No touchscreen required: New tech turns tables interactive

By Mark Boyd

A new retail display technology from MIT graduates in New York aims to take the best of tablet and touchscreen kiosks and update the in-store shopping experience — with an interactive display on a typical wooden table.

Perch Interactive — which is currently being used by a cross-section of large retail stores like Nordstroms and smaller boutique agencies like online-turned-pop-up-store BaubleBar — aims to draw on the strengths of kiosk technology while removing the imposition of the touchscreen.

The company's twist on touchscreen technology, which won Best New Retail Technology at the Digital Signage Expo's DIGIAwards earlier this year, uses light and motion sensors to activate and project digital content onto a retail display table. The technology does away with a touchscreen altogether — instead reimagining the product sample table itself as the interactive screen for shoppers to utilize.

"The Perch experience draws on the best of what kiosks can offer, without detracting from the natural connection between a shopper and the product," said Perch Co-Founder and CEO Jared Schiffman. "We are able to tease out the engagement analytics just like a kiosk or in-store tablet can do. But with Perch, the focus remains on the shopper's relationship with the product."

Digital content is activated when a shopper picks up a display item. As the shopper feels and investigates the product in their hands, they can access information, video, social media and images through the Perch display to reinforce their connection with the product they are considering buying, Schiffman said.

PERCH utilizes a field-tested 3,000 lumen projector with a native resolution of 1280 x 800. The projector features an LED-based lamp that lasts over 20,000 hours so that the bulb never requires changing, according to the company's website.

Before its current trial in selected Nordstrom's department stores, the retail chain's independently run concept store Treasure & Bond used the display technology for a holiday gift promotion. Treasure & Bond is currently using the technology in a small selection of its stores to evaluate the impact.

"We tend to try lots of things that no one else has, and this was still completely different to anything else we've ever done," said Paige Boggs, general manager at Treasure & Bond. "We chose a range of products that could tell a bigger story and we also thought about products we could share that have a wide range of appeal."

In New York's SoHo shopping district, jewelry retailer BaubleBar also is testing out the alternative touchscreen technology to help them align their content from online to in-store. Their "Spotted on" website section shows Instagram pictures of happy buyers modeling the BaubleBar jewelry. At their summer pop-up store, the Perch display utilized social media to update a "Spotted on" feed for the in-store samples featured on the Perch display table.

"We have seen through data collected online that showing women how and when to wear our jewelry really drives engagement and conversion," said Amy Jain, co-founder of BaubleBar. "We are excited to bring this content to life in a fresh and innovative way that we believe will enhance our customers offline shopping experience."

In the future, stores like BaubleBar will be able to gain similar customer insights direct from their in-store displays rather than from the data on their websites. To meet retailer demands for a greater analytics potential with their in-store technology, PERCH records every interaction that occurs: highlighting what products are most popular and which digital content is most interactive. Retailers can align their data with insights into shopper dwell time and overall sales figures to better understand the role in-store digital content can play on purchasing behavior.

Mark Boyd is a freelance writer covering retail technology.

Read more about retail technology.

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