London - Curtains that do not shut all the way, unflattering fluorescent lighting and the lack of a proper mirror - these are all issues that irritant shopping consumers to no end when trying on new clothes. Which is a bad move on the retailer's part, as 67 percent of customers who use fitting rooms are likely to make their purchase decision there, according to fitting room expert and CEO of Alert Tech, Marge Laney, in her new book Fit Happens: Analog Buying in a Digital World. "The fitting room is every apparel retail store's most valuable square footage," says Laney. "It's where your customers make their decision to buy. But it's often overlooked as a revenue generator and profitable opportunity for customer engagement." In order to help retailers transform their flagging fitting rooms, FashionUnited has listed the top eight things to bear in mind when decorating fitting rooms.1. Privacy
Laney strongly believes fitting rooms should be a natural extension of the sales floor. However, one main difference between the shop floor and the fitting room should be that the latter offer the illusion of privacy to put the customer at ease. So no louvered doors, or gaping curtains which make customers feel exposed. If retailers do decide on using curtains than these should be long and wide enough to provide a private and secure experience for the consumer, no matter their height or width.
Creating a sense of privacy also means the inclusion of a personal mirror for each fitting room. Having to step outside of a fitting room in order to see how a certain dress fits only to be bombarded with unwanted attention from a sales associate was at the top of the list of annoyances faced by consumers when shopping eight years ago, and not much has changed since then. Instead, Laney suggests that retailers should invest in installing good quality mirrors inside the fitting rooms, ones that offer a true reflection, and not a skinnier or wider version of the consumer. "The more realistic your customers look, the better the chance they’ll keep the items."
Having a good mirror in the fitting room, or two so the customer can see how they look from behind is important, but only if they like what they see in the mirror. Dim or harsh lighting can highlight certain features that customers may not want to face when in a fitting room, such as flabby thighs or stretch marks. "Lighting and the right mirrors can make a huge difference in the customer experience," explains Laney. "Better quality mirrors that are backlit, rather than fluorescent top-down lighting, can give customers a happier experience. People will buy clothes that make them look good."
Having the option to sit down, or being able to see how an outfit looks when seated is another feature retailers should bear in mind. Having a extra space to sit will also ensure the customer remains in the fitting room longer, which in turns increases the chance of them making a purchase.
Having sufficient hanging space within the fitting room for a customer to hang their items and clothing is vital. One hook will not cut it. Laney suggests offering several hooks or hanging rods so customer can spread out their selections, which will in turn make their purchase decision easier to make.
6. AccessoriesThe magazine Ellegirl recently conducted a tested amongst fitting rooms in fashion chains such as Primark and Zara and reported several missed opportunities. One of them being that most fitting rooms do not let customer try on accessories inside. Which is understandable of course, as some shoppers have been known to put these accessories in their bags without paying first, but being able to see how a potential new outfit looks with accessories would be nice too.
7. TemperatureHaving to get dressed and undressed in small, stuffy rooms is another great customer annoyance when it comes to trying on clothing in a fitting room. Retailers will also want to avoid having sweaty or smelly clothing returned after being tried on. So having sufficient heating and air conditioning by the fitting rooms as well as the sales floor is important. "Trying on clothes can make you over-heated to begin with," says Laney. "Being too hot or cold will make fitting rooms unbearable."
Although most stores have sales associates waiting by the fitting room area, door knocking - that awkward moment when a salesperson knocks on the fitting room door to make sure everything is ok when you are in your underwear - as a sales strategy is only effective 2 percent of the time. Worse still is when customer has to redress and return to the sales floor to search for another size or style - 75 percent of the time they will simply leave the store stresses Laney. However, properly 'serviced' fitting rooms customers purchase three times the value of what store browsers buy, so how can retailers get the balance right?
"Technology is providing retailers with real-time information about what's happening in their fitting rooms so associates can take the proper action, and make the sale," points out Laney. Something as simple as installing call buttons in fitting rooms can make a big difference. High street chain Topshop for example, has used help buttons in its fitting rooms for a number of years which allows the customer the freedom to ask for help and advice when they need to whilst letting the sales associate know when it is the right time to engage with them.