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The New Rules of Retail: Solutions from the Sandbox

Andy Austin
Aug 14 · 3 min read

Hello! In this blog, I have been exploring the transformation of retail during COVID-19, combining what I am hearing from my clients with our own ideas.

Today, I’m going to do something a little different. I’m going to descend from the strategic and just get practical.

One of our ideas sprung forth when a good friend and client sent me this photo of how Target was forced to respond to the shopper’s real and basic desire for digital exploration.

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Digital Signage and Touchscreen Interactive Experiences are central to retail displays and merchandising. According to Future Stores, an amazing 94% of retailers use or have used digital signage to augment, change, or improve customers’ in-store experiences. However, in the age of a pandemic, touching a screen in a store is neither safe nor appealing. With millions of dollars of investment in touchscreen experiences now fallow, how can retailers respond?

There is a simple and attractive solution to this, and I want to share how we got there.

Our solution had to meet four criteria that we believe govern all investments now: Safety, Affordance, Efficiency, and Enjoyment. Here’s what we mean:

Affordance: Customers will seek and value simplicity in all interactions. Any solutions that are front of house must be effortless and intuitive — designed with the shopper in mind.

Efficiency: Retailers are suffering substantial financial losses during this pandemic. Any solution must have low barriers to entry, low cost, and low barriers to exit.

Enjoyment: Any solution that is to be presented to retail must include the joy of discovery, wonder, and enjoyment. Let’s bring fun back to shopping!

What we propose is a Mobile Touchscreen Interface — I teased this idea here. And today I am ready to share how it works.

The pandemic has resulted in large increases in app usage, texting, and calling. A main driver is that we trust the safety of our own devices. We know where they’ve been and how they’ve been handled. And these powerful devices are always connected!

So, how do we make an individual’s mobile control a foreign touchscreen experience? Networked computers have been with us for decades. We didn’t need to create technology, just adapt it for a new purpose. This is both efficient and reliable.

Next, we have to make it easy. We looked to use a behavior pattern that customers use all the time with mobile phones: the QR code scan. With that scan, a networking handshake is instituted and a confirmation prompt comes to the handheld. One scan, one click, and we’re connected — high affordance.

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Now, with an interfaced mobile, the mobile screen becomes a cursor trackpad for customers. It is intuitive to use, and customers may again enjoy all of the beautiful content and interactivity existing in current interactive applications.

We don’t have to sacrifice our investments in retail technology. You’ve put really good thought and care into making these experiences and this brings them to life again! There is solid thinking and hardened technology behind this approach.

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If you would like to see this in action today, we can arrange a simple demo for you to test it yourself. You can take control of a digital interactive experience that is live in a retail store today using only your phone and an internet connection.

Next week, I’ll introduce Showbranding, a concept you have considered but maybe not in the way we are approaching it. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to me directly here, or click here to download our white paper on responding to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andy Austin

Written by

A geek with a retail operations and customer experience background

Andy Austin

Written by

A geek with a retail operations and customer experience background

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