Trendspotting Future Retail Experiences

My name is Koji Wakayama and I’m a Creative Technologist and the CEO at Wakayama I/O.

Wakayama I/O is a digital innovation firm which develops Internet of Things products ranging from wearables to Industry 4.0 solutions. I was invited to participate at this year’s Stream in Athens, where I gave two IOT workshops and showcased an interactive installation to speculate on the future of retail experiences.

Stream is a private, invitation-only (un)conference, hosted by Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, and Yossi Vardi, the godfather of Israel’s hi-tech industry. The global event brings together over three hundred leaders from the creative, media and technology industries each year. Stream provides a unique atmosphere and an informative and inspirational platform to discuss and shape ideas with influencers from all over the world.

The Tech Lab at WPP Stream 2016

The Tech Lab is the area at the conference where participants can demo and try out the latest technologies and gadgets, ranging from Augmented Reality headsets to Virtual Assistants and Internet of Things development kits. I brought a suitcase full of creative technology gadgets with me, including the bleBit, Wakayama I/O’s own bluetooth development board and mobile app. We use the bleBit for prototyping IOT products and interactive experiences.

My contribution to this year’s Stream Tech Lab was an interactive retail experience, which is a topic we are currently exploring. The installation consisted of a video wall which showed contextualized product videos depending on nearby products. The products were from different categories, “fashion”, “tech-gadgets” and “games & toys”, which I tagged with bluetooth beacons.

Bluetooth beacons are tiny, low-power and low-cost computers that periodically transmit a message to smartphones and other Bluetooth Low Energy enabled devices in their surroundings. Bluetooth is the main technology for IOT, and beacons make it possible to sense the presence and proximity of “things”. Using bluetooth beacons enable in-store location-aware applications.

The focus of my installation at Stream was to showcase how merchants can provide customers with additional product information in their stores, in a fun and intuitive way. One could pick up a product and hold it near the screen, while at the same time, a corresponding product video starts to play. We created a contextualized experience for visitors which was fun but also led to valuable insights. We recorded all interactions with the installation during the conference to measure which product was looked at the most, and how long each interaction was.

I see a lot of potential for Internet of Things applications in the retail environment. Companies are not only able to offer their visitors persuasive experiences but they can also collect sensor data to gain a holistic view of the customer journey, throughout both digital and physical channels. It’s possible to connect the local retail store to the company analytics to track new metrics such as in-store engagements and in-store conversions. The new metrics enhance the analysis of customer shopping behaviour and can be integrated for a unified funnel analysis for both online and offline conversion tracking. Using omnichannel analytics, running A/B tests in physical stores and using sensor data to optimize the shopping experience opens up a new world for digital marketers.

Koji Wakayama presenting at WPP Stream 2016

Why is this relevant? The purpose of today’s retail stores is changing. Gen Z, today’s fourteen to nineteen year olds, will soon be the largest group of consumers worldwide. It is the first generation of digital natives, who according to market research, has the highest expectation when it comes to a seamless shopping experience across all channels, online and offline. Gen Z shops online and has a specific intention when visiting a local store, be it for recommendations or to feel and try the product before buying.

Leading brands know that there is a necessity for innovation within today’s physical retail space to keep up with the rapidly changing world. Apple recently announced that the word “store” would be removed from the name of its retail locations, initiating their retail transformation.

The “offline” retail experience is changing from simple stores with displays, aisles, sales people and a cash register to connected showrooms which incorporate new technologies to provide visitors with enhanced personalized experiences. The possibility to connect the digital and physical worlds is a huge opportunity to elevate the brand experience in retail stores.

At Wakayama I/O we are excited and currently developing a new generation of smart devices which will go beyond the basic functionality of today’s common beacons. Stay tuned!

by: Koji Wakayama, CEO- Wakayama I/O


Koji Wakayama is a Creative Technologist and CEO at Wakayama I/O, a digital innovation firm which develops Internet of Things products, ranging from wearables to Industry 4.0 solutions. He leads an interdisciplinary team of experts who help businesses incorporate digital technologies into everyday life and work.