With the rise of online shopping, physical stores need to be reinvented to place the fitting rooms at the heart of their spaces rather than in the back corners. The fitting room is the most important store space in the new retail age.
Based on my recent interviews with prominent retailers and shopping center operators, it seems that all agree that online shopping is on the rise but that it won’t be able to completely replace physical retail as people still want to try out items before they make the purchase. This is especially true for clothing and footwear where sizing can be tricky or for luxury items that have a higher price.
Pick Up in Store
Online retail has definitely made shopping easier as we can now search through items of many brands, without the need to run around stores. We can make online shopping lists, compare items, find product information, reviews, and recommendations from influencers to help us make smarter shopping decisions.
But if we are not familiar with or sure about the brand, product quality, fit, or size we will still prefer to see and try out the items in physical stores. Trying on clothes, for many, is a top reason for entering a store versus ordering online and dealing with potential returns.
This is why many online stores, such as Zara and Stradivarius, have included in their app’s features to see product availability in physical stores and even an option to deliver desired items to specific store locations. This guarantees customers that their ordered items will be waiting for them at a desired store, giving them an opportunity to try and return items faster than if they received them to their homes.
If we see that this trend of searching for items online and ordering them to stores is on the rise, we can conclude that the store’s function is evolving from a place to find items to a place to try. This is why stores need to refocus their attention to the fitting rooms and make them at the heart of their spaces, rather than placing small cubicles in the back corners.
Reinventing the Fitting Room
Small claustrophobic cubicles, waiting in line, and poor fitting room assistance needs to be a thing of the past. The new modern shopper who has now gotten used to online shopping, home delivery services and has health concerns due to the pandemic is not someone who is willing to stand in long lines or to stay in overcrowded spaces.
Physical stores need to reinvent their spaces to create spacious “smart“ fitting rooms, with a larger number of cubicles to reduce waiting time and to provide excellent fast service.
This fast service can now easily be obtained with the use of existing technology that can combine the online and offline shopping experience. Placing tablets or smart mirrors in fitting rooms is an easy way to enable customers to browse other products, request additional items to be brought to them, or just call for assistance. Today’s smart mirrors can recognize the items that the customer wears and can recommend complementary products. Smart mirrors also allow the customers to take and send photos to their friends and social media accounts, which increases the brand’s online presence and gives them free marketing.
Many famous retailers have already included such technology in their fitting rooms, and according to Wall Street Journal the new Amazon department stores in the US will feature high-tech fitting rooms, with touch screens. Just the fact that the largest online retailer Amazon has decided to invest in physical department stores during the pandemic and is putting alot of attention in to the fitting rooms confirms that physical retail is still needed and is there to complement the online shopping experience.
The Fitting Room is Where Sales are Made
As now people will spend less time searching for items in-store and head directly to the fitting rooms to try out the goods they ordered, the fitting room needs to be the place where the brand’s personality is fully expressed and where sales staff needs to focus. The interior of the fitting rooms needs to be spacious, enjoyable, and relaxing, with more seating furniture, smart mirrors, good lighting, good ventilation, good temperature, and great service.
In my opinion, stores of the future will turn into showrooms and the fitting rooms will be their center stage. So it is definitely time for retailers to rethink their store interior designs and to make the fitting room experience and service their top priority.