The subject of interactive multimedia is on the agenda of every major retail group and it’s this sector which, above all others, has been quickest at adopting new interactive multimedia technology.
The Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) has estimated that about 1000 projects have been developed in the UK over the past 12 years. Today, IMRG has identified more than 50 live multiple retail applications, with another 40 being planned for imminent launch.
To date, the most prolific manifestation of multimedia on the high street has been the “interactive kiosk”, although the word “kiosk” seems a peculiarly anachronistic way of describing the cutting edge in retail. Anachronistic perhaps, but profound in its potential impact.
Market analyst Frost and Sullivan has estimated that “kiosk” revenues in the US totalled 311m ($476m) in 1990, and this is expected to grow to 2.3bn ($3.59bn) by 2000 and 3.26bn ($5bn) by 2003.
It is in Europe, however, that the growth will be greatest. Our share of revenues is expected to be the biggest in the world by 2000, overtaking even that of North America.
With this tidal wave of change about to beat our shores, how can retailers and retail designers ensure that the potential of this technology is maximised in-store?
Whether it’s in the development of the technology itself or in its integration within the retail environment, three fundamental criteria must prevail:
There must be a real business need
The service should provide added value to customers
The offer should fit into the environment and existing systems seamlessly and it should be thoroughly tested and understood
It is the issue of seamlessness which – working together with their clients and the developers of the technology itself – retail designers will need to champion.
This means applying what 20/20 and sister company 1/2/1 Interactive Multimedia define as tactile branding, which is derived from the concept that you “touch the customer where they touch you”.
This means bombarding the customers’ senses with the retailer’s brand personality so that they can feel it, smell it, touch it. The retailer’s service, environment and communication should leave an indelible mark on the customer’s subconscious.
Interactive technology – what’s on-screen, its physical housing and its positioning in-store – needs to be totally integrated and seamlessly managed alongside all the other elements in the retail mix.
Fail to do this and the outcome will be an expensive and ill-fitting gimmick – as effective and credible as spoilers and go-faster stripes on a boy racer’s souped-up family saloon.
Daewoo – the biggest installed interactive multimedia network in Europe
Back in September 1994, 20/20 and 1/2/1 were brought in by Daewoo to develop the retail strategy and concept for the launch of the
Daewoo car brand in the UK. Just six months later the first outlets opened for business.
Entering what was an already under performing and overcrowded market required a very different approach to car retailing. The strategy for the business was to create “the most customer-focused car brand in the UK market”.
To achieve this, Daewoo would sell its cars through its own stores, not through the traditional network of third-party dealerships. The retail proposition was to remove the car salesman and allow customers to browse at their own pace. Pivotal to this was the development of a customer-activated information system which would also permit Daewoo to retail beyond its limited number of sites.
The system allows customers to enter their particular requirements and build up a picture of what car would suit them best. Once customers have selected a particular model they can choose accessories, colours and so on and see the car change before their eyes, while at the same time the price of the car is instantly updated. After selecting the final specification, customers can then obtain an idea of approximate insurance costs and review financing alternatives.
The success of the Daewoo launch was unprecedented. Within six months the brand had overtaken Volvo and Citren in UK market share. Interactive multimedia has, and is, playing a fundamental part in that success. According to research, 50 per cent of visitors to Daewoo outlets have used its interactive kiosks, 95 per cent of customers have found the information useful and 98 per cent found the kiosks easy to use. Of the 17m worth of cars sold in the first month, 3m of sales were directly influenced by multimedia.
Bearing in mind the success of the Daewoo marketing campaign, what are the five key lessons which retailers in general and retail designers in particular can learn from
Daewoo’s interactive network?
The system has been deployed at key points within the customer’s shopping journey; at times when they may experience moments of hesitation and where and when they will need more information or ideas
The kiosks are located in, or shielded from, areas of high shopper traffic (such as in the dedicated information centres) where the customer’s comfort zone will not be intruded upon by hordes of other shoppers peering over their shoulders
The kiosks are clearly signed and instructions on how to use them are made accessible for the benefit of the customers, not computer programmers
The environmental treatments deployed in these areas are constructed to be calm and subdued – contributing to the customer’s desired frame of mind
And, above all else, the visual and audio language deployed on screen mirrors that used by the company in all its other forms of communication, from in-store graphics to print advertising and TV commercials
The Daewoo interactive multimedia kiosks are just one component of a seamless Daewoo tactile branding experience which is totally customer-driven. The challenge for retailers and retail designers is to ensure that the experience is replicated and even bettered in the exciting years to come.
FAO Schwartz – more than a toy
At its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York, the toy retailer FAO Schwartz has used a through-the-window interactive system that has added a new dimension to the term “window shopping”.
The entire system is mounted inside the window and is activated when a person touches the standard window glass. Featuring a Top Ten List and Budget Gift Ideas, among others, the technology means that the retailer can effectively be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, influencing purchasing decisions even before the customer has entered the store.