If, like me, you have switched to e-commerce because you hate the experience of trying clothes on fitting rooms (as in fact do 46% of customers according to a survey conducted by Body Labs in 2016) but end up sending back half of your purchases because they don’t fit or look and feel different than what you expected by seeing them 2D on screen only, or you are a retailer trying to increase sales (apparently, shoppers who do use a fitting room are much more likely to make a purchase – see study by retail analytics company Alert Tech) you may be thrilled by the new trend in digital revolution for retail: digital mirrors.
We have already seen them in some fashionable Milan stores, although at this time they are more focused on infotainment and not yet as advanced as they could be, or purport to be.
Retailers already know the benefit of offering interactive, personalised in store experience – a customer is much more likely to walk out with a purchase if s/he receives personalized advice.
Digital mirrors may provide an innovative and efficient method of reinventing the fitting room experience by offering 360-degree views of outfits; touchscreen technology to browse other colours, sizes and suggested items that can be put together to create an entire outfit.
It won’t be long before the technology will offer personalised compliments and changing lighting conditions to make clothes look better.
Of course, there is a catch to digital mirrors in that while they can also provide useful information to the shop about the user experience, including which items are brought into the changing room, which items the shopper decides to buy out of the ones s/he has selected, etc, they render the changing room experience no longer private. E-commerce has long ago chipped into our private experience of shopping (be as it may, our shopping history on amazon or any other e-commerce platform is recorded), now the virtual changing room experience will remove another layer of privacy.
Is it worth it? It depends as always on the personal boundaries of each individual and the perceived benefit of digital shopping against private changing room. For a number of shops which have already implemented augmented reality mirrors, one of the benefits for the shopper is not having to undress to try on certain garments, or explore new colors. It may not be long however until the virtual changing room will start marketing additional services to the shopper, such as a personalised diet plan and other similar suggestions.
Ultimately, the key concerns relate to privacy and data protection and the expanding reach of profiling and data recording on the single user’s preferences. Stores will have to find a balance between user-experience, sale data and compliance with privacy laws. Ultimately, this will create a further segmentation in the market as mature shoppers will prefer more intimate, private changing room experiences, while young shoppers will probably flock into shops that feature a more public type of augmented reality mirrors (and will not be able to resist sharing the experience).
Luckily for European consumers, art. 17 of the new GDPR (Regulation (EU) 2016/679 – adopted on 8 April 2016, taking effect on 25 May 2018) includes a right to erasure (right to be forgotten) and art. 21 (Right to Object) may come useful. These new provisions, which were adopted following the CJEU decision in the Google vs Spain case, allow individuals to require the data controller to erase their personal data without undue delay subject to certain conditions, eg where no other legal ground for processing applies.
This will however be often difficult to manage in practice as it requires the controller to inform third parties to which the data has already been disclosed that the data subject has requested erasure of link or copies of that data.
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