As 2018 ends, it remains an uneasy time for brick-and-mortar retailers. When you combine the seemingly never-ending rise in online shopping behavior with the ever-growing specter of online retail monolith Amazon, it can feel as if the retail apocalypse is imminent. Whether considered media hype or fact, it’s hard to refute the hard facts regarding retail store closings in recent years.
That said, physicals stores are far from irrelevant. In fact, despite the fact that the vast majority of consumers today are engaging in e-commerce activities, a majority of Americans – 64 percent, according to Pew Research Center – still prefer buying from physical stores to buying online. It’s also notable that, according to the NRF, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday 2017, over 115 million Americans left home to visit stores in-person (though only 51 million shopped exclusively in stores.) They still value the immediacy of physical purchases, along with the opportunity to see and touch products before plunking down their hard-earned cash.
Given consumers’ continued cravings for physical retail experiences, the savviest retailers aren’t allowing their in-store experiences to stagnate in favor of shifting all new investment toward online channels. Rather, they recognize that now is the time to double-down on creating memorable and personalized in-store experiences that will foster people’s inherent desire to engage with brands and products in-person. These enhanced experiences are being driven by a new wave of exciting in-store signage innovations.
One of the most obvious places we’re seeing innovation in in-store signage is the continued shift from print to digital. If you’ve been to a McDonald’s in the past couple of years, you know this to be true. Gone are the static menu listings whose dynamic properties were limited to a physically shifting panel that would reveal or conceal breakfast offerings as needed. In their place are vibrant digital displays, with highly visual menu treatments spinning ceaselessly across brightly illuminated LED monitors.
As you might imagine, such a massive signage shift across the more than 14,000 McDonald’s U.S. restaurants represented no small investment. But the fast food giant wisely recognized a fact that many retailers are just now coming to understand: Digital signage sells. In fact, according to Cisco, more than 40 percent of shoppers say that digital displays, such as video walls, can influence their purchases notably. But is that such a surprise? Digital signage enables retailers to provide relevant and highly impactful information to customers near the point of purchase, at the crucial moment when purchase decisions are being made. Not to mention, such information can easily be updated and customized – throughout the day, if needed – to better connect with customers.
Of course, digital signage represents a notable upgrade and investment for retailers – one that countless studies have found to be well worth the outlay. And once in place, the new screens open up countless possibilities for the savvy retailer. Social media activations on digital signage represent one of the most highly effective ways of leveraging in-store visuals for maximum sales lift.
User-generated content, such as a social feed curated according to Instagram hashtags, resonates powerfully with consumers, particularly at that crucial time prior to purchase. It’s one thing to see a blouse on a faceless mannequin. It’s quite another to see it being worn in real life by real people, possibly even by celebrities. User-generated content curated from social media delivers real-time testimonials that no amount of conversation with a sales clerk can match.
Consider social giant Under Armour, which three years ago was pioneering advances in in-store digital signage with activations like its giant branded social media wall at the Under Armour Brand House store in NYC. The wall, whose content could be moderated either in-store or at head office, showcased fan images captured with hashtag #UANYVC. Such social media displays have become increasingly common in recent years, and for good reason: They connect with and engage shoppers in an authentic and relevant way.
In addition to smarts use of user-generated content store, pioneering fashion retailers are also leveraging their digital displays to encourage hands-on interactions. High-end retailers, including Ralph Lauren and Rebecca Minkoff, are pushing the boundaries – and reaping the rewards – of “smart mirror” technologies. These displays use RFID technology to identify the items a customer brings into the dressing room and display them on the mirror, along with other available sizes and colors, as well as recommended complementary products. Both retailers reported engagement rates of more than 90 percent following the introductions of these dynamic “dressing room of the future” technologies.
Physical stores aren’t going anywhere. But not all brick-and-mortar retailers are adapting fast enough to shifts in consumer behavior and demand for enhanced in-store experiences. Thanks to the continued trend toward more affordable digital display technology, the retailers of tomorrow – the ones who will not only survive but also thrive in the e-commerce age – are getting smart about how they tap into the power of user-generated content and interactive displays in the in-store setting.