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AUGUST 2019

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IMPROVING RETAIL EXPERIENCE:
WAITING FOR TRIAL ROOM

BACKGROUND

This project was conducted as part of a two week workshop to learn how to convert our ideas into prototypes. Each team had a random mix of three members with different backgrounds and we had to identify a context, define the problem, come up with ideas and take them forward to prototypes. But as all three of us were interested in new technologies, we decided to keep 'Interactive Mirrors' as a starting point and identify contexts related to it. After a day of discussion and debate, our focus was shifted over to trial rooms  and how to use interactive mirrors in retail market which could save a lot of time for the customers and would also help the store management to create a better experience for the consumers. But the path forward was not straightforward as we expected it to be.

TEAM MEMBERS

Geethu Davis

Nachiket Palkar

Simran Mehta

MENTORS

Vineeta Rath

WORKSHOP

Ideas to Prototypes

PROJECT BRIEF

How to reduce time spent for trials when shopping for clothing?

PROCESS FLOW

We decided to keep our biases aside and look at our context (trial rooms) in minute details. As per the advice from our mentor, we decided to go to various shopping malls and observe the context. Each of us became 'a fly on the wall'. After sufficient observation, we understood that the long queues only occurred during sales or weekends, and that there could be other creative solutions to this problem which did not revolve around the mirror alone.

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This was a turning point in our project. By keeping the design intent the same (how to reduce the time spent for trials during shopping), we came up with a detailed list of problems associated with trial rooms and then brainstormed on possible ideas for all the problems.

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IDEAS TO PROTOTYPE

Once we had all our ideas in front of us, we started rating them based on parameters like cost of implementation, feasibility, ease of installation, customer satisfaction and time efficiency. Based on this rating and the weightage of the problems, we selected the most rated solutions from them. The idea was to come up with a simple display which could notify customers about real-time trial room status (whether occupied or vacant) without actually entering the trial room. We also decided to issue some digital token, which could be collected from the store management near the trial rooms during peak rush hours that could keep the customers informed of their real time status in the queue. One other solution that received most rating was to install a wall mounted foldable storage solution in the trial rooms to bring more space for keeping personal belongings and clothes. Some other ideas that came up were redesigning hangers to avoid the hassle of removing clothes from them and usage of portable-foldable cubicles for trialing but these were discarded due to time constraints.

The real-time status of the trial rooms could be detected using PIR sensors, which are already existing in some infrastructures for use as motion detectors for turning on the lights. A  timer could also be added to this circuit so that even if someone steps out of the trial room for a minute or so for assistance, the status of the trail room would not change to ‘vacant’ misleadingly. During our research, we also identified that when shopping alone, people find it cumbersome to get a change in size or colour of the item that they have already tried on. To make this task easy, we decided to include a help button within each trial room which could fetch personal assistance from the staff when needed. During peak hours, when all the trial rooms are occupied for an extended period of  time, a snap band can be collected from the staff which will let you know your real  time status in the queue. The RFID tag associated with it will ensure that no one leaves the store with it. When your position in the queue is ‘one’, the device will buzz and you could walk into the trial room without waiting in the queue within a specific time window, after which your position in queue would be pushed down to one below. We chose this over a service which could notify you via SMS as this did not involve any personalisation or unwanted invasion of customer privacy.

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Scenario 1: Moderate Rush

During moderate rush hours, customers need not go into the trial room every time to check if there is a vacant one available. They can check the status while shopping itself and can walk into the trial room when there are vacant rooms available.

Scenario 2: Peak Rush
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If the display is showing that all the trial rooms are occupied, you can collect a snap band from the counter which will let you know your real-time position in the queue. You can continue shopping and it will buzz when it is your turn. You can walk in directly without having to stand in a queue.

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The final prototype included a miniature model of a trial room space and an LED display associated with it. The execution of the project started with assembling the sunboards into the design of a trial room with trial cabins and then laying the wires on the door to the LED strip and powering it using a 9V battery. We did multiple iterations of the circuit - starting from one using relay, to magnetic reed switch and even PIR sensors, but in the end we decided to keep the circuit as simple as possible. We build a sample working model consisting of single trial room where the door of the trial room acts as a mechanical switch, which can turn on or off based on whether the door is open or closed and then decided to build upon the layout that we planned. We used 3 different colored led strips to depict assistance, vacancy , occupancy.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

•Again, do not fall in love with an idea. Criticise and let go.

•Think hard, Think wild.

•No ideas are perfect.

•It is okay to make mistakes, take that leap of faith.

•Always welcome feedbacks.

•Critically analyse the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and make the best out of it.

•Empathise with various kinds of users.

•Be fearless to experiment.

•Working within constraints can be fun too.

•Visual thinking is an art.

•Last but not the least, always be willing to fail.

FEEDBACK FROM MENTORS

From Team Eka's initial product-centric approach of looking for creative applications for smart/interactive mirrors in a household context, to their refined design intent of enhancing the customer experience in trial rooms, they were completely involved in the highly dynamic and iterative process of design ideation - leveraging various thinking methods, going to the actual field to observe behaviour and understand constraints, and learning a lot through a genuine engagement with the problem space. They were courageous enough to let go of the technology when the ‘real problems’ surfaced through observations from actual visits to the context, and they ideated for new concepts and evaluated them again. Once they had their goal in place, they allowed their concept to evolve through rounds of building and testing of their prototypes. Throughout the journey, the team remained open to the process, progressing organically, and worked in good, healthy tandem with each other. They were truly reflective, iterative, and learned by doing. Their system was conveyed through a functional electronic prototype and a display prototype during the exhibition. They are really encouraged to take the idea forward, given its simplicity and potential effectivity for their chosen context, by taking their proposal back to the field and testing it with the intended users and iterating based on gaps and opportunities. Their overall process, documentation, and above all the team synergy is very much appreciated. Well done team! 

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