When the late American architect Louis Kahn said that “a room is not a room without natural light”, little did he know it would one day be possible to expand a space without using windows. Just step into one of the newly unveiled interactive fitting rooms, complete with three lighting themes, at Polo Ralph Lauren to see what a madras suit looks like against an “East Hampton Sunset”, how Team USA’s Olympic uniforms look during an “Evening at the Polo Bar”, or what a pair of jeans appear like walking down the street in “Fifth Avenue Daylight” (it should be noted that you could also walk to the front of the store for that last one).
But this new enterprise, powered by New York startup Oak Labs, isn’t just changing the way people see themselves—it’s changing the way they shop. Garments that are brought into the fitting room are detected by radio-frequency identification and displayed on the touch-screen mirror. If the customer thinks madras is a bit too bold, he simply taps the “Help me with…” button on the mirror to beckon a sales associate, who may recommend a more subtle linen option. The screen also suggests items to complete an out outfit and is available Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Mandarin and Japanese. If the customer is sold on the clothing, he hits “I’m ready to check out”, calling the associate back to close the sale. Website links for the remaining items in the fitting room can then be texted directly to the customer’s mobile device, perhaps to purchase online at a later date.
By integrating commerce into the most critical point in the shopping experience—the place where a customer actually connects to an item and decides whether or not to purchase it—Polo Ralph Lauren’s interactive fitting rooms serve a circular function: they bring the familiarity of buying online to an in-store experience. It is truly shopping for the digital age—and doesn’t even require the click of a mouse.
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