Projection Mannequin for the launch of Prabal Gurung at the CFDA Retail Lab

How telling product stories attracts customers to retail

Getting customers to touch products, not screens

By John Jones and Roman Kalantari

Over the years, many retailers have installed digital networks in stores, focusing customers on touching screens and providing ‘endless aisle’ options, often ignoring some of the primary benefits of retail.

Tactile product engagement, broad category browsing, try-on, comparison and overall validation are some of the core benefits of retail. If digital does not drive toward some of these pillars, we are not driving engagement in retail. One of our primary experience explorations looks at how we can connect product stories to the user journey in retail.

We know that touching products creates a sense of ownership, which leads to increased sales. This should be a core area of focus in retail. Apple has embedded this insight in one of their core retail strategies and is the reason they set their laptop screens at 76 degrees. If we are not encouraging customers to touch products we are missing one of the strongest benefits retail can provide.

As part of the Accenture/Fjord partnership with Council of Fashion Designers of America, we researched the product, inspiration and craft stories of Prabal Gurung for his residency in the CFDA Retail Lab. The research included laying out images, statements, products and gathering user feedback on quickly absorbing messages and understanding the larger product stories.

The 3-Panel Product Story System: Focus on the Products

In order to drive interest in the product story and drive to engagement with the physical products, we created a 3-panel story system.

The three panels are perceived as a storyboard for consumers, in which they can absorb a simple beginning, middle and end to the story. The 3-panel system allows the user to quickly absorb a product benefit story and drives them to touch the product.

The addition of the mirror and display connects the customer to the product, making them part of the product story and drives faster engagement to the product than the product alone.

Very limited interaction with simple front/back image cards, no video and 4-word messages, which customers can easily absorb are at the core of the design system. This system avoids digital distraction and drives toward tactile product engagement.

Foam prototype of the Fjord product story system integrated into a mirror and product display

We created two fixture types for this system with an iPad installed behind the faceplate — the content is updated with a simple admin tool to replace the simple front/back image cards.

The Projection Mannequin: Hiding Technology

In order to focus customers on the tactile experience of products in retail, the best approach is to hide the technology — often in retail, the technology we install makes too much of a show of itself, distracting the customer from touching products.

The political statements on the Prabal Gurung T-Shirt series were a good way to project inner beliefs out into the public. We took the concepts of projecting statements from the inside out a step further by fitting a projection system inside a mannequin.

The patent-pending Mannequin Projection system inside and out

These fixtures show how we should be focusing on the products themselves to drive interest in craft and design inspiration. This, in turn, encourages customers to touch products, not screens.

Fjord project team and inventors: Roman Kalantari, Audrey Fox, Jane Lupica, Hunter Grove, Margaret Wardell, John Jones

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