This article was first published in the Winter 2014 issue of OnWindows
Delivering a truly engaging in-store experience for customers can be challenging. Today, many retailers provide sales associates with connected devices and implement self-service kiosks, digital signage, sensors and beacons in stores to offer more information to customers and personalise interactions.
However, Peter Cherna, chief product officer at Scala, warns that simply deploying new technologies in stores does not guarantee an in-store concept that truly engages with customers on a compelling and genuinely personal level.
“Today’s customers have easy and instant access to vast resources of information, so retailers must prioritise their needs and expectations, and all in-store capabilities and experiences must be integrated to support these journeys,” says Cherna. “Retailers can easily use technology to create an interactive customer service, but if they don’t identify what tools and devices will enable them to create a strong bond between their brand and customers, they will just deliver an annoying, intrusive and overly familiar in-store experience that alienates, rather than engages, customers.”
Instead, Cherna recommends that retailers explore how to analyse the vast amount of data generated by each of these devices to fully understand how technology can be used to engage customers.
“Sensors and in-store beacons can certainly help retailers to track various metrics, while in-store devices are great for collecting individual customer data, but all of this information is useless if they don’t know how to understand it” says Cherna. “By deploying an analytics tool that ties together all of their in-store devices, retailers can identify how best to provide detailed product descriptions, reviews, competitive pricing information, promotions and more – whether they do this via sales associates’ devices, wall-mounted digital screens, or even the customers’ own mobile devices.”
Designed as both a product and a platform, Scala EXP enables retailers to collect and analyse data from their digital signage solutions and devices, allowing them to develop an engaging and interactive in-store customer experience. Connected to Scala’s existing enterprise systems and digital signage tools – which run on Microsoft Azure and Windows Embedded – the solution allows retailers to build out new and more meaningful in-store experiences.
Scala EXP has been developed with standard application programming interfaces so the entire ecosystem can be implemented on a wide range of devices and integrated with various media endpoints, sensors, controls and data streams as they are developed.
“Scala EXP bridges the gap between the interactive, customer-centric services that are available online and all of the immersive devices retailers want to deploy in the store,” explains Cherna. “The solution’s cloud-based server also features advanced analytics capabilities, highlighting patterns in consumer behaviour to help retailers to better understand how deploying certain technologies can improve the customer experience, increase the sales of a particular product, reduce wait times, or more.”
Due to launch in the first half of 2015, Scala EXP has been piloted by several retailers to explore how it can be used to rapidly deliver new in-store experience concepts. Cherna says: “One retailer wanted to increase the number of customers visiting a certain area of the store, so we used the features of EXP to devise a location-based treasure hunt system that rewards customers who head to that part of the store.”
As the retail industry continues to become increasingly customer-centric, Cherna believes Scala EXP will help many retailers to implement new forms of digital signage solutions that interact with customers in a more personalised and compelling way.
While wall-mounted screens will be used to display important or general information to numerous customers at the same time – such as via menu boards in restaurants, or timetables in train stations – Cherna predicts that smartphones and tablets will increasingly play a central role in more intimate settings.
“Mobile devices used by sales associates are far more appropriate than wall screens when customers are asking about specific products or brands,” he explains, adding that mobiles may be used to control wall-mounted screens. “As they become more mobile-centric, digital signage solutions will evolve from a simple screen on a wall to encompass the whole digital in-store experience and engagement concept – that’s what we aim to support with the new Scala EXP solution.”
Indeed, as both a product and a platform, Scala EXP offers Scala, its partners and its customers the opportunity to build out a wide range of new solutions from within a single ecosystem.
“We can enable customers to leverage an existing solution from Scala EXP, or we can quickly extend the ecosystem and integrate more capabilities to help them develop complete digital signage solutions that will enable them to achieve their customer engagement goals,” says Cherna. “Scala is dedicated to exploring how we can help our customers produce world-class, memorable retail experiences that lead to better sales revenues, more engaged staff and ultimately, happier customers.”
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