The future is now – and if you think this means that online shopping is on the up at the expense of traditional retail, you’re only partially correct, says Mass Lambresa, MD at Project Audio Visual Ltd. Yes, e-commerce is big, but the fact remains that its success in recent years is largely the result of just one thing: technology. Retail technology is constantly developing, diversifying and innovating. It is certainly not exclusively the domain of online stores. It is available to everyone, and provides many opportunities for retailers to leverage its power and bring more shoppers into their bricks and mortar stores.
For retail outlets wanting to increase footfall, engagement and in-store sales, one must first look at exactly why customers are choosing to purchase online, rather than walk into a shop:
1. It’s convenient and user friendly.
2. It’s quick and easy.
3. It offers digital interaction and an element of fun.
Today’s consumers – and especially the emerging market of millennials – spend their lives immersed in digital experiences, and it only makes sense that they would expect the same when browsing and purchasing retail products.
What e-commerce doesn’t offer (and can never offer) is a real-world shopping experience. Humans will always be humans. We like to have our senses engaged. We like to be wooed. This is evident in the growing popularity of street markets and craft fairs among young consumers who, given the right circumstances, will choose authenticity over and above technology
Used wisely, retail AV solutions can offer the convenience, ease and interactivity of internet shopping, combined with the consummate value of an immersive and genuinely human in-store consumer experience.
So how can bricks and mortar stores use retail technology to attract customers and increase sales?
1. Use AV retail signage to help customers find what they are looking for
One of the greatest frustrations that in-store consumers face is simply finding what they need. The user friendliness of the web is far more convenient than trawling through a mall on foot, so the challenge for retailers is to come up with innovative signage solutions that provide information in an eye catching and engaging way.
From strategically placed digital totems to direct shoppers to individual stores, to eye-catching in-store displays to promote and help shoppers locate products, audiovisual technology can increase brand awareness, traffic, and conversions to paying customers.
Video is a medium that is particularly successful in engaging customers and passersby, and has been used successfully in several retail environments. A key example is King’s Walk Shopping Centre in Reading. As part of the Centre’s transformation into Atlantis Village, a high tech curved video wall was installed to entice passersby and inform them of a variety of exciting restaurants and culinary experiences. The result was both an increase in footfall, and an increase in tenants wanting to rent retail space.
2. Use technology that makes shopping quick and easy
Online shoppers enjoy the couple-of-clicks payment method offered by e-commerce sites – and particularly the self-service aspect where customers have complete control over the payment process. Being able to choose from a variety of payment methods is also a plus. Retail technology now allows some of these payment methods to be incorporated into bricks and mortar stores. Audiovisual displays have moved far beyond static images in a slide show, and can integrate applications such as Zapper™ to speed up the payment process.
In fact, supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s are already using self-checkout, where customers can scan and pay for their purchases using a mobile app instead of waiting in line. LCD touch screens installed at checkouts are a simple yet effective solution that can also be used to advertise promotions and store specials. The technology already exists, and forward-thinking retailers who want to keep ahead of the game should be using it. Apparently, next in line are self-driving trolleys that locate products in store based on a digital shopping list app – but that’s a whole new ball game!
3. Use audiovisual in a way that is engaging, interactive and increases brand awareness
Brand awareness is vital for retailers in the modern age. With so many options to choose from, shoppers are more likely to purchase from brands that they know, like and trust.
If physical stores have one advantage over online shops, it is undoubtedly the ability to provide a real-world experience. Combined with AV retail technology that includes cutting-edge graphics, touch screen capability and even social media integration, the ability for retailers to enhance this experience is immense.
It could be something as simple as offering digital discount coupons at shelf level, or a more comprehensive campaign. Take high-end department store John Lewis: their 2016 in-store promotion for makeup brand Charlotte Tilbury included a gif booth where shoppers could have their picture taken after receiving a makeover, create a gif of themselves that they could share on social media, and enjoy 5 minutes of fame by having their face appearing on a giant digital window display. Not only was this campaign fun, but it also leveraged digital technology to bridge the gap between online and in-store retail to increase brand awareness.
Audiovisual technology doesn’t have to be used as part of a complex marketing campaign – it can be kept more low-key and still be very beneficial. The Dune Group has installed video walls using high-tech 4K content to replace old point of purchase signage in their flagship London store, and based on the success of the installation plans to roll out similar displays in all their shops. The purpose of this AV signage is to provide brand awareness and an enhanced shopping experience, but it can also be used for ongoing promotions and can deliver enormous savings by eliminating printing costs in the long run.