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January 16, 2014

Retailers Eye New Technology to Lure Customers

by Bernard Shusman

The definition of modern retailing is evolving as retailers look at using new technology to help lure more customers. New York’s Convention center was the site of the 103rd National Retail Federation expo, where some of the latest innovations were center stage.
 
It’s called the Big Show for a reason. Thousands of companies and hundreds of thousands of prospective customers came, all seeking that one thing that will give them an edge.
 
With new technology, every screen and surface becomes an opportunity to engage with customers. Images can be shared so friends and family can weigh in. Even the dressing room mirror becomes a vehicle for sales. Intel's Tyler Hoffman discussed one of his company’s displayed products: the "Memory Mirror."
 
“It is designed for trying on clothes, shopping for apparel in store, [to] make that experience digital, social and interactive,” said Hoffman.
 
The mirror captures a 10-second clip of a customer trying something on; when they try on a second outfit, the mirror recognizes them and captures that as well. Afterwards, customers are able to review their previous try-ons in front of the mirror.
 
The images can also be shared via text, email or social media.
 
A motion-activated screen by Scala lets prospective customers swipe through watches with a wave of a hand, using technology to get closer to the product.
 
Peter Cheran, the chief technical officer of Scala, said the product offers something new.
 
"It’s novel, it’s fresh, it’s engaging, it’s easy to use. It’s what people are expecting out of technologies from their video games, from their smartphone. It creates a novel experience,” said Cheran.
 
Jerrard Shiffman, the inventor of the Perch interactive system, pointed out that every surface in a shop offers the owner a chance to display information.
 
“Over the entire store, every surface can become a platform for media display.  Because the way that people consume media now, it’s on their iPhone, they’re sort of surrounded by it, it’s sort of strange in retail stores that hasn’t happened yet. It’s not a media experience,” said Shiffman.
 
Ryan, the owner of a surf shop, likes the concept.
 
"I can see a customer coming up. It’s definitely engaging, you… see the imagery and all that… It feels like you are working with a 3D smartphone almost," said Ryan.
 
Even the old-fashioned scale’s surface has changed. The Tellermate counts a stack of money by its weight. In tests, it was never incorrect and took only a second or two do its job. It saves time, which equals money.
 
The international retail landscape is expected to change more in the next 10 years then it has in the past 50 years, due largely to new technologies and the internet.