Retail Theatre: setting the stage for success

Author: Gary Byrne, Head of Retail Solutions UK

Retail theatre is THE hot topic in physical retail. In fact, my colleagues and I received a staggering number of enquiries on this topic while exhibiting at Retail Week’s Tech. event. So how do you achieve this? Here are five tips.

1.      Host unique in-store customer events.

Hosting in-store customer events allows retailers to engage with customers directly and provide an experience they would not have elsewhere. Examples include product training sessions or launch events. The latter are often tied to loyalty programmes and create an element of exclusivity for invitees. Shops can also add that special something extra by leveraging advanced technologies. For instance, retailers can use the Panasonic Space Player to map projections of various styles onto a physical 3D model of a product (such as a shoe or dress). In addition to being eye-catching and out-of-the-ordinary, this eliminates the need to maintain a huge volume of stock. This type of technology does not have to be installed on a permanent basis; it can be deployed ad-hoc for specific events.

2.      Revamp stores with aesthetics front of mind.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. So the in-store environment needs to be attractive and welcoming. Avoid overcrowding space; instead, ensure there is a nice flow around the shop.  Retailers must identify the most appropriate areas to position products or people to interact with the consumer – and maximise sales. To capture the key relevant data, retailers can exploit various analytical tools, such as facial recognition, heat mapping and people counting. They can also evaluate customer behaviour, mood and demographics.  The aim is to deliver an immersive experience that customers will want to share with others, and that will keep them coming back for more.

3.      Create a seamless shopping experience between online and in store.

The physical store can sometimes feel too static. This can be overcome by deploying digital tools. For example, a leading consumer electronics retailer employs Panasonic Electronic Shelf Label (ESL) to interact with customers. Shoppers can tap the ESL to view product reviews or specifications from the store’s website. And as prevalent as online shopping has become, there are still products that people want to touch and see first-hand. Many online platforms already point customers towards stores that stock certain items. But this can be taken a step further with geolocation solutions that guide customers to the exact location within the shop itself – as well as linking to promotions and to payment functions.  

4.      Use multimedia solutions to deliver the customer message.

There are various ways to make content more dynamic and personal. For instance, you can tailor displayed information to the demographics of your in-store customers, and even to those walking by. This could be a promotion, value message or upcoming event presented dynamically on display screens or via projections. Another option is to use products themselves as triggers. This has already been done with perfume. When a customer lifts a bottle from a shelf, a nearby digital display will show corresponding content. This can include advertisements, brand information, ingredients, pricing or even a comparison to similar products.

5.      Train staff to guide customers through the shopping journey.

The less time spent on tasks such as searching for items, checking stock or pricing, the more time staff have to interact with customers. In one recent use case, a large supermarket transitioned from paper-based to digital pricing (ESL), and linked it to their store planogram. Employees could then leverage handhelds to rapidly access:

information about where products were in the store
real-time stock levels
brand and product information

As a result, staff not only had more time to dedicate to customer service activities, they were also better equipped to do so.

Making investments pay for themselves

Technology plays a pivotal role in retail theatre. But for many, the initial investment can seem daunting. One work-around is leasing. This allows retailers to spread out the costs while ensuring their technology is always up-to-date.  What’s more, it is possible to capitalise on these new tools and see returns. In fact, this is already happening with two of the solutions mentioned in this post. A convenience store is harnessing the Space Player to display dynamic projections at key in-store locations – and is selling advertising slots for brands to promote their products (see link below). And an electronics retailer has acquired ESLs in various sizes, and offers the larger units as advertising space. These “mini-billboards” are beginning to be recognised as an attractive alternative by some marketing agencies. Not only can these investments pay their own way, but in the long term they can open up a new revenue stream.

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Taking the first step

While it is true that bricks-and-mortar shops are feeling the heat right now, there are concrete actions that can be taken to survive and thrive. For more information on how to create a one-of-a-kind, memorable customer experience, check out Panasonic’s Supercharged Stores report Supercharged Stores report