Mirror displays could be a game changer in the world of fashion and apparel retailing. Blending the physical and digital worlds, these interactive displays bring to life the digital aisle and enable an in-store experience never before possible. As fashion e-tailer Rent the Runway expands its physical presence with a new, technologically enhanced flagship store, it’s paving the way for the future of the apparel industry.

Founded in 2009, Rent the Runway is an e-commerce company that gives women access to designer fashion through apparel and accessory rentals. Customers have access to over 200,000 pieces from over 400 designers in a “dream closet.” For special occasion wear, customers pick the dress they love on the Rent the Runway site or app. It will then be shipped to them in two sizes to ensure the perfect fit, and they return it in pre-paid postage. Rent the Runway’s subscription service, Unlimited, allows users to rent everyday apparel and accessories to wear for work or on weekends. Customers select three items and keep them for as long as they want. When one, two, or all three items are sent back, customers select the same number for their next shipment. Rent the Runway now has over 6 million members and has been expanding its physical footprint with seven retail stores in six cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas.

Revolutionizing Retail With Interactive Displays

Rent the Runway’s 4,000-square-foot store in New York City’s Flatiron district is pioneering smart store technologies to bring their digital assets to the physical space. Interactive mirror endcap displays use four 32-inch Samsung monitors to allow users to view various clothing styles and to mix and match with thousands of options not available in the store. These interactive mirror displays, which were also used at New York Fashion Week, feature LCD screen layers embedded in the mirror glass, allowing the customers to see themselves with multiple makeup looks and dress options. The interface enables customers to quickly try out dozens of options in minutes without having to change clothes or leave the dressing room.

Maureen Sullivan, COO of Rent the Runway, told Chain Store Age that the experience not only provides better and more personalized service, but makes in-store visits more efficient and faster for customers. “Ninety percent of our customers work, and the most important thing to them is their time. Everything has to be efficient as possible,” says Sullivan.

The in-store digital screens use movement, patterns and animations with photography on life-sized screens at the end of racks to represent the infinite styles, essentially providing shoppers access to a “closet in the clouds.” Sullivan says it eliminates the need for traditional clothing displays, such as mannequins and racks, and it gives the customer the experience of walking into their own virtual closet that’s continually updated with the latest styles and trends.

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Other Digital Technologies to Enhance the Customer Experience

Rent the Runway subscribers can also book fitting rooms, schedule a private VIP appointment with a stylist, quickly look through options and solve last-minute fashion needs. The new store also features a service counter where customers can drop off their rentals or interact with tablet-equipped associates. Rent the Runway is also improving the in-store experience with an upgraded app that offers a real-time view of the store’s inventory and allows shoppers to pre-select the dresses they want to try on when they arrive at the store.

In addition, Rent the Runway is using the digital experience to reach outside the store. Its 75-inch digital display wall is visible from the street and showcases apparel with editorial content and powerful messaging to passersby. Sullivan said the digital displays feature live feeds that pull directly from the website. “It isn’t technology for technology’s sake, but technology that really enhances the customer experience,” she says.

In an industry like fashion, the ability to use such digital technologies to bring the “endless aisle” to the physical world is powerful. When discussing the use of interactive mirrors at New York Fashion Week, Ron Gazzola, vice president of commercial display and memory marketing at Samsung Business, said Samsung’s new ML55E mirror display offers a new element of excitement in retail and can transform the retail industry “from a static to dynamic environment.”

Rent the Runway is set to announce new locations in 2017 and recently entered into a partnership with Neiman Marcus to open small stores inside some of their locations. In December, the company announced it raised an additional $60 million in funding from Fidelity Investments and is poised for rapid growth, signifying that this is only the beginning of retail’s move into the digital age.

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Craig Guillot

Craig Guillot is a business writer who specializes in tech and the retail industry. His work has appeared in STORES Magazine (National Retail Federation), Chief Executive, CNBC.com and Wall Street Journal.

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