Leading retailers are implementing top-down audiovisual (AV) transformations of their brick-and-mortar stores to drive traffic, reinforce brand and offer customers experiences that can’t be had online. Whether they sell beauty products, mattresses or home storage solutions, retailers can benefit from AV technologies that help customers make decisions, test options, learn about product benefits and connect the in-store experience with online shopping.
At the International Retail Design Conference, AVIXA, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, moderated a panel titled “Embracing Audiovisual Experiences to Fuel Retail Growth,” that featured Rebekah Sigfrids, VP of Store Design for Sephora; Angela Gearhart, VP of Brand Experience for Sleep Number; and Robyn Novak, VP of FRCH, the design firm behind the Container Store’s new digitally-enhanced Dallas flagship store.
Here’s a look at those retailers’ AV-enabled retail experiences, with insight from panelists’ colleagues.
Putting Everything In The Right Place
At the Container Store’s flagship location in Dallas, the company took advantage of a recent renovation and layout redesign to add interactive technology that would help customers overcome what might have been called decision-paralysis. According to Container Store Chief Marketing Officer Melissa Collins, a better shopping experience starts with putting customers at ease — a point brought to life through a large digital display at the store’s entrance that reads “Welcome! We’ve reimagined our space to help you maximize yours.”
“One of the things we want to do is make our stores more approachable,” Collins said. “We find customers feel overwhelmed and intimidated. They’re not very organized, so they’re thinking, ‘How do I get started?’”
To help customers on their organizational journeys, the Container Store added 18 digital screens throughout the store that provide product information, interactive design assistance and before-and-after visualizations. Collins also said that the redesign took cues from the company’s online business, noting that many visitors are looking for projects and inspirational tips that they can replicate. The displays now share projects and tips for visitors as they peruse the store, creating a deeper connection between customers and the physical store.
Customers also can use touchscreens to view various finishes and models of cabinets and refrigerators, and see what they look like in real-room environments. The screens offer tips, inspiration and an itemized product and price list that simplifies budgeting and checkout.
“We know that countless retailers are building digital tools and using them to innovate the shopping experience,” said Val Richardson, Vice President of Real Estate at the Container Store. “But combining the human element with technology is when things really get powerful.”
To bridge in-store shopping with today’s online experience, the store now allows customers to upload a photo or video of their organizational challenge, then meet with an expert in the store’s Organization Studio, which features two large tabletop touchscreen displays for brainstorming options and possibilities. Using interactivity in this way helps employees connect with customers and better understand their struggles, thereby eliminating the need for lengthy explanations and enabling faster, more personalized service that results in higher sales and customer satisfaction.
The Perfect Beauty TIP
While the Container Store uses technology to help make customers’ homes look better, a leading beauty retailer is leveraging augmented reality technology to give customers an easier, faster way to test cosmetics and find the perfect products.
Sephora has launched a new interactive store experience called Beauty TIP, which stands for Teach, Inspire, Play. The concept leverages technology to create a beauty wonderland that goes above and beyond what other brick-and-mortar cosmetic retailers offer.
“Digital and innovation have always been part of our DNA at Sephora,” said Mary Beth Laughton, Sephora’s Executive Vice President of Omni Retail. “We are very focused on our customers, and we know that [their] lives are increasingly reliant on digital. So we know to be successful as a retailer, we’ve got to be where our clients are, and give [them] tools and experiences that meet [their] needs.”
The most innovative technology in the new store design, which debuted at Manhattan’s 34th Street flagship location, is an augmented reality (AR) experience that allows customers to digitally sample a variety of cosmetics in real time. First, a customer sits down at one of the AR stations, which includes a large touchscreen display and a camera that projects the customer’s face on the display. The customer then uses the touchscreen to select and sample lipstick, blush, mascara and other facial products, which are immediately applied to their on-screen image. This AR experience eliminates the often long and challenging process of carefully applying a test product, removing it, and trying several more products before (hopefully) arriving at a purchase decision.
“We are completely redesigning our store experience to reimagine it for our client today and into the future,” said Calvin McDonald, President and CEO of Sephora Americas. “By fusing hands-on service and technology, we’re creating a new experience that will teach and inspire, while allowing clients to play with beauty.”
Making Sleep Exciting
While Sephora is working hard to help people look and feel their best on the outside, another leading brand is using technology to show customers how their products can make them feel better from the inside out.
The newest Sleep Number flagship, located in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, doesn’t look like the typical mattress store. Featuring undulating visual displays and calming color schemes, the store’s ambiance communicates peacefulness and relaxation. The customer journey begins at the store’s entrance, where visitors are greeted with a large digital map that utilizes Sleep Number’s sleep tracking and biometric technology to show real-time local sleep statistics, including wake-up and go-to-bed times.
From there, visitors proceed to the Sleep Number 360 smart bed section, where AV technology really takes over. The company’s IndividualFit 3D Imaging software lets people try a bed while watching a digital map that displays their bodies’ pressure points. As the fit adjusts, they can see the pressure points dissipate. Previously, these images were shown on a laptop computer, but that proved difficult to watch while lying down.
Consequently, Sleep Number decided to project the pressure-sensor visuals onto a specially-made 95-inch glass screen using a small, bright projector. The screen, coated with a special optical film, can be viewed both from the front and back with equal clarity. In some stores, Sleep Number is experimenting with a second screen mounted directly overhead. The company has found that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words when selling customers on the Sleep Number experience.
After passing through the Sleep Number 360 smart bed area, customers can explore bedding options on a touchscreen display that lets them mix and match pillows, comforters, sheets and more to sample colors and determine their desired motifs.
“The Sleep Number store experience combines the latest in technology with the expertise of our sleep professionals, to deliver a value-added experience for our customers,” said Andy Carlin, Chief Sales and Services Officer. “For us, it’s all about helping people find solutions for their best possible sleep.”
In an increasingly digital marketplace, brands can benefit from developing audiovisual retail environments that deliver meaningful experiences and provide substantial benefits over online shopping. By offering personalized recommendations, combining interactive technologies with knowledgeable sales associates, and using digital tools to reduce frustrations and shopping fatigue, retailers can reinvigorate their in-store experiences and create brand-differentiating service.
Brad Grimes is Senior Director of Communications for AVIXA™, the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association. AVIXA represents the $178 billion global commercial AV industry and produces InfoComm trade shows around the world. For more information, visit www.avixa.org/retailAV.