I tried on my first dress when Cisco showed us their StyleMe virtual mirror at prototype stage. The StyleMe experience had been conceptualised by Cisco and implemented by developers. The novelty (and accuracy) of mapping garments onto my virtual reflection was really quite impressive. The interaction between myself and the mirror was really quite frustrating. It was awkward, like I was actually posing to my director wearing a gold Kaliko satin jewelled dress.
A few months down the line and John Lewis have now launched the Style Me virtual mirror in its Oxford Street store. Their strategy to create ‘multi-channel shoppers’, who engage in-store and online, is not a new one, however the addition of the virtual mirror as part of this strategy certainly bring it to life more than other attempts. The virtual mirror provides a tangible crossover between the shop and the web; engaging people on a new digital platform, while keeping them cosy and warm inside the familiar surroundings of the John Lewis store. Even if the mirror is a virtual, digital experience, it’s happening in a real space where people can connect with one another, in person and remotely. This bridge gives John Lewis a real chance to transform their customers, who will become endlessly engaged and hopelessly loyal.
Getting buy-in from John Lewis customers will be essential in establishing StyleMe as an effective and gratifying shopping platform. Cisco asked us to define an improved user experience (UX) and, more recently, to apply the John Lewis visual identity, ready for its launch. The John Lewis visual identity is, of course, consistent across its stores and website; our role was to make sure Style Me – the bridge between the two – played its part in creating a seamless experience that sat in the mystical (and sparsely occupied) space between on and offline. We tested and improved customer journeys, behaviours, and interactions to surface the most beneficial aspects available; the speed of online shopping, with the authenticity of the clothes rack.
StyleMe demonstrates the value of innovation in the retail space, and highlights the role user-centred design is ready to play as the black hole between on and offline is made smaller and new technologies lead the way in creating an extended brand experience. It is more than the interface and how we chose to colour it in, UX design defines behaviour and unlocks enjoyment. As new technologies fill the space between the shop floor and the server room, it is the responsibility of experience designers to make sure they are fit for those who occupy the void: the user.
The question is: where do these users see themselves in 10 years’ time? Probably in a mirror.