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Is in-store technology just a passing fad?

This week I attended the Art of Digital event, which showcased a number of in-store technologies that aim to bring the digital world to the bricks-and-mortar store.

Over the last few years, a number of retailers have trialled this technology including River Island’s tweet mirror at Westfield Stratford and Marks and Spencer’s touch screen catalogues in-store. However, whilst these technologies look impressive and are great gimmicks to entice customers into the store and get them interacting with the brand, will it keep them coming back, and more importantly, could it be a distraction from actually shopping? As one managing director said: “It’s just a fad until the experience is seamless and relevant and customers actually use it”. But what do others think?

Is in-store technology such as tweet mirrors/video walls/touch screen technology just a passing fad?

Michael Ross, chief executive, Ecommera
“I think a fad in their current incarnation. My experience of this type of technology is that it needs to be very slick/seamless to get mass take-up. I think there are some critical enabling technologies such as RFID tags on clothes, and NFC (near field communication) in phones that will suddenly make the experience dramatically better.”

Ian Jindal, founder of
The individual examples and early deployments may pass into blush-inducing history, like flares, the Sinclair C-5 and platforms, but the underlying changes are developments in interaction, visual merchandising and customer interaction.

Tweet mirrors simply echo real-time customer discussions. If any criticism is to be levelled it’d be the limited functionality - you can but watch. There’s more capability on your phone (where you can both see the tweets and indeed add your own). However, bringing digital interactions into a store environment is interesting at best and harmless at worst and so should be seen as an early, version 0.1, attempt to bring social discussions into the static store.

Nigel Grant, brand director, Pretty Green
I think all of these technologies will further develop and improve the customers’ retail experience and their relationship with brands.

Dan Lumb, ecommerce director, Reiss
[In-store technologies are] absolutely essential in opening up full ranges of products or exclusives in a physical space, plus if the gadgets (which I call it tweet mirrors, etc) capture the essence of the brand, getting customers engaged can only be a good thing.

Nadine Sharara, head of ecommerce, Thomas Pink
There will be many ‘fad’ innovations appear as retailers try to understand how to use technology to create in store theatre that drive sales and brand engagement. The winners will be those that deliver value to the customer that justifies their investment. It will also vary by retailer and customer groups; I don’t anticipate a “one size fits all” solution.

Martin Newman, CEO, Practicology

I’m not sure there is enough evidence or KPIs yet to qualify the uptake or benefit of tweet mirrors and video walls as some of the benefits are soft rather hard tangible sales numbers. 

The effectiveness of this will also depend upon the brand and the level of engagement the consumer has with that particular brand. Eg, a 16 year old girl buying fashion might be quite happy to post on Facebook about buying from Topshop but not from other retailers. I think also that the success will depend upon the demographic of the target audience in the store.

From a sales perspective, touch screen technology is here to stay and there is plenty evidence of the sales uplift available by offering a broader choice of products or access to a deeper supply chain through ‘the endless aisle’, customer kiosks and assisted orders in store. Screens are changing our behaviour and will continue to do so, whether that’s on a mobile device, tablet or instore touchscreen.

Sean McKee, head of ecommerce, Schuh

Inevitably yes, some of it will be – though I think digital screens of some description will become increasingly prevalent in retail stores. They are less likely to be today’s “bells and whistles” but doing genuinely practical jobs such as widening inventory, stock checking or self-service payment.

Leon Bailey-Green, online retail commentator, Leon-Bailey Green Retail

“If customers don’t like what they see in store, why would they want someone showing them more on a tablet? Retailers hoping to counter poor sales by being ‘innovative’ are deluding themselves. Product is always key; get that right first then any use of in-store technology which helps the customer is far from a fad.”

Antony Comyns, head of ecommerce at shirt retailer Hawes & Curtis

“Whilst I’m not sure about tweet mirrors, touchscreen technology is here to stay and will shape the way we shop on the high street. Kiosks open up your warehouse to your customers and that has to be a good thing.”



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