The Power of the Small Innovation: Macy’s Dressing Room
July 15, 2015
By Leslie Brown, Director, Research & Consulting
Shopping for clothes can be a chore – you hunt through racks of clothes for the perfect outfit, wait in line to get into the dressing room, and then cross your fingers that what looked good on the hanger will also look good on you. As a Macy’s loyalist, I value the convenience of having a variety of clothing options over a more boutique experience.
For years, the dressing room itself has been a barrier to seeing how the clothes look on because the rooms themselves were poorly lit, often dingy, with mirrors that reflect back a version of you that is uninspiring. The experience isn't conducive to falling in love with the outfit.
However, a recent shopping trip to Macy’s proved how one small innovation could reinvigorate the dressing room experience. Instead of seeing the standard dressing room mirror with overhead fluorescent lighting, there was now an interactive mirror that allowed me to control the lighting in the room. The 3 options informed me that I could choose to see how my outfit looked in either “evening”, “office”, or “outdoor.”
I immediately started playing with the buttons and watching the lighting in the room shift from the orange glow of the indoor lighting you might see inside a restaurant to the bright blue lighting you experience when walking outside on a sunny day. I began to picture how my outfit would look walking outside around Central Park, meeting with clients at the office, or out to dinner with friends. Each time I could successfully visualize a place for the outfit, it earned a place in my purchase pile. Most importantly, I loved having the control to choose the lighting that I found to be the most flattering. Instead of feeling dingy and dim like the older dressing room, I had the power to customize the feel of the room at the touch of a button.
A study published in 2014 about lighting and human emotion noted the need for well-lit environments in retail. It reports that “bright light intensifies the initial emotional reaction we have to different kinds of stimulus including products and people,” indicating the importance of appropriate lighting for "selling emotionally expressive products," like clothing.
What impressed me the most was how simple and achievable the innovation in the dressing room is – make the lighting interactive at a touch. For years, retailers have been thinking about how to innovate the dressing room experience to increase the number of purchases the customer will make. Many ideas have involved re-imagining the dressing room mirror as an interactive shopping tool, such as with this image from 2007 shared by Jayne O'Donnell in the USA TODAY article “Retailers try on dressed-up fitting rooms” showing an interactive touchscreen mirror that would allow the customer to share potential looks with friends. However, 8 years later and that mirror is not in dressing rooms.
The Seattle Times noted in May in their article "'Smart' mirrors in fitting rooms give shoppers a different look" that stores are still working on that interactive "smart" mirror experience. Neiman Marcus has rolled out a Memory Mirror in three locations that are outfitted with sensors to allow side-by-side comparisons of outfits. Meanwhile, Nordstrom is working with eBay Enterprise to experiment with mirrors that allow the customer to scan the bar-code of their outfit to see what's in stock.
While there is still a place for that type of forward thinking technological innovation, many companies are overlooking simple innovations that can greatly impact customer experience. The mirror I used shows the power of smaller innovations:
- Addresses a major shopper pain point of poorly lit dressing rooms
- Interactive – gives the shopper both the control to choose the lighting they want, while providing the fun of interacting with their environment
- Fits into shoppers’ current shopping process without a need to educate. I did not need a manual or a sales associate to teach me how to use the mirror. I could approach trying on clothes the way I have always done.
Often with great innovation can come steep learning curves. By developing a smaller innovation, these dressing rooms feel forward thinking and comfortable to adopt immediately.
Kudos to the newly renovated Macy’s in Herald Square for demonstrating that simple innovations can be high impact innovations when they are tied to helping the customer connect to the product.
What has worked well for you in the dressing room to enhance your experience? What do you think stores should be focusing their attention on? Share your comments below!
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