Retail Shopping Experience Design

The Adaptive path blog has a good entry today on the retail dressing room experience. My reaction falls into two basic parts: "good point" and "how to improve".

Part one: So, so true. The bigger the retailer, the smaller the percentage of floor space needed to devote to dressing rooms, and yet the overall resource expenditure on them appears to match the floor space. Poor lighting is the number one problem, and too-small dressing rooms the second (the nicer stores will often have nice large rooms, big enough for two people to sit, change, and view clothes. Julia's point that a free stylist improves the experience is a great idea for a value-adding service.

Part two: I'll go a step further, not on services but on a 'passive' element of experience design via architecture. Ever notice how dressing rooms are almost intentionally hidden, and/or placed in the furthest back corner of a store (again, the larger the store the greater the sin here)? Current retail space design makes it clear that placement of dressing rooms is an afterthought; something to tack on after the 'real' work of designing the floor space. A savvy retailer could make the dressing room a central focus of the store and a positive social experience. Make the dressing room central to the store rather than tangential--literally central, as an island in the middle of the floor. You might even raise it a step or two to visually highlight its importance. Tap into those anthropological associations to altars and stages. Make the dressing room the place to be and be seen, rather than browsing racks on the floor.

Of course this model isn't appropriate for every retailer, but might work wonders in younger, hipper markets. Physical centrality and elevation have generally positive psychological qualities, and creating the unspoken vibe that the dressing room is where the real shopping is done would almost certainly boost sales. Sales, and customer satisfaction with the shopping experience.