Dillard’s – Virtual Clothes Fitting with Augmented Reality
Boundaries: Dillard’s is becoming less relevant. Its cavernous stores crammed full of merchandise are hard to shop. In many locations, it has far too much space. And its brand image tends towards fusty rather than modern. These are just some of the factors that put it on the wrong side of history.
Structure: Operates at a pace that is slightly slower than evolutionary, making changes only when necessary and doing very little to propel the business forward.
Capital: A strong balance sheet with relatively little debt is helpful.
Advantage: In fairness to Dillard’s, it is neither a sloppy nor a shabby retailer; if anything, it is well disciplined and has good operating standards. Stores are neat, the assortment is reasonable, and customer service is strong. This attention to detail, a trait which so many other retailers lack, is one of the reasons it has managed to survive for so long.
Virtual Clothes Fitting w/ Augmented Reality
Technology: Virtual Clothes Fitting allows people to see clothes on themselves and not even have to really try them on! This could be through an in-store life-size screen or in an online capacity, it could be on your phone screen. The user can instantly scroll through different clothing garments and accurately see how the clothes would look on their body without going into a fitting room and spending all day trying on clothes. Other companies are currently using similar technology to provide custom-tailored clothes with exact measurements that come straight through your smart phone.
How it might be used: I believe Dillard’s needs to use this technology in-store and online. Dillard’s needs to enhance their in-store experience with large dressing screens. Customers can walk in and see themselves in a screen with different garments on that are in the store. This enhances customer experience with the nice large screens and eliminates the hassle of trying everything on. Dillard’s also needs to implement this technology online. With Dillard’s falling behind in the online shopping war era, this is the perfect time for them to do an online face-lift. They can have customers measure themselves using smartphones and once they have measurements, scroll through images of themselves wearing garments offered for sale online. This is extremely helpful to consumers to see how a particular garment fits on different body types.
It’s Limits: The limits of the technology rely on the accuracy of the measuring mechanisms used in the technology. The measurements must be accurate for consumers to be able to see themselves in the clothes without trying them on. Also, Dillard’s will need its clothing manufacturers to provide accurate measurements of their clothes so that Dillard’s can have this data imported into the virtual clothing system. Once they have the measurements of the clothes and the consumers, the technology should be able to accurately portray the clothes onto their body. This relationship that Dillard’s will have to build with its vendors to provide measurements will be an important limit of the technology. Without that information, Dillard’s will have to hire labor to do this in house or those products wouldn’t be in the virtual listing of clothes available to the consumer to “try on.”
How Technology Will Impact Boundaries and External Environment
Virtual Clothes Fitting will bring some flare and a new feel to the current Dillard’s stores which are crammed full of merchandise with too much floor space. Dillard’s needs to use more floor space for the large in person virtual mirrors instead of stacked up merchandise. Less floor space means opportunities to cut costs. Dillard’s currently has huge department stores for which they pay huge lease fees for. With this technology, consumers don’t need all the garments our for display. Just a few garments so you can get the feel and an in person look at the product, but all trying on and fitting will be done with the virtual mirror. Once the consumer decides they like the product, store employees will bring on the merchandise in the correct size, so the consumer can check out or physically try on if they insist, of course.
This technology should go over well with Dillard’s management team. They are a family owned company and like to keep their clothes fresh and dressy. This technology will go right a long with their attention to detail which is custom to the Dillard’s experience. Customer’s are looking for something new, which we can see by looking at the recent swing towards online shopping as opposed to brick and mortar stores. Customer’s will enjoy and adopt the technology quickly. Shareholders are also looking for Dillard’s to make a move. They are falling behind in market share as online retailers become more prevalent.
This technology could be the next big move that Dillard’s needs. The technology provides the dying company a way to differentiate itself from competitors. To do so, Dillard’s will need to implement quickly. It will be helpful for them to be the first ones utilizing the technology in the apparel retail market. Consumers will adopt the connection between Dillard’s and this awesome new technology to where the two are associated with each other in the minds of consumers. Oher retailers and competitors are guaranteed to follow, so we need to be the first to the market with the technology to gain competitive advantage over the followers.
How Technology Will Affect Structure
The most obvious structure changes while implementing Virtual Clothes fitting in Dillard’s stores will be the conversion between Floor Sales-People to third-party IT gurus that will work on your life-size screens and run the support for your online versions. This may cause issues with past culture for Dillard’s. Dillard’s has a strong history of successful sales people. They can earn high commissions based on their sales performance. We will have to work to fade away from these behaviors, however there are opportunities for sales people still on the floor, they will just have to adapt their selling strategies to accompany the technological advancements in the virtual clothes fitting benefits to the customers.
The relationship with the third-party vendor will be vital for success while implementing the new technology. If the vendors are willing to be on-site during implementation. We will need them to help train personnel on how to operate the equipment as well as maintain the maintenance on the technology or package that Dillard’s decides to purchase. If this relationship can prove to be a positive one, Dillard’s and their sales people can reap the benefits of the virtual clothes fitting technology. As mentioned before, we will need all of our merchandise vendors to also work closely in providing proper measurements of each item, in each size. Once this is accomplished, Dillard’s can properly utilize the benefits provided.
How Technology Will Affect Capital
This technology will require extensive capital to initially implement. Dillard’s will have to partner with one of the companies experimenting with the technology and fully develop their concepts together. I can only imagine that the companies playing with virtual clothes fitting, are expensive to use. The mirror as partially-reflective and partially-transmissive, and uses a mix of displays, cameras, and projectors to create the blended image. The imagined mirror works by scanning the environment to generate a virtual model, and then identifies the face and eyes of the user to determine which objects are to be a reflection. Once this process is completed, the virtual clothes and scene are transmitted through the mirror to create the blended-reality result.
Not only will the in-store implementation be expensive, but the online portion will be expensive. This Virtual Clothes Fitting App captures a user’s measurements in mere seconds and the measurement data is then translated across multiple product lines and used to create custom-fitting garments. This Virtual Fitting App is customization accordingly for men and women of any height, weight, or body type. The technology used is quite candid. Once the device determines its distance and angle relative to the subject is helpful as measurements are relatively easy to obtain. Leveraging a complex learning algorithm, the device’s camera feed translates imagery into measurements. After that, the app then makes note of several key measurements, which are applied to a garment pattern.
I believe Dillard’s, with their strong balance sheet, can afford to take on the debt and use the capital necessary to be the first retailer in the clothing industry to implement the technology. If they can be the first company in the consumer’s eyes to fully adopt the technology, the competitive advantage would be huge and could be a major turning point in the company’s recently declining profits.
How Technology Will Affect People
Virtual Clothes Fitting will not have a major effect on the employment structure for the organization. This technology provider will maintain its devices internally so there’s no weight to do anything past simple tests for Dillard’s employees. The provider will also maintain the online portion of the technology, making sure it’s measuring customers correctly and portraying different clothing items on to that customer correctly. If anything, revenue and transaction volume will increase, and Dillard’s will need to hire more employees on to checkout and assist buying customers both on site and at its online warehouses. Employees will have to be trained to use the technology. We hope for a simple user interface, so that the Dillard’s employees will effectively be able to assist the customer in utilizing and enjoying the new technology. I believe if management can sell the employees on the benefits of Virtual Clothes Fitting and how it can boost sells, the employees will be inclined to utilize the new technology. Most Dillard’s store workers are paid using some level of commission percentages based on sales. So, more sales using the new technology will mean more cash in their pockets.
How Technology Will Affect Work
Virtual Clothes Fitting will only slightly alter the process that Dillard’s sales staff already performs. Currently, the sales staff will look through piles of clothes to help the customer find the correct size then the customer will go off to the fitting rooms. With the new technology fully implemented, the sales staff will only need to sit at the virtual mirror and wait for the customer to pick something out. Then, based on measurements already stored in the data system, the sales staff will know exactly which piece of clothing in the correct size to go grab from the back for the customer. With the customer not having to actually try things on to see what they like, the sales staff can be with the customer through the whole process.
Impact on Infrastructure
Virtual Clothes Fitting will require huge changes to the current infrastructure of Dillard’s. Dillard’s currently has 292 stores (dillards.com) This means it will be expensive to get these virtual mirrors into all those stores. More importantly, there will be a significant need for data space. Dillard’s will need to store all the detail for the different clothing items in a database somewhere. This will require major amounts of additional storage. One option for them would be to use cloud storage.
Dillard’s will need a couple extra offices for the database managers for this program but other than that, they shouldn’t need any extra facility space to implement the program. These database managers will also be responsible for managing the online portion of this technology venture. Using the additional data storage, they will have all the items of clothing uploaded to the online version of the mirror so that customers can see accurate depictions of themselves wearing the clothes on their bodies with exact measurements which will be input by the database managers.
Impact on Advantage
Looking ahead, the question is not whether Dillard’s can improve performance, but whether the external environment will help or hinder the company. Fortunately, the near-term picture looks reasonable. Consumer confidence remains high, tax cuts and bonus payments are inflating disposable income, and consumer spending is holding up. Moreover, next quarter, Dillard’s will be up against a very soft set of prior year numbers. The longer-term picture is not quite so rosy. Dillard’s is still losing customers, and as economic conditions tighten towards the end of the year, it will likely lose more. It will also find spending from those shoppers it still has falls back. The old weaknesses and problems at Dillard’s will resurface.
As you can see, Dillard’s needs to gain some sort of competitive advantage pronto. Virtual clothes fitting will do just this. If they can be the first to the market with this technology, it will be a huge competitive advantage. Companies will follow, but if Dillard’s can be the company that consumers adopt as the premier clothing retailer to go to when wanting to go shopping. Consumers will be willing to pay premium prices while utilizing this technology and Dillard’s can bring itself back into the picture of major retailers once again.