Exploring the Role of Feedback in Shopping

Exploring the Role of Feedback in Shopping

Studying the effect of feedback on the emotions of occasion wear shoppers

The Challenge

Study emotions, needs, desires, and barriers experienced by in-store occasion wear shoppers. Also discuss coping strategies used by shoppers to overcome barriers.

The Outcome

A report of findings from qualitative analysis and design suggestions for smart mirrors, which are used to augment the shopping experience.


This project, which was completed for an Affective Interaction module, studied the emotions of people shopping in-store for occasion wear. Research was conducted with three other students and analysis was completed independently. The study, which spanned three months, focused on females aged 18-25 shopping for graduation and wedding guest outfits.


Phase 1: Auto Ethnography & Auto-Elicitation

Our goal for phase 1 was to familiarize ourselves with the experience of shopping in-store for a special occasion. Each researcher conducted either auto-ethnography (shopped for a formal outfit) or auto-elicitation (reflected on a past experience). We opted for methods that didn't require participants because of recruitment limitations (ethics restrictions, difficultly finding people who shopped in-store for an occasion).

Phase 1 Limitations

  • Hypothetical Situations
    Researchers conducting auto-ethnography shopped for hypothetical occasions, which could mean results were not representative of reality
  • Self-focused Methods
    Auto-elicitation and auto-ethnography, which rely on researchers to report and reflect on their own experiences, could result in biased findings

Phase 2: Ethnography & Interviews

In the second research phase, we studied five female MSc HCI students aged 21-25. Two participants were accompanied by researchers on a shopping trip (ethnography) and interviewed about the experience. Three participants were asked about a shopping experience from the past year (micro-phenomenological interview). We included this second method because we had trouble finding enough participants with upcoming events.

All participants completed a questionnaire asking details of the upcoming/past special event (occasion, location, season, etc.) to to collect information about the context of the shopping experience. In addition, they self-reported emotions felt before and after a shopping experience using the Geneva Wheel.

Image displaying results from questionnaires
Survey findings show that most participant's events were large, formal, and located in the UK. Three participants were shopping for their graduation while two were shopping for weddings.

Phase 2 Limitations

  • Unrepresentative Sample
    Convenience sample consisted of females of approximately the same age that were enrolled in the same MSc program
  • Small Sample Size
    Phase 2 had only five participants
  • Varying Relationships with Participants
    Some interviews were between close friends while others were not


Jordan's Four Pleasures Framework was used to analyze qualitative data from observations and interview, because it’s categories helped categorize factors that contribute to finding the perfect outfit. For example, socio-pleasure covers interactions with friends and family, physio-pleasure covers the tactile sensation of clothing, psycho-pleasure covers emotional issues in shopping, and ideo-pleasure covers the role of a shopper’s self-image. Self-reports using the Geneva Wheel were analyzed by visually combining responses to identify patterns.

Geneva wheel aggregating responses
Geneva wheel responses were aggregated to identify patterns. Dark dots on the wheel indicate emotions reported by several participants.
photo of card sorting activity
Interview transcripts were color coded according to Jordan's Four Pleasures Framework


Affective States, Needs, and Barriers

When starting the shopping process, participants reported feeling fear, stress, confusion, and nervousness. Based on the research, it appears that these emotions occurred because participants were uncertain if they will be able to accomplish their goal (to find the perfect outfit for an upcoming special occasion).

Top Needs & Desires

  • Look good
  • Feel confident
  • Dress appropriately (fit in)
  • Make a specific impression
  • Avoid conveying unwanted traits
  • Stay within budget
  • Find something on time

Common Barriers

  • Stress related to tight deadlines
  • Not knowing where to start
  • Uncertainty of personal judgment

Coping Strategies

Two main strategies were used by participants to overcome emotional barriers: (1) seeking guidance on where to begin looking and (2) soliciting opinions/feedback on specific outfits.

Strategy 1: Guidance Seeking

Participants sought guidance from both people shopping with them and people that were not there. In some cases, guidance came in the form of a friend or family member recommending a specific brand, which narrowed down choices. We found that reduced choice reduced the stress participants were feeling due to a time crunch. In other cases, friends/family/shop assistants provided guidance by choosing specific outfits for the participant to try. This guidance reduced feelings of regret because participants were less likely to feel like there was something better out there.

Strategy 2: Feedback Solicitation

All participants reached out to someone for opinions and feedback. Many of the participants that went shopping with friends/family received instant feedback both when they picked up the clothes from the rack and when they tried on the outfits. Positive reactions were found to reduce fear that they were making the wrong decision.

The Role of Technology

Participants in the study used  mobile phones to solicit feedback from friends and family. Specifically, they used phones to take pictures of potential outfits and share those pictures with people that were not present. The role and efficiency of mobile phones in augmenting the shopping experience was analyzed using the Jordan Framework.

Four Pleasures Analysis


Participants often referred to a fabric's feel to explain why they did or didn't like an outfit. Tactile information of clothing cannot be shared through photos taken on a mobile phone.


Looking at pictures of themselves in an outfit allows shoppers to reflect on how they feel about the outfit. Some participants gained psycho-pleasure from seeing how they looked in photos they took and from positive feedback resulting from sharing those photos. Other participants, however, felt displeasure when seeing themselves in the photos they shared.


Participants often mentioned what values and aspirations they wanted an outfit to represent. If a participant felt that the photo reflected this desired self-image, she may feel ideo-pleasure. Smart phones provide users with many tools to control the way they represent themselves in a photo filters, background, angles, etc.), which can facilitate ideo-pleasure.


Getting feedback on photos shared using their phone often provided socio-pleasure to participants. When participants received positive feedback, they often felt confident enough to buy the item. If participants didn't receive timely feedback, they either relied on the opinions of people that were present or, if shopping alone, put off buying the item.

Design Suggestions

In retail, smart mirrors are often implemented in dressing rooms of high-end stores such as Nieman Marcus, Ralph Lauren, and Rebecca Minkoff. However, fast fashion company Mango recently partnered with Vodafone to develop smart dressing rooms with augmented mirrors. If Mango’s move is a sign of a new trend, then it is important that this technology is able to address the needs of people in different emotional states. This analysis focused on the Memomi mirror used by Nieman Marcus.

Woman looks into digital mirror
The Memomi digital mirror used by Neiman Marcus allows shoppers to compare outfits they've tried on side by side
Mango's Smart Fitting room concept includes a glass mirror with digital overlays

One area of exploration could be how to reduce uncertainty related to choosing the right clothing size. Perhaps in the future, the camera in the mirror could identify a customer's size before any clothing is tried. Reducing uncertainty could help fearful shoppers rely more on their own impulses rather than external inputs. Since reducing uncertainty also increases confidence in a desired outcome, it could also lead to action (buying something).

A second area of exploration could how to improve the request and receipt of feedback. Currently, customers using the Memomi mirror can share videos via email. A more real-time solution, like live video chat, could significantly decrease feedback time. Having feedback available while shopping, even if alone, could reduce uncertainties that lead to fear of making a mistake. Feedback time could also be reduced by allowing customers to link their social media to the mirror and display a list of friends that are currently online (and therefore available to give feedback). Reducing fear could lead to a customer to make a purchase.

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