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The Fitting Room: Retailers’ Opportunity to Gather Both Data and Profits

Updated: 3 days ago

By Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research and Matthew Cyr, CEO, Crave Retail

The verdict is in. Overall, retail brick and mortar sales are more profitable than those from e-commerce.  While early-stage brands may get a leg up as “pureplays,” as the brand scales, return rates, shipping costs, missed cross- and upsells and higher return rates eat into profits at an astounding rate.

Given the fact that every store-based sale has, at minimum, a lower cost of goods, partly due to shipping efficiencies and lower return rates, retailers are looking for new ways to attract shoppers back into those stores. To do so, it’s key to improve the customer experience.

Blending Technology and a Human Touch

It’s very important to acknowledge that technology enablers are key to providing a good customer experience. It’s even more important to acknowledge the need to put those technology enablers into the hands of willing employees, who can work with customers to maximize sales and overall customer satisfaction.  One tool that works for the entire ecosystem – from home office to store sales associate to shopper – is a smart fitting room.

Victoria’s Secret has incorporated Crave’s smart fitting rooms into its Store of the Future concept to personalize the try-on experience.

Challenges Spark New Service Opportunities

There are some obvious basics related to the apparel store experience.

A shopper in the fitting room doesn’t have to walk out half-dressed looking for the right size or a different color – technology can make the request to an associate for them. On the opposite end, that same half-dressed shopper doesn’t find sales associates either knocking on the door of the fitting room or worse (and yes, we’ve experienced this), just walking in to “see how we’re doing.” 

An educated employee can recommend a different size, color or style that might be more appealing to the frustrated shopper.

An educated employee can recommend cross-sells. (“This scarf would look wonderful with that sweater,” for example.)

The employee can look for the right size or color on the selling floor and, if it’s out of stock, show an example to the shopper and offer to get it for her online. This is omnichannel at its best.

In other words, creating a relationship between the employee and the shopper is key to a loyal and ongoing customer experience.

“The fitting room is an under-utilized asset … through technology, it might even become a sales boon, not just an expense.” 

~ Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research

How Fitting Rooms Fit In

The fitting room is often an afterthought in this relationship.  Not all dressing rooms have 3-sided mirrors, since many retailers have decided they are an unnecessary expense. The customer must look around for one (again, half-dressed). The mirror can be so distorted that the customer thinks she’s in a funhouse.  

We have been saying, consistently, for the past decade, that the fitting room is an under-utilized asset and that through technology, it might even become a sales boon, not just an expense. But along came the pandemic, the explosion in e-commerce sales, and the race to keep up with returns.

Post-pandemic, we can recognize that other new technologies can help with product analysis and a wealth of data is being left on the floor of those fitting rooms, discarded along with unacceptable product. 

Given the situation we’ve described, it’s quite evident that we stand on the brink of a significant transformation. We’ve seen the challenges; what are the opportunities?

For a frictionless store experience, Under Armour has added Crave’s connected fitting rooms to “better service the athlete.”

Transforming Customer Experiences Through Smart Technology

Take the scenario of Jenny, a typical shopper who once dreaded the fitting room experience – the hassle of finding the right size, the awkward encounters when seeking help, and the disjointed process that could sour any shopping trip. Today, Jenny steps into a fitting room outfitted by Crave, equipped with RFID-enabled smart technology that seamlessly integrates her digital preferences with her in-store experience. She enjoys the privacy and convenience of requesting different sizes or styles through an interactive interface that communicates directly with store staff, who promptly cater to her needs. Jenny never needs to leave the fitting room.

This streamlined approach has transformed Jenny’s shopping experience, making it more personalized and less intrusive. For the retailer, the benefit is twofold: not only is Jenny more likely to make a purchase, but her satisfaction with the experience significantly increases her likelihood of returning.

“Fitting room conversions have increased by 10% and the average basket size has seen a boost of over 25%.”  ~ Matthew Cyr, CEO, Crave Retail

Driving Revenue and Insights Through Enhanced Interactions

The data gathered from interactions like Jenny’s is gold for retailers. Smart fitting rooms equipped with Crave's technology offer a treasure trove of actionable insights. Every item tried on and each customer request is tracked and analyzed, providing real-time data that can be used to adjust inventory levels, refine marketing strategies, and enhance customer targeting.

Moreover, fitting room conversions have increased by 10% and the average basket size has seen a boost of over 25%. These metrics are not just numbers; they represent a direct improvement in sales efficiency and customer engagement.

UK apparel chain River Island has earned media buzz and customer praise for its adoption of Crave’s smart fitting room technology.

Reducing Returns and Enhancing Revenue Opportunities

One of the significant impacts of fitting rooms that integrate technology is the ability to reduce returns. Did you know that fitting room shoppers are 40% less likely to return items than those who don’t? We have some customers who have 20% of their store traffic visiting fitting rooms accounting for over 45% of their total store revenue. This isn’t a space retailers can ignore anymore. Optimizing traffic to this space will greatly impact the bottom line while creating a personalized and convenient shopping experience. 

The Future Is Now: Bridging Online and In-Store Experiences

Echoing Paula’s insights on omnichannel strategies, Crave is at the forefront of bridging the gap between online and in-store experiences. Our vision extends to a future where customers can select online items, which are prepped for a personalized fitting room session when they arrive at the store. This hybrid model not only optimizes the convenience of online shopping but also retains the personal touch and immediacy of in-store engagements.

A New Era for Retail

Fitting rooms have long been an afterthought in the retail environment. However, integrating smart technologies into these spaces is here and now - transforming them into strategic assets that enrich the customer journey and drive business success.

Looking ahead, Crave is not just adapting to new retail challenges; we are anticipating and shaping future trends. The revolution in the retail fitting room is just beginning, and we aim to redefine the landscape of physical shopping. The story of Jenny and countless other satisfied customers is just the start. Thanks to visionaries like Paula and innovative solutions from Crave, the fitting room is evolving from a forgotten corner into the heart of the retail transformation.


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