Beyond Mannequins And Merchandise
The shop window is so much more today than a place to display the wares being sold inside. It’s a window (pun intended) into the soul of the retail brand and a place where the personality of the brand comes to life through a visually stimulating narrative.
If it’s believed that innovation sparks creativity, then we are on the leading edge of a creative explosion in visually entertaining storefront experiences. While the objective to lure the ever-elusive customer inside remains the same, window displays in the digital revolution also serve as an opportunity to enrich the brand story and illustrate it like never before.
So important is the window display that retailers have capitalized on this prime real estate since the dawn of shopping, creating theatrical representations of their shop’s identity -- all with the goal of enticing passersby to step inside. And in today’s digital era where everyone is plugged in, turned on and online, brick-and-mortar retailers must blur the lines between shopping and entertainment in order to effectively compete with both e-commerce and one another.
Clearly, e-commerce is here to stay -- and its affordability and convenience will only lend to its growth. However, the growth of e-commerce is actually fueling stores to enhance the traditional shopping experience, and is helping to elevate them to the status of retail destination rather than simply a store. But while most retailers have focused on remodeling or renovating the interior of the store, few have been able to truly harness the potential that lies before shoppers even set foot on the showroom floor.
With a variety of technology to choose from, retailers have more vehicles than ever to help convey the brand story in an entertaining way. Brick-and-mortar experiences offer shoppers a portal to step into the brand’s world in a way that online simply cannot replicate. For that reason, even online-only retailers such as Piperlime, eBay and Amazon, have dipped their toes into the realm of brick-and-mortar.
As retailers around the globe head into the Spring/Summer 2013 fashion season, we will watch as more designers seize opportunities to enhance the brand’s identity beyond darning mannequins in apparel. Forward-thinking retailers will be able to provide an entertaining experience that’s not only exciting, but that ultimately influences consumer behavior.
Below are a few of the technologies that we have been playing around with, which have proven to be entertaining retail experiences beyond the showroom floor:
Projection Mapping: A relatively new technology that has exploded within the marketing/advertising world. Favored by luxury lifestyle and fashion brands, projection mapping creates an
immersive customer experience by animating stationary objects with 3D (or 4D) video.
We helped to create a 4D projection onto the side of a hotel in New York City in January 2012, to help launch a new tablet. The projection depicted an “Elf Factory” of Santa’s helpers busily constructing the new device.
And most are also familiar with Ralph Lauren’s projection mapping “digital extravaganza” from 2008, which was designed to communicate the brand’s dedication to digital innovation, while launching its “digital flagship” in the UK.
* Digital Display: There are myriad technologies available that can be harnessed to enhance the brand story through the shop window, such as giant LED walls that can stream graphics, images, real-time data or even movies.
In April, New Balance opened its “Experience” store in Boston, which exhibited digital technology elements such as a billboard comprised of video, photography, text and infographics, ensuring that the store window is lively and engaging during all hours of the day and night.
* Interactive Displays: Kinect technology has the ability to engage with people on the street, turning consumer exposure from passive to an active,
engaging experience. The motion-sensing device, originally developed for Xbox 360 and Windows PCs, allows for interactivity with shoppers who are outside the store. A Kinect remote controller is not
necessary for engagement, so shoppers need only walk by the window to interact the technology.
In 2011, the Nordstrom flagship store in Seattle used Kinect to create an experience where people could write and paint on the retailer’s windows with just the simple motion of their hands.
* Virtual Shops: A South Korean supermarket, a Tesco, found a way to combine the best of online and brick-and-mortar shopping through a visual experience that blends the shop window with e-commerce. The retailer developed and installed virtual stores throughout local metro stations to appeal to the high number of commuters waiting for their trains. The glass walls of the subway stations were plastered with pictures of the store’s products, featured as they were within the brick-and-mortar shop. Commuters were able to add groceries to their “shopping baskets” by scanning QR codes that accompanied each product. And, if a train arrived before the shopper’s basket was complete, s/he was able to resume shopping and complete the purchase online.
* Artistic Imagery: If you prefer something with a bit more subtlety, then beautiful artistic imagery -- whether computer-generated or printed on 3D paper -- can lend a little extra pop to an already striking window display. This past holiday season, New York City’s New Museum used 3D printing to make the gifts inside Santa’s sleigh display really stand out.
Revolutionizing retail shop displays is so much more than just using technology to create a spectacle. With this in mind, retail brands should leverage the abundant resources at their disposal to create a visually stimulating narrative of the brand. Doing so will not only lend to more shoppers in-store, but will also increase consumer engagement with the brand. And what’s wrong with that?
What innovative window displays have you recently seen? In your opinion, which brands could benefit from an injection of creativity in their storefronts?