Monday, August 16, 2004

The fourth dimension of retail communication

My work is currently much related to retail communication.
Retail communication is changing rapidly. This is because retail is now able to use IP based services to its own advantage. A couple of years ago the bricks were told they would get extinct because of the bytes. Meaning that the brick and mortar shop would get extinct in favour of us buying everything on the internet. It didn't happen... for now. Let there be no mistake about it. Some products and services will be mostly internet based and the brick and mortars will get rare to extinct. The Brick and mortar music store will become such a rare species, the traditional photstore is another one.
But at the same time a pure ICT company such as Apple is investing in high profile Applestores in every important town centre. What does this mean? It means that when you need to explain features of your product it is good to get in touch with your customers. But mostly if you want to play a role in peoples lives you have to be there, in their places of worship. The function of a store for a customer is not about buying products! It is about setting projections of a better life, more comfortable, more successfull, more in style, just like the store is.. and in the store now you may actually hold products of worship in your!!Apple I Pod is a style statement, a community building vehicle and.. oh yes, it can also store your music on a hard drive. So you have a rational argument to give into your need to be stylish and belong to the creative Apple community, which is why you actually buy the Pod. Every retailer is dreaming of getting his store or products into places of worship. He/she wants to influence his image to the customer. But how to do that best? ICT applications are getting more intelligent in the store. The publicity of RFID developments is a sign of this, although I fear another overhyped development here, it is basicly an interesting one. Currently I am working on a pilot to develop a service for retailers to actually 'see' what people do in their stores. The routes they take, the time they spent, the places they attract to and the 'dark places' that are not working for the store. This information helps the retailer to better design his store, but also to plan and design his instore communication to be most effective.
Now you have the possibility to merge interactive possibilities that the internet can give in a real environment. Mixing the real with the virtual, to enhance the story you are telling.
To me it is a very exciting instrument to test crossmedia storytelling, because in a store you can offer divers mediachannels all at once (the store itself being a mediachannel as well) and invite the customer to observe, inform or interact with the information that is offered in the store(s). How will it influence the projections of a better life, more comfortable, more successfull, more in style? Will it influence buying behaviour?