Future Of Retail: Does The Mobile Phone Make The Interactive Display Unnecessary?

Future Of Retail: Does The Mobile Phone Make The Interactive Display Unnecessary?

The ‘mobile concierge’ trend could make the interactive retail display redundant in many scenarios.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 10 may 2010

As PSFK studies the retail landscape, we notice two trends that seem to run counter to each other. On one hand, there is a drive to add interactive screens like Microsoft Surface and this Intel concept within stores. These screens promise an additional layer of service, storytelling and product information. However, mobile technology is allowing shoppers a similar access to information plus it provides a plethora of services that a traditional retailer can’t offer.

This ‘mobile concierge’ trend could make the interactive retail display redundant in many scenarios. Here are some reasons why retailers should concentrate on a mobile strategy rather than an interactive display one:

1. The phone is personal. It already knows who you are and can access what you like and even your purchase preferences like clothing sizes. With an interactive display you often have to start from the beginning.

2. The phone is social. The phone knows who your friends are and allows information before and after purchase to be shared between you and your peers. Sure, interactive displays can be connected to social media but are you really going to put your password to Facebook into an interactive display in a store that you visit once a month?

3. The phone is touchable. Would you rather tap away at the screen on the phone only you use or would you want to touch the smudged screen of the chain-store retailer where thousands of people pass through each day?

4. The phone is consumer-powerful. The phone keeps the power in the hands of the consumer while the interactive display offers the controlled world of the retailer. The interactive display doesn’t provide access to the world of group buying sites, deal services or comparative pricing apps.

5. Because a retailer can doesn’t mean they should. Just because WalMart stores have TVs throughout with advertisements running, it doesn’t mean that this service must be replicated across all retailers. Stores want to program specific environments that create subtle experiences that drive sales. A TV blasting ads – even if it’s interactive – might actually be a turn off for shpppers in many instances.

6. The phone is becoming sensitive. Technology is evolving to allow the phone to notice RFID tags and other ‘internet of things’ technology.

Of course, there are reasons to have a level of interactivity in store:

A. For quick fun. At the recent Shanghai Expo I noticed how visitors would mob a screen with built in camera in the Finnish Pavilion so that they would take a picture of themselves that would appear moments later on a wall of screens (pictured above). The interactive table top in the Urbania pavilion where you could dig deep into the issues surrounding city development was ignored.

B. To access the online version of the store. The online retail site can actually be a smoother experience that the real world store. When products aren’t available, customers are asking staff “But is it available online?” or “Does it come in any other colors?” Some retailers even offer products that are available online. Retailers can offer an alternative way for the shopper to browse their offering from a terminal in the store.

At the end of the day, different retailers are going to have different needs when it comes to both interactive displays and mobile experience. From our consulting team‘s research though, we’d suggest that any store planner who is considering an interactive display system should take a step back and ask if the possible services they are developing could be delivered on a mobile device. Where that is the case, they would benefit from diverting those plans and resources towards mobile development not interactive displays.

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