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Shops and shopping centres: customer engagement

AV is used widely to draw customers to shops and shopping centres. Steve Montgomery assesses the methods and tools retailers and brands employ to encourage buyers.

AV is used widely to draw customers to shops and shopping centres. Steve Montgomery assesses the methods and tools retailers and brands employ to encourage buyers.

Retail shops and shopping centres are awash with large screens and AV technology as retailers compete against each other and online stores. Screens can act as a shop window; drawing people in from the street or displaying a wider range of products inside a store than can be shown on the floor. Display technology makes products more attractive, helps retailers capture customer interest and drives sales.

“We are increasingly asked to provide a retail solution combining security equipment and traditional AV. Heat mapping and people counting is being used to ensure the most vibrant displays are placed in the busiest part of the store. Demographic information allows in-store advertising to be targeted more appropriately according to the shoppers’ likely needs,” points out Tom Gibson, product marketing specialist at Panasonic Visual System Solutions.

In today’s online, interactive and instant-response world, shoppers expect stores to be an extension of their connected network. “Society is moving towards a different dynamic: mobile connectivity is embedded in the younger generation’s daily lives and they expect to see dynamic content everywhere they look,” says Michael Bailly, product planning and marketing director, Sharp Europe. “Large-format display is part of that mix, however retailers need great content to wow their customers. If they create something new and interactive they’ll be rewarded with great response. By controlling content and creating something that extra bit special, retailers can transform their displays into an entertainment system.”

Gibson agrees: “In our experience, interactivity does pull people in. We’ve installed interactive floor displays within quick-service restaurants that entertain children while food is being prepared. We unveiled a VR mirror that suggests appropriate clothes and make-up depending on your skin tone. This type of technology will inevitably find its way on to the high street.”

Shopping centre owners have a slightly different perspective, believes Guy Phelps, retail sales, NEC Display Solutions. “They need to offer a modern, high-tech environment to attract high-profile retail tenants and persuade people to leave the comfort of their homes where a retail purchase is just a few clicks away. It necessitates a unique offering requiring a customer-led approach. Making the centre a digital destination in its own right is imperative in enabling retailers and consumers to engage on a level which generates a more personalised shopping experience.”

The key throughout is engagement. Robin Critchley, operations director at digital media group Beaver Group, remarks: “As in-store technology becomes more prevalent, so too does the technology used by individuals. Their experience on web and mobile devices is expected to translate into the experience in store leading to an increased expectation of digital interaction. Twitter feeds, customer feedback, live events and dynamic promotions are all tools that create great customer experience.”

Bailly agrees: “People are passive, and often find posters or large displays easy to ignore. However the use of WiFi, Miracast and NFC technology allows interactivity between the consumers’ mobile devices and a display or even with a server after registration. Collaborative solutions that allow interactivity between devices are a definite trend.”

The utopia, says Phelps, is “for customers to be able to make purchases wherever, whenever and however they choose, but this will not be achieved until the retailer operates with an effective omni-channel strategy.”