The Future of the Store Mannequin: Diverse, Digital and Data-Driven

Outform is reimagining the store mannequin by combining 3D-like hologram tech, dynamic content and real-time data into one robust experience.

Mannequins have played a starring role on the store floor for centuries. But while they still can add elements of creativity and context to visual displays, they are no longer the hero of the brick-and-mortar experience — largely because they do not fully or accurately reflect the needs of today’s in-store consumers. That is why global innovation agency Outform is reimagining the store mannequin by combining 3D-like hologram tech, dynamic content and real-time data into one robust experience.

“In recent years, we’ve seen retailers get creative with how they position and style mannequins, but they are missing a digital injection to make them future-fit and aligned with how today’s tech-savvy consumers are shopping,” said Simon Hathaway, Group Managing Director, EMEA, at Outform in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We think of the evolution from traditional to digital mannequin in a similar vein to the evolution of the vinyl player to music streaming platform. The vinyl player isn’t extinct, but the rapid growth of technology and smartphones have made streaming services ubiquitous and a more convenient option. The digital mannequin is setting out to achieve the same for apparel retail in the coming years.”

The digital mannequin acts as a flexible solution to support different areas of a store, from the store entrance to specific merchandising areas, freestanding displays and even interactive kiosks. At its core, the mannequin is a 3D-like hologram that uses a human model to showcase apparel and accessories. Shoppers scan a QR code next to the display to select not only the model but the items that the model wears. This gives consumers a level of control over the experience, allowing them to customize the display based on their wants and needs.

“It’s a compelling build to the traditional bricks-and-mortar layout that also adds a sense of realism, an area where traditional mannequins often fall short,” Hathaway explained. At a time when many retailers are adding mannequins with more diverse body types to their store floors, digital mannequins enable them to embrace body diversity in a more turnkey and dynamic way.

“Authentic representation has become standard for retailers across the board, and rightfully so,” Hathaway said. “Shoppers deserve to see themselves represented fairly and it is time that stores actually mirror their own customer base. The digital mannequin offers an accessible route for retailers to get this right. Having a diverse range of sizes and ethnicities represented at each mannequin station will mark a significant step toward in-store inclusivity.”

Once shoppers find the model and products they’re looking for, they can purchase them in-store or from their smartphones, or even save outfits for future consideration. A global study conducted by Outform found that 70% of shoppers use their smartphones while in-store, making the integration of QR codes and ecommerce capabilities logical and easy to use.

Photo credit: Outform

Using Data to Drive Conversions and Revenue

While the digital mannequin provides the dynamic content and customization required to boost in-store engagement, its long-term value rests below the surface. 

The displays themselves give brands the power to “cleverly capture shopper data and truly understand individual preferences, habits and purchase decisions,” Hathaway explained. The platform can record in-store impressions such as dwell time, number of sessions, content preferences and more. In addition to the in-store metrics, the platform also can capture online metrics and user information by aggregating data from the consumer-based mobile experience.

Because the digital mannequin can directly link to retailers’ unified commerce platforms, executives get “a real-time view of what shoppers have considered and purchased,” Hathaway said. “They can then retarget across other online channels with tailored content at a later time, using A/B testing to refine the insights further.”

When integrating in-store fixtures like the digital mannequin, which require a significant amount of real estate, brands must consider every aspect of the store, including architecture, interior design and even system integration that will facilitate the sharing of relevant content and data, according to Hathaway. “Then, they need to think about how these factors align with the digital content shoppers get through their smartphones.”

Marketing and visual merchandising teams can collaborate to update the platform with new model and product content. They can even incorporate other operational platforms to include pricing information, stock availability and promotional messaging, to transform their digital mannequins into immersive engagement tools that support the omnichannel business.