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Opinion: Multi-touch technology is adding a new dimension to the in-store experience says Paolo Pedrazzoli of 3M

Paolo Pedrazzoli of 3M

Retail designers are constantly looking for new ways to create visual impact, while retailers themselves face the challenge of how to increase customer engagement, encouraging greater interaction and dwell time and, ultimately, more sales.

One tool a number of European retailers are using to address these challenges is multi-user multi-touch screen technology. A big step forward compared to traditional POS, in-store video and touch screens, these systems enable far more information to be shared. Since they use already familiar touch technology – thanks to our smartphones and tablets – they are very simple and intuitive for customers to use. 

For instance, ‘windows’ on the screen can show in-store offers, stock availability, loyalty card information, link to ‘live’ customer support, home delivery booking, product guides, a store map, links to the Web and video demonstrations (recipes, this season’s colour trends, cooking recipes, DIY tutorials or ideas for interior design).

Several people can interact with the screen simultaneously, whether collaboratively or separately. For instance, while parents look up particular products their children can play an online competition or video game in other corner (screens can be as wide as 55 inches in diameter and support up to 60 simultaneous touch points). Typically housed in table-top designs or wall-mounted, these multi-touch screens can also be used in mobile ‘pop-up’ applications. A European firm is developing a mobile vending machine, based on a three-wheeled electrical car.  Via the multi-touch screen, consumers can choose real products (such as soft drinks), redeem vouchers or enter competitions to win an extra gift.

Bottom line benefits include the ability to increase the store’s capacity virtually. 

Marketing director Christian Jeske of Pyramid – which has installed multi-touch systems for retail brands - says: “With multi-touch kiosk systems you can easily extend your floor space, bring all online content in-store, speed up buying processes and give detailed product information. We’ve seen that this more enjoyable and relaxing approach to shopping can increase turnover.”

The systems can also link to bar codes as part of integrated marketing campaigns, or connect to back office systems such as CRM to create a means to collate information about customer behaviour. 

Of course, the theory is only as good as the application. Working with a system designer that has existing experience in multi-touch technology makes sense, as does choosing a screen that provides the level of durability and usability that retail environments require. User traffic volumes may be high and it’s important to ensure the system does not need someone to regularly attend to it. 

Location matters too: table-top systems have more ‘wow factor’, while wall-mounted systems make better use of limited space. Choosing a screen technology that performs well in challenging conditions may be important where there is lots of bright lighting or windows.

Above all, the content on the system has to be enticing. Multi-touch technology presents an opportunity to share information and engage with customers in a far more fun and immersive way than was previously possible. Creating and finding the right content, technology and system designer will go a long way to creating a compelling customer engagement tool.