- This article was previously posted in Dutch on FashionUnited -
This may sound familiar: in just three clicks you buy yourself a slim-fit shirt or some skinny jeans. And then you wonder ‘Will it be arriving on time and will it fit?’ For many online retailers, the latter can be nerve-wrecking too. Because returns are their main concern nowadays. The German Zalando struggles with a return percentage of 50%. The same goes for the ‘smaller’ Dutch Wehkamp at a high 42%. These returns put a lot of pressure on the profit margins of these Convenience hubs. Lacking an instant fitting facility is not only an inconvenient gap in their online customer experience, but also in their revenue model. However, for physical or omnichannel retailers, this is THE market gap! Their fitting rooms are worth a treasure. But do they realize that? Because how happy are customers with these cramped shacks at the back?
The new retail revolution starts in the fitting room
Fitting rooms first appeared in retail around 1850. Together with the arrival of the department stores. Both being revolutionary concepts at the time. By far, most of the customers embraced these dedicated fitting spaces. Providing them with necessary convenience, comfort and privacy. Fast-forward 170 years later, and according to research, only a poor 7% of the customers is happy with the fitting room. The majority even considers it the worst part of their total shopping experience. How can you blame them! Endless waiting lines, too cramped, lack of space for your belongings, and the tumbleweeds of dust may even come to you as a blessing because of the ill-fitting curtains. No need to call for assistance either from the far back, since the overloaded shop-assistant is nowhere to be found.
Apparently such a terrible experience, that a good 25% of the consumers avoids the fitting room at all. Unfortunate since the in-store conversion- and spending rate of a fitting room user is far higher against that of a non-user (70% versus 10%). The fitting room has a serious image problem, costing retailers revenue.
Time to act now! Time to reboot the fitting room with happy visitors. An easy - yet obvious - move for brick-and-mortar fashion retailers to draw in the much-needed extra cash and even shopping fans. Especially in the race against the online giants, who, as of this time do not have a fitted solution to their return issues. It’s time to introduce happytality. A customer experience philosophy, that will help you to turn the course of your in-store experience, beginning with the fitting room as revisited sweet spot. The new revolution in fashion retail starts in your fitting rooms, with Happitality!
As the name already suggests, Happitality is all about accommodating your customer with happy feelings throughout the whole shopping experience in your store. But before you can please the heart, you need to ease the mind first. That means cleansing their senses and thoughts from obstacles. Just like a game of curling, all worries, disappointments and irritations need to be brushed away from the customer journey, before they even appear. This approach of ‘Happitality’ is inspired on Omotenashi. The refined form of Japanese hospitality, unmistakably recognisable to every Japan visitor through the attention to detail. For example, the extra piece of water-repellent paper to cover your paper shopping bag on a rainy day. Or the tiny bag of ice to prevent your sushi-to-go from sweating on a hot day. The Japanese fitting rooms are exemplary as well. Always enough hooks for your clothes, a design hocker with drawer to sit on and to stow your shopping bags, the assistance button, reading glasses to figure out the cleaning instructions on the tiny tags and a shoehorn to help slide your feet into your shoes.
Now when all -potential- distractions are at ease, the pleasing and wowing can start! That is where happitality goes beyond hospitality. Delighting the deeper, latent needs you were unaware of. Nothing more compelling than to do so according to your own brands’ signature. Like at Ralph Laurens. Where fitting a polo shirt turns into a dazzling salon experience. While being welcomed in a dandy gentlemen’s room, plunging into one of those comfortable plush Ralph Lauren sofas, another adjacent fitting room is being prepared with your want-to-try-on products. An a la carte drink and a refreshment for the wait, and no rush whatsoever. Because the longer you are in there, the better the conversion and cross-selling.
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The fitting room as treasure room
It is clear that the fitting room bears a potential treasure. And happytality can help to extract its value. But how?
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Happitality: thinking outside the - fitting - box
With its revisited value, the fitting room has become the new battleground of fashion retail. At this very moment, online giants are frantically trying to close this gap with digital innovations. Amazon has recently filed a patent for their ‘virtual mannequin technology’ to increase the likelihood that clothes purchased online will fit, dismissing the need for a fitting room.
The competitive advantage of the fitting room, has not gone unnoticed by the chain partners of the online giants. Recently DHL added fitting rooms to their pick-up points, to further increase the convenience of online shopping. Therefore it would be of high interest to apply happytality throughout the whole store, at every touchpoint with the customer.
Eventually the battle in retail is about the whole shopping experience. From welcome, through the in-store shopping tracks, until check-out and farewell: every moment is an opportunity to make shopping at your place a truly joyful and memorable experience. For both your customers and your team. In the end, happiness works contagious!
This is a contribution by Melvin van Tholl, Customer Experience Architect at BLOODY BELIEVERS. The creative-strategic agency with unconventional expertise in reimagining and building customer experience-driven solutions for businesses of the new era. Based in Amsterdam, with digital and physical availability around the world. In this series of expert contributions on FashionUnited he takes you on a journey through the upcoming world of the conshuman. Sharing valuable insights and helping you to get your business on top of the customer experience.