Retail Customer Experience: Body-Scanning Kiosks a Perfect Fit for Retailers

Discussion
May 09, 2011

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of a current article from Retail Customer Experience, a daily
news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate the shopping experience.

The
average woman tries on 15 pairs of jeans before buying one pair, according
to Women’s Day magazine. That’s a lot of self-torture in the dressing room.
However, there’s a new kiosk on the market that promises to make shopping a
more pleasant experience for both retailers.

The mybestfit kiosk, designed by
Unique Solutions, is a body-scanning booth that takes body measurements and
then matches those results to the sizing specifications of specific apparel
brands listed in the kiosk’s database.

Currently, the only mybestfit kiosk is
inside the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania, but Bob Kutnick, the company’s
vice president of technology, said the kiosks will be in 45 malls nationwide
by year end. The service is free to both malls and shoppers — specific
retailers pay the company for inclusion in the database.

“The malls benefit because it gives them a competitive edge over other
malls,” Mr.
Kutnick said. “And they aren’t out anything. We compensate them for the
space we take up and help them market it and hype it up to shoppers.”

The
shopper registers basic demographic information, steps into the booth fully
clothed and stands still for about 10 seconds while the scanning wand rotates
around her. Radio waves send and receive low-power signals to collect more
than 200,000 points of measurement. The signals are similar to, but have far
less power (1/1000th) than, a typical cell phone call. The software then electronically
compares a customer’s body measurements to the sizing specifications of apparel
brands.

After being scanned, the shopper creates a Shopping Guide at one of
the touchscreen monitors at the kiosk. The guide pulls from the kiosk’s database
of clothing brands and styles at the mall that will fit her perfectly, and she
can filter the list by brand, style, price or retailer, Mr. Kutnick said. The
whole process takes about 10 minutes and utilizes a ranking/matching system similar
to dating websites.

Although specific brands such as Old Navy or The Gap must
pay Unique Solutions to be listed in the database, Mr. Kutnick said the return
on their investment is huge.

“The conversion rate is going to be 50 to 90 percent higher because
if it tells you to go to the Gap to buy a pair of jeans, assuming you like
the fabric, you are going to buy it because it will fit you,” he said. “You’re
not going to try on a bunch of stuff that doesn’t fit, get frustrated and leave.”

It
also encourages people to try on clothing because being worried that something
won’t fit is often the biggest reason shoppers don’t want to hit the dressing
room, Mr. Kutnick said.

Within the year, the machines will work in a variety
of different settings, including the health, fitness and automotive industries,
he said.

Discussion Questions: Will consumers respond favorably to body-scanning technologies such as the mybestfit kiosk? Are the benefits great enough that you think large numbers of retailers will invest in this type of technology?

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16 Comments on "Retail Customer Experience: Body-Scanning Kiosks a Perfect Fit for Retailers"

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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

I’m wondering whether this is one of those things that a guy will never understand (one of many my wife often mentions). I need a new pair of jeans, I look at my old ones and go buy the same thing. And I’d have to applaud anyone, man or woman, who would try on 15 pairs (on average, which means lots are trying on even more).

Will this work? Depends on the price tag of the system and the cost per buyer to the retailer. And will women continue to try on jeans that are two sizes too small? Hope springs eternal.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
6 years 7 months ago

This is a very interesting idea. Most people (men in particular) dislike the process of trying on multiple pairs of jeans to find one that actually fit. If this can reduce or eliminate that particular chore, this could be a big draw and a competitive draw for malls that invest in the technology.

Warren Thayer
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

They should offer this at airports, so you could get scanned for preboarding, and pick up a little piece of paper at the end telling you what size and brand is best for you. Or, they could send the info to your cell phone or put it in the cloud. (See how technologically advanced I’m becoming?) Hey, if it works, and privacy-huggers don’t go crazy over giving up demographic info and the shape of their butts, why not? But I’m just one of those guys who, when there are finally holes in the knees, buys whatever worked last time.

alexander keenan
Guest
alexander keenan
6 years 7 months ago

This opens many opportunities; here are a few I really like:

– Health and weight loss, body scans can be used to show past, present, and projected future compositions.
– Social Media, having measurements allows the possibility to create videos by body compositions so one can share looks with friends and experts before one purchase’s a product. Think a social media “Dress for Success” with videos of someone modeling item selected from measurements. Then sharing videos with friends to get the right look for you.
– Fewer returns of products because one can purchase for others using key numbers from scan much like custom tailored now.
– Ability to create Avatars in 3-D to virtual model and share clothing based on measurements.
– Combine with 3-D printers to create custom accessories based on measurements.
– Ability to target “voice of feedback” to increase success of new offerings in the product development stage using measurements and purchasing history to increase value to key customers.

Connie Kski
Guest
Connie Kski
6 years 7 months ago

Is there any hope that if I go to the mall, get body scanned, and NOTHING in the mall will fit me–because I need a 36″ inseam in a woman’s natural waist jean–that the retailers in the mall will figure out that there is a hole in their assortment? It seems to me that this technology could benefit the store from an inventory perspective, as well as the shopper.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

This is a novelty that will very likely be tried since finding the right fit is so difficult. If, however, using the machine results in a pair of jeans that is still not comfortable it will not be used again.

Marge Laney
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

I wonder what Mrs. Kutnick thinks about this idea? Unless you’ve never gone shopping before, the system will probably give you the same list of the retailers you normally frequent. Mr. Kutnick is right when he says that lots of people don’t like to use fitting rooms, but he’s wrong about why. Most people don’t like to use fitting rooms because of the poor experience and lack of service, not fear of fit issues. Apparel retailers would be wise to spend their money on beefing up their fitting room service experience to drive traffic and brand loyalty rather than on gimmicks that are time consuming and invasive.

Evan Schuman
Guest
Evan Schuman
6 years 7 months ago

The problem with these body-scanning clothing kiosks is not that the scanning is not accurate. It’s that they have a relatively small number of partners and that they are focusing on the most common items. With a kiosk like this, the pot-of-gold lies in focusing on the most difficult-to-get styles and sizes. Late last year, this same vendor touted their King of Prussia kiosk to a Philadelphia newspaper columnist with disastrous results. The reason was the writer was a non-typical size and it suggested ZERO items to fit her.

That’s bad but it’s even worse because the customers whose bodies are the most common sizes have plenty of options already. For them, the kiosk is a novelty that will grow old. But for consumers with unusual sizes, the kiosk could be their sartorial salvation. It’s similar to the long-tail potential of Web sites with seemingly limitless inventory. The clothing-size-scanning kiosks of today are missing their huge opportunity.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

15 pair of jeans before buying one? Are you kidding me? I would be so out of there that Lojack would not find me. Like Stephen said, my old pair looked good when I bought them and fit so why do I need to try on 14 more? But then again, I go to the store to buy, not to shop. If I tried on 15 pair of anything they would have me in a straight jacket. Besides, I don’t want to miss that much of the Heat game tonight (or any night). Will this work? possibly, but more privacy would be needed before anyone, man or woman, would be agreeable to using it.

Rick Moss
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

Request for the manufacturer: a “Will I look fat in this?” button so perhaps my wife won’t need to ask me that no-win question at home.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
6 years 7 months ago
There is an aspect to this whole thing that I think has great potential. First, I must make it clear I am not a shopper. I make my two semiannual trips to the mall to complete my end of season discount shopping and the rest of the time I couldn’t care less. But if the scanner can make my shopping experience even easier, I am likely to buy more. For the same painful two or three hours in the mall, instead of trying things on I can be picking out additional items. Not only will I come out happier, but probably with more in hand. I feel like I have made my shopping experience more efficient. This is a win-win for everyone. The question here is whether the initial role out is being misdirected and it might be better if it targeted me, the less enthusiastic (male?) shopper? There is also the long term impact if people are able to use the measurement database to avoid visiting the mall at all. This could have a… Read more »
Lee Peterson
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

Am I the only one old enough to remember the Levi’s flagship in Union Square SF that had one of these? Totally bombed. This failure could relate to one of the other questions today regarding “tracking.” If you’re not exactly um, ‘self-confident’ when it comes to your physique and you’re even slightly paranoid that those numbers are going to wind up in the wrong hands, this’ll never fly. And let’s face it, there’s not many consumers out there that are both self confident and non-paranoid!

Also, isn’t it a bit like asking a woman, or anyone nowadays, their weight (even if it is a machine)? Lots of luck.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
6 years 7 months ago

I might be missing something here, but I suspect the typical shopper will feel about the same toward this as she does to the body-scanning equipment at airport security checkpoints. Technology is wonderful, but when it crosses a line and becomes personally intrusive, the response seems to invariably be that people would prefer to maintain their privacy, thank you very much.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
6 years 7 months ago

What does it say about the state of things if consumers love body scanners that will help them find better-fitting jeans, but squawk to high heavens about scanners at airports that are designed to protect them from terrorists?

Brian Kelly
Guest
6 years 7 months ago

Body scanners are fine. But are the jeans sewn to match what the software says is the pattern?

Even with great quality assurance, nips and tucks happen. And that is why jeans are tried on. Even to an extreme.

Recently at a GAP, I tried on six pair of 1969 jeans in the same cut but different washes to find one that felt right.

Body scanners are fine. But after trying on a few items, will they be used again? Or as we like to say, “retail ain’t for sissies.”

Jennifer Jarratt
Guest
Jennifer Jarratt
6 years 7 months ago

I agree with almost every comment I read here! The technology will show up the sad state of store retail for those of us who don’t fit into standard sizes (women and men) and why we find shopping online less painful, even if it does mean trips to the post office to send back what doesn’t fit. I wish I did have 15 pairs of jeans to try on with a reasonable expectation that one would fit!

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