Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Despite the fact that retailers have to compete with online stores for customer attention, it’s clear that the human touch is still important for many customers. Technology may have changed many aspects of the brand experience, but as sensory beings we still like to see and feel the brands we support. While technology has extended the reach of brands, it’s also affecting both the digital and physical spaces they occupy.

Data analytics

There is a huge rise in the use of data analytics by retailers in Europe and the US, and SA retailers are quickly following suit. Smartphone apps, in particular, can track the entire shopper journey and personalise how brands interact with their customers. However, data analytics should always be backed by a positive in-store experience.

The big take-out: Technology is having a significant effect on in-store branding.

Software technologies enable the seamless integration of the digital experience with in-store products. And new products are being developed, such as in-store apps that style the customer and enable him or her to change garments on a screen in the change room.

Digital display or LED lightboxes?

Retailers now use digital display screens extensively, but these are expensive to maintain and new content needs to be generated regularly. There is therefore great interest in the new, LED animated lightbox solution, which uses LED light technology to produce what is effectively a dumbed-down version of the digital display screen. It is much more affordable for retailers in the short term.

Light-weight aluminum frames are covered with full-colour textiles and illuminated from behind, and once the frames are in place, new content can be introduced regularly by switching the printed textiles on the frames. This differs from a digital display in that the LED lightbox uses static imagery and brings it to life with the movement of light and colour, using lights behind the fabric.

This provides the benefit of a dynamic, interactive element without the expense and maintenance of digital display screens. But it’s essential to find a balance between establishing a mood in areas of the store, and not introducing too much movement, which creates “noise”.

Innovative materials

The rise of digital technologies has led to a greater level of sophistication in the materials used to produce in-store branding solutions. Modern digital printing creates significant potential for creative campaigns. Innovative in-store display stand offerings, for instance, use light-weight reinforced board material, which can be flat-packed for transport and storage, but can hold a lot of weighty product in an attractive, strong and sturdy unit. This creates new opportunities for point-of-sale stands, either for permanent use, or for promotional purposes.

The cost benefits of technology

Technology is having a direct effect on the cost of production. There is a perception that new technology is expensive, but whether it’s new technology in inks for printing on textiles or in the fabric itself, in terms of how much ink it absorbs, innovation is saving time and money – a benefit that is passed on to clients. These savings are also a result of greater production speeds being developed due to new digital technology, which means faster turnaround and output.

Window displays

The in-store window display has always been a creative space in which brands can express themselves, and there is a big trend towards a theatrical style, with products combined with printed media and lighting in a layered effect. In a cluttered market, both message and product need to stand out, and speak directly to customers. Technology is enabling a targeted focus or “personalisation” to be carried through to window displays, where the display is aimed at particular groups of customers.

Technological innovation will continue to play a major role in the way brands express themselves in the retail environment. However, the challenge will be to stay ahead of the curve and correctly identify the opportunities these technologies present.

* Currie is The Clarion Group’s sales & marketing Director

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