The advancements in technology across every sector are incredible, and the newer practices of the retail industry continue to prove that nothing is impossible. From POS systems to eCommerce capabilities, every advancement is improving the consumer shopping experience.
Most recently, H&M’s Mirror Selfie is making waves, blending cloud technology, edge devices, artificial intelligence, and interactive display technologies to engage customers and promote the H&M brand. First introduced in 2018, the Mirror Selfie, or Magic Mirror, is the first of its kind: a voice-driven solution that blurs the distinctions between the physical store and online shopping.
Ombori Grid Helps Introduce the Mirror Selfie
Ombori Grid developed the AI-powered mirror in collaboration with Microsoft, Visual Art, and H&M.
The Mirror Selfie was introduced as a digital solution to help H&M keep up with the growing trend of consumers moving more of their retail shopping to the internet. In fact, the State of Consumer Behavior Report of 2020 revealed that more than 50% of consumers prefer to shop online. Research suggests that consumer trends will continue to change, and consumers are seeking more experimental shopping opportunities to engage in.
Retailers realize that if they hope to draw customers back into physical stores, they will have to provide unique experiences that create incentives. Just churning out products will not be an option for much longer. Therefore, one team of collaborators developed an interactive mirror to meet these new demands. Introducing the Mirror Selfie: an in-store digital sign that does a lot more than display promotional material. It differs from alternative digital signage – when an individual stops and looks at the sign, it awakens and says to the customer:
“Hello, I’m a voice assistant! What would you like to do? Take a Selfie or get Fashion Inspirations?”
The customer can then respond via voice to indicate which action they would like to take. No touch is required.
If the customer chooses “Fashion Inspirations,” the mirror prompts them to pick a clothing category. Once they've made a selection, the Mirror Selfie shows the most relevant highlights from the H&M collection.
The Fashion Inspirations feature is useful, but the real magic begins when the customer selects “Take a Selfie.” Once the customer has made their vocal response, the Mirror Selfie prompts the customer to take a selfie, displaying their likeness on the cover of the H&M magazine. The customer can then download the photo via a QR code, and use it for personal distribution. In addition, once the QR code is scanned, customers have the option to sign up for the H&M newsletter and receive a discount on their next purchase.
Asked about the mirror selfie, Andreas Hassellöf recently shared, “In physical spaces, you have a lot of people, so the focus is on triggering a relationship. The formula is based on creating surprise, satisfaction of experience, and then making a conversion. Big screens are a great way to grab attention, making them ideal catalysts for a relationship, but it’s far more likely that the personal dialogue will stay connected to personal devices.”
Today, this unique technological innovation is installed in the largest H&M store in the world – at the New York City Times Square location.
How the Mirror Selfie Works
The Mirror Selfie is just one more development by the team at Ombori Grid; however, its creation was a bit of a challenge. Partnering with Microsoft and Visual Art made the vision a reality. Each creative partner brought their expertise to design a digital sign that incorporates facial recognition software, an audio interface, multilingual software, and social media integration. Here’s how the Mirror Selfie by Ombori Grid works:
The Mirror Selfie relies on a 4K LG camera to constantly scan the area in front of the sign. When a human face is detected as looking at the sign for more than one second, the interface is activated. The camera is leveraged by WebAssembly and the OpenCV C++ library to create a faster, slicker facial recognition system, which enables it to be a self-activated device.
Getting the customers to understand that the sign was voice activated was a challenge, and the creators incorporated multiple features to engage and educate the user on the fly. First off, the Mirror Selfie includes subtitles, which offers a solution to two challenges: the loud surroundings of Times Square and the fact that many visitors speak languages other than English.
Secondly, the Mirror Selfie displays a microphone icon on the screen to inform customers when it is their turn to speak. These features have drastically increased user engagement.
Over 50 million tourists visit Times Square each year, coming from countries all around the world. To accommodate the diversity of visitors, the Magic Mirror functions in multiple languages, including German, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese.
Social Media Integration
Social media has become the dominant form of communication among several generations. In fact, research has revealed that hundreds of millions of posts are shared daily across various social media platforms. To take advantage of this trend, the Magic Mirror is fully integrated with the world's most popular messaging services, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Line.
The Selfie Mirror Benefits Both the Retailer and the Customer
Ombori Grid and H&M have put their trust in years of reliable research about social media and have recognized the benefits the mirror brings to the shifting retail sector.
Increased Customer Engagement
Offering customers a new way to interact with the store has prompted more engagement and visitation. The mirror turns shopping into a novel experience that better engages the senses, which is in high demand, especially by emerging generations.
Furthermore, H&M has increased customer engagement via their brand’s newsletter. Reports disclose that 10% of the Mirror Selfie users have chosen to join the H&M newsletter after they have taken their selfie. This offers H&M the ability to develop a new customer base to market their products.
Improved Brand Marketing
Since the selfie that customers take in the mirror is branded with the H&M logo, when users share their photo online, H&M receives nearly free advertising. According to research, 86% of all selfie takers scanned the QR to download the photo. If 10% of the pedestrians who entered Times Square each day — which in 2020 would have meant roughly 125,000 people — downloaded a selfie, H&M selfies would experience over 10,000 downloads per day!
As Hassellöf pointed out, “Fortunately, we’re not living in 19th century Germany, and today, a bit of vanity doesn’t lead to an evil witch’s grisly end. Thanks to smartphones, selfies and social media, it can actually be fun and even profitable to share your snaps on Instagram.”
While the selfie is the most obvious invitation for a customer to use their smartphone to further engage with H&M, the Fashion Inspirations option does it as well. If users select the option for fashion advice instead of taking a selfie, H&M still reaps the benefits. The fashion catalog advertises H&M products on the large, interactive screen, but it also offers the user the ability to view the catalog via their smartphone — placing more H&M products right in the palms of the customers’ hands generates further sales.
Increased Staff Efficiencies
Another benefit of the Magic Mirror is its efficiency; the mirror allows customers additional opportunities to have personalized engagements with H&M but without requiring extra staff. The self-service experience pulls in prospective customers, promotes the brand, and offers a fun experience for passers-by, all without hurting the bottom line of the New York Times Square H&M location. Allowing the store to do more with less makes the mirror an easy investment.
The Mirror Selfie Showcases the Future of Retail
The Mirror Selfie has proven to be a fun, effective, and innovative display that showcases the future of retail.
Ross Malpass, Design Lead at Ombori Gird, shared: “I'm really happy with the way this project turned out. It's an exciting step forwards for Ombori as we move away from just providing mobile commerce apps to offering truly omnichannel retail experiences to our clients.”
By giving clients recommendations based on their fashion needs and by prompting the interaction automatically, the mirror removes some of the barriers between customers and choosing to purchase products that will inspire them. And by leveraging the well-loved language of mirror selfies and social media, the Magic Mirror leans into a cultural phenomenon, offering consumers a fresh way to experience marketing and to get to know a familiar brand all over again.
It is an exciting time to be in retail — if the current developments are any indicator of how emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and facial recognition software are transforming the retail shopping experience, then the future holds myriad exciting and diverse options for customers.
Rui is COO of Ombori Grid. Before joining Ombori in 2017, he worked in Beijing, Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Zagreb before ending up in Stockholm. He previously spent nine years in R&D at Ericsson as Operative Product Owner, and is a highly skilled leader in IT and communications with a successful track record of working closely with both stakeholders and management.