The Harrods Magic Mirrors

The Harrods Magic Mirrors – customers can try different products such as lipsticks, foundations, blushers, all without ever putting them on their skin – an experience that can only be had in store.

As this report was in preparation news broke about the collapse of Thomas Cook – yet another blow to the ‘branch and brochure’ operations at one time an ‘ever present’ feature of the High Street. A few days later, it was reported that Britain’s pubs are closing at the rate of one every 12 hours. Something surely has to be done to bolster brick and mortar outlets if they are to survive. We contend that “it’s all about the experience” and here are some solutions that take the experience to another level.

Peerless-av Xtreme High bright outdoor displays extend the reach of the retailer to new locations and customer groups.

AV technology continues to advance, digital displays are doing more than just providing visuals. Keith Dutch, EMEA Managing Director of Peerless-AV reports that they are serving numerous functions, acting as a tool that allows retail customers to interact in-store and gather relevant information. “Navigating a shopping mall can be confusing, especially if shoppers are unfamiliar with its layout. To address this issue, kiosks with touch screens are often set up near various entrances to assist patrons with store directory details and wayfinding solutions.”

“Within many retail stores, interactive kiosks have been installed over the past few years. These kiosks serve numerous purposes in assisting customers as they peruse the store. For example, many of these kiosks have a scanning function that allows users to discover pricing and product availability for the items they are interested in. This helps prevent frustrating check-out scenarios related to incorrect or confusing static signage around products.”

“Kiosks can also allow users to simplify their shopping experience with the ability to search based on categories, such as type of clothing, size, style, colour, etc. If the product is not in store, shoppers can see similar alternatives or view online availability and place an order.”

Kiosks effectively stretch the capabilities of the store beyond its physical constraints, providing a portal to the retailers’ warehouse, other branches of a chain and even the retailers’ supply chain.

Taking the shop outdoors

Technology to stretch the stock and other capabilities of the retailer now matched by technology that extends the reach of the retailer to new locations and customer groups. Outdoor AV is becoming more prolific in the retail sector for taking the message outside to the consumer – reaching them with targeted advertising and tailored messaging at every point of their retail shopping experience.

Keith Dutch argues that weatherproof outdoor displays and kiosks offer the ideal solution for replacing static signage in locations including bus stops; train platforms; on the high street; outside universities; airports; at race tracks; theme parks; QSRs; car wash stations; and many more.

A major barrier to outdoor display integration used to be the inability to use a conventional flat panel display anywhere outside a climate-controlled environment. They lacked the ability to survive extreme temperatures, and were unable to withstand rain, humidity, snow, dirt and insects. High heat shortened component lifespans, while cold impacted LCD operation by expanding and distorting display frames.

Fluctuating temperatures, like a cool night warmed by the morning sun, created condensation that shorted out the electronics and affected image quality. Glare also affected the ability to deliver a crisp, clear picture. In short: there were some serious drawbacks and limitations to the technology. Until now. New IP68 rated, high bright outdoor daylight readable displays are available that excel in the most challenging applications.

The current focus on ‘experiential retail’, ‘place-making’ and ‘enhancing the customer experience’, is an example of brands seeking innovative approaches to connect directly with consumers.

As shops close, units are being filled with an increasing array of leisure activities beyond the traditional cinema and bowling, to climbing walls, adventure golf, trampoline parks, pet cafes and much more.

Leasing agents are working with big brands, such as Porsche and Tesla, to pop up inside malls. Sometimes called ‘brand activations’, these events offer visitors the opportunity for engagement with their brands by, for example, offering test drives directly from the car park.

Smart information hubs

These innovations enhance the customer experience by increasing the convenience and ‘efficiency’ of shopping expeditors but are they really ‘experiential’? The current focus on ‘experiential retail’, ‘place-making’ and ‘enhancing the customer experience’, shows how brands are seeking innovative approaches to connect directly with consumers. As shops close, units are being filled with an increasing array of leisure activities beyond the traditional cinema and bowling, to climbing walls, adventure golf, trampoline parks, pet cafes and much more.

Leasing agents are working with big brands, such as Porsche and Tesla, to pop-up inside malls. Sometimes called ‘brand activations’, these events offer visitors the opportunity for engagement with their brands by, for example, offering test drives directly from the car park. The changes don’t stop there. Smart technologies are changing all aspects of the retail environment, from the designing of clothes to stock management, virtual mirrors, frictionless payments, digital wayfinding, location-based offers and so much more.

New customer experiences

Digital signage and wayfinding solutions are playing a vital role in the new customer experience. Digital directories are evolving into smart information hubs by offering information about in-store promotions, events, and much more. Smart information hubs can directly engage customers by drawing down and dynamically presenting live information in seconds.

Acquire Digital’s Wayfinder technology is helping to redefine the way information is provided to the public, in a wealth of industries from aviation to leisure and tourism, retail to healthcare.

Acquire Digital’s Wayfinder Smart Information Hubs are leading this space with bold new features and enhanced capabilities, helping to shape the visitor experience. In a world where consumers can easily choose to shop online and stay indoors, the importance of ‘world class customer service’ to the retail environment cannot be underestimated. Information hubs enable visitors to access information about brands, store locations, amenities, services, events as well as wider tourism and local information.

The public no longer expects static or 2D maps. 3D mapping capabilities help to reimagine the way in which the public navigates spaces, offering a more intuitive experience. Imagine a map screen that can show you the quickest walking path to your destination, accounting for the density and flow of people in the same way that your sat-nav calculates a route based on traffic. What if the map could highlight other shops of interest along the way?

Safety and environment

With the increased need to get safety alerts in public spaces to individuals as soon as possible, information hubs can support warnings, and messaging banners, in effective ways including up-to-date transport, weather, missing persons, security and safety alerts.

Equally important from a societal point-of- are the steps shopping malls are taking to tackle climate change, with sustainable commitments to recycling, going paper-free and becoming carbon neutral. Increased use of digital technology significantly reduces the need to produce printed materials, reducing both costs and environmental impact.

Customer expectations

Today’s consumers have high expectations for accurate, up-to-date, and fast information to allow them to make informed decisions. Smart information hubs allow them to access the information they need, when they need it, from store locations to events and cinema listings, and even dinner reservations.

The ability to use single screens or link together multiple screens across malls, or even geographical locations, to play interactive games, such as the recent Dallas Cowboys ‘Pose with the Pros’ campaign that resulted in 12.3 million interactions, is having an impact on even the new, younger consumer groups.

A recent project, supported by Acquire Digital, involved the creation of a fun, interactive game designed for young people to coincide with the summer blockbuster ‘Dora and the Lost City of Gold’. Individuals were asked to help Dora collect the good things and discard the bad things in order to gain a top score and watch a full-length trailer of the film. The project saw just under 50,000 individuals across 11 states in 32 locations engage in a total of 185 hours of gaming, with 3,000 individuals interacting through peak periods.

This type of project provides rich data insights into consumer behaviour and a greater awareness into the way in which the public uses space at different times, providing valuable information for both retailers and property owners.

Technology in action

Among the emerging technologies enhancing the retail experience, Acquire Digital’s Wayfinder technology is helping to redefine the way information is provided to the public, in a wealth of industries from aviation to leisure and tourism, retail to healthcare.

For example, La Guardia (LGA airport) in New York recently introduced a new customer offer across their digital kiosks. The airport used Wayfinder software to allow passengers to check-in, access information about departure times and receive details of their route and journey times direct to their smart devices, accounting for any check-in delays. The new feature has been a huge success, reducing queuing times, contributing to enhanced customer service delivery, and providing passengers with an alternative method of checking in.

In another example, recent collaboration with Walmart, saw Wayfinder software help customers search for any one of their store’s 240,000 products via an interactive touchscreen and receive a map and directions, direct to their smart devices, taking them directly to the item’s location on the shelf. The digital displays also promoted daily discounts, flash offers and supported in-store promotional events. The unique content management system (CMS) enables Walmart to change information on an item’s location and pricing immediately. These live updates ensure that the customer receives accurate information in the fastest possible time.

This solution has enabled Walmart to update its marketing campaigns, promotions and pricing, saving on overheads while also having a better understanding of consumer behaviour. Acquire’s Wayfinder provides individuals with accurate, live, up-to-date information on brands, offers, destinations, events, travel and tourism, weather, emission levels, and provide safety alerts all in one place: “It’s like having a mini customer service pod throughout your retail destination.” Said Neil Farr, CEO of Acquire Digital.

A recent project with one of the world’s largest cinema chains involved the introduction of interactive screens to enable cinema goers to book tickets, make reservations, and pre-order food, drinks and snacks, including their favourite popcorn, through one seamless interaction. The project resulted in reduced queues at busy periods, increased sales of concessions, and positive feedback from customers.

A recent project with one of the world’s largest cinema chains involved the introduction of interactive screens to enable cinema goers to book tickets, make reservations, and pre-order food, drinks and snacks, including their favourite popcorn, through one seamless interaction. The project resulted in reduced queues at busy periods, increased sales of concessions, and positive feedback from customers.

ROI

With an increased focus on income generation and commercialisation of spaces, the creative use of smart information hubs for advertisements and creative content, including public competitions and exhibitions, has huge potential. Taking advantage of the ability of information hubs to use capabilities such as mixed reality experiences, creates further engagement opportunities, and can mean a whole new outlook on income generation.

For example, teaming up with an F1 brand to connect a racing car to a digital track, via the hubs, to run time laps for the public, or a challenge to cycle around a location digitally for charity. Innovative suppliers of smart information hubs, such are integrating enhanced capabilities and building relationships with advertising and content providers with ROI in mind and to provide a complete turnkey solution to the retail environment.

But it’s not all plain sailing. Jeff Hastings, CEO, BrightSign reminds us that: “Many of the AV trends in the retail space involve broadening the digital signage ecosystem – for example pulling outside content to display social feeds, or bridging the gap between in-store signage and customers’ mobile phones.”

“These and other emerging use cases require a closer look at security, which is why AV integrators and retailers would be well-served to implement digital signage solutions with a dedicated operating system. This is one of the key reasons retailers prefer BrightSign’s purpose-built OS, as it eliminates security risks associated with signage networks that use consumer-based operating systems.”

What’s next?

NEC’s Leafenging sensor technology in combination with direct view indoor LED modules.

While developments in display hardware are continuing apace (see the AV News feature in this issue on the state-of-the-art in direct view LED) the focus is now very much on personalising the screen content. Recently demonstrated at IBC 2019, Intelligent Storefront Merchandising is a solution that tracks and intelligently automates how content is positioned on the storefront, increasing monetisation and ensuring compliance for the provider.

Managing today’s AVOD, SVOD and TVOD platforms requires speed, flexibility and cost-effective options to ensure higher engagement and deeper connections with consumers.  Through a single view, Mediamorph’s CVM platform can quickly manage, edit and filter offer collections more efficiently while ensuring the right content is available at the right time and at the right price.

“With so many platforms and more titles than ever, we found most media and entertainment organisations are manually managing how they merchandise their content,” explained Rob Gardos, CEO of Mediamorph.

“Mediamorph realized that Content Acquisition and Programming teams not only need to track rights, dates/windows, contract terms and ensure compliance, but also want to leverage rules and automation to better exploit the content they are licensing. This incredibly powerful functionally is setting the standard to not only increase revenue, but also enable a better user experience throughout the industry.”

Experiential and personal – that’s what it’s all about if bricks-and-mortar stores are to survive.

Getting personal

The Harrods Magic Mirrors – customers can try different products such as lipsticks, foundations, blushers, all without ever putting them on their skin – an experience that can only be had in store.

As one of the UK’s leading retailers Harrods is a early adopter of this approach. Videotree has created some really clever Magic Mirror experiences for Harrods Beauty Hall. Due to be finished in 2020, this major £200 m refurbishment will be completed in three-phases and consists of the new Beauty Hall – which will eventually be an impressive 90,000 sq ft, increasing its share of the famous department store by over 50%.

A major hit so far with customers have been the Magic Mirrors which have been created to digitally map facial features. Customers can try different products such as lipsticks, foundations, blushers, all without ever putting them on their skin. All the mirrors have been custom designed using the very latest in vanishing mirror technology and the project is totally unique in the UK.

The products have been designed and created in the UK using the latest 3D design and 3D printing and machining. The hardware has been matched with cutting-edge AG reality made up the software and the screens are programmed to be able to cope with the entire range of brands like Dior and L’Oréal available to buy in the store.

“The product combines the best AR technology and beautiful engineering and has already led to significant inquiries from other leading retail stores across the globe where we hope to deploy similar products with them,” adds Chris Bruce, Head of Sales for Videotree.

More information

www.peerless-av.com

enquiries@acquiredigital.com

www.videotree.com

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