Death of the fitting rooms

Friendly reminder to tech gurus: Shoppers still need virtual fitting rooms

Photo credit: Ksenia Chernaya/Pexels

Restaurants have gotten noticeably creative in May, now that non-essential companies are slowly opening their doors again. Even if the timeline varies state-to-state, consumers must give credit where credit is due. Crafty restaurant owners are making their eateries into grocery stores, introducing private greenhouse experiences and expanding the use of their parking spots. While there has also been quite a bit of news about retailers slowly opening up, besides hand-washing, disinfecting and six-foot distance signs, there’s not much else going on to change them.

For some apparel consumers, the hike in curbside pickups and sanitation priorities is enough. For others, that won’t get them off the couch. Specifically speaking for casual shoppers who miss the entire shopping experience, one of the most obvious questions is this: What are retailers going to do about fitting rooms? And how long will it take for shoppers to actually use them again (or stand in a lengthy Customer Service line for returns and exchanges)?

Companies such as FXGear Inc.’s Fit’N Shop, Fitle and Superpersonal are already ahead of the curve when it comes to virtual fitting rooms — a way to “try on” clothes without actually letting the fabric touch one’s body. All the customer needs is a compatible smartphone or an FXMirror, and they’re ready for shopping action.

Does this technology leave subscription companies like Rip the Runway or personal shoppers in a gray area? Yes. Will there be a customer base who still appreciates in-person retail clerk interactions or hotel clothing deliveries? Also yes. But what virtual fitting rooms do is help the other kind of customer: the one who just wants to choose an outfit she likes, know it fits and go about her day — no W Hotel stays, retail clerks or outfit rotation subscription needed.

As mall store owners and private retailers already know, consumers often go into stores thinking they want one thing and come out with a shopping bag of something else. Being able to see how the clothing fits on them and their selection makes all the difference for an impulse buyer. But under the current worldwide health outbreak affecting more than 3.67 million people, a large amount of consumers barely want to come outside for essential items. Non-essentials are really a stretch.

Trying on numerous outfits just doesn’t sound like a safe idea when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people to increasingly disinfect items even in their own homes — doorknobs, remote controls, mailbox handles, etc. If shoppers cannot even trust that their own everyday items are clean, why would they possibly pick up or buy the same clothes someone else wore?

If major tech companies like Facebook can put energy into chat bots that supposedly beat Google, what is it about virtual fitting rooms that makes them so easily ignored? Do we really need another virtual assistant, or would it make more sense to find ways for technology to be used in more practical ways?

If more virtual fitting room apps were developed on a larger scale, and less items were being touched by hand or body, this could be the most obvious way to improve the retail industry. Technology has already proven effective when it comes to the boost in online shopping, customer service communication and accessibility to a larger inventory.

But what good does the inventory do when consumers are still gambling with finding the right size? In a socially isolated world, even returning items has become a challenge. If customers are too scared to try on the clothes and may face many challenges with returns or exchanges, wouldn’t it be more helpful to streamline the process? If department stores and private retailers cannot make it happen, it may be up to the clothing designers to bypass them and do it themselves.

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We Need to Talk

Let’s chat about my oddball thoughts on family, relationships and activism — with a dose of comedy, too.

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

Check out her six Medium pubs: BlackTechLogy, Doggone World, Homegrown, I Do See Color, Tickled and We Need to Talk. Visit Shamontiel.com to read about her.

We Need to Talk

Let’s chat about my oddball thoughts on family, relationships and activism — with a dose of comedy, too.

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