The most valuable assets in a retail store are its dressing rooms, where customers are three times more likely to make purchase decisions than someone on the sale’s floor.
But dressing rooms are treacherous grounds, as they bring customers face-to-face with their own self-image.
How dressing rooms address these emotional ups and downs can impact customers’ attitudes to the brand and their decision to buy.
- No sales floor, only dressing rooms.
- AI powered virtual assistants.
- Minimal interaction with sales associates.
We focused the store’s resources on dressing rooms, creating consultation rooms with virtual assistants that use voice and visual to help the customers.
This creates a personalized experience that could mitigate customer’s emotional state, and engender trust.
Who is this for?
Based on our research, we created a persona with a challenging character and emotional insecurities to see how far we could push the capabilities of a conversational user interface.
How does it work?
A. Make an outfit
The CUI creates a tentative outfit based on an initial conversation with a customer. The customer can change any parts of the outfit.
B. Mix and Match
It then presents the customer with similar outfits. The customer can choose one outfit, or mix and match different pieces to try on.
C. Try it on
The customer can see himself in different contexts as he tries the clothes on. The lighting in the room adjusts to the desired time of the day.
Finally, the customer can add chosen item to his shopping card.
Even a simple transactional conversation can convey friendliness and care, and help put customers at ease. For example an elegant error recovery is a crucial opportunity to reassure the customer that they can trust the system.
Powered by emergent technologies, CUIs (Conversational User Interfaces) promise to transform our interactions with computers into more intuitive, human-like conversations.
This four week project at Carnegie Mellon University examines the potential for deploying CUIs to a dressing room. As a team of three, we collaborated closely. Our final deliverable was an experience prototype.
- Research Insights
- Research Recap
- Ideation Overview
- CUI Iterations
- Security and Accessibility
We wanted to understand how customers experience a dressing room, and what technologies could feed our CUI design. So, we did:
- Literature reviews consisting of 15 articles, 2 forums, and 1 book.
- Interviews with four people
- Competitive Analysis
We learned that dressing rooms are the most valuable touchpoint in a store.
- They show the customer’s intent to buy.
- Customers in a dressing room are three times as more likely to buy than someone on the sale’s floor.
- Dressing rooms are unique environments that can cause discomfort and anxiety.
We also learned how to effectively deploy CUIs:
- It is recommended to use mixed media, when considering conversational user interfaces. This allows combining people's auditory and visual strengths.
- The strength of voice interfaces is in their ability to mimic a conversation. By relying on conversational conventions, it can create a natural dialog flow.
- CUIs can help foster trust, because they are non-judgemental.
Interviews to build empathy
The goal of our interviews was to better understand the emotions at stake in a dressing room. We interviewed:
- 2 males, and 2 females.
- In their 20s and early 30s.
- From three different countries.
We learned that a dressing room can be a particularly anxiety-inducing space:
- Customers have to face their own body image.
- Customers’ own body images may contradict what really fits them.
- They have to make a purchase decision under stress.
We saw that to mitigate these anxieties our interviewees had some common methods:
- Relying on friends and family for emotional support.
- Shopping with someone.
- Connecting to one’s community by texting or through social media while in the dressing room.
Next, we examined two different types of technologies used in dressing rooms: Traditional, without any sophisticated software, and modern tech-driven solutions.
Our goal was to see how these respond to the emotional experiences inside dressing rooms. We saw that:
- Most stores did not use any interactive technology in the dressing room.
- Buttons were used as a low-tech solution in some stores.
- Only a few high-end stores had installed high-tech mirrors in their dressing rooms.
Mistrust was an unfortunate after-effect of some of these high-tech solutions. By trying to improve the image that the customer saw of themselves, they presented a distorted version of reality.
Given how vulnerable the customers may feel inside a dressing room, it is important to strive for honesty and breed trust.
Research Insights Recap
We found dressing rooms to be the most crucial touchpoint in a retail store. Today most dressing room technologies explore logistical aspects of improving the experience. What they leave unattended are issues around:
- Support from social network
We used insights from our research in a three-step ideation process to come up with a product.
- Exploratory Scenarios
- User Persona
- CUI Character
First, we translated our insights into 16 four-sentence long scenarios. These stories helped highlight the different ways to create value with a CUI inside a dressing room.
We created Roberto to narrow the scope of design and situations that the CUI would have to respond to in our prototype. Roberto’s persona was informed by our research and situations explored in the scenarios
Finally, we created the CUI character, keeping in mind Roberto’s low self-esteem and social anxiety. Our CUI was to be helpful and polite, and attentive to Roberto’s demeanor and emotions expressed in his responses.
Based on Roberto’s needs, there were four types of principal tasks that the CUI would have to support:
- Indicate CUI’s turn in conversation
- Create outfits and allow item selection
- Complete a purchase
- End the conversation
We used paper to create visual assets, and turned to Wizard-of-Ozing to iterate on the experience. To make the most of the CUI, we saw that we needed to move away from redesigning just a dressing room and start recreating the entire shopping experience.
We did two rounds of design and testing.
- Bodystorming: We created a mock-up dressing room, and enacted the possible conversations between Roberto and CUI. This way, the script we created kept the flow of a natural conversation.
- Table reads: We read out loud the script for others to catch any awkward moments. For example, the CUI started every answer with “Ok”, making it sound repetitive and unnatural.
- Paper prototypes: To support Wizard of Oz for interactions that needed visuals, we used paper mock-ups. For example, we displayed lists visually to avoid overwhelming Roberto’s short-term memory.
After two rounds of tests and modifications, We learned that, though, our design was good at providing service, it couldn’t engage people emotionally. In a traditional outfit store, voice interactions seemed superfluous, since buttons and screens could have done as much.
We needed a new shopping paradigm: What if buying outfit was more like getting advice from a friend?
So we untethered our design from the conventions of a brick and mortar outfit store. Verbal Outfitters became a store without a sales floor.
Different ideas for visualizing the CUI.
Indicating CUI’s Turn of conversation.
Transitioning from a conversation into a list view
Security and Accessibility
During our design we kept in mind security and accessibility. Because of privacy concerns, we forewent using cameras pointing at customers. For customers with a hearing impairment, we thought of turning to a texting framework.
For our final deliverable we created a dressing room, and used a slideshow to mock up the CUI. As machine learning technology improves to faithfully depict outfits on all types of human bodies, the CUI could turn into an assistant app, and customers could access it anywhere.