Retail displays are all about engaging customers, and the latest generation of units takes that maxim literally. As well as gaining the attention of shoppers, many now seek to draw these consumers in further by getting them to interact physically with the displays.
The longer they linger, the more likely shoppers are to buy something – or so the theory goes. But brands are also seeking to impart product knowledge – and often a detailed sales pitch – in the hope of recruiting long-term consumers.
Technology is playing an upfront role in displays at the more expensive end of the market. Printed graphics here can afford to be minimal, with integral screens doing the job of presenting product details.
Cosmetics brand Playboy Beauty is rolling out a distinctive display unit to Superdrug stores around the UK, as well as to stores in Australia, as part of a drive to take its products into the mass market. An LCD screen built into the unit plays a 20-minute film, highlighting the half-century heritage of the Playboy brand and the sun-kissed lifestyle of iconic founder Hugh Hefner. The content will be updated every season to include the latest product range.
Karine Liboiron, global marketing director of High Maintenance, which produces the Playboy Beauty range, says customers watch the entire presentation. ‘I’ve seen it happen. People actually do stop and watch it,’ says Liboiron. ‘Our retailers are ecstatic.’ A catchy tune also helps draw in the young female customers that are so important to Superdrug. The moving images of parties and beautiful women, combined with the brand’s distinctive corporate colour and the Playboy bunny icon on product packaging, allow the unit to shout about its brand with only a small application of the company logo. But it is another distinctive feature that creates further interaction.
‘It is the only unit in Superdrug with a mirror,’ says Michael Sheridan, chief executive of Sheridan & Co, which designed the unit. ‘We fought tooth and nail to get Superdrug to let us do that, because they would have preferred a higher stock density.’ The consultancy’s research has shown that even customers using testers from other cosmetics brands need to interact with the Playboy unit to see how they look – a desirable result for the premium-priced brand.
Screen technology is now tried and tested, and developers are looking to future advances. The next generation of screens is already forging ahead with more sophisticated systems, says Sheridan. Estée Lauder-owned male skincare brand Lab Series has trialled a system that uses the RFID (radio frequency identification) tags built into product packaging to trigger tailored screen footage for the particular product that has been picked up by a browsing customer.
‘The second version of this display has a voiceover too,’ Sheridan says. ‘Stage three has a wireless link.’ As well as making the units easy to install – they need wires attached only for a power source – this will allow customers to communicate directly with consultants via a webcam link. For cosmetics brands this enables a consultant service to be offered in a multitude of stores with the minimum number of consultants, a benefit that could be of use in a number of different product sectors.
Price and limited space are two factors likely to restrict the use of these techniques to premium-priced products and brands, at least for the forseeable future. But as retailers seek a point of difference to make stores stand out from cheaper on-line competition, interaction could have an increasingly important role to play.
Clever thinking, rather than clever technology, may prove to be the key to effectiveness. For example, when In-Store magazine asked a sample of consumers where the most recent retail promotion they remember was located, nearly two thirds said the shelf-edge of retail displays. That small bit of retail real estate may see itself becoming increasingly valuable.
Matthew Valentine is editor of In-Store