Jo Ruddock catches up with MediaZest CEO Geoff Robertson to discuss the integrator’s strong heritage in retail and find out what the future holds.
Tell me a bit about MediaZest’s history.
MediaZest was set up in 2004 and floated on AIM, a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange, in early 2005 with a mission to bring digital signage to retail. In September 2005 it acquired then 30 year old systems integrator, Touch Vision Limited, to be the experienced engineering division to power the delivery of that. With that acquisition came a wealth of AV engineering knowledge and access to other markets as well as retail, although that remains where we are best known.
What trends are you currently seeing in the retail sector?
We’ve seen the first phase of digital in retail settle and it has touched every vertical – clearly the importance of making digital part of the in-store experience cannot be underestimated. The trends we are seeing are towards a deeper integration of AV within the store: improving the customer journey rather than just being background aesthetics. In retail customers expect stores to be reflective of a brand’s online presence and vice versa so bringing multiple different stakeholders into decision making is also becoming more common to give customers a consistent, high-quality shopping experience.
The other trend we see everywhere – and we believe this is driven from the macroeconomic environment – is measuring the impact of solutions and trying to establish ROI.
And are there any technologies here that you’re particularly excited about?
We’ve seen LED really push into retail now alongside high bright window screens, and touchscreens are extremely common in our retail deployments but in terms of new technologies often our most exciting projects are mixing physical with digital. Technologies allowing us to do that, be they sensors, cameras, touch pads or similar give us a lot of creative scope now to bring the store to life.
Do you think AV has a role to play in helping retailers navigate the difficulties they’re facing on the high street?
100%! There are very few examples I can think of where the store experience and hence store performance cannot be improved by digital. As we see retail trends including smaller spaces with some customers and fewer, larger ‘brand-centric’ stores with others, the importance of utilising that space effectively and appealing to the modern consumer is paramount.
How important is data tracking and analysis in this sector?
We believe this is one of the sectors it’s most important in. Being able to track ROI and demonstrate that to senior management for our clients is paramount. It’s not enough to look good, we need to show these solutions add value, and whether that’s allowing for better, more relevant content or allowing for personalisation, or tracking the in-store journey, data has a role to play.
What projects are you particularly proud of?
At the moment we’re very lucky to have a wide range of clients across different retail sectors who really understand digital and the need for effective and dependable solutions.
Our work in automotive, initially with Rockar and Hyundai and more recently Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and Mitsubishi together, and our work with VW in a similar vein I think has helped changed that landscape.
In more traditional retail, I’m very proud of our work with Ted Baker, Lululemon and HP over the past couple of years which was really taken us all over Europe and the world, and demonstrated that we can perform in any country and positively impact consumers in them all.
Are you facing any challenges in the industry?
I would say the biggest challenge for retail right now is, of course, uncertainty in the wider economy, which quite understandably is making businesses think twice about the rate of adoption or deployment of audio visual solutions.
Has the role of an integrator changed in recent years?
We certainly feel like we are becoming more trusted advisers across a wider range of topics than ever before. As well as pure AV we need to understand and be able to deploy all sorts of other disciplines for our clients, be that engineering based, IT relevant or from the world of data science.
Why should end users employ an integrator rather than attempt to go it alone?
Like anything complex, you really need a specialist to deploy AV in retail. There are many pitfalls and many ways an end user can get things very wrong without proper guidance. Many of those we have learnt over the last 45 years through experience but also through being deeply ingrained in the industry and with access to the right technology and resource. There are always multiple stakeholders and that means a balance of skills across lots of different disciplines are essential to a successful deployment.
What are some of the biggest mistakes made by end users when it comes to AV?
The biggest mistake we see time and again is buying solely on price. There’s always a way to be flexible or creative with a budget if necessary but we do see clients plump for the lowest initial cost a lot and invariably it ends up not delivering the right result, failing outright or never going live. When we design an audio-visual solution for a client we consider bottom line cost and try to be as efficient as possible, but we also look at longevity, the ultimate aim of the retailer, the quality of the experience the customer is getting, ROI, and balance all those factors and more before making a recommendation.
Finally, what are MediaZest’s plans for the future?
We’re currently building our team and expanding our clients across the retail and several other sectors as AV becomes more and more part of the customer journey. And of course we are constantly looking for new clients and new partners to work with to bring our work to a wider audience.