"The store is still the star," according to Matt Schmitt, founder and president of Reflect Systems and moderator of the opening session, "Brand Media in the Real World," at the Digital Screenmedia Symposium in Chicago held earlier this month.
Schmitt is fully aware of issues such as showrooming and online competitors such as Amazon, but believes that for most retailers, the store is the culmination of the brand.
Schmitt's panelists included Mark Bennett, a former Target executive and Jennifer Nye of Kohler. Nye said that after so much focus online, the focus is shifting back to the store. Nye previously worked for Harley-Davidson, a brand that builds loyalty among its customers through the dealership experience.
Bennett, who now heads up his own content production firm called Microgigantic, relayed a story from his Target days when they added a sizzling sound to an in-store video promo for meat spices, increasing sales by 9 percent. He also said that Target's Channel Red network paid for itself within three years.
Nearly 70 were in attendance for this second symposium of the year, organized by the DSA. The event drew a cross-section of speakers and attendees, representing retailers, brands, agencies, digital out-of-home networks and vendors.
The conference was essentially a one-day event, but started on Thursday afternoon and ended at noon the following day. There were six educational sessions in total, with several breaks and an evening reception to give attendees a chance to network.
Each session took a slightly different approach. Rich Ventura, director of sales for NEC, moderated a panel called "Form, Fit and Function," featuring representatives from United Airlines, SmartBomb Media Group (a DOOH network) and VS Networks (providers of John Deere's in-store kiosks and digital signage). While the panelists addressed topics such as the right screen for the job, nearly 60 digital signage examples were shown in a looping presentation on the screen.
Sheldon Silverman, CEO of SmartBomb Media Group, which operates a digital signage network in check cashing and currency exchange offices, said his company has recently deployed NFC tags near teller windows and has seen a greater usage of the technology than he expected.
Lindsay Wadelton of AT&T explained the thought process behind the company's experience store on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago in the session "Six Degrees of Interactivity," moderated by Ron Bowers of Frank Mayer & Associates.
AT&T's challenge was letting people know the company is about more than just phones. In fact, AT&T has to sell something that's invisible, such as a reliable cellular network, a vast array of cable programming and fast internet speeds. Wadelton said the interactive, experiential approach of the store opens customers' eyes to the variety of services and products offered by AT&T. Elements of the flagship store are now being rolled out to other AT&T stores across the country.
Day two of the symposium began with demonstrations by three companies with mobile innovations: Shop One (sending notifications to customer phones with Bluetooth 4.0 beacons), Ricoh Innovations (content through photo capture) and GroundCntrl (collecting data from the mobile workforce for retail compliance/customer insight).
The mobile demos were followed by an panel of "agency all-stars," according to moderator Jim Harris of The Wall Street Journal Office Network. They included Jamie Lehessalo of Rapport, Maureen McClosky of Kinetic and Jack Sullivan of Starcom. While the panel certainly recognized the value of DOOH (and had successful case studies to share), it seems education is still the name of the game. Many ad buyers don't understand how DOOH works or how to prove the value with clients. For Rapport, a research study helped with the metrics:
To close out the symposium, two speakers made presentations on "The Future of Glass." Todd Fender of NPD DisplaySearch reported data suggesting that commercial display sales are expected to grow 23 percent annually through 2017, with much of the growth coming from emerging geographical regions. While the percentage of large format displays that are touch enabled is relatively small, it should grow with more retail applications. New technologies such as 4K (Ultra HD) will start with consumers and trickle down to commercial applications as prices come down, Fender said.
"Brands are not in control; consumers are," said Manolo Almagro of TPN in his portion of the presentation. In his discussion about the impact of mobile in retail, Almagro referenced a recent Google study that said 84 percent of smartphone shoppers use their devices to help them shop while in the store. Almagro, sporting Google Glass himself, talked about Glass and other wearables such as the smartwatch. He closed with this video from Blackberry on the possible future of customer experience (reminiscent of the Corning videos):
Future DSA symposiums are planned for 2014 for Dallas in the spring and Chicago in the summer.