Retail technology consultant Dharmendra Patel discusses how retailers can create an engaging store experience using interactive touch technology
While consumers are growing increasingly comfortable with using touch technology, driven mainly by the rise in smart devices, retailers are embracing the opportunity to interact with shoppers in a more engaging environment.
Dharmendra Patel, consulting partner at retail technology consultancy Vivid
said bricks and mortar stores offer the space and setting to create a truly immersive customer experience.
"As illustrated by Nike, touch technology can be used to engage shoppers and involve them in the brand experience. The sportswear retailer opened its first ‘digital’ store in London’s Shoreditch Boxpark
. The store, which is named the Nike FuelStation, contains only a handful of product shelves – the rest of the shop’s features are entirely digital," said Patel.
The store offers touchscreens fixed to walls, which act as online catalogues, and digital mannequins that double up as motion-sensitive mirrors to teach shoppers about products. Patel explained: "The main purpose of this store is not to drive sales. Instead, it’s designed to tell a story and connect shoppers with the retailer, so that they feel part of the brand.
"Interactive touch technology allows retailers to provide a link between the online and physical shopping channels; House of Fraser is a good example
of this. The premium department store group was an early adopter of a launch of new concept stores."
Extended product ranges
The stores, which have been rolled out across the UK, do not stock merchandise and instead offer a selection of touchscreens for consumers to order products from. This allows shoppers to receive items for next day delivery or collection, and gives them access to over 1,000 brands, which are usually only available via the retailer’s website.
House of Fraser recently reported a 57% increase in online sales in the first half to 27 July, demonstrating the effectiveness of its concept stores.
But Patel added that touch technology should not be approached with tunnel vision: "The main purpose isn’t to drive instantaneous sales. Instead, it should be looked at with long-term vision – a prime tool to create unique personalised experiences, which build brand affinity and create lasting relationships."
Microsoft, for instance, launched the UK’s largest digital campaign
, which allowed consumers to configure their Windows’ smartphone through large touchscreens, he continued. "The interactive touchscreens, which were rolled out in shopping malls, featured consumers’ first names and photos, this created a highly personalised customer experience," added Patel.
This campaign also extended to the brand’s social media pages – the photos were published on Microsoft’s Facebook page and participants were encouraged to tag themselves in photos.
"When deploying touch technology, screens should be sized to create visual impact," Patel advised. On a practical level, they need to be visible so that consumers can see and read content from a distance, to draw them in to the experience being created.
Creating interactive experiences
“Although video walls without touch technology are an effective way to capture shoppers’ attention, touchscreens allow for a more interactive experience,” he added. “For example, large touchscreen walls, which are perfect for content at distance, can be altered and used on a more individual and personal level when viewed up-close.
“A busy store, with an abundant footfall, would benefit from multi-touchscreens. This allows multiple shoppers to take part in the experience at any one time, and can create a big scene in the store, with shoppers flocking around the screens.
Touch technology not only enhances the brand experience, it also makes consumers’ lives easier – giving shoppers easy access to product information, helping to locate products in-store and offering a quick and simple check out.”
As brands make the shift to digital, he also said one system must be in place manage all channels. “Running a unified setup means the customer gets the best seamless experience, whether they’re shopping via the web, mobile, interactive displays or instore,” he added.
It is important for retailers to understand how the content being shown is impacting sales, as it can have a profound influence on improving the customer experience. In light of this, Patel also urged retailers to monitor store traffic flow to find out when there are peaks and drops in sales, and what content was being shown at the time of the activity.
He concluded: “The retail landscape is changing at a rapid pace and interactive touch technology is the driving force behind this transformation. As stores evolve, retailers will be able to garner more knowledge about their customers’ shopping behaviour, and this will give them the power to create more sophisticated relationships with consumers.”