Smart fitting rooms: Bringing the online experience in-store

Accenture Technology Labs Staff
Anh Nguyen

Anh Nguyen

Anh Nguyen, now deputy editor, joined IDG as a reporter in January 2010. She read French and Italian at Cambridge University and has a postgraduate diploma in newspaper journalism from City University. Areas that Anh covers across ComputerworldUK, Techworld and CIO UK include retail and careers.

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Most retailers have focused on using technology to improve the shopping experience online through their websites, or to improve stock and till systems in physical stores, but there is one crucial area of a shop that is apparently often overlooked - the fitting room.

Since the fitting room is where many shoppers buying clothes will make their most important decision for a retailer - whether or not to buy an item - Avanade and Accenture have designed a fitting room that uses smart technology to create a more engaging experience for customers. As well as this, the smart fitting room delivers information to the retailer about the shopping experience that they may not have been able to collect before, such as customer preferences and the busiest time of day for shoppers to try on clothes.

The smart fitting room is currently being piloted by a US department store chain, Kohl’s, in a few of its stores, but ComputerworldUK has been given a one-to-one demo of the features in a special set-up in Accenture’s offices in London.

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RFID recognition

As soon as a customer walks into a fitting room with the items they want to try on, sensors in the room pick up the signals from RFID tags on the clothes and bring up information about the items on a touchscreen.

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Options

The amount of information on the screen will depend on retailers' requirements. On a basic level, the screen will give shoppers the option to send an alert to a shop assistant requesting a different size or colour. It can also provide suggestions for what other items might go well with the ones being tried on, which shoppers can choose to be delivered to the changing room by the shop assistant to try on as well. More advanced options are available. For example, shoppers could sign into an online profile that they hold with the retailer, to take advantage of loyalty benefits, while providing the retailer with even richer customer data.

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Cloud-based

Accenture provides the system as a managed, cloud-based service. It pushes software updates via the cloud, creates the business intelligence reports and can add or take away features depending on what the retailer wants. If the retailer chooses, the system can also be managed in-house. The close-up of the screen here shows the basic starting point, displaying the clothes identified via the RFID and giving customers an option to sign in, in the top right-hand corner.

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Alerting the sales assistant

Requests for different or more clothes to try on from shoppers in the changing room are sent immediately to an app on mobile devices of sales assistants on the shop floor. The app shows when the request needs to be actioned (the 'Now' in this picture), which will change to the number of minutes a customer is waiting if they are left to do so. According to Accenture, Kohl's pilot has shown that the smart fitting rooms have not required more sales assistants. It said that the system merely makes more use of existing staff who can now respond more quickly to customers who need help.

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Big data for retailers

The system can capture a wide range of information that retailers have not been able to gather before from fitting rooms, such as how many items are brought into the changing room, how long customer spend trying clothes on, which items of clothing are tried on the most, the number of exchange requests, the number of new items requested and what time of day the fitting rooms are used the most. Avanade said the system "brings in the information retailers have online into the store".

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ROI for retailer

The metrics for measuring the return on investing in a smart fitting room have changed over time for Kohl's. At the start of the pilot in January, the retailer just wanted to measure the "buzz" around the technology, and see how many people were using it. The retailer then started looking at the cross-sell opportunities, and measuring the increase in shopping basket sizes. However, at the moment, the smart fitting room is not connected to the retailer's point of sale (POS) system, so Kohl's cannot directly correlate the data about clothes being tried on with sales figures. These figures are simply reconciled retrospectively, but is a feature that can be implemented if the retailer asks for it.

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