Changing the retail experience with digital displays

24 August 2021

Retailers can gather data and make decisions faster and more effectively than in the past by combining various digital display types with other technologies.

Retailers can gather data and make decisions faster and more effectively than in the past by combining various digital display types with other technologies.

By Dan Smith

Retail is in the midst of a technological renaissance. New software and audiovisual technologies are offering retailers greater customer insights and more engaging marketing platforms while simultaneously providing guests with more personalized, streamlined shopping experiences. By combining various types of digital displays with technologies such as touchscreens, facial recognition, machine learning, and mobile device integration, retailers can gather data and make decisions faster and more effectively than ever before. This anonymous customer data can then be used to personalize the shopping experience, engage customers with interactive displays, and turn stores into destinations.

Big data and personalization

It is difficult to find a piece of modern technology that is not collecting data to personalize the user experience. For retailers, collecting and analyzing data on customer behaviours can influence decisions on store design, staffing, sales promotions, and the design and placement of in-store advertisements. The more actionable data a store can generate, the more opportunity it gains to improve return on investment (ROI) from its digital infrastructure.

Recent advances in display and camera technologies have made data collection a passive process that does not require consumer action. For instance, data captured by new camera and motion-sensing solutions can help retailers determine how long shoppers take to make decisions, which advertisements are most effective, and even which floor plans best enable customers to find their desired items.

When paired with digital signage displays and touchscreen kiosks, these cameras and software can be used to answer questions such as “How do customers feel about this advertisement?”, “How many people saw this ad today?”, and “How long do people spend searching for their desired items?” This enables retailers to design their floor plans and digital marketing more effectively. If certain campaigns or times of day exhibit low traffic, managers can adjust messaging and work schedules to optimize operations.

Mobile integration

Personalized information can also be used to create an omnichannel sales funnel, with relevant marketing messages delivered not only in-store, but also through ‘push’ alerts on branded mobile apps promoting in-store-only discounts or products. At-home reminders have been a boon for prescription retail customers, for instance, with timely messages about the need for refills leading to a jump in prescription sales. This ability to reach customers at any time and in any place brings with it a plethora of opportunities to share promotions and encourage in-person visits.

Stores can also offer in-person experiences that leverage information about past purchases, seasonal trends, and even which available in-store ads are most relevant for specific customers. This can be achieved through advanced digital signage displays, which interface with smartphones in order to alert a store’s network to the fact this particular customer is looking at this particular display and would be best served with certain information or advertisements.

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However, retail experts note brands should be careful not to introduce distractions to the in-person shopping experience while customers are onsite. Digital experiences in a physical store should use engaging displays or interactivity to connect the customer to the store and create a memorable experience that does not rely on a mobile device.

The power of interactivity

According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report, adults in the United States spend an average of 11 hours each day listening to, watching, reading, or generally interacting with media. As this trend has grown, especially with the explosive popularity of touchscreen mobile devices, people have come to expect digital screens and interactivity to be part of more and more experiences. Whether a store is selling clothing or video games, interactive digital displays and systems can provide zero-labour customer engagement, encouraging purchases and providing hands-on service online shopping cannot match.

One of the world’s largest technology retailers consistently introduces new product displays and in-store marketing campaigns. In one of this retailer’s latest product-specific campaigns, eight locations each received three custom-designed liquid crystal display (LCD) kiosks, which present motion-activated ads, tutorials, and demos for Microsoft’s Xbox, Windows, and Office products. To maximize their value, the kiosks include proximity sensors able to activate call-to-action ads and promotional videos when people walk near them, as well as refreshing content based on engagement time so shoppers are prompted to move through information or a demo in a timely manner.

The Office kiosks feature a 1397-mm (55-in.) display on each side, with the backside displaying ads and the front showing tutorials. These tutorials interact directly with two laptops, which visitors can use to follow along with the demo. The Xbox kiosk is similar, with a front display offering two Xbox controllers on which guests can play a predetermined game, as well as a rear-facing 1397-mm display that can be seen from throughout the store, highlighting gameplay from top titles.

The last kiosk is focused on Windows’ Cortana, Ink, and Hello features. It utilizes a 2- x 3-panel video wall connected to three Microsoft laptops and tablets, which allow for multiple simultaneous users. The video wall can show a single stream across all six panels. When two or three people want to use the kiosk at the same time, the PC that controls the video feeds automatically separates the displays into three separate feeds so each guest can have a personal experience and explore products at his or her own speed.

Retail as a destination

Brands are leveraging interactive and large-scale display technologies to create retail destinations offering experiences consumers cannot get online. For Razer, a brand in the gaming industry, this idea of retail as a destination led to the installation of several video walls and standalone displays across multiple locations in five countries, including a new Razer store in San Francisco and the Razer USA office in Irvine, Calif.

Razer outfitted its Irvine office lobby with two 1- x 6-panel video wall galleries composed of 1092-mm (43-in.) displays to communicate essential information to employees, business partners, and visitors. Meanwhile, at the more public-facing Razer store in San Francisco, the team used 16 ultra-thin bezel 1397-mm (55-in.) panels to build a large 4- x 4-panel video wall with a total screen size of 5588 mm (220 in.) diagonal to offer shoppers a unique, immersive gaming experience.

Unique display designs can be leveraged in flagship stores to reflect the brand in an engaging way.

Unique display designs can be leveraged in flagship stores to reflect the brand in an engaging way.

To meet the need for wayfinding and promotional purposes, the team also installed standalone 1397-mm (55-in.) displays throughout the store. These displays make use of content management and editing software, which allows Razer to quickly manage content not only across the two U.S. locations, but also worldwide, bringing convenience and a positive user experience to the company’s global team.

Designing outside the box

Designers and content creators are looking beyond the rectangular, wall-mounted screen to make an impact with visual merchandising. It is now feasible to put pixels on surfaces of all shapes, sizes, and locations, and these non-traditional display arrangements can be employed to present single images or a variety of content.

With modern content management solutions, displays can be arranged and hung in any orientation, with content produced specifically for each display. For example, one might imagine a multi-panel video wall that, instead of being a standard rectangle, is turned 45 degrees and mounted as a diamond. Content can be created to fit the diamond screen, resulting in an attractive, distinctive video solution. Content can even play across disparate displays, allowing designers to deliver artistic expressions such as moving images from one screen to another several feet away.

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Additionally, ultra-stretch displays—which can be as much as three times as wide as a standard TV—can be leveraged to turn columns into digital artwork, wayfinding, or advertising surfaces. They may also be hung horizontally to draw guests to product displays or departments. On top of that, an emerging wave of curved and custom-shaped displays is opening opportunities for retail stores to incorporate new designs and develop brand-enforcing in-store marketing.

Flagship stores as retail labs

One segment of the market is embracing unique display designs is flagship stores. Chains are using cutting-edge digital displays to build spaces where customers can be engaged at every turn, encouraging interaction and store visits.

The Stella McCartney fashion brand joined this trend when it hired an integration and content development firm to install custom-shaped mosaic video walls in the front windows of 11 flagship locations throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. Using a variety of display sizes in both horizontal and vertical orientations, the team built a variety of video walls (up to three for each location) that feature complex shapes and demand attention from people walking by the storefront. Content is developed specifically to fit each different display mosaic and maximize the screen real estate.

As these display technologies and installations prove themselves to be valuable and effective, brands can implement them in new store designs and campaigns to promote better branding and marketing reach.

Signs of the future

The incredible variety of available technologies and the breakneck pace of innovation offer numerous options to bring retail spaces to life, delivering tangible benefits and ROI. Looking forward, new technologies such as transparent organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays that can display stunning visuals, but also become see-through, will open even more opportunities to build exciting, memorable in-store engagement points that elevate the shopping experience.

Whether they are collecting data to improve operations, connecting with mobile apps to offer new benefits, encouraging interactivity, or helping malls energize underutilized spaces, digital display technologies are changing how retail stores run and reach their customers. As more chains recognize the benefits they can reap from technology upgrades, the popularity of these installations will grow and may even become a standard inclusion in the design process. For retailers large and small, the time to differentiate is now.

Dan Smith is vice-president, business development, for LG Business Solutions USA. This article is based on a white paper he prepared for LG Electronics USA. For more information, visit www.lg.com/ca_en/business/information-displays. Smith can be reached via e-mail at dan.smith@lge.com.

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