Old Navy's Mission Bay Lab Store is a laboratory environment within their San Francisco Headquarters for the development and testing of emerging technologies in retail innovation. In 2016, the team tapped Parade to help design a number of high-fidelity prototype experiences in the lab—an interactive media wall, a connected customer service experience for fitting rooms, and a shopping kiosk deployed throughout the store.

Prototype 1: Digital Denim Wall

Product education through large-scale interactivity

Jeans are an extremely personal article of clothing—a great pair fits as if it were made just for you. For a long time, the only way to achieve this perfect fit was to wear them in, often over the course of months or years. But today, in an effort to make a new pair fit like an old favorite, most clothing retailers now sell denim in an increasingly complex variety of fits and fabric blends. With brand-specific styles and new trends emerging each year, it’s increasingly difficult for customers to know where to start, particularly when shopping for the first time.

Old Navy had already been doing successful product education on their ecommerce site, but the team was curious to see if this education gap could also be overcome in-store. The notion was to utilize a large-scale video panel, embedded into the denim wall, that would serve two purposes: first, to captivate and engage visitors into exploring the denim selection with full-motion video and, second, to provide the type of interactive product education being employed on the web site.

Prototyping

We couldn't move the physical display to our studio, so our team produced paper prototypes at 1:1 scale to ensure that interactions were designed for physical accessibility by any user.

Interacting with a large format display is very different than using a phone or tablet, so we knew we had to start by prototyping the physical part of the experience—the size and position of interface elements, how high the screen should be mounted from the floor, etc. Unfortunately, Old Navy only had one display in the lab, and it wasn’t easy to move. Since we couldn’t work with the unit directly in our studio, we started our process by constructing a 1:1 paper replica of the display. This let us dial in the right scale and positioning for interface elements, both up-close and at a distance. It also led to some important realizations—like the need to place close boxes below overlays to ensure they could be reached by customers in wheelchairs

Deployment

The prototype interactive denim wall went live in the Old Navy lab store in 2016. The next step is a robust pilot, destined for stores in major markets.

The first pilot deployment of this experience went live at the lab store in late 2016, and has gained a lot of positive feedback and attention. Based on early success, the team at Old Navy is looking to continue the program next year with a more robust production build, targeted for deployment in a few major market stores—and we’re excited to help them.

Prototype 2: Connected Fitting Room

Putting control into the hands of the shopper

Fitting rooms are a critical touchpoint in the clothing stores, and a major component of this experience is staff assistance. It’s a delicate balance to get right—on one hand, too much attention from associates can cause customers to feel uncomfortable or overly sold-to; too little, and customers my feel underserved, walking out without trying another size. 

The team at Old Navy’s retail lab has been particularly interested in how technology could solve this problem. The clear first step in this exploration was providing guests with a simple call button, putting control of the experience into the customer’s hands and allowing them to personalize the amount of attention they received.

Fitting Rooms

Mirrors in the fitting rooms were equipped with embedded touch-screen tablets, running our custom application to request associate assistance or adjust the lighting.

Deploying a call button may seem obvious, but making it useful was deceptively complicated. In our initial user research, several test subjects didn’t even notice the button, even though it filled the majority of a touch-screen tablet in the wall. Of those who did see it, many were confused as to what would happen if they pressed the button, and therefore apprehensive to try.

We solved these challenges by employing super-simple interaction design and straightforward language, making both CTAs and feedback as clear as possible. We also tied the system into the store associate app so that we could display the name and photo of the specific associate that was responding to the call. This way, customers would have confidence that a real person was on their way to help.

Design Simplicity

User testing with early prototypes showed shoppers misunderstood or were apprehensive to use the touch screens. Simplified interaction design and straightforward messaging made the experience more approachable.

Beyond the call button, the Old Navy team also wanted to use the touch display to improve the fitting room experience by letting customers change the color temperature of the LED lighting. In our ongoing effort to maximize simplicity for customers in an unfamiliar space, we ultimately arrived at an elegant solution—a single slider, which responded to a touch or drag anywhere on the screen.

These two features are a first step into fitting room innovation, but they’re just the beginning. Our team has already been working with Old Navy to design conceptual solutions for near-future technologies—like utilizing RFID sensors and store inventory data to detect the items customers bring in, and allowing them to quickly and easily request alternate sizes or styles all without leaving the fitting room.

Prototype 3: Shopping Kiosks

Making a small footprint work like a big store

One of the major experiments underway at the Old Navy retail lab is how to operate a store with a relatively small footprint, a concept targeted at dense urban areas where real estate is highly expensive. To accomplish this, the bulk of the stock at the lab store is based around a theme that changes each month. This allows the brand to showcase seasonal, on-trend items in a highly curated way, but it also has the drawback of limiting the store’s inventory to only a subset of the current Old Navy line.

To address this, the team wanted to expand shopping beyond the walls of the store by utilizing touch-screen kiosks throughout the store. An easy solution would have been to use the existing and successful Old Navy ecommerce site, but it hadn’t been designed with in-store use or touch screens in mind. The team wanted to make sure the digital shopping component fit seamlessly with the rest of the store experience, and to do that would require a purpose-built application.

Shopping Kiosks

Purpose-designed shopping kiosks helped to expand the small merchandising footprint of the store beyond its physical walls.

Like the fitting room experience, our initial usability testing showed that many customers were apprehensive of the kiosks, unsure if they were intended for customer use. So we designed the shopping app to, by default, display eye-catching photography with simple, encouraging messaging—like “Browse more Old Navy looks here: Shop Now”.  A single tap anywhere on the screen would reveal an ability to shop in two ways: by look—a photography driven experience reflecting the store’s current themes—or through simple division navigation, surfacing both a curated accompaniment to the store’s theme, but also access to the Old Navy product line.

In addition to product discovery, we also wanted to extend the opportunity for purchase beyond the store walls. So we designed functionality to allow users to share their shopping cart via email or text message—to themselves, or as a gift list to someone else.

In Summary

Agile innovation at a full-store scale

Partnering with the team at Old Navy to help prototype and test these three retail innovation experiences has been a lot of fun. Not only has it been rewarding to pilot designs in a purpose-built physical space, but collaborating with a client partner that fully embraces an agile, test-and-learn design philosophy has been just as satisfying. The entire team is looking forward to next year’s new initiatives—both in the lab, and in working to bring these concepts closer to reality for everyday Old Navy shoppers.

See More Work:

Benefit Brow Collection

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