You've been there before: After standing in line for what felt like ages, you're finally in a fitting room with a handful of clothes to try on. You need an item in another size, or you wonder if there's a top available to go with the pants that you've just put on. So you peek your head out of the fitting room curtain, only to find sales associates tending to other customers or, worse, nowhere to be found. This scenario is all too normal for brick-and-mortar shoppers, which is why Oak Labs, founded earlier this year by industry vets in the retail and tech space, has created an interactive fitting room mirror to help elevate the in-store shopping experience. (If it sounds familiar, it is — Burberry has also experimented with interactive mirrors in its Regent Street store in London.)
Dubbed the Oak Fitting Room, it replaces fitting rooms' standard mirrors with a touch screen mirror built with Oak Labs's own software. Polo Ralph Lauren's flagship on Fifth Avenue in New York City is the first retail location to unveil this technology, which can be experienced in the store's eight fitting rooms. The two companies are a good match: Polo Ralph Lauren has positioned itself as an innovator with its PoloTech "smart shirt," hologram store window displays and the launch of its women's spring 2015 collection, which featured a "4-D" holographic water projection. When the Polo team approached Oak Labs three months ago about how they could innovate the experience inside its three-floor, 35,000-square-foot flagship, the Oak Fitting Room was already in development.
Here's how it works: Upon entering the fitting room with your merchandise, the mirror, already displaying a hologram of Polo Ralph Lauren's logo, greets you with a glowing light from behind its frame. "The reason we do this is to prompt you to change it," says Healey Cypher, who hails from Ebay's retail innovation team and is now the CEO and co-founder of Oak Labs. "This idea comes from game design theory. Whenever you have a new experience, that first interaction has to be immediate." The mirror's touchscreen gives shoppers a choice of "Fifth Avenue Daylight," "East Hampton Sunset" and "Village Candlelit Dinner" for lighting.
After choosing the best light, the mirror shows photos of the items you've brought into the room, which are detected from their RFID tags, a reading technology that tracks inventory. Not only do you see what you plan to try on, but the screen also shows how much the store has in stock according to color and size, as well as additional stylist recommendations that go with your chosen items. If you need another size, or you're interested in trying on the suggested boots that pop up on your screen, there's an option to request for a sales associate's help, which the staff receives on their iPad. The sales associates can immediately respond via text messages that show on your screen, such as, "On my way!" along with a name and photo of the specific associate. If the retailer is in a tourist-friendly location like Polo Ralph Lauren, the Oak Fitting Room's software can be translated into other languages like Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Italian. Once you're finished, you can enter your phone number onto the touch screen to receive a text with a link to the items that you tried on, so you can buy them in store or later online.
Retailers should also benefit from the data gathered from the mirror, including how long customers spend in fitting rooms, how many items they bring in, and individual items' traffic and conversion rates.
As far as installations go, Cypher noted that the Oak Fitting Room is scaleable in both price and integration. It only requires a one-time hardware purchase (the mirror) along with a recurring monthly licensing fee for its software. The company raised a seed round of $4.1 million from venture capitalists, so expect more developments to come.