Interactive merchandising on the rise

Philip Gilbert is national sales and marketing manager for Creative Displayworks, a Concord, Ont.-based designer and manufacturer of custom store fixtures and merchandising concepts. Earlier this spring, he attended GlobalShop 2000 in Chicago, a leading North American showcase for the latest...

Philip Gilbert is national sales and marketing manager for Creative Displayworks, a Concord, Ont.-based designer and manufacturer of custom store fixtures and merchandising concepts. Earlier this spring, he attended GlobalShop 2000 in Chicago, a leading North American showcase for the latest in retail display innovations. For this report, Strategy asked him to discuss some of the trends and developments he noted while walking the show floor.

The size and scope of GlobalShop 2000 were nothing if not spectacular. In all, the event boasted 1,200-plus exhibitors, occupying more than a million square feet. Retailers and brand marketers from around the world spent hours wandering through the five exhibition halls, all seeking that one concept that would put them on the leading edge of merchandise presentation.

So why was it just a little underwhelming? Maybe because GlobalShop is held annually – which means that a lot of what was on display had also been there the previous year. (For this reason, many may prefer Germany’s EuroShop. That show only takes place every three years, and the long hiatus gives exhibitors more incubating time to hatch new store fixture and merchandising ideas. The next EuroShop is scheduled for February 2002.)

Nevertheless, some noteworthy trends did make themselves evident in Chicago.

The most exciting of these is interactive merchandising – essentially, the use of technology to give consumers access to more product information at the point of purchase. Benjamin Moore & Co. in the U.S., for example, has recently introduced a system called Color Preview to their network of dealers. The system allows consumers to choose from a palette of more than 1,400 colours, and "insert" computer-generated colour samples into a three-dimensional simulated room, so that they can better gauge whether the shade is to their liking. It will even show how the paint is likely to appear under different lighting conditions.

Jenn-Air, meanwhile, has introduced an interactive kiosk to help promote its refrigerators at the retail level. The kiosk features 15 different backlit photo panels, each of which displays a different model in a different kitchen environment. By pressing a button located beneath each picture, consumers can listen to an audio presentation on the product’s features. A lot of thought has clearly gone into the physical design of this display, too: With its curved, natural birch veneer columns and black melamine panels, the kiosk’s look is in keeping with Jenn-Air’s reputation for high-quality products.

Interactive displays like these work to everyone’s benefit. They offer customers a wealth of product information, without demanding a great deal of the retailer’s valuable floor space.

The use of giant-sized and multi-screen television monitors is also on the upswing – particularly in areas such as fashion merchandising. What better way, after all, to give the couturier’s runway a presence at retail, where the actual buying decision is made? Those retailers who can’t justify an investment in this technology may opt instead for large, backlit lifestyle image posters – another increasingly popular means of shaping mood and mind-set.

From the evidence at GlobalShop, store planners have begun to place increasing emphasis on the use of specialized lighting and bright colours. The use of acrylics is also making a resurgence in fixture design, along with new applications and finishes, such as fluorescent edge treatments in exotic colours.

Electronic retail is expected to continue its rapid expansion in the months ahead – and as it does so, it will present an increasing challenge to conventional bricks-and-mortar retail stores. Retail merchants and mall developers must give consumers good reasons to leave the comfort of their homes (and the glare of their monitors) in order to fight for parking space at the local shopping centre. The store, once simply a place to shop, must become an "entertainment" destination. The shopping experience must become fun.

In short, there’s a battle going on for customers now. And to win it, retail executives and product merchandisers will need to tap the latest in innovative presentation concepts.

Also in this report:

- Harry gets hip with casual campaign: Upscale retailer makes a play for younger, "new economy" business executives p.24

- POP progress slow but sure: With the promise of credible data, point-of-purchase is poised to prove its worth as a medium p.25

- North West Co. nurtures roots: Retailer supports local activities in remote communities throughout the north p.27

- Traditional retailers can thrive in online world p.27

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.