameras to track consumers as they work their way through a Rebecca Minkoff store, observing their behavior. While this technique might concern privacy advocates, it’s a wealth of useful analytics for those seeking to optimize store layout and design.
And therein lies the rub: While these “smart mirrors” sound like a boon for the consumer, retailers aren’t investing money in this technology simply to improve the in-store experience. Customers using these mirrors will leave behind a lot of valuable data about interests, preferences and fitting room behaviors.
It’s the same kind of trade-off familiar to any Facebook user.
With companies such as eBay and Samsung (which displayed new mirrored LCD/transparent OLED offerings at CES in January) getting behind this technology in a significant way, it seems only a matter of time before magic mirrors make the jump from high-end coastal boutiques to everyday retailers.
Yet will they truly have staying power? Or are they destined to end up as just another overhyped techno-gimmick? Much of that will likely depend on how the technology is deployed.
If magic mirrors offer little more than superficial wow factor, consumers will tire of the experience quickly. But if they enhance the overall consumer shopping experience, while creating higher return on investment for retailers, “analog” fitting room experience may soon be a relic of the past.