CALGARY – Retail clothing stores of the future will likely have fewer clothes, checkout stations, fitting rooms, employees—and square footage. Instead, you’re likely to see more self-service consoles that allow shoppers to virtually “try on” any garment.
According to NOBAL Technologies, Inc., of Calgary, that future is here right now, with NOBAL’s iMirror product, an interactive mirror that promises to revolutionize the customer experience in the retail realm—much as it’s already doing in hospitality settings.
Explains Royal Bissell, NOBAL’s Director of Innovation, “With a few taps by a customer, the iMirror’s built-in 3D camera takes an accurate full body scan, from which the shopper can create a lifelike avatar of themselves. They can then browse products on the iMirror, and, using their avatar, see exactly how garments will actually look and fit on their body.”
Customers can make purchases directly on the iMirror. NOBAL is reportedly working on a Tap to Pay solution to further facilitate the ecommerce functionality of the iMirror.
According to NOBAL’s Director of Technology, Daniel Maher, unlike other body modelling software whose avatars end up looking cartoonish, “The photo scan taken by the iMirror contains over 200 measurement points, yielding a photo-realistic avatar that’s 94% “measurement-accurate.” When that avatar is clothed in garments with similarly precise measurements, the customer can see exactly how that garment will look—and fit—on them.”
A big plus, reports NOBAL, is that once an avatar is created, a customer can download it to their smart phone, and use it on future visits to any store employing the same technology.
Adds Bissell, “The convenience for the customer is huge: they can instantly see what multiple garments look like on them, minus the time-intensive process of a physical fitting room.”
In the wake of the pandemic, and thanks to innovations like the iMirror, many retailers won’t be bringing back actual fitting rooms. The benefits, note Bissell, are many: “No fitting rooms means dramatically reduced shrinkage. Plus, with no fitting rooms and fewer—or no—checkout counters, a store’s total footprint can be much smaller. Then, there’s the accuracy of our imaging technology, which means better ‘virtual fits’ which, in turn, means far fewer returns.”
Another powerful benefit for retailers, according to NOBAL, is an increased “basket size.” Says Bissell, “With physical fitting rooms, a customer is deciding based on the limited garments available in the store where they’re trying on. In the virtual fitting room, the iMirror can make suggestions based on what the customer has already viewed, as well as the entire store’s inventory or even warehouse items — which are linked to the iMirror.”
NOBAL CEO, Bill Roberts, adds, “Customer satisfaction increases as retailers now have an endless aisle of offerings—even if those garments aren’t physically in the store.” Roberts also notes that their retail customers have reported basket-size jumps of 15-20% by using the iMirror, adding, “They’re discovering their ROI on the product is less than one week.”
According to the company, there may also be a psychological aspect to the proven basket-size increases the iMirror is delivering. Notes Bissell, “We haven’t fully unpacked this idea, but we suspect customers may purchase more items when they’re viewing them virtually, while those trying on actual clothes are more likely to decide not to purchase a given item or items.”
When it comes to the 3D images of clothing that customers’ avatars will “try on,” retailers reportedly can provide their own image library, or NOBAL, using their 3D-imaging technology, can help retailers create those libraries.
Bissell sums up: “We want to replicate the real fitting-room experience and the confidence that comes from physically trying on a garment and knowing that it fits. That’s now possible, given the accuracy of our system. It all adds up to a cost-effective solution with multiple substantive benefits for both customers and retailers.”