Digital meets designBY Laura McClennan
Imagine a world without queuing for coffee or waiting for a different-sized shirt in the changing room. A world where you can order a cocktail from the comfort of your bar seat or shop at your favourite store – day or night – simply by pushing a few buttons on a window.
This world may be a lot closer than you think. 2015 is certainly a year of change for the retail industry, with new technologies launching instore and online almost daily. Some of these new commercial technologies truly must be seen to be believed, which is where revolutionary spaces such as AOPEN’s Retail Evolution Labs come in.
AOPEN has been a leader in display technology and services since 1996, providing digital signage and interactive multimedia solutions to retailers all over the world. First piloted in Melbourne, AOPEN’s Retail Evolution Labs are spaces in which customers can come and see the latest commercial technology in action including 4k video walls, multi-touch interactive experiences, cashless payment kiosks and vibrant digital menu-boards that have assisted both small and large retailers to adapt to the increasingly digital, competitive retail space.
The lab itself is a unique space. It allows guests as well as AOPEN’s ecosystem of partners to bring their customers in to have a hands-on experience with technology that is tipped to change the retail industry in Australia.
“Spec sheets and video are one thing, but we firmly believe that seeing is believing,” says Joy Chua, AOPEN global marketing and pre-sales executive.
“By experiencing our consumer facing technologies in realistic scenarios, we help people better understand how to bring innovation into their own business, providing them the tools to evolve and thrive in today’s competitive multi-platform retail market. All the solutions on display in the Labs are commercially available and ready for implementation within months,” said Chua.
The retail landscape is changing
“Retail therapy is alive and well. As we see e-commerce growth rates slowing, customers are looking for the basics again - a great experience, seduction, fun, instant gratification, discovery, service, sensory inspiration, convenience, social interaction, localness; a trip to the shops more than ever needs to be an enjoyable outing,” Chua says.
What has drastically changed, however, is how the shopping experience needs to be delivered.
“Information hungry, price savvy, and mobile empowered shoppers increasingly expect interaction and engagement from a digital perspective. They are highly influenced by content available before visiting the store and expect a consistent experience across retail channels and touch points. This means a move from ‘connecting’ the channels to ‘blending’ the channels,” Joy explains.
“Working across the digital and physical spaces, omni-channel marketing is an essential part of new retailing. Retailers must use technology to communicate with shoppers through dynamic, exciting media, leaving a lasting impression through compellingly presented, rich and increasingly personalised information.”
Traditional retailers today have an exciting opportunity that pureplay online retailers do not - they can offer the best that technology has delivered, but in the context of an exciting, informative, entertaining, engaging, tangible shopping environment. Stores provide the perfect environment to deliver the online experience into the real world.
“Stores are the ultimate ‘opt-in’ medium that factors out the avoidance issues prevalent in almost every other channel and unlike other digital channels, if a customer abandons the shop before transacting, you (your sales staff) have the opportunity to interject and close the sale,” Joy says.
What’s in store for retail over next year?
Some of AOPEN’s most exciting new retail strategies encompass what they refer to as the retail ecosystem, a common hardware platform which becomes a ‘digital base camp’ in the store, interacting with customers in a number of ways (such as recognising their locations and personalising the delivery of content via interactive digital displays as well as customers’ own mobile devices).
A classic example of this is AOPEN’s smart changing room. Gone are the days of waiting in the changing room for an assistant to bring you a garment in a different size or colour, only for the assistant to get side-tracked… forcing you to get changed back into your own clothes and venture out to search the racks (and nine times out of ten, giving up and walking out altogether). Shoppers across Australia will soon enjoy a changing room assistant at their fingertips.
“With new changing room technology and fit-out, customers can see what other products go with what they’re trying on, and using a touch screen, request a sales assistant to bring in matching accessories or garments in different sizes. They can even order them online to be home delivered, or if they prefer, they can email or text themselves the product details for social sharing or later purchase. It’s all about increasing add on sales,” Chua explains.
Another new product that’s gaining excitement is e-labels, which are a small format, full colour digital shelf edge screens. These e-labels offer a range of marketing and operational benefits. At the most basic level the labels can be integrated with retailers’ POS systems enabling automated price updates and context or time sensitive pricing. More advanced service and marketing applications include the integration of Beacon technology to allow the labels to provide marketing and customer service information tailored to individual consumers.
“Innovative technologies such as these e-labels can eliminate the labour it takes to update prices, as well as the errors, and in addition introduce a dynamic new marketing tool for business owners,” Chua says.
The era of new retail
As we move into the era of new retail where customers are equally likely to shop online and instore, the instore customer experience has to really step its game up in order to remain competitive.
Digital merchandising is perhaps the most powerful step retailers can take to revolutionalise their in-store effectiveness. As highlighted by AOPEN, there are profound benefits to be gained from adopting new technologies - a more dynamic store environment, more effective customer engagement, access to assisted selling tools, marketing nimbleness, smaller store footprints and monetization of store traffic.
A well-structured retail environment can make a fundamental difference in the decision making process of the customer. Make it a priority this year to attract, inform and inspire your consumer with your unique digital marketing strategy.