A bastion of fashion since 1860, Bloomingdale’s might not be the first place that comes to mind for a high-tech shopping experience. But that’s likely to change with the department store’s introduction of its Me-Ality digital sizing booths, which the store hopes will ameliorate the patience-trying experience of finding the right size jeans.
A female shopper need only step into the booth for 10 seconds while a scanning wand makes two rotations around her body, records 200,000 measurements, then prints out a list of brands and sizes that will fit perfectly, at least according to Me-Ality’s proprietary software.
“Fitting denim can be trying,” says Bloomingdale’s vp Marissa Vitagliano. “We felt that these booths would improve the shopping experience.”
As it turns out, the department store is hardly the only store with that goal. It is just the latest example of brick-and-mortar retailers experimenting with a variety of in-store amenities in hopes of differentiating their brands, boosting foot traffic and giving shoppers a reason not to defect to e-commerce.
Best Buy recently announced it will open Samsung Experience shops in its 1,400 locations, staffed with product specialists eager to interact with customers. Beleaguered retailer JCPenney announced the rollout of 500 boutiques within its stores that will sell high-end home accessories (this in addition to existing in-store specialty shops featuring Joe Fresh fashions). Even Walmart, king of the brick-and-mortar domain, has quietly begun experimenting with rentable lockers customers can use for taking delivery of goods they buy on Amazon.
Tactics vary, but NPD Group chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen says all of those retailers have the same goal of underscoring the benefits of old-fashioned, in-store shopping. “Retailers are beginning to recognize that for them to compete they have to figure out how to enhance the store experience—make it more educational, more convenient, more timely,” he said. “Anything that can streamline the process and make it easier and faster and better will help them. Retailers need to get into the 21st century.”
They don’t have much time, apparently. A report this past February from Moody’s found that online vendors have already taken a 10 percent bite out of the apparel and footwear business, a number that’s expected to rise. It is little surprise, then, that the one edge traditional retail has always had—personalized attention in real time—is the card they are now playing.
Back at Bloomingdale’s, Vitagliano says the digital fitting booths will serve as “an extension of our brand and a reinforcement of our dedication to customer service.”