Let’s Science the S*** out of Interactive Mirrors

As part of Swarm’s series exploring the facts and the myths of retail experiences, here we reflect on the “magic” of digital mirrors. 

At a glance:
  • Gen Z:  Tomorrow’s Customer
  • The Instore Experience:  Gen Z expect more from the store than just a showroom
  • Mirror, Mirror:  Brands who have embraced the interactive mirror
  • The Science Bit:  The psychology behind a reflection
  • Selfie Culture:  The phenomenon of the selfie
  • Authentic & Personal Experiences: How social media has shaped the needs of Gen Z
  • Beyond Vanity Metrics: Why brands should be investing in mirror technologies.

In our recent blog, The Retail Renaissance, we highlighted the power of employing innovative technologies and providing a tactile, personal experience to boost awareness, engagement and customer loyalty with today’s customers. As the traditional bricks and mortar retail experience fights to stay ahead of the e-commerce curve, and the desires and expectations of customers evolve at pace, stores must develop to provide hybrid, digital/physical experiences to meet the needs of customers and deliver value within physical spaces. 

Gen Z: Tomorrow’s Customer

Part of this change is due to Generation Z. Gen Z is today’s emerging customer and will be the leading customer of the future. Encompassing anyone born between 1996 and 2014, Gen Z is becoming one of the most powerful consumer forces, accounting for 40% of all customers in 2020. Their buying power is $44 billion and, given their age range, can expand to $600 billion when we consider the influence they have on their peer and parents’ spending. As the first generation to have lived with seamless digital interactions for their entire lives, they expect personalisation at every point and have more sophisticated preferences from growing up with access to information at their fingertips.

Gen Z value authenticity and humanity in their brand choices and want to see themselves and their values reflected in products and sales environments. 63% of Gen Z customers prefer to see ‘real people’ in ads whereas only 37% of millennials feel this way. This is reflected in Gen Z’s love of social media, which is a key point of their buying journey. 33% reported buying something after seeing it on social media once in the past month, and Gen Zers ranked social media as their favourite way to engage with a brand, followed by email in second, and in-person communication third. 

Over the last decade, there’s been a shift in what customers value and want to spend their money on, now 73% of Gen Z and Millennials prefer spending on experiences over just products, so retailers must put experience at the heart of any buying decision-making process to capture the attention of this valuable new market. 

The instore experience: More than just a showroom.

Many brands have adapted their in-store brand experience in response to the new experience-led customer, creating a ‘lifestyle’ showcase, rather than a product showroom. Within these environments, a popular addition is the interactive mirror, which puts the customer at the heart of the experience, whilst collecting data and creating a digitised experience - ideal for the digitally native customer. Interactive mirrors or smart mirrors, can be equipped with two-way mirrored glass, cameras, and touchscreens, to provide the user with not only their reflection, but information on products, personalised content, and interactive elements to easily share on social media. 

Interactive mirrors are ideal for retail and service environments, from interactive changing rooms and beauty salon mirrors to training and learning experiences. Putting customers at the centre of their shopping experience whilst immersed in your brand world keeps today’s customers engaged, increasing their commitment and loyalty to the brand, and building confidence in making purchase decisions.

Mirror, Mirror…

Top brands like Ralph Lauren and department stores like Bergdorf Goodman have invested in interactive mirror technology to transform the changing room experience with automatic inventory syncing, item requesting, 360-degree reflections, and social media sharing. 
More recently, activewear brand, Lululemon, has shown great confidence in the future of mirror-based customer experiences by investing a whopping $500 million in Mirror - an exercise app with a smart mirror - which brings the exercises to life either at home, in lululemon environments, or in gyms, globally. Early predictions show that Mirror has the potential to reach $2.5 billion in revenue for Lululemon by 2023. 
Even high street brands, such as H&M have invested in mirror-based installations providing the ultimate customer takeaway - the selfie. Results show that 10% of customers who scanned the Selfie QR code subsequently signed up to receive regular H&M promotional emails.

At Swarm, we understand the power of mirror-based experiences having developed our own product, Folio Mirrors. Folio Mirrors transforms the in-store customer experience by providing a bridge between the physical and digital worlds, We have focused on the core opportunities, data capture, purchasing profile and brand amplification, enabling users to record, replay, and compare products and share experiences via social media. Brands equally benefit from Folio Mirrors as analytics from these interactions can be used to refine customer experiences and increase sales. Folio mirrors include a HD screen, a touchscreen, and a HD camera to ensure the best image quality and response interactivity. The simple and intuitive user interface can be customised to fit your brand and records all customer interactions to build your own customer profile using GDPR compliant captured data. Working with sportswear brand, Footlocker, we have deployed customised Folio Mirrors throughout their stores, globally.

The Science Bit…

So why are interactive mirrors the perfect solution for engaging with a new generation of shoppers? Popular culture leads us to believe that the ‘selfie’ was invented by Millenials, and perhaps perfected by Gen Z’s, however, Professor Charisse L'Pree defines the selfie as a digital evolution of self-portraiture, which is actually a centuries-old means of self-discovery, reflection, and self-engagement. The ability to instantly capture and share emotion, mood and experience in a selfie has made it the ultimate tool for brands to connect and resonate with their audiences. 

Selfie Culture

People can’t resist a peak of their own reflection in a mirror; developing self-expression and perspective through reflection is a natural part of cognitive development and function. However, the newly developed selfie culture lies in the addictive nature of gratification that people experience when they receive a positive response to their photograph posted on social media. Psychologists have discovered that youngsters experience a dopamine hit when they receive positive engagement on their social media posts. 

Authentic & Personal Experiences

Gen Z’s preference for authenticity over highly-stylised brands means that retailers have the opportunity to more expressive, using spontaneous and honest content, place the customer’s experience at the heart of the brand experience - and what’s more authentic than allowing the customer to be the star of their own brand experience rather than professional, anonymous models or the unattainable standards set by influencers?

Sharing experiences and opinions on social media is a core communication tool for Gen Z. An individual’s ‘social currency’ or influence may be more valuable than the money in their bank account. With that in mind, social media is an increasingly important stage in the decision making cycle, and any tool that can integrate with social media by providing an opportunity to create content or personalise an experience will add value to the brand experience. Interactive mirrors answer this need by providing a focal point in the store, whilst also allowing for more personalisation than ever before, as customer preferences can be saved and accessed again - either in-store or online - acting as a virtual personal shopping assistant. 

Beyond Vanity Metrics

One of the most valuable reasons why interactive mirrors are so valuable to the retail experience is the vast amounts of data that can be collected from these one-on-one customer interactions. Interactive mirrors are one of the most effective ways to gauge reactions to your products and understand your customer better. The ability to retrieve essential behavioural and contact information from your customer without making them feel the transaction (for example, that clunky exchange when asking for their email address at the till) is one of the most valuable takeaways when using interactive mirrors in your space.  

With the next generation of consumers using physical retail spaces to meet their evolving needs such as providing lifestyle affirming experiences, and with the ever-present competition from online retailers and ecommerce, it’s vital to leverage the retail store to provide an exceptional customer experience that is unique, memorable, and innovative. Interactive mirrors are key to building both physical and digital connections with customers and unlocking Gen Z’s immense buying power.


Photo Credit: Rebecca Minkoff / Facebook