Retailer Nordstrom is working with eBay on interactive dressing room mirrors that let shoppers see how they look in real clothes, but then let them look up details or alternatives, and get someone to bring in a larger or smaller size of what’s being tried on.
It’s a test starting next week in a Nordstrom in Seattle – where the department store is based – and in a Silicon Valley-area Nordstrom.
The idea is to bring tech to an untapped part of a store where many customers ultimately make their purchasing decisions: the fitting room.
“The way customers shop for clothes has evolved,” Jamie Nordstrom, the retailer’s head of stores and former leader of its Nordstrom Direct digital business, told Fortune. “How do we take all the information that’s available to customers while they’re sitting on the couch at home browsing and add that to the dressing rooms, so it’s the best of both worlds?”
The program somewhat drafts off an interactive piece eBay did with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff‘s two boutiques, though this described as more involved because the scale of the store and store inventory.
In the Nordstrom smart fitting rooms, shoppers will be able to enter with items selected on the sales floor, along with suggestions from the associate. They will also be equipped with barcode scanning to identify what is in the store so if a customer needs an item in another size or color, she can see for herself if it is in stock and instruct the associate to bring it.
For eBay, the technology is yet another step forward in the capabilities it built for Minkoff, and before that for Kate Spade, for which the tech giant created an interactive storefront at four Manhattan stores that allowed customers standing on the street to pick merchandise, and place an order. The Minkoff stores have the ability to remember what a customer tried on during a previous visit, a capability Nordstrom won’t have right out of the gate.
While one might think such a state-of-the-art technology and how it facilitates high-touch customer service would more suitable to upscale stores, eBay thinks the technology could work even in more value-oriented retail chains. It could take the shape of a big screen on a wall on the sales floor, rather than a sleek mirror in a changing room. Indeed, Jamie Nordstrom said the tech could potentially work at the off-price Nordstrom Rack stores, though there are no firm plans for a pilot there.
It’s interesting stuff. I have seen some demos of LCDs embedded in mirrors, including a nice one for cosmetics done by NYC’s The Big Space. What I like with these things is the blend of very old school basics like mirrors with tech that’s embedded, easily navigated and built around function instead of Wow Factor. While the virtual dressing room stuff is visually fun, I suppose, I think most people are much more jazzed about trying something on, and when they realize it’s too big, hitting a button and asking for a smaller size – instead of getting dressed again, walking out to the sales floor, and starting over.
I also like it because there doesn’t need to be a big OHMIGOD WOW!!! new user experience here. This can just extend and repackage assets already online, with pretty modest development requirements.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.