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New Retail Technology

Ken NischKen Nisch
We are all familiar with the "great shrine": the cash wrap. It has been so ubiquitous in retail as both a branding point and as a stop on the consumer's shopping path. Today there's a new retail technology emerging- Ipad or digital device checkouts in the palm of your hand-and it is creating the disappearance of the "great line" at the great shrine, the cash wrap checkout.
     This rapidly emerging retail technology is causing a rethink in store planning and design. It is a bit like taking something very familiar out of another part of life (i.e. the utensils off the table at dinner), and seeing how the removal of that one element impacts the rest. The cash wrap has been seen to be a critical part in the design of a retail store. Think impulse purchases, point-of-sale, some displays- now gone! Removal of the cash wrap and its replacement with the new technology, while not really changing the retail back office (i.e. logistics, inventory control, sales reporting) has, and increasingly will, change the consumer's view of technology and the shopping experience. This "reboot" is affecting all types of retail: both brick and- mortar and online, and ranging from the entrepreneurial start-up to Fortune 100 companies.

Technology
Key to executing this new path to retail and putting it to work in your store is finding the resources that are "big enough to serve you," yet "small enough to know you." Consider technology's growing role: retailers JCP, Nordstrom, Best Buy and others have publicly laid out very ambitious goals to eliminate the conventional checkout or cash wrap, and even in some cases the sales associate, by putting more access to technology either in the hands of the consumer, or in proximity to the point-of-purchase.
     The innovations of mobile commerce (not to be confused with eCommerce) and innovative apps for mobile devices, such as Mobile Wallet, are rapidly shifting the way purchase transactions are concluded within the retail environment. And increasingly other digital interface devices, such as tablets, are coming into play. Rather than seeing digital as a threat to brick-and-mortar, today's retailer should embrace this new way of doing business and begin nurturing in-store digital transactions, rather than leaving them to happen from the couch or desk as it has been done until now.

At Sleep NumberAt Sleep Number in Oakbrook, IL, interactive iPad technology at the foot of the beds is easily accessible for consumer use; while product stories highlighting informational qualities are played on digital monitors throughout the space.

Evolving Sales Opportunities
This evolving technology frees the sales associates from the traditional cash wrap focus so that they can now do what they should do best, help the customer. The experienced sales associate's ability to micro target consumers-be it around language or demographics-and to use that knowledge and the new technologies to create a more efficient and diverse in-store shopping experience for the consumer, is the perfect marriage between brick and mortar and digital.

Flash Sales
Today, stores are beginning to look at new ways to energize and reinvent their retail environments, not in terms of decades or even years; but in terms of weeks, days and even hours. The flash sale has gotten the consumer to think in a much more nimble way. They seem less phased than ever before in the "here today, gone tomorrow" concept of the branded pop-up store, lab stores and other types of retail experiments where the guinea pig may as well be the retailer as it is the consumer. Creating this short-term buzz and nimbleness, however, takes more, not less attention to detail, storytelling, and of course, today's technology to accomplish it effectively. It often involves more people and more players than a structured and linear approach to retail. These players often become "flash teams" devised to incubate the concept, taking a hands-on approach to building and fabricating the store, and who often "chip in" to operate and merchandise the space as well. They bring many talents together ... as it indeed does "take a village" to execute.

Santa Monica,
The Microsoft
At Hot Topic, Santa Monica, CA, a storefront highlight is the unique twisted acrylic prisms, right, where projected images mirror what is being displayed on the back wall screen of music-related media images. The t-shirt wall is enhanced by the wall being embedded with monitors that were designed to show related concerts and merchandise. The Microsoft surface table provides shoppers with a unique way to digitally access content in the store such as the brand’s loyalty program information.

Creative "Sticky" Space
So what should a retailer or store designer do with the space that is freed up by removing the cash wrap and some of the other operational barriers that exist in traditional stores, when new technologies are implemented? The obvious inclination: Add more merchandise. However, in this era of curation, access to a wide range of products through digital channels, and the push for newness and change in the retail environment, adding more merchandise may be counterproductive. Instead, consider creating a space that invites the customer to linger and socially interact.

At McCormick WorldAt McCormick World of Flavors, Baltimore, MD, interactive stations include five digital engagements, including one featuring Flavorprint, a personalized flavor profile.

     Create a "sticky" model that engages consumers to see the retail space as just not a place of transaction, but as a "third place" where they stick around longer. Seasoned retailers will tell you that getting the consumer to see the store as a key stop in their "emotional neighborhood," whether to connect with their store friends (i.e. sales associates, other regular customers), as a place to take friends during those in-between times, and as a place to discover new products and new ideas, can be one of the most productive marketing strategies that they can employ. These "sticky" spaces-comfortable, engaging, and brand-right-act as silent but effective ways to reinforce the retail brand image, to engage in a conversation with a consumer and to introduce them to new ideas, services and products that the company might offer.
     At JGA, we work with companies like CRI Creative Realities (www. cri.com) to help brands create innovative technologies, like touch screen displays for browsing the inventory, or add digital screens to showcase videos and live social media streams in tandem. In your environment, think about how today's technology trends will allow you to use digital screens and interactive technology for creating "Community Bulletin Boards" or a local "Discovery Centers" for new products, especially since the cost of digital screens and content creation has become reasonable enough for even the independent shop owner to afford.

Permanent-Temporary Spaces

At The North FaceAt The North Face, Somerset Collection, Troy, MI, monitors are used to tell the stories of the expeditions of different athletes.

Also consider creating "Permanent/Temporary" spaces within your store. These spaces are a way of creating buzz and newness within an existing merchandise range. They provide a space to highlight "key influencers"- a local or emerging designer or tastemaker, a service company, brand or an author-or special product lines on limited basis.
     A famous Paris department store does this monthly; it invites high profile celebrities of various walks of life: sports, fashion, art, literature; and then asks them to find and gather their "favorite things" from the store and organize them into a mini department. These are all things that are currently sold by the store, but leveraged by the point of view of the celebrity. This new approach provides an opportunity for a bit more storytelling and ways for the consumer to connect and identify with the personalities or muse of this internal pop-up.
     The place previously occupied by the cash wrap can also reinforce the retailer's role within the community by providing a place for temporary displays or special events to support for community causes and help make a difference. Certain causes provide emotional triggers-children, education, pets-that are universal and in most cases non controversial around which you can connect your brand and your store to your community, and therefore, your consumers.
     Technology is changing the retail landscape, both in terms of the retail space and how purchase transactions are conducted. Don't be intimidated by the change that technology brings. Embrace it. Think reboot, offer the unexpected, give power to the consumer-be it in understanding, discovering, transacting.

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