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Fitting Rooms Are Poised to Make a Comeback, Research Finds

Although 2020 appeared to put a serious scare into shoppers and their opinions of fitting rooms, or even setting foot in a store in general, a lot has changed in the times since non-essential stores first shuttered across the U.S.

A full 77 percent of American shoppers want to be able to try on clothes again in fitting rooms this year, according to a survey from pay-later giant Klarna conducted in January. This sentiment was far different than what was widely seen in April and May of last year, when the majority of shoppers (65 percent of women and 54 percent of men) said they would not feel comfortable trying on clothes in dressing rooms, according to First Insight.

Retailers are have been experimenting a bit with the fitting room concept in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to satisfy the safety standards of today. H&M, for example, is bringing a “digital fitting room” to select stores in Germany, where customers will be able to have their bodies scanned and use an app to try on matching styles on their own digital avatar. And Men’s Wearhouse leverages contactless measurement technology from 3DLook in two stores, using AI to analyze two photos of a customer to determine clothing size.

“Shoppers miss the physical elements of the in-store experience that can only be offered in a brick-and-mortar setting, like fitting rooms. However, they also have new expectations around what the in-store shopping journey should look like,” David Sykes, head of U.S. at Klarna, said in a statement. “Our latest research shows that safety will remain a top concern for consumers, even as the world reopens, so retailers must adapt their in-store experience to provide shoppers with greater confidence and peace of mind.”

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Though consumers are interested in trying on clothes, just 36 percent of the 41,000 shoppers surveyed said would like to see beauty and wellness product testing return.

Overall, the improvement in outlook toward fitting rooms augurs a better outlook for apparel and footwear in-store. Apparel is consumers’ top category to shop for in-store, cited by 60 percent of the survey respondents, followed by footwear (58 percent), home goods (51 percent) and beauty (47 percent).

The success of these categories also ties heavily into shoppers’ needs for instant gratification, with touching and trying on products remaining the top reason consumers visit physical retail stores (79 percent).

Coming in second and third are areas that can carry across all categories, as shoppers also want to purchase products instantly (67 percent) and browse and discover new products (56 percent).

Klarna’s study says that safety precautions will be a top priority for 74 percent of consumers that shop in-store, even when more of the country opens up.

In particular, shoppers expect safety precautions to become permanent features in brick-and-mortar stores, with 77 percent of shoppers saying they would like hand sanitizing stations to be permanently available in physical retail stores. This remains consistent with last year’s First Insight study, when 80 percent of consumers said providing hand sanitizer in stores would make them feel safe.

However, the same cannot be said for temperature checks. While 69 percent felt safer with the temperature checks in 2020, First Insight said, only 21 percent in 2021 want them to be a lasting safety experience in stores.

Beyond safety measures, deals and discounts remain an important draw for 73 percent of those planning to shop in stores this year, followed by fast and convenient pickup and returns (63 percent), and the availability of customer service (46 percent).

A quick purchase process in the store what younger audiences expect. While 72 percent of millennials and 70 percent of Gen Zers said it was important to purchase items in stores quickly, 60 percent of Gen Xers and baby boomers felt this way, the study said.

On the other hand, only 30 percent of both baby boomers and Gen Xers see quick returns as a vital part of the in-store shopping experience, and younger audiences don’t seem to be that much pushier on the issue. Just 40 percent of Gen Zers emphasize the faster returns, and only 36 percent of millennials think it’s a big deal.

Klarna’s Sykes insists that the top solutions that retailers need to resonate with shoppers include buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) options, contactless payments and QR codes—all features of the brick-and-mortar experience virtually became standard during the pandemic.

Shoppers by and large agree that these touchless features improve the in-store experience, according to the study. When it comes to in-store technologies, contactless payments and BOPIS are overwhelming favorites.

As many as 81 percent of shoppers agree that the availability of BOPIS has improved their shopping experience, with nearly as many (77 percent) hoping that retailers make the omnichannel feature permanent. And 61 percent said that contactless payments has also elevated their experience in physical stores, with slightly more (62 percent) saying they’d liked to keep the technology around.

QR codes haven’t exploded in the way that BOPIS and contactless payments have, but they are adding net benefits for shoppers. While only 48 percent of respondents have used QR codes while shopping, 79 percent of shoppers who have used the technology, either online or in-store, say that it improved their shopping experience.