Would you get a body scan at the mall?
Though the thought of having every wrinkle and lump mapped out by hundreds of radio waves would deter some shoppers, Me-Ality hopes that its body scanning kiosks will actually convince people to buy more. The Canadian company, which operates 37 kiosks in malls around the United States, uses a patented technology to scan shoppers' bodies in order to match their measurements to sizing guides at nearby stores. The idea is that the futuristic booths -- which look more like time machines than fitting rooms -- will help you determine your precise size at various stores before you hit fitting rooms.
One thing is certain -- you can't get a body scan on Amazon.com. As malls struggle to compete with online retailers, they are coming up with increasingly innovative ways to seduce shoppers. One popular concept is to create immersive experiences that can't be replicated online: fountains that shoot fire, DJs spinning tracks, events with complimentary food and champagne.
Me-Ality, which hopes to have 300 kiosks open in malls in two years, is essentially a high-tech version of a very old sales technique: using in-store tailors to take shoppers' measurements. The body scan booth, patented by Me-ality's corporate parent Unique Solutions Ltd., works on fully-clothed shoppers by sending out radio waves from 196 antennas. The waves, which are similar to but weaker than those emitted by cellphones, reflect off the skin's water to measure 200,000 different points on the body. The process takes about 20 seconds.
The fitting, free for shoppers, is paid for through partnerships with brands like Gap, Levi's, J.Crew, Old Navy, American Eagle and Brooks Brothers, which hope to score new customers when the scanner directs shoppers to their stores. The free service also is funded by marketers and researchers looking to buy health data about consumers. Me-Ality collects information about the precise heights, weights and body mass indexes of the shoppers who use it, from which it can also determine health risk factors, according to the Unique Solutions website.
Of course, not everyone wants a sharp jolt of Me-Ality. For those wishful shoppers who would rather buy jeans a smidgen too small, a body scanning booth might be just enough to send them back home to browse in the privacy of their PCs.