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In-store entertainment: a driving force for retail

By Retail Technology | Tuesday August 12 2014

Marketing specialist Darren Jackson examines the increasing rise of in-store theatre as a contributor to the shopping experience

It may have originated with a basic cash register, but Point of Sale (POS) has grown to encompass everything from in-store merchandising to the rising use of digital screens and interactive touchpoints, says Darren Jackson, retail solutions director at marketing operations company APS Group.

“As well as helping to merge the online and offline worlds, PoS is increasingly being used to contribute to the entertainment element, with in-store theatre becoming a huge draw as retailers look for a wow factor to enhance the shopping experience,” he says.

The rise of digital screens

Jackson names digital signage and screens as just two examples of technologies that are developing rapidly as retailers tailor their messaging, react to industry trends and respond to competitors’ campaigns. 

“Because they are so flexible, screens both in the store and across shopping centres can adapt to offer tailored offers and promotions in tune with seasonal campaigns or specific marketing initiatives,” he explains. 

“One retailer to adopt digital screens is Superdrug. Its latest concept store, Superdrug Beauty Studio, uses digital screens to provide customers with information about new products and in-store events as well as providing an interactive area where customers can take ‘selfies’ of their latest beauty treatments.

“In addition, these digital screens can be updated from a central hub so that tailor-made information relevant to a specific branch or environment can then be controlled from one central location, all adding to the convenience factor.”

He notes that retailers in the US are beginning to take digital screens to the next level, providing an interactive element that allows consumers to shop when the store is closed via a touch screen display panel located on the shop’s exterior. 

“Much like the tablet, shoppers can peruse items available to buy once the shop re-opens and, in some cases, make the purchase there and then. The 24-hour convenience factor is an element that we will definitely see grow as the industry taps into screens’ ability to provide round-the-clock information and entertainment, as well as keeping pace with the super informed, digitally-driven customer.”

Encouraging interaction

Visual, stimulating in-store entertainment points customers to particular areas within the store and engages them without pushing the hard sell, according to Jackson, who says a number of graphic motions companies are doing this increasingly well, with many using holographic video and graphics in order to bring the physical product to life. 

“Custom holographic displays play into the interactive experience to build on the look-and-feel element and are being implemented by a range of retailers via initiatives including interactive changing rooms,” says Jackson. 

“A brand renowned for its digital initiatives is Burberry, which ramped up its approach back in 2009 with a Twitter campaign that invited users to upload and share photos of themselves in the brand’s trench coats. In 2012 the retailer began to use digital signage, streaming one of its catwalk shows on to screens at London Liverpool Street station and Heathrow Terminal 5. “

Tablets: an expected component of the retail experience 

Jackson notes that since their launch, brands have leveraged the use of tablets and shoppers can now typically find devices either connected to a shop assistant or as a standalone addition in the store. 

“If a shop doesn’t stock your size or preferred colour on the racks then customers can simply turn to an iPad and order from the outlet online,” he illustrates. “In this way, retailers ensure that they still capture the consumer in the store and gain competitor advantage, whilst the consumer leaves the store happy in the knowledge that their order will arrive directly to their door in the next 48 hours.”

While some stores simply implement these tablets on shelves or on the wall, others are becoming more imaginative in their approach, with the experience of the individual at its heart. “A recent trend to have emerged is the in-store ‘pods’ and one brand that does this really well is none other than Apple itself. The store uses break-out areas called ‘iPad Smart Signs’ that allow customers to connect with Apple store employees and show information about products available within the store – all via Apple’s own devices. 

“Of course not all retailers are able to offer such a service but this is nonetheless a great example of a situation where customers are provided with the ability to use and trial products in an environment that retains complete focus on the brand.”

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