Why magic mirrors are the future of in-store retail
Is e-commerce set to overtake traditional retail? It certainly seems so. Even though COVID-19 restrictions have been eased in most places, customers are in no rush to return to traditional stores. More than 70% of consumers say they are less likely to shop in a physical store today than before the pandemic.
Part of this is down to convenience. Shopping online is easier and faster, and with more and more e-commerce stores adopting 3D and AR technologies, the process now has a more realistic feel to it. Whether it’s product visualisation, virtual try-on, or 3D display ads, shoppers no longer have to leave their homes to find the right product.
However, the same technology that drives online success can also be utilised by brands to entice customers back to retail stores. More than 8 in 10 consumers say they are excited at the prospect of using AR to interact with products in-store and online. Although there are numerous ways for retailers to incorporate AR into their shops, one that we’re excited about is magic mirrors.
Originally popularised by the fitness industry, magic mirrors are not a new technology. Future-forward thinking brands have been experimenting with smart mirrors since at least 2010. However, as body tracking develops, a growing number of retailers are starting to introduce magic mirrors into their stores as a way to enhance the shopping experience.
What are magic mirrors?
Magic mirrors, also known as smart mirrors or digital mirrors, are devices that show a user’s image on a screen through an in-built camera when they stand in front of it.
However, unlike traditional mirrors, magic mirrors also display virtual add-ons like accessories, makeup, and even clothes superimposed over the user as if they were actually wearing them. In this way, customers shopping at stores with magic mirrors can virtually “try on” products on their bodies without having to visit the changing room.
Depending on how they’re configured and a retailer’s product catalogue, magic mirrors can display a variety of products, including but not limited to makeup, hats, jewellery, eyewear, clothing, and shoes.
Some magic mirrors also let customers check product availability and pricing as well as display the latest news, and offer wayfinding support.
Benefits of smart mirrors in retail
Here are some benefits of magic mirrors in retail for customers and brands.
For customers, the benefits of magic mirrors include:
- Not having to visit changing rooms. Research shows that customers who use a store’s fitting room are seven times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t. At the same time, shoppers hate fitting rooms. By displaying clothing pieces on a person virtually, magic mirrors eliminate the need for customers to go into small, cramped changing rooms.
- A faster and more convenient shopping experience. With magic mirrors, customers don’t have to queue to use the fitting room, nor are they limited by how many items they can try on at a time.
- Better product offering. For whatever reason, brick-and-mortar stores may not always have a brand’s full product catalogue in stock. This can be incredibly disappointing for customers. Even if a product they want is available on a brand’s online site, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually buy it when they get home, especially if they’re not sure how the item fits. Magic mirrors solve stock-out problems by allowing customers to try on items that aren’t available in-store.
- Reduce physical contact. During health crises, customers may be either wary of touching physical items or not allowed to do so. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many makeup stores stopped offering product testers, making shopping for beauty and makeup items more difficult. With magic mirrors, customers can still see how a product will look on them without having to touch it.
For brands, the benefits of magic mirrors include:
- Better customer experience. Used to the efficiency of online shopping, customers now expect everything to be faster, easier, and more convenient. Magic mirrors can help retailers meet these evolving consumer needs and improve their overall shopping experience by adding interactive and social elements to it.
- Reduced returns. Whether because fitting rooms are closed or customers simply don’t bother trying on items before buying them, returns are a big problem for retailers. The good news is that by simplifying the try-on process, magic mirrors can reduce the number of returns that brands have to deal with.
- Less waste. Sometimes, when a customer tries on a product that doesn’t suit them, the packaging the item originally came in is no longer usable. In this case, sales assistants have to replace the packaging, leading to unnecessary waste.
- Increased sales. For products that are out of stock, customers can still “try them on” and have them delivered to their homes when the item becomes available in-store. Some magic mirrors can also recommend alternative or complementary products, which is another way for brands to upsell or cross-sell to shoppers.
- Better customer insights. Smart mirrors can also provide brands with valuable data, like what customers tried on but did not buy. This can give retailers a better understanding about which items are popular and help improve product recommendations.
4 brands already using magic mirrors
Below are some examples of how retailers in four different industries (beauty, eyewear, fashion, and sports accessories) are already using magic mirrors to improve their in-store experience.
Customers shopping at French-American beauty retailer Coty’s Bourjois boutique in Paris in 2018 could test makeup products without having to actually put them on their face.
Made possible via magic mirrors, the experience involved customers holding product samples in front of smart mirrors and watching as the makeup colour materialised on the image of their reflection.
Coty’s Bourjois introduced magic mirrors after conducting consumer research where they found that almost three-quarters of customers wanted “an in-store beauty experience to be a mixture of both physical and digital elements in order to make it feel more ‘real’ and ‘believable’.”
In 2016, luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus collaborated with Luxottica to introduce Sunglass Memory Mirrors to several of its stores.
Before magic mirrors, Neiman Marcus kept sunglasses in cases that had to be unlocked by a store assistant—not a great experience for customers. In contrast, with MemoMi, shoppers could virtually “try on” various different shades immediately and without having to first flag down a salesperson.
Because the smart mirrors also recorded images and videos, customers could compare photos of themselves wearing sunglasses side-by-side to help them decide which pair suited them best, as well as share photos via social media for advice from friends and family.
According to the president of Luxottica Wholesale North America, Fabrizio Uguzzoni, thanks to magic mirrors, customers spent more time at the counters, which led to increased sales.
When Superdry partnered with Seymourpowell to create magic mirrors in 2016 for their flagship store in Berlin, they wanted to “stop shoppers in their tracks” and bring them “closer to the Superdry brand and products.” No doubt they’ve succeeded.
Eye-catching and easy to use, the full-length mirrors allowed customers to use swiping gestures to browse Superdry’s new collection of winter apparel.
When a shopper came across an item they liked, they could digitally try it on with an “air punch”. Impressively, any time a customer moved, this was mirrored on the screen, which created a more realistic experience and showed customers exactly how a product fit them.
Each product was accompanied by additional information, like design details and colour variants.
When not being used by customers, the smart mirrors displayed Superdry’s new collection, blending seamlessly with the rest of the store.
In 2019, Speedo worked with Poplar Studio to develop a magic mirror experience that simplified swimming goggle shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.
Finding goggles that feel comfortable on their face and suit their style can be an arduous and inconvenient process for customers who might have to try multiple pairs before they find one they like. It’s also awkward and cumbersome for Speedo stores as employees need to replace products in packaging after each consumer.
The magic mirror we created made the process of trying on swimming goggles easier, faster, and more enjoyable.
However, the experience was not limited to Speedo’s physical stores. We also created a virtual try-on feature for Speedo’s website. While most people look up swimming goggles online, 80% buy them in person. With an AR try-on experience available both in-store and online, Speedo customers now have more choices than ever.
How to get started with smart mirrors
Developing magic mirrors is not difficult, but it does involve several steps.
To start with, a brand that wants to deploy smart mirrors has to create 3D models of its product catalogue. Then, they will need to work with an AR expert to create visualisation experiences. Once these experiences are designed, they can be displayed on screens attached to units in stores, i.e., magic mirrors.
However, while smart mirrors can help engage customers who shop in brick-and-mortar stores, brands should not forget their online customers, either. The virtual try-on experience that is available through magic mirrors can also be accessed through the retailer’s e-commerce website. That way, brands can tackle audiences across both channels, making their investment in magic mirrors more cost-effective.
Ready to create your own smart mirrors? An expert in both 3D models and AR, Poplar Studio can help you make magic mirror experiences a reality for your store. Get in touch with us today.