Comment: How to choose new in-store technologies

UK retail is in a period of rapid change and as such, all manner of traditional retailing approaches are being called in to question. This is the context in which POS now has to operate and although it can seem such an easy tool to grab from the shopper marketing toolkit, the fact is retail environments have become so awash with these types of promotions it can be hard to even see the products on the shelf.

When discussing the role of POS in store it would be foolhardy to ignore the potential impact of digital developments. Digital has the potential to create a step change in our retail spaces, but is still in its infancy, so we asked 88 business respondents (food and drink brands and design agencies involved in the commissioning or design of POS) which new technologies they felt would be most impactful on campaign effectiveness and customer engagement in the future.

Interactive displays and mobile/one touch payments were felt to be the most impactful new technologies, but they are not alone with a variety of opportunities emerging. It seems there is a lot of potential to shake things up for shoppers, retailers and brands alike. 

The research indicated that brand manufacturers were more likely to pick up on VR and AR technologies than agency respondents, which shows their interest in opportunities to bring their brand to life in store. Agencies were more interested in interactive displays, mobile and audience measurement – tools could make their tasks easier, through better compliance or greater understanding of their target market or ROI of campaigns.

That said, it is interesting that a number of these ‘new technologies’ are not particularly new. Interactive displays, eye tracking, RFID, and AR have been around for some time now. So has their real potential been overlooked until now, or is something else going on?

From our experience researching shopper attitudes and behaviours, it seems a key issue for new technology is the sheer excitement it creates among businesses – which is rarely matched among shoppers seeing or experiencing the technology instore. All too often we see digital ‘solutions’ being placed instore just because they exist, because they promise so much or because competitive retailers are using it.

As with any material placed instore, if it doesn’t have a role from the shopper perspective it won’t be noticed or used, and it becomes yet more wallpaper for the shopper to overlook. For any of these technologies to really make an impact in store and on shopper behaviour they have to be anchored around shopper needs – if they don’t target or meet a need then they simply won’t be used.

So before leaping into a costly new technology campaign we would suggest asking the following questions to help make the difference between a dynamic addition to the retail environment vs more wallpaper:

What is the shopper issue that this new technology is trying to resolve?

If you don’t know, then how do you know this technology is ‘needed’ by shoppers?

What point in the purchase process can this new technology really add value?

If you don’t know, then how can you be sure you will interact with shoppers at the right time, or even at all?

What are you planning on communicating with shoppers?

Sense check which tool will be the most appropriate – don’t assume any will do.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should – ground your new technology plans in shopper needs, and avoid costly mistakes.