Demonstration needed: Crafting retail environments that sell high-tech products

 
Dec. 17, 2012 | by Craig Martin

How do you demonstrate the value of your product when its potential is entwined with other things? Many companies have products and services that interact with other devices or peripherals. An example of this is a speaker that interacts via Bluetooth with a mobile device to play your favorite music. How does a company show that interaction to the consumer in a way that's quick, easy, and repeatable in a store environment?

Outdated Efforts

In the past, companies have relied on educated sales people to demonstrate the product and service to the consumer. With the high turnover rate of retail employees and trained sales people in more high-end selling environments, it's inefficient and ineffective to expect sales associates to be the primary source for information on a company's products AND how those products interact with other devices. It's not just about showing the 'cool factor' of what the technology can do. It's about creating an experience that the consumer will want to replicate at home.

One way to attempt this type of demo is to set up a digital sign that shows instructional videos about how the product interacts (imagine a television infomercial-styled video playing on a constant loop in-store.) This approach is missing one component I think is crucial to connecting with the consumer of today — the ability to pick up and experience first-hand how the product works with other devices.

What the Future Looks Like

High-touch, intimate, shopping environments are the consumer's opportunity to feed their curiosity about products and services. These environments are the retailer's opportunity to provide a clear product message at the same time that the consumer is having a positive experience using the product. For many companies, it's necessary to provide a tactile environment for consumers to touch, play, discover, experience and enjoy interacting with their products first-hand. There is something instinctive and automatic about grabbing a device and playing around with it to figure out what it can do. But, how do you go about actually creating the environment that provides that experience for customers?

Making It Happen

Moving from the idea to implementation isn't easy. Every successful digital merchandising program includes the following stages: ideation, strategy, graphic production, software development, hardware certification, lock-down, remote management, and field support. Each part of the process needs careful planning and consideration.

Questions Worth Considering

When creating an in-store experience, how do you control the user experience and the user interface on the devices so that they highlight the features and options that you want while limiting access to other native capabilities? How do you lock down those devices? These questions pose unique challenges for a company with the pain points I've discussed above.

Only experience in digital merchandising provides the lessons needed to ensure an implementation of this type of environment runs smoothly. After you've selected and provisioned the devices, a completely new set of questions arise. How will the devices communicate with one another? Which system will monitor the health of the devices? How will you know when each store is 'online' from a remote location? It's crucial that you have some way of monitoring the networking health of your devices and the progress of your deployment roll-out. How do you create a secure and controlled environment that's easily scaled across multiple locations?

Call in Experts

An experienced vendor will have answers to these questions and apply tested strategies to address these issues. Digital merchandising offers numerous useful applications for the modern marketplace. Devices from a variety of vendors can be adapted with the right know-how to meet the digital merchandising needs of big box retailers or more intimate and higher-end retail environments. Can you relate to the frustrations I've discussed? Consider digital merchandising solutions to educate consumers about your product's full capabilities and increase your product sales.


Craig Martin / Craig Martin has over 15 years of experience providing Fortune 500 brands and retailers with innovative digital merchandising solutions. He founded Reality Interactive, LLC in 2004. Prior to that, he held senior business development positions at Media Right and Netkey. Clients over the years include BMW, Callaway Golf, PepsiCo, Bose, Lego, Leapfrog and others.
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