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Pioneer Group on how to ensure profitability in retail projects

Mark Childerhouse of Pioneer Group reveals tips for creating profitable retail solutions and the growing demand for interactive technologies.

What are the main challenges when designing and installing solutions for retail as opposed to other environments?

The retail environment is unique because installations have a dual end user base; the store is one, and the customer is another. They each experience the technology differently, and both points of view need to be kept in mind when designing retail AV installation.

Part of this challenge comes down to educating retailers in terms of customer engagement technologies in both how these work, and what advantages can be gained from using it. After all, they’re the ones who are ultimately signing off the project.

Which technologies are you seeing an increased demand for in retail?

We’ve seen a big increase in demand for interactive displays in retail, as it’s a great way for brands and stores to maximise floorspace. In one recent installation for example, a popular brand of children’s buggies had a limited commercial footprint within a larger store. We created interactive kiosks for them so customers could browse and order from their full range, even though they only had limited display product. Another great example we’ve seen is in showrooms; if a brand wants to only have one size or colour of item on the show floor, but has more available in the stockroom, interactive technology allows customers to browse additional options and availability.

Are retailers more interested in technology that provides accurate information on customer behaviour and demographics or tech that improves and personalises the customer experience?

There is a definite split between what retailers want, and what customers want in terms of in-store technology, so retail brands need to make sure they maintain a balance of analytics-focused and experience-focused technology. For a store, it’s all about getting the best data to understand your customer and make more sales.

Customers on the other hand want stores to treat them as an individual, rather than a point of data, so they seek a completely personalised experience for them created within the store environment. Tools like beacon technology, mobile integration, interactive platforms or audience recognition software allow stores to create targeted content to customers that surprises and delights them, but also allows them to get measureable data on return on investment.

For example, the use of audience measurement software – easily built into existing digital signage platforms – allows you to determine viewer demographics. By identifying who’s looking at the screen, and what they’re doing, content can be tailored to their interests and needs. The customer benefits by getting a more tailored shopping experience, while the store gets greater insight into consumer behaviour as well as improved sales performance.

What makes the biggest difference between a retail project being profitable and unprofitable?

The trick to creating profitable retail installations is to think about content, location and analytics. A digital signage system can help to create an additional advertising point, highlight key products to increase visibility and sales, or even entertain people in queue situations to encourage further purchases or create a positive waiting experience. Where the kit is installed in-store makes a difference too. Making sure it’s in a high-footfall area so that more people are able to interact with a display is a great way of ensuring it remains profitable.

Also, content is key for customers, a digital version of a static advert isn’t the most engaging. We’ve used video – for example of fashion week runways – to create an eye-catching display but there are other simple tactics you can deploy such as live social media feeds that also encourage interaction.

Finally, if you have installed a facial recognition or data-gathering system be sure to think about what happens next with that data. It’s no good knowing that 78% of your customers are female, for example, if you don’t maximise this fact in store in terms of advertising and displays. Overall the big differentiator between profitable and non-profitable AV installs is whether or not the project has been designed to serve a particular purpose. Know what your system is supposed to deliver and design it accordingly.

Tell us about a recent installation project that highlights Pioneer Digital’s expertise in the retail sector.

We have a great relationship with Sunglass Hut, having done LED installations in their London flagship stores to create bling walls, helping them to enable a high-fashion live stream of their runway shows into select stores during London Fashion week, and finally, creating a show-stopping curved LED videowall in the iconic de Bijenkorf department store in Amsterdam. The brand has found that innovative uses of digital signage in key stores creates an impactful brand experience and really resonates with core customers.