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

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group