2017 is set to be another game-changing year for retail as technology is integrated and the lines between online and instore get even more blurred.
So what does that mean for brands and how will they define their success in the face of ongoing challenges?
Mike Willshaw, head of innovation at retail display specialist Leach Impact, offers his predictions…
Regardless of retailers’ performance to date, changing shopping habits and ever-increasing consumer demands have presented newfound challenges for UK brands. With customers constantly expecting more, competition is rising and retailers are feeling the heat. In the face of some of the biggest commercial pressures they’ve encountered in recent times, brands are therefore expecting more from their suppliers too.
That’s why displays are no longer simply displays, for example! With more ads, images and campaigns competing for customers’ attention – online and offline – displays have to work harder. They have to tell a story, draw people in and entice them to shop. The customer experience has been so carefully considered when it comes to online retail – why not in-store too?
With both consumers and retailers expecting more, there has never been a more crucial time for innovation and creativity to come to the fore. Suppliers have become more sophisticated in their thinking, devising display solutions that maximise the customer experience. This represents huge opportunities for retail over the coming months:
- Whilst graphics were once simply used to help signpost consumers around a store, the sharpness of imagery and intelligent use of lighting means displays can now appear to jump out at shoppers. Photographic reproduction is so crystal clear, even on an incredibly large scale, that these displays will increasingly become central in-store exhibits, just as they would in a gallery or museum.
- We’re also going to see captivating ‘movement’ within these graphics which will grab – and retain – attention. Dynamic features within a lightbox, for example, can now change a display from a moody black and white image to one rich in colour. The effects are almost endless. This will present retailers who cannot afford floor-to-ceiling video walls with a newfound level of flexibility – and affordability – not to mention quality. The resolution and detail of these dynamic displays is not something that can be achieved using a video wall (a product that only really has any impact from a distance).
- Retailers need to think about all of the senses too, which is why we’ll see displays doing so much more than simply showing a message for shoppers to see. It won’t be long before lightboxes integrate audio, for example, and play sounds automatically when sensors detect footfall close by. It’s all about adding additional dimensions to the customer experience, at the same time as display solutions giving retailers more, for every investment that they make.
Store designers, visual merchandisers and retail managers will have to work closer than ever before to push boundaries and think beyond the obvious. It’s getting harder and harder to stand out, so gone are the days of simply putting up a poster. When inspiration is required, external specialists will need to be brought in to create concepts, design schemes, manufacture prototypes and install something different. Lightboxes don’t need to simply be rectangular for instance, nor do they need to be fixed to a wall. They can be various shapes, have acrylic fronts for added ‘gloss’ and even be hung from the ceiling to make use of every facet of in-store space.
- All of this innovation needs to take place within often tighter financial parameters because retailers are being forced to lower costs to consumers, even when the costs to sell are going up. Suppliers are therefore having to rely on technological advances, to engineer solutions that are cost-effective to procure and easy to install. Specialist knowledge (and budgets!) are not required to fit and update the displays, which is important for busy, trend-conscious, price-sensitive brands throughout the UK.
In summary: The upcoming months will be about triggering consumers’ senses through sophisticated displays and technological advances.