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Technology-enabled Shopping Environments

Jul 9, 2014 12:01 PM, By Mark Boidman, managing director, Peter J Solomon Company

Brick-and-mortar retailers can benefit from interactive visual communications.


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Digital signage and smart content will be necessary to drive in-store purchases as overall online sales continue to climb.

According to a recent WallStreet Research report, by 2017, 60 percent of all U.S. retail sales will in some way involve online transactions or research, and approximately 10 percent of total U.S. retail sales will be online purchases (versus approximately 5 percent today).

To prepare for such expected increases in online transactions and related in-store decreases in foot traffic, as well as a shift in purchasing power from baby boomers to millennials, brick-and-mortar retailers would be well advised to make an investment in visual communications to allow consumers to interact with brands, as well as products or services. In particular, mobile communications and/or digital signage create an experiential shopping environment in-store.

By facilitating an omni-channel shopping experience with visual communications, traditional brick-and-mortar retailers can be better positioned to level the playing field with e- and m-commerce to better compete with the ease and convenience of online shopping.

Interactive digital signage can enhance the in-store shopping experience in the following ways:

· Providing contextually relevant content and advertising when a consumer is in action mode and/or at the point of sale

· Facilitating product research and education more easily before purchase

· Enabling mobile payments/m-commerce

· Offering wayfinding solutions.

Many retailers have responded slowly to the empowered consumer who has changed the retail game because of online and mobile technology. Most retailers have failed to acknowledge that consumers’ in-store expectations have evolved as a result of online and mobile technologies. We now expect an interactive, personalized, engaging shopping experience with access to large amounts of product information and recommendations, as well as the ability to capture and transmit images, known as “share and compare.”

Digital signage, including tablets, should be strategically placed in-store in high-traffic locations. By way of illustration, Moblty is a company that facilitates this type of interaction on its in-store network tablets using content and advertising. Moblty provides instant feedback as to how the consumer is viewing and responding to an advertiser’s in-store offers. This insight, coupled with the ability to remotely adjust offers in realtime, provides brands and advertisers with the tools to ensure that their in-store offers are relevant to the consumer and the environment.

Importantly, digital signage allows advertisers to push their content remotely and in realtime to any number of displays in targeted areas. Consumers can then interact with the content and advertising, which can be downloaded to their mobile phones. Advertisers can also update offers across the network in accordance with a regular schedule or in realtime to meet market demand. Moblty is already working with advertisers to determine the effectiveness of their offers by tracking distribution, click-throughs, and redemptions.

Technology is now available in-store to increase dwell time and deliver a personalized shopping experience. At the 2014 NEC Showcase in London, Scala—a digital signage solutions company—presented such types of technological capabilities. Using Bluetooth Low Energy, Scala was able to demonstrate the capability to pinpoint a consumer’s in-store location. Using “beacon” technology, Scala sends personalized notifications in realtime to the consumer about items that are on sale nearby or products that may be interesting to the consumer. What really caught my attention was Scala’s demonstration of a consumer lifting a bottle of whiskey that automatically engaged a light sensor identifying the consumer’s selection. This triggered relevant content on the display screen in front of the consumer.

In closing, interactive visual communications not only create an experiential shopping environment in-store, but they also bridge the communication gap between the consumer and the brand, permit collection of data to more effectively target and engage consumers, and provide critical information on consumer activity in the retail environment.

Mark Boidman is a managing director at Peter J. Solomon Co., a leading mergers and acquisitions advisory investment bank in New York, where he advises companies in the media and technology sectors, including visual communications. Prior to becoming an investment banker, Boidman was in the M&A Group at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Boidman has been recognized by digital media industry executives and professional publications as a leading investment banker in the out-of-home media sector, and he presently serves as a director on the board of the Digital Signage Federation. He is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at annual industry events.



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