TRENDS - TRIAL ROOMS

What’s the buzz in store for trial rooms?

VMRD - - Contents - Satarupa Chakraborty

The launch of Ama­zon Go has pos­si­bly made every re­tailer want to re­de­fine shop­per ex­pe­ri­ence in store, par­tic­u­larly in the con­text of queues and trial rooms. In In­dia, even as the ex­pe­ri­en­tial boom in the brick and mor­tar space kicks off, queues par­tic­u­larly in the trail room space, are a big fac­tor to reckon with. But there are some in­ter­est­ing trial room trends hap­pen­ings across the re­tail space. Here’s a re­cap.

Dick Lar­son, the MIT pro­fes­sor who is also known as Dr Queue, in his in­no­va­tive study on queue man­age­ment made a shock­ing rev­e­la­tion – every Amer­i­can spends al­most 2-3 years in his/her wak­ing life on a queue. He also sug­gested back in 2011 that every queue is a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity and that every queue poses a chal­lenge.

Lar­son’s ob­ser­va­tions couldn’t be truer in to­day’s brick-and-mor­tar re­tail­ing space. In high foot­fall sit­u­a­tions, trial room is that touch­point which man­ages not only the most dense traf­fic, but also presents the most unuti­lized brand­ing op­por­tu­nity.

But sur­pris­ingly, al­most no re­tailer, es­pe­cially in the fash­ion cat­e­gory, seems to be push­ing im­pulse buys, brand pro­mo­tions or vis­ual mer­chan­dis­ing schemes at this touch­point. Even in some of the re-crafted IDs, more square feet are ded­i­cated to trail rooms or vis­ual aes­thet­ics, rather than fo­cus­ing on re­solv­ing con­sumer has­sles or hav­ing a bet­ter queue man­age­ment sys­tem in place. How­ever, the sil­ver lin­ing is that some of the re­tail­ers are wak­ing up to the pos­si­bil­i­ties that the trial rooms present. Here are five trends that re­volve around bet­ter­ing the trial room ex­pe­ri­ence for the shop­per.

Vir­tual trial rooms

This trend is def­i­nitely catch­ing up, but more as a gim­mick touch­point, rather than for bet­ter queue man­age­ment. In­ter­est­ingly, a num­ber of mono brands like Jeal­ous 21, Kraus Jeans, Chen­nai Silk, Palam Silks, 612 League, Be­ing Hu­man etc are in­stalling vir­tual trial screens in their select stores. Ideally these should have a com­plete in­ven­tory of mer­chan­dises so that cus­tomers can see them­selves in any of the cho­sen prod­ucts on the screen, with­out hav­ing to phys­i­cally try them on.

In fact, it also should func­tion as an End­less Aisle con­cept. How­ever, it’s work­ing a tad dif­fer­ently in In­dia. These trial screens of­ten work with hand move­ments/ges­tures to en­able a few mer­chan­dise tri­als, while dou­bling up as screens to pro­mote brand com­mu­ni­ca­tions, cam­paigns etc.

Well, there are cer­tainly some gaps in the tech­nol­ogy ap­pli­ca­tions, but the good news is that there are a few start-ups work­ing in this space, de­vel­op­ing the con­cept fur­ther, com­pa­nies such as Coitor, Shopsense, Torch­sight and Virtu AR, to name just a few.

So how are these tech­nolo­gies evolv­ing to go be­yond be­ing mere gim­micks? Siva Ra­jen­dran of Coitor, says in this con­text, “Vir­tual trial rooms are al­ready a hit in e-com­merce. This kind of prod­ucts have so far been per­ceived as gim­micks be­cause we have not yet achieved the right so­lu­tion. We are work­ing fur­ther on a 3D con­cept that will of­fer more rec­om­men­da­tions on shapes, sizes, fall of the gar­ment etc., ba­si­cally it will rev­o­lu­tion­ize in-store tri­als.”

An­other NCR-based start-up Virtu AR, which re­cently in­stalled sim­i­lar screens at the Tom Tai­lor store, has some re­as­sur­ing data to share – the store re­ceived a foot­fall of 1000 peo­ple just dur­ing the week­end, out of which al­most 30% tried the mer­chan­dise. Well, it may not have min­i­mized the trial room has­sle, but it’s a great tool to map foot­fall and im­prove sales con­ver­sion.

Per­son­al­iza­tion

This is an­other in­ter­est­ing trend. Imag­ine you reach your favourite brand’s store and your cov­eted look is al­ready ly­ing at your closet..err..trial room? Wel­come to an­other new trial room ex­pe­ri­ence. The fact is that with omni-chan­nel be­ing the lat­est buzz word in re­tail, brands are hon­ing their abil­ity to switch ef­fort­lessly be­tween on­line and off­line. And in­ter­est­ingly, since on­line brands seem­ingly have a bet­ter edge in terms of shop­per un­der­stand­ing, they use the knowl­edge to of­fer per­son­al­ized op­tions for their cus­tomers at the brick and mor­tar space as well.

In a multi-brand or large-for­mat set-up, cus­tomers of­ten get over­whelmed by the choices and miss the per­son­al­ized at­ten­tion that can help them take bet­ter buy­ing de­ci­sions. In the past, we saw premium mall prop­er­ties such as Select Ci­ty­walk in­tro­duc­ing con­ve­niences like per­sonal shop­per ser­vices. But pre-book­ing a look even be­fore you ar­rive at a shop is still un­com­mon in In­dia, ex­cept in the case of cer­tain lux­ury and cou­ture brands.

Now Ban­ga­lore-based tech startup Net­work Bay has come up with a unique IOS plat­form Tulip which en­ables per­sonal shop­pers to greet cus­tomers and guide them through the store through a hand-held de­vices. These de­vices store per­son­al­ized data like or­der his­tory, pref­er­ences etc.

Though very few brands are wak­ing up to this call-for-ac­tion on per­son­al­iza­tion, some premium brands such as Van Heusen and Louis Philippe have al­ready in­cluded such ser­vices in their re­cently re-crafted re­tail IDs.

Staff As­sis­tance

This one is par­tic­u­larly use­ful for har­ried shop­pers with lit­tle or no time. Shop­pers of­ten carry wrong sizes or mer­chan­dises to trial rooms but cringe at the thought of go­ing back to the long trial room queues. To help shop­pers beat this prob­lem, Lifestyle In­ter­na­tional re­cently in­tro­duced the dig­i­tally-as­sisted trial rooms at around 25 stores. This fa­cil­ity lets the shop­per use a pager-based sys­tem to no­tify store staff to bring al­ter­nate style for trial. The re­tail brand is now tak­ing this ser­vice to all of their metro lo­ca­tion stores.

Lin­gerie re­tail in par­tic­u­lar is evolv­ing faster as far as this trend is con­cerned as siz­ing and there­fore per­son­al­iza­tion is a key point in this choice of re­tail­ing. Euro­pean lin­gerie brand Hunke­moller is al­ready us­ing this tech­nol­ogy for shop­per con­ve­nience no­ti­fy­ing store staff at select stores. In­ter­est­ingly, many lin­gerie brands are also opt­ing for trial rooms when it comes to pro­mot­ing their brand com­mu­ni­ca­tions, cam­paigns and prod­uct in­for­ma­tion. For ex­am­ple, we have Zi­vame and Enamor who have used dig­i­tal screens at trial rooms.

Light­ing up the ex­pe­ri­ence

Light­ing is an­other dis­tinct fac­tor when it comes to trail room dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion. As shop­pers seek a more authen­tic trial room ex­pe­ri­ence, day light seems the pre­ferred light set­ting in the trial rooms. So even as 3000k ren­der­ing yel­low light ex­pe­ri­ence was the pre­ferred choice for lu­mi­naires and sa­ree and jew­ellery cat­e­gories still pre­fer yel­low, ap­parel and fash­ion have moved to 4000k to match white or day­light.

How­ever, Amit Sheth, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Plus Light Tech, shared in this re­gard, “Re­tail has failed to un­der­stand some of the ba­sics of light­ing and trial room light­ing. No mat­ter how cru­cial it is, it un­for­tu­nately is still a grey area. Trial room light­ing should al­ways be ver­ti­cal from the side of the mir­ror and should not cre­ate any shadow. Re­tail­ers still tend to be­lieve that ceil­ing light is the best op­tion for trial ar­eas.”

But these per­cep­tions not­with­stand­ing, light­ing ven­dors of the coun­try are play­ing with some of newer tech­nolo­gies to bring bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence to the trial rooms. Re­cently we had Gardler bring­ing in a re­mote-con­trolled fix­ture, which can be op­er­ated by the shop­per to be able to see their im­age in dif­fer­ent colours, tem­per­a­ture and am­bi­ence. “When we launched around 3 years back, the pri­ce­point was in­tim­i­dat­ing. As tech­nol­ogy grows, pric­ing can be con­trolled and we have seen some re­newed in­ter­est in this prod­uct,” says Shankar Natara­jan, CMD, Gardler Light­ing.

Well, it cer­tainly looks like the trial room is set for a lot of ac­tion.

Net­work Bay

612 League store

Zi­vame Flag­ship

In­side the trial room of Va­jor store

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