FIYB Highlights – Ep. 97: “Fitting Rooms of the Future”

Brian Laney, VP of Sales for Alert Tech, a platform that specializes in call button systems, occupancy sensing and traffic analytics for retail fitting rooms, joins Pavan Bahl, Rob Sanchez and Marc Raco on the floor of the Innovation Center of the 2016 ECommerce Show USA in Atlanta, GA.

It Started with a Light

Brian gives listeners a brief history of how Alert Tech came to be–fashion tech before fashion tech was a thing! It started simply with a call button that turned on a light to alert sales associates/fitting room attendants that customers needed help in a fitting room. Of course, as technology advanced and customers’ needs evolved, AlertTech has developed new and improved solutions that help stores help customers. This includes their Room Valet, Sense System and Datapult solutions which have helped out major clients like H&M, Nike and Calvin Klein.

The Magic Behind the Mirror

Pavan brings up the innovation in the ‘magic’/smart mirrors that are rolling out in some stores and asks how Alert Tech fits into the changing landscape. Laney deconstructs some of the ideas behind these mirrors, stating that the current versions of the smart mirrors aren’t as scalable to smaller stores like Alert Tech’s solutions are. He does predict that more-edited and less expensive versions of these new mirrors will eventually be the future of the fitting room.

He also notes that the fitting room seems to be the last domain of retail tech, moving away from the florescent lit box model.

Technology is a Tool for People to Use

Brian doesn’t see what Alert Tech does as throwing technology at a fitting room, but giving tools that will help sales associates sell more clothes. Being able to respond quickly to customers, helps the store associate make sure the customer leaves buying something by getting the right size and/or color that they want as well as them to cross-sell and up-sell more successfully. Giving them tech to do their job better, raises the baseline of service among all employees and allows the best employees to be even better.

In offering the idea of adding data-driven styling assistance to the fitting room package, Pavan plugs Stylitics as a potential partner to Alert Tech.

The Store Experience

Brian explains the importance of fitting rooms to sales. Customers in fitting rooms are more likely to buy than those who don’t (roughly 70% compared to 10%). From there, the savvy sales associate lets the customer know that when the customer is ready, they have additional options for ready for them. The Alert Tech system allows this process to be easier and collects data on these interactions.

Rob asks if AlertTech is able to collect attributes of individual customers or able to track customers from store to store. In the process, he describes the customers service at Rebecca Minkoff‘s flagship store where customers are able to order a drink while shopping by providing the store their phone number.

The conversation shifts when Rob asks a different question about how to sell stores on these systems especially when competing with online sales. Brian explains that as convenient as online shopping is, the purpose of a brick-and-mortar store is to provide an experience.

The Psychology of Buying and Selling

Marc starts a discussion about the psychology involved in selling clothes. This leads Brian to point out that customers are particularly vulnerable in fitting rooms, since there are so few times that people change their clothes in semi-public spaces. It behooves stores to make their customers the most comfortable and served as they can. He also mentions that store associates should be highly aware of what kind of “mission” their customers are on.

It’s also pointed out that customers go to bigger and smaller stores for different reasons, so each fitting room has different needs. Brian uses, their client, H&M’s Herald Square location in NYC as an example. The store has 31 fitting rooms and a lot of customers, Alert Tech implemented an occupancy tracking solutions to their fitting rooms.

After returning from the break, Brian also takes a moment to explain how this looks to customers. It usually simple buttons, but Alert Tech puts into the work of making sure the branding and the feel reflects the store.

Conversational Commerce– Offline

Marc asks about how technology can interact with customer choices. Brian explains that millennial customers are fine with explore new technology, but older customers might find learning a new process and technology frustrating to work with. It’s better to push towards more human interaction and he sees the future being guided interactions, where associates might interaction with the tech more on behalf of the customer. After Pavan discusses an awful fitting room experience, Brian reinforces the point that Alert Tech helps to provide a baseline that no one would leave an Alert Tech fitting room without getting the help they need.

Rob brings up the point that a lot of current tech is being geared towards automation which will replace people and finds it interesting that Alert Tech is a shift away from that. Brian explains that, as a former sales associate himself, the associates are often the biggest ambassadors/advocates for the brand and they should be empowered to sell as best they can.

 

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Alex Tunney

Alex is Managing Editor of Open Source Fashion. His work has appeared in The Billfold, Lambda Literary, The Inquisitive Eater and The Ink and Code. Alex earned his MFA in Creative Writing from The New School.