What is the most important conversion area in apparel retail? Answer: The Fitting Room. What area in brick and mortar apparel is the least serviced? Answer: The Fitting Room. Why?
The “why” of the first question is inherent in the fact that if a customer uses a fitting room they are 71% more likely to buy than if they simply browse the sales floor. Add to that the fact that the customer who uses the fitting room will on average buy twice what the browser buys. And, if they are serviced while in the fitting room they will buy almost three times what the browser buys. Those are some pretty compelling statistics! And, by the way, there is only a 28% chance that the browser will buy anything. And we’re not going to even talk about what browsers buy and then return because of fit issues.
So that leaves the “why” of the second fact. Why is the fitting room area so underserviced? First of all, many retailers will say that that just simply is not true. They have created elaborate fitting room service strategies aimed at all the right targets: improved customer experience, increased conversion, increased ADS, and UPTs. Other retailers seem to be oblivious of the importance of the fitting room and view it instead as a necessary evil and a loss prevention nightmare. They view all customers as potential thieves and run their fitting rooms accordingly.
Eye of the Buyer
The customer, however, views it from a very different perspective. Their fitting room experience begins and ends from inside the fitting room walls. That experience can run the gamut from a very luxurious and pampered experience to an experience that is demeaning and filthy. But, no matter where the retailer falls on the continuum, one thing is true in most fitting rooms: the customer has no hassle-free dignified way to contact and connect with the sales associate once they are inside.
Let’s first look at the retailer that has a great service strategy for the fitting room. They have trained their associates to drive traffic to the fitting room, they have weekly wardrobing classes that train associates to help their customer find the right outfit for any occasion, and they have created talking points to help associates establish a connection with the shopper and to bring out their shopping needs and desires. But, once inside the fitting room that connection is lost. To connect again requires the associate to knock on the door hopefully at the moment the customer is in need of service. Hope, in this case, is a lousy strategy.
Technology That Helps, Not Hinders
I often hear from retailers that they view access technology as a barrier to personalized service. I simply don’t understand that logic. Door knocking is less than 2% effective in connecting an associate with the customer when the customer is in need of service, and customers find it annoying! It is also the first thing that stops happening when the store gets busy. And the poor customer has less control than the associate! Other than peeking out the door in hopes of making eye contact with a passing associate, the customer has no way of accessing the service they have been sold and long to experience.
Another thing I often hear from retailers is “Prove to me that giving the customer access to service from the fitting will help us sell more.” Here’s a stat for you: 97% of all customers have redressed and left a store without taking the time to find the right size or color of an item they wanted to buy. No matter what your philosophy on fitting rooms, that statistic is a direct result of lack of customer access to service, and has direct and negative impact on the bottom line.
So the next time you review your fitting room customer service strategy ask yourself this: How will our fitting room customer access our great service once inside the fitting room? And, can we afford it?