© Photo : Retail Design Expo | London 2015
INTERACTIVE RETAIL DESIGN – A Shopsumer’s outlook on retail design after a stroll over the Retail Business Technology & Retail Design Expo in London in March 2015
London surely remains the cradle of innovative retail marketing, not only for Europe, but probably still at global level. A wide array of the finest retail designers are based here and specialist consultancies, although working globally, are most likely to have their headquarters in the City. The Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) & Retail Design Expo, which took place on the 10th and 11th of March this year, is therefore an inspiring melting pot of the latest developments in the field. For the visitor, one fundamental trend becomes clear after just a one-minute glance at the exhibition hall in Kensington Olympia: retail seems to be all about applying technology! However, contemplating the wide range of suppliers more in depth, three main application areas of technology in retail can be identified:
1. Technology to enrich & extend the shopping experience in store:
Especially retail designers have discovered the joys and efficiencies of technology to create impactful environments in store and make them more dynamic over time. Digital projections on interactive surfaces allow more engaging experiences with the shopper in those areas, where they really care and show interest, without distracting them on their way to the specific section. Information on product characteristics, variants and prices can now be displayed on demand on the very product exposed and does not have to be printed permanently on space-consuming signage. Thanks to the flexibility of digital installations, they can also be re-programmed even for short-term to include special offers or highlight particular features or areas of the physical retail store during a limited period of time (e.g. seasonal categories). See an amazing example from Daziel + Pow here:
OUR EVALUATION: This can be really exciting in many retail environments where Shopsumers take their time to shop in store and are therefore open to play and interact with these technological features. However, there is a huge risk in overdoing it, converting an expensive information tool into a one-time gimmick that will not add consistent value to the shopping experience. For high frequency purchases in stores that mainly live from a loyal neighbourhood (e.g. supermarkets, convenience stores etc.), it may soon turn into an unnecessary distraction of time-starved Shopsumers!
2. Technology to track & trace shopper movements in store:
In order to better understand – and consequently re-organise – shopper flows in a brick&mortar store, all sorts of technologies are used to count or measure shopper traffic. This can be done through infrared pointers, surveillance cameras, floor contacts etc. All systems today provide rock-solid information with reliable systems and even allows to detect the length of interaction with specific fixtures or areas in store with the more sophisticated systems up to the possibility to recognise one shopper in different areas or departments of the store. However, these systems allow no interaction with the Shopsumer and therefore only deliver information for potential improvements in the orientation and location of products / categories or fixtures in store.
OUR EVALUATION: This is only relevant for stores with significant traffic that are concerned with conversion rates of potential buyers to actual buyers and have the capacity to influence Shopsumer behaviour through reorganising fixtures and positions of categories / brands in store. It is a mere “testing” device to detect hot spots and measure the effectiveness of certain in-store arrangements.
3. Technology to establish a relationship with the customer and allow personalised interaction:
Beacons, Watermark printing, bidi codes etc. all serve one primary purpose: to collect personal customer data and thus be able to directly communicate with him. Nevertheless, there is a huge barrier consisting of the willingness of the Shopsumer to allow such data exchange! A recent study of Cap Gemini (“Digital Shopper Relevancy Research Report 2014”) shows that 33 % of all shoppers are not willing to share their data and 50 % do not believe the retailer is using their data to their own benefit. Since the tracking of the shopper can only be achieved by convincing the Shopsumer to download the corresponding app on his smartphone, it is inevitable to carry out an accurate study of how representative the app-tracked individuals are versus the entire customer universe. Companies will have to provide compelling incentives for the app users to stay “tuned” to such activation programmes, but if those represent a significant number of the entire clientele, the benefits for the creation of efficient Marketing campaigns in the future are huge. On top of that, they allow almost personalised interaction with the Shopsumer in store.
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