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Hi-tech retail: the future is now

Tuesday November 8 2011

You will maybe agree with Ana Udrea, who contends that 2011 has been the year of retail technology instore. She discusses some of the best examples and trends that point to which technologies will be in demand through to next year

You will maybe agree with Ana Udrea, who contends that 2011 has been the year of retail technology instore. She discusses some of the best examples and trends that point to which technologies will be in demand through to next year

 

Some of the projects deployed in brand stores, shopping centres and supermarkets across the UK and internationally, were nothing short of spectacular, original and interactive, according to Dynamax inbound marketing executive, Udrea.

 

“From sensorial marketing to tweet mirrors and interactive hangers, today’s store has evolved into being a world of its own, a world that coexists with and reinforces the other sales channels,” she stated.

 

Projects worth noting

 

Westfield London attracted much media attention in the first part of the year with Nedap’s Tweet Mirror (a screen in disguise) that enables shoppers to take pictures of their new outfits and instantly share them with their Friends on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Augmented reality – a new buzz in retail

 

FaceCake’s virtual fitting room application (Swivel) enables people to try (virtual) clothes & accessories anywhere there’s a mirror (read touch-screen) around.

 

Udrea said the increased convergence between mirrors and screens resulted in other ‘’magical mirrors’’ – such as multitouch holographic screens in Adidas and Levi outlets that allow shoppers browse merchandise, read customer reviews or submit feedback.

 

“Without making a too courageous statement, one can note the trend towards using technology to empower the consumer and complement shop assistants who start playing a consultative role rather than an informational one,” she added.

 

“The new case of interactive hangers in a Japanese department store seems to support this idea. Every time a person picks up an item, corresponding images and videos will be displayed on the nearest screens. This is done via chips embedded in the hangers that are sending signals to computers controlling specific displays across the shop. The chips also helps the store gather data on how popular a product is and how effective its positioning is in the store. So, for more information, customers simply pick up the hanger.”

 

Influencing shopper behaviour

 

Technology has also been used for influencing shopper behaviour, Udrea continued. “Playing on the consumers’ interest in discounts, a Swedish supermarket used digital signage to engage its customers in making prices fall for the products of its choice. A screen installed at the store’s entrance reminds customers to check-in using Facebook or scan the displayed QR [quick response] codes or URLs [uniform resource locators] and spread the word about this initiative. The higher the number of customers checking-in, the lower the price of a particular product,” she explained.

 

“Who said technology cannot be useful and fun at the same time? The evidence is overwhelming: Cadbury’s instore game… that quacks, Tesco’s virtual stores in Seoul’s subway stations (working on the principle: if people don’t come to the store, let the store come to the people), or exemplify the limitless possibilities that today’s technology (QR codes, smartphones, digital signage) offers to retailers.

 

“Brands and retailers alike are combining digital signage, social media and sensorial marketing (colours, sounds/ music, scents to provide a familiar, enjoyable and interactive milieu that gives shoppers a reason to stay longer and stop by often,” Udrea said.

 

Marketing technology integration

 

When instore technology is used to tell a story – of a brand, a product or of an experience – it becomes an important part of a company’s marketing efforts, she added: “Combining innovation and storytelling, retailers are able to create a customer engagement that continues beyond their stores, maximise social media and bridge their online and offline presence.”

 

Udrea concluded: “The ultimate goal of customer-facing technologies is generating sales and boost customer satisfaction. No call to action will be stronger than one that can be followed through immediately and such call-to-actions does digital signage and similar marketing technologies support.”