Until recently, retailers addressed customers at the shop window or point of sale primarily with posters, displays or other eye-catchers. Yet media overload makes it increasingly difficult for these traditional, static advertising formats to assert themselves.
New interesting presentation platforms that inform and entertain consumers increasingly prevail. They are summarized under the term digital signage. These innovative alternatives use digital media content in specific advertising and information systems.
The retailer or designer of visual marketing uses this tool to vie for the consumer’s attention. This trend is part of the creative brick-and-mortar retail world that knows how to create a unique shopping experience. Digitization has become an integral part of mastering this new experience.
Plasma or LCD screens that convey campaign or product information are placed in the shop window for example. Service terminals near escalators or elevators work as navigation systems. Kiosks are also increasingly being used. Customers get audiovisual information on products and store services either on their own or with the help of sales associates at these terminals.
Customers can interactively receive product advice, pay at the terminal or give product reviews. It is also possible to combine offline and online activities since customers are able to order directly at the online shop. A connection to the online store is also made if the selected advertising mediums display QR codes that direct customers to the store’s website.
For retail chains, the so-called point-to-multipoint system is interesting. This unique information and communication tool makes it possible to control information maintenance from a central hub and distribute it via data transfer to different information systems in the store. This way, each individual store can feature its own individualized content.
The so-called tweet mirror is a special and promising high-tech product. This interactive mirror enables customers to view a product from various angles and – in the case of clothing items or shoes for example – to try them on digitally. Customers can have their picture taken by an embedded camera and send this photo to family or friends via e-mail, Twitter or Instagram. In doing so, the company logo or specific information about the store can be directly included and sent along as well.
This offers retailers significant advantages: thanks to the photos, the store’s level of recognition is increased with the message recipients. The customer’s dwell time is also increased because she shares her shopping experience with family and friends. Impulse buys are strongly encouraged thanks to this high information and entertainment factor.
Digital marketing permits unusual marketing strategies in unique spaces. This revitalizes entire shopping districts and turns them into entertainment attractions. Impulse buys are strongly encouraged thanks to this high information and entertainment factor.
Several retail and gastronomy examples illustrate the digitization trend
Starbucks Global encourages people to donate coffee to the needy; clippings.com or fallingforyou.target, show products on videos, letting you click on them at the same time; at Deskontalia, San Sebastian, customers can order items online during the day and pick them up in person at night; the online wine store Kreis in Stuttgart and its virtual store; Homes-Up, an interactive store in China; FAB Hamburg, an online store for fashion and furniture.
Yihaodian, China’s largest eCommerce grocery retailer, launches 1,000 virtual supermarkets nationwide under the "Unlimited Yihaodian" brand. They don’t have billboards but feature empty stores, about 1,200 square meters in size, where products are shown on virtual display systems. Items are purchased via smartphone and delivered straight to the customer’s home.
Companies that embark on innovative paths in visual marketing attract the attention of customers and are better positioned in the market. That’s why retailers should always check whether the use of new design elements is an option for them – while always considering the needs of the target groups.
How vital this is, becomes clear if you think about how many people simply pass by shop windows and stores every day in the cities of this world. If you want to achieve the opposite and actually get noticed, you need to stand out from the crowd. Retailers succeed if they leave an individual and distinct impression on customers. This requires unusual shopping experiences and creative product staging that speak for themselves.
Potential customers need to realize right away why it pays off for them to come into the store. An attractive storefront and eye-catching shop window design entice them to visit the store. The sales-promotional measures then need to continue in the design of the sales floor and the product presentation.
In short, all sections need to be coordinated to where they are fascinating, create excitement, tell stories, inspire the customer’s imagination and most notably entertain him or her. Once customers are actively involved in the events, products become an experience and they stay longer at the store. Last but not least, the store distinguishes itself with branding activities which results in increased customer loyalty.
Author: Klaus Lach, CEO Vice-President of the VMM - European Visual Marketing Merchandising Association