Fitting rooms go high tech Sales manager Alysa Stefani uses a touchscreen display to make selections while demonstrating the Memory Mirror at the Neiman Marcus store in San Francisco's Union Square (AP photos)
Fitting rooms go high tech

Imagine a fitting room with a "smart" mirror. It can suggest jeans to go with the red shirt you brought in. It snaps a video. It can allow you to compare the image side-by-side with other colorful shirts you try on. It might even show you how the shirt will fit without having to change.

A handful of primarily upscale retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, are testing versions of this high-tech fitting room. Experts say the masses will be able to try these innovations at more stores in the next few years. It will happen as the technology gets cheaper.

This trend is a way stores aim to catch up to online rivals like Online, companies are able to gather information on which items shoppers browse. The companies can use that to recommend other products. The new technology that enables physical stores to collect much of the same data as online retailers raises privacy questions. But executives say customers are offered a choice and the data is protected.

Stores are tapping into the significant role the often-forgotten fitting room can play in purchase decisions. While 36 percent of store browsers wind up buying something, 71 percent of shoppers who try on clothes in the fitting room become buyers. That is according to Paco Underhill, a retail consultant. Yet the typical fitting room isn't always inviting. Only about 28 percent of shoppers even walk into a dressing room of a typical clothing chain, Underhill says.

"The dressing room experience in many places has been close to miserable," Underhill said. "There's bad lighting. They're dirty. And they have poor service."

Some companies are working to change that impression. Later this year, Big Space, a technology company, plans to test a new mirror at an undisclosed clothing chain. It will recognize the gender of a customer and make recommendations based on that. Customers will also be able to request or purchase items directly from the mirror. They can even have them shipped.

Other technologies are already being tested in stores. In recent years, stores including Bloomingdale's and Top Shop have tested technology that enable shoppers to see how they look in an outfit without trying it on.

The patented MemoryMirror from a Palo Alto, California-based company called MemoMi is one of the most advanced in this so-called virtual dressing, a feature that's expected to be tested in U.S. stores later this year. The mirror is outfitted with sensors, setting off motion-triggered changes of clothing. MemoryMirror uses pixel technology that captures even small details such as a wrinkle on a skirt as it moves.

For those trying on the clothing, the mirror also doubles as a video camera, capturing a 360-degree view of what an outfit looks like and making side-by-side comparisons. Shoppers can replay the video and share with friends.

Earlier this year, Neiman Marcus rolled out the MemoryMirror. It is outside fitting rooms in three of its locations. They are in Walnut Creek, California; San Francisco and the Dallas suburb of Willow Bend. It is considering activating the "virtual dressing" feature.

John Koryl is president of Neiman Marcus stores and online. He said the mirror allows the retailer to have specific information regarding who tried on the dress and bought it for the first time. He said shoppers must register for a unique account with their email address to use the mirror's features. Any data collected on the mirror's usage is anonymous and aggregated, he said.

A division of online seller eBay that's called eBay Enterprise specializes in providing retail technology and service. It also has fitting-room technology that some stores are testing. Designer Rebecca Minkoff's first two stores are in New York and San Francisco. They are testing the new fitting room technology that uses radio frequency identification. It embeds data in clothing tags. It will be rolling out the technology when it opens stores in Chicago and Los Angeles. That will happen later this year, says CEO Uri Minkoff.

This is how it works. A touch screen allows the customer to flip through a catalog and indicate which items he or she wants in the dressing room. The customer inputs their cellphone number and the sales clerk texts when the fitting room is ready. When the shopper walks in the dressing area, the mirror recognizes the items and displays the different clothing on the screen.

Minkoff said the two stores testing this technology are selling the clothing two and a half times faster than expected. Shoppers are increasing the number of items they buy by 30 percent. "We are creating dressing room therapy," said Uri Minkoff.

eBay Enterprise also is working with Nordstrom. It is helping the company understand how the technology performs on a larger scale. Nordstrom uses the mirrors in some fitting rooms in Seattle and in San Jose, California. They work a little differently. Shoppers are equipped with bar code scanning devices. They are able to see what's in stock in the dressing area.

"We will listen to the customer as they use the mirror and see what changes make sense to improve the experience," said Nordstrom spokesman Dan Evans.

The new technology has some consumer advocates concerned.

"One assumes that the mirror is not looking back at me unless you are in a fairytale," said Nuala O'Connor. She is president & CEO of nonprofit Center for Democracy & Technology. "People love new technology as long as they are aware of what is happening to them and have control of their data."

But some customers are embracing it. Wendy DeWald, of San Francisco, spent $1,000 on her first trip to the Rebecca Minkoff store. She's returned a few more times. She doesn't mind sharing some of her personal data to get a better experience.

"I'm pretty blown away," she said. "It's a toy in the dressing room. It enhances the experience."

Critical thinking challenge: Why are tests being conducted at Neiman Marcus instead of Walmart?

Assigned 65 times

  • makaylar-Che
    5/18/2015 - 01:49 p.m.

    the dressing rooms are getting repaired for costumers that is short so they can be more comforting in a nice level of a high door it can be perfect for them and they want to make it high tech so you can pick the right look for you and people can see if they're selves look right

  • yarelyo-Koc
    5/18/2015 - 02:47 p.m.

    That could be so cool . But could it start to be dangerous ? Could people start sending picture while you are changing . Also who's in the back watching you do that and giving you those suggestions that's dangerous .

  • MasonM-Kut
    5/18/2015 - 04:50 p.m.

    It seems like a move with virtual cloths, but even tho it might not be as cool as a move it's still crazy how they can make stuff like that, also if you think about it it is most likely faster a more efficient instead of having to find the cloths change and put them back.

    And for the critical thinking challenge I don't think people at Walmart are a smart choice to let test it out.

  • CameronS-2
    5/18/2015 - 06:37 p.m.

    This article is about the technology of a near that can find your size in clothing so you don't have to hassle to find many sizes. This is a great source of technology because I myself a fitting into clothes and it takes a very long time to find the perfect fit when really it should take about 30 minutes.

  • TaylorH-4
    5/18/2015 - 08:00 p.m.

    A handful of primarily upscale retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom, are testing versions of a high-tech fitting room. It can suggest jeans to go with the red shirt you brought in. It can allow you to compare the image side-by-side with other colorful shirts you try on. It could also show you how the shirt will fit without having to change. I enjoyed this article because I never new this could be done.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    5/18/2015 - 08:24 p.m.

    I think that it is cool for fitting rooms to get high tech because there are touchscreen stuffs that might picture a man or a woman to see if the clothes that they are wearing is good on them or bad on them if they see the picture of them themselves in the touchscreen tab. Well if a fitting is getting high tech now, I think that the high tech fitting room is going to make people lazy if the clothes they like is good or bad.

  • TannerD-Kut
    5/18/2015 - 08:28 p.m.

    I think that it would be bad because I think if it suggest something that you do not like you might get mad at it.

  • JakeP-Kut
    5/18/2015 - 09:51 p.m.

    I think it is cool that there is gonna be high tech fitting rooms. It will make people want to buy the clothes and will also make people take less time to go to the store and try clothes on because they can just say what pair they want and see how they look in the clothes.

  • 5ValerieS
    5/19/2015 - 11:17 a.m.

    The reason they are testing these smart dressing rooms at Neiman Marcus instead of Walmart is because Walmart is not just a clothes store. Neiman Marcus is a clothing store that you will probably buy only clothes or an accessory. But at Walmart you can buy food and other stuff so the dressing rooms are not that important. The final reason is that the clothes at Walmart and at Neiman Marcus have a large difference in price range. Neiman Marcus is not the only store with these smart devices though, another store is Nordstroms.

    • Edgarblack
      5/19/2015 - 12:38 p.m.

      I wish that all stores would have that because you wouldnt need to take a long time to look for somthing that fits.and that technology would get cheaper so all the stores have that.

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