“What advice do you have for store designers when they are asked to plan digital signage in a retail space?”
As customer needs change and emerging technology enables new possibilities, retail channels need to adapt in order to stay relevant. Some brands late to the game are looking to add digital signage to help deliver some engagement to their stores. While this is a great start, it is only the beginning and has been established as the table stakes for a long time now.
Today’s retail customers are able to conveniently order products online, so retail stores have to be compelling or unique enough to make them worth visiting. Brands need to deliver more engagement but also reduce friction points, and one-way digital communication just won’t be enough.
The good news for retailers is that customers still want to actually see and feel a product in real life before buying it. Digital channels cannot completely meet this need, so showroom and playground/experience store formats have emerged in a big way. Retail brands can learn a lot from this new trend. This format offers product trial, customization and in-person brand experiences and may not actually even sell products (or might have digital kiosks available to order them).
Some innovative brands are even opening retail experience concept stores that defy all logic by having nothing for sale. From pop-up shops to “guide-shops” to showrooms where customers can play with the latest products in a branded environment, retailers are suddenly feeling oddly comfortable pushing less sales and more experience. And even more curious, it appears to be enormously successful.
A great example of this new trend is Bonobos. This menswear company actually started as an online-only retailer, but then disrupted the industry by opening what they call “guide-shops.” These physical locations allow men to touch, feel and try on the clothing, but they cannot purchase the items in the store. Rather, men come in and browse or work with a consultant, have items tailored, and place an order to be delivered a few days later.
Another great example is Samsung. In a bid to finally give Apple some competition, they are building showrooms that feel nothing like a store. The showrooms are meant to allow customers to experience the brand, rather than shop. Although Apple did it first, other technology brands are upping the game and creating more unique retail experiences.
So what can a retailer do when looking to evolve and stay relevant?
Here are 3 Ways to Transform the Customer Experience:
- Focus on the experience first.
Removing the notion of “Buy it NOW” signals confidence to the consumer. It says, “we don’t have to sell you anything right now. Just come and see how fantastic our products are.” This is a much more welcoming model. It encourages longer stays in the store, completely different customer-staff engagement, and more repeat visits. Whether or not a customer buys something today is not necessarily an indication of loyalty, and these brands understand how deeper engagement works.
- Use technology in more thoughtful ways.
One example of this is geo-location to enable instant pick-up of a pre-ordered item. Staff gets a notification that you are on your way when you are close by, and your items will be waiting for you in a designated area. Technology is capable of addressing pain points and elevating the shopping experience like never before – but it does need to be strategic rather than gimmicky. Improved infrastructure including simpler return processes, faster delivery time, convenient pick-up locations, and fast turnaround on personalized items, are key customer pain points that many brands are now able to address
- Embrace a fluid customer journey that exists in multiple spaces
Many brands are now indicating online nearby stores where items are available. Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta allow customers to reserve items online without paying until they get to the store. The “connection” between a digital and physical experience is no longer a connection — it is simply one cohesive experience. When a customer searches for a pair of sneakers online, plays with the customization app on their phone, comes into the store to try them on, personalizes them on a tablet with an employee, and has them delivered the next day to their office, they are not thinking about the experience in chunks: they are thinking about the sneakers. There is still a lot of room to play with the customer journey, and those who innovate must do so based on the customer’s perspective.
Customers are looking for greater value from brands — not just in the product itself, but also in the experience. Brands are no longer simply selling items that people will use; they are selling a philosophy, a culture, and an identity. Adding a simple digital signage screen to a retail store just won’t cut it. Retailers planning on staying relevant need to think bigger. They should partner with an integrated design firm who can deliver along all of the touchpoints in the path-to-purchase. The customer experience is not one that should be seen in bits and pieces — to win the at-purchase-moment it must be an Integrated Brand Experience.