We keep bumping into all kinds of interesting display technologies, both interactive and non-interactive and one very promising piece of technology is the newly hyped “smart mirror” – I’ve yet to play with smart mirrors in an actual store and I bet you haven’t either.

I have to start out with a clarification though, because it seems that these days anything that can display the weather or notifications is called “smart”. So, we’re not talking about these cute “smart / magic” mirrors built with simple components like…a mirror and a Raspberri Pi. We’re talking about the “smarter”, interactive mirrors that can actually simulate how various outfits / products look on you, streamline the whole buying process, providing personalized recommendations based on your personal data or input etc.

A video’s worth at least 2.000 words, so if you want to get a good understanding of what smart mirrors are capable of right now, here’s a demo of Panasonic’s solution for example:

Smart mirrors received quite a bit of attention in 2015, the year that saw quite a few retailers testing the technology and trying to define their own experiences. Now, it seems that the major players are starting to get serious about this potential new market. Panasonic stirred up interest (again) at CES 2016 with their smart mirrors and Samsung pushed forward with their Mirror / Transparent OLED Display, a product that initially debuted in Hong Kong’s jewelry stores. Of course, Panasonic & Samsung’s bet is to push this tech into the mainstream, but it will take a while for consumers to make room in their life for yet another “smart” accessory.

Samsung Transparent Display / Mirror

Our money’s on Samsung’s Transparent Displays, since it has a wider range of features and applicability

We’re also seeing a flurry of startups buzzing around this niche and most of them focus on revamping the dressing room experience, which…we have to admit…hasn’t changed all that much since, well, the beginning of dressing rooms. We’ll cover them in future articles, as some have quite an interesting value proposition.

Alright. What can they do for my store?

Let’s list a few of their features and benefits, in order of (perceived) utility:

  1. They can act as a personalized recommendation platform (as long as you have the software and the approapriate data to provide meaningful recommendations, of course).
  2. They can allow shoppers to “try out” many more outfits and play with more combinations and colors instead of taking lots of items to a dressing room.
  3. They can display useful information, ranging from price and size availability to fabrics used and whatever-else-you-decide-is-relevant.
  4. They can add a social layer. I’m tired of seeing the Twitter button displayed everywhere, but for some shoppers – social is life.
  5. They can even allow / integrate payment solutions (one step closer to automated brick-and-mortar stores).
  6. They can considerably reduce strain on your store assistants in busy periods.

Of course, the list goes on, but these are the most meaningful arguments for investing in this technology.

What stores can benefit the most from them?

Well, the main targets for smart / interactive mirrors seem to be apparel, footwear, eye-wear and jewelry stores for now, but as their functionality is expanded they might find various uses in many other stores.

Samsung’s Transparent Display doubles as a display / signage solution as well, so it may see increased adoption.

What’s the point of interactive mirrors?

The first solutions on the market looked more like marketing gimmicks rather than innovative solutions, but as the technology improved, we’re seeing more and more . In a few years, interactive mirrors are going to be a matter of “keeping up with the competition” and providing the best possible customer experience.

In the end, an interactive mirror is just one part of your store’s customer experience and if implemented properly, it can impact your bottom line. But it’s not a magic bullet. No way.

Also, any product that reduces retailers’ reliance on store assistants is worth taking a look at. There are some stats floating around that tell us that many shoppers abandon a purchase simply because they weren’t helped in time by a store assistant and if your store sees a lot of traffic, a complete solution that would reduce abandonment seems like a pretty good investment.

Where can I get an interactive mirror?

Unfortunately, don’t expect this to be an easy to purchase solution that you can just buy, set and forget in your store. All the solutions available on the market now require considerate customization and the software integration part is what’s going to be a huge barrier to adoption for most retailers. Today’s interactive mirrors are far away from what we would consider plug-and-play.

But if it’s a must-have for your store, your best bet now would be to just contact Samsung or get in touch with one of the smaller players that offer customized solutions. We’ll publish a list here soon, after we’ve made sure we don’t end up recommending vaporware solutions.

Of course, the whole concept is interesting and at first thought it may unlock a whole range of customer interactions, but…with new technology, we’ve seen it time and time again: it’s either too hard / expensive to implement or it doesn’t actually provide enough value to the consumer without requiring them to jump through hoops. I look forward to the day when this tech works flawlessly with all kinds of products, from apparel to eyewear, but I still feel there are many hurdles to overcome until this becomes a mainstream thing.

Anyway, we’re going to dig deeper into this topic and we’ll be back with a rundown of companies and solutions to help you choose if and how you’re going to implement this particular type of technology in your store. Who knows, it might just pay off simply because of its novelty and the word of mouth it generates.

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