The rise of “virtual mirrors” creates a new way for brands and retailers to engage with consumers

DISCUSSION TOPIC

Looking and Buying Without Touching 08-08-2011

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

August 8, 2011

At first glance, a story about John Lewis introducing virtual mirrors devised by Cisco so customers don’t have to strip off to see how a new outfit looks seemed like new news. But a quick Google search revealed others have been following a similar path since 2007.

John Lewis believes customers trying multiple fashion lines along with accessories will facilitate cross-selling and mutual retailer and customer satisfaction.

When Adidas introduced similar technology to their Paris store in 2007, Louis Ramirez pointed out a fallacy on gizmodo.com. “I think the concept is cool,” he wrote, “but I’d be more concerned over the fit than how they look.”

Cisco’s mirror uses sensors to measure customers and then find suitable outfits. Their spokesman told Retail Gazette, “The technology takes the drudgery out of searching for items and exposes people to a wider range of clothing. It will be more efficient and provide the retailer with the chance to cross-sell brands and accessories, while at the same time improving levels of service.”

Ways to incorporate social media are also being studied so customers can share their images with friends once privacy issues are resolved.

Meanwhile, webcams are the mirror of choice for glasses. La Boutique Peugeot uses customers’ webcams like a mirror before purchasing in-store. Ray-Ban boasts its virtual mirror is “the definitive augmented reality experience, which permits you to virtually try-on the latest Ray-Ban styles.” Sunglass Hut uses digital photo booths in some stores so customers can immediately send pictures to friends or social networking sites for other opinions on their choice. UK-based glasses2you, promises a wider range of glasses at a lower price than specialist opticians.

Various approaches to virtually applying cosmetics have also been tested by the likes of Walmart, Carrefour and Superdrug amongst others. IBM and Israel’s Ezface use an “augmented reality system” to combine video images with virtual/digital elements on the same screen, according to singularityhub.com, but the complexities of accommodating individual skin tones, lighting, hair color, etc. may explain why neither kiosks or sales have yet made headlines.

Discussion questions:  How appealing will virtual mirrors be for customers trying on clothes? Are virtual mirrors rendered impractical by the inability to test the way products fit and feel?

My post:

The point here is not about efficiency, it is about fun.  Retailers and brands who choose to use the technology should do so as a carefully considered addition to their consumer touchpoints.  If done well, the technology allows the consumer to play with the product, share their experience with friends and ultimately engage them with the product in a (hopefully) positive way.

The technology does not replace the physical shopping experience.  Rather, it provides a further pull for the customer who wants to play with the product in real terms to come into the store.  For those who are shopping online with no intent to go into the store, it can make that experience more engaging as well and produce higher conversion and spending rates.

  1. Do your research with your targeted consumer groups to ensure playful engagement is a desired experience.
  2. Test the technology and roll out if the desired metrics are achieved:  conversion, spend, or simply higher client engagement.

Mike Osorio, your Dare to be Contagious! ™ strategist

www.OsorioGroup.com

What do you think?  Please add your comments and add to the discussion!

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Go to the full discussion at Retailwire.com:  Looking and Buying Without Touching

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