BrainTrust Query: Are retailers under-valuing the importance of fitting rooms?
Commentary by Marge Laney,
President, Alert Technologies, Inc.
The most important conversion area and at the same time the
least serviced area in apparel retail is the fitting room. Customers
who use a fitting room are 71 percent more likely to buy than those simply
browsing the sales floor. Add to that the fact that the customer who
uses the fitting room will buy about twice what the browser buys, according
to a study from London consultancy Envision Retail. And, if they are provided
with service while in the fitting room they will buy almost three times what
the browser buys. And we’re not going to even talk about what browsers buy
and then return because of fit issues.
Many retailers believe they are servicing their fitting rooms
properly. They’ve created elaborate fitting room service strategies aimed at
all the right targets: improved customer experience, increased conversion,
increased ADS (average dollar sale) and UPTs (units per transaction). However,
other retailers seem to be oblivious to the importance of the fitting room
and view it instead as a necessary evil and a loss prevention nightmare.
From the customer’s perspective, the fitting room experience
can run the gamut from a luxurious and pampered experience to one that is downright
filthy and demeaning. But, no matter where the retailer falls on the
continuum, one thing is true in most fitting rooms: the customer has no easy
and hassle-free way to contact a sales associate once they are inside.
The retailer that has a great fitting room service strategy
has trained their associates to drive traffic to the fitting room, they conduct
wardrobing classes to train associates to help the customer find the right
outfit for any occasion, and they have created talking points to help associates
establish a connection with the shopper to understand their shopping needs
and desires. But, once inside the fitting room, that connection is lost. To
connect again requires the associate to knock on the door at the moment the
customer is in need of service.
Time for full disclosure: Alert Technologies develops custom
systems for stores that provide push-button notification from inside fitting
rooms. The technology also monitors activity to provide the operator with data:
the number of fitting room visits, the duration of each visit, total fitting
room load, etc. Retailers are able to use this information to set load standards,
and monitor and score each store accordingly, for example.
We’ve had years of success with these services, and yet I
often hear from retailers that view access technology as a barrier to personalized
service. It seems that some aspirational chain retailers want that proprietor
feel that small shops and very high-end retailers can achieve. Sole proprietors
and high-end retailers are emotionally and economically vested in each of their
customers. It’s a great thing to aspire to, but with high turnover, little
incentive, etc., are chains fighting an uphill battle?
According to what we’ve found in our pilots with major retailers,
door knocking is less than two percent effective in connecting an associate
with the customer when the customer is in need of service. And customers find
it annoying! It is also the first thing that stops happening when the store
gets busy. And the poor customer has less control than the associate. Other
than peeking out the door in hopes of making eye contact with a passing associate,
the customer has no way of accessing the service they have been sold and long
Discussion Questions: Why do you
think some retailers view access technology as a barrier rather than an
enabler of personalized fitting room service? What advantages and
disadvantages do you see to fitting room access and monitoring technology?