The distinction between offline and online shopping continues to blur. We need to find new ways to connect buyers and sellers. Traditional retail isn’t going away – it is transforming. Smart retailers are innovating, reimagining the store and what it means to shop.

The rapid development and adoption of technology, driven largely by mobile, has shifted power from brands and retailers toward shoppers. The ease, efficiency, access and personalisation enjoyed online is reshaping expectations and evaluations of ‘offline’ retail experiences.

Retailers are becoming fully aware that success lies in their ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience across all digital channels. This new, connected strategy pins retailers in a challenging corner, requiring synchronization across every store function, from tablets to kiosks to digital signage.

The term Internet of Things (IoT) describes several technologies and research disciplines that enable the Internet to reach out into the real world of physical objects. Technologies like RFID, short-range wireless communications, real-time localization, and sensor networks are becoming increasingly pervasive, making the IoT a reality.

For instance your fridge will be able to tell that you’re running out of milk. It’ll then automatically order more online from the grocery store… who’ll text you to say it’s on its way… before automatically deducting the cost from your PayPal account and then dropping it to your door.

Check ins… Likes… LinkedIn profiles… Google searches… website cookies… online purchases… YouTube channels… Pinterests… are all being linked together by the Internet of Things thinking… and we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible.

In fact, after the World Wide Web and universal mobile accessibility, the IoT represents the most potentially disruptive technological revolution of our lifetime. With 50 to 100 billion things expected to be connected to the Internet by 2020, we are now experiencing a paradigm shift in which everyday objects become interconnected and smart.

If you think the digital world is crowded now, wait to you see what the next few years will bring. Today, there are roughly two Internet-connected devices for every man, woman and child on the planet. By 2025, analysts are forecasting that this ratio will rise past six. This means we can expect to grow to nearly 50 billion Internet-connected devices in the next decade.

Once you digest the sheer size of that number and the tactical challenges of connecting and dealing with all those devices the first question most people want to know is what are all these devices doing and for what end?

Linking all of these devices to target successfully means we need to capture, store and gain insights from massive amounts of information about our customers.

Big data is the term for a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications.

To give you a sense of the scope and size of the data being collected:

  • From the beginning of recorded data to 2003 we created 5 Exabyte’s of data.
  • In 2012 we created 5 Exabyte’s every 2 days
  • By the end of 2014 we will create 5 Exabyte’s every 10 minutes

That in its simplest is what Big Data is. It’s data on a scale we’ve never seen before!

The role of the store is becoming more and more important for today’s brands! With the ever-expanding possibilities that modern digital technology is affording brands coupled with the insights that can be gained from big data, the in store experience has become an area where brands will either make it or break it.
According to the Point of Purchase Advertising International (POPAI), 76% of shopping decisions are made in store. This gives retailers and brands a fantastic opportunity to influence this decision-making process in store, at the final moment of truth.

Digital signage is one of the fastest growing areas of retail communications. With such a high level of indecision in store, this is a fantastic opportunity to convert sales but one that is being frequently overlooked.

Supermarket chains in the US are seeing huge savings using Digital labeling as they are virtually cutting out costs associated with printing, checking and changing labels and also reducing the occurrence of discrepancies between the advertised price and that which comes up at the check out.

Digital menu boards enable managers to keep pace or stay ahead of their competition.

The benefits of digital menu boards are numerous and include:

  • The ability to use automatic day parting to drive up sales
  • The ability to remotely update menus and make instant, pre-programmed changes
  • Make changes and update prices for single or multiple locations, from anywhere in the world
  • Centralized control of marketing, promotions and menu board content
  • The ability to link inventory levels and point of sale (POS) to change marketing and pricing instantly

Digital advertising allows messages to be dynamic, clear and interactive. Static as well as full-motion content can be integrated to create a compelling display. This then allows the operator to incorporate cross promotions with vendors, partners and suppliers.

Kiosks or digital touch screen displays offer shoppers a new way to shop alongside traditional touch points. It enables customers to access the detailed information they are after. By controlling the environment where the information is displayed you remove competitor influence and ultimately deliver increased shopper engagement and education.

Digital shelf talkers haven’t really broken outside of the US however they are set to become a useful tool as they allow you to place your message “on” the glass of drinks fridge for instance.

While digital menu boards are a fast and simple form of digital signage, interactive windows are fast growing as a “big” form of digital signage taking off in the US at the moment. Kate Spade in New York recently introduced several new 24 Hour interactive window shops. Shopping takes place through a large touch screen display, and apparel items can be previewed on model photos. Items purchased are then delivered within one hour.

Burberry in the UK have initiated the use of RFID technology throughout the Burberry product lines to assist with stock and quality control, while also enhancing the customer experience in selected stores. RFID technology enables customers to view bespoke multimedia content specific to different products and ranges on in-store display screens.

A final word

When you do invest in touch points, it’s critical that they work together!! Consistency amongst your different messaging points helps deliver a seamless in store experience, reduce shopper confusion and present a professional image of a brand that takes itself seriously.