Unlike yesteryears, retailers today needs to entertain and engage customers, else buying can happen online as well. The only differentiating factor today is how well you can enter the heart and mind of the shopper while s/he is in your store. The business of fashion is not just about glitter and glamour anymore. It is all about gauging the need of what the customer expects from you. The best way to do so is up the quotient of your in-store communication and the options available are aplenty – like the magic mirror, the life size LED screen, interesting graffiti on store walls, interactive store staff, POS innovations, etc. We speak with a few brands to check on their efforts when it comes to innovation in in-store communication.
Lets consider the driving force behind adopting innovative in-store communication technology by one of the most coveted department stores in India – Lifestyle. Srinivas Rao, Senior Vice President, Marketing – Lifestyle says, “Our communication is designed to provide our customers with the power of choice – whether they be looking for a complete ensemble or individual statement pieces, knowledge of our latest campaigns, best fashion trends of the season and the best deals, discounts and promotions, among others, while providing a memorable and convenient in-store experience.
At Lifestyle, our communication mix comprises a 360-degree approach, ensuring meaningful touch-points for consumers as they experience our brand in-store. The testimony of effective communication is when a customer interacts with the product in-store. This is also known as ‘the moment of truth’.”
Accentuating the role of in-store communication, Harkirat Singh – Managing Director, Woodland talks about how it ultimately must translate what the brand stands for in the marketplace or industry, “Exterior as well as interior communication should carry throughout the store to bring the brand to life. This type of communication should be an experience that creates an emotional connection with a customer that they always remember.”
The Mediums That Create The Melody
Highlighting an interesting medium that plays an important role in in-store communication, Ankita Bajaj, Marketing Lead – Vans talks about fixtures. She says, “Here at Vans we believe in the world we come from and the things we have carried along with us throughout this journey. The essence of the brand is in what the brand stands for and that is what one can see and experience in our stores if one removes the typical communication mediums.
The answer lies in our fixtures and the appearance of our stores, using wood and metal gives us the authenticity that someone would expect from a brand like Vans and the culture it curates. If all other mediums of communication are removed, the store will still resonate with the brand, its ethos and ideology. Apart from the core of the store as mentioned above, we use LED backlit boxes because of its clarity and a sustainable approach.”
Santosh Srivastava, Marketing Manager, Numero Uno talks about the practice put in place at all of the Numero Uno stores, saying “Besides the regular banners and standees, we use in-store radio and LED installations to bring freshness in our communication. Even, interesting use of mannequins can also help in in-store communication. The objective is to keep the visitors engaged and informed.” In the same breadth though he also says, “Surely, the new age mediums raise interest levels of the customers. However, banners and standees are also as effective as ever.
Everyone leans towards a brighter looking LED installation or voice meticulously stating the new offerings but on a simpler level, banners and standees work to communicate category level offering inside a store.”
Srivastava reveals on the mediums that actually help translate sale, saying, “Retail touch points are very important medium when it comes to promoting anything new or announcing sale. It is the actual catchment area where a person is ready to make a purchase. We generally put up informative signages on store window to inform people about the developments and/or any offer to invoke interest and pull the customer inside. Once he is inside the store, various informative signages like off er, bottom fit and size descriptions assist him in making a quick decision.”
Rating each of the medium used at the stores, Bajaj rates LED screen and television screens the highest, followed by LED backlit boxes and window/ table display and next in line would be tent/ pop-up cards. With having a 360-degree approach, Rao talks about having larger than life digital screens showcasing latest fashion trends;interactive digital standees and an in-store radio exclusive to Lifestyle also showcasing trends and exciting offers running in-store.
“Under the efforts of enhancing digital visual experience in Lifestyle Stores, video-walls were added to help customers identify all the ongoing campaigns and promotions in the store while avoiding clutter. With over 90 video walls present across the country, Lifestyle, as a brand, enjoys the highest number of video walls compared to any other retail chain in India. We also implemented an interactive ‘digital like button’ on our store VM windows that enables consumers to appreciate the aesthetics of visual merchandising – an element of engagement gleaned from social media and then extended to effective in-store communication,” he says.
Counting on the list of innovations and firsts added, he elaborates, “Lifestyle was also the first fashion retail brand to adopt Hologram technology (by kino-mo, London), a one-of-a-kind solution that presents a powerful tool for elevating customer experience and engagement like no other. Impactful in-store visuals in the form of walls, pillars, shelf-talkers and standees that brings our campaigns and trends to life, are also a part of our communication strategy.”
Bringing in the opinion of another footwear brand (for women), Kapil Mahtani, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Tresmode says, “Video walls are the most effective as they are big in size and grab the consumer’s attention. They are also more visible from distances and add to customer attraction. Digital shelf talkers on the store counters can help a brand display a variety of content from their social media pages to celebrity appearances to bloggers videos. This keeps the customer engaged at the counter which leads to sales conversion. They also help a customer see how merchandise from another category may enhance the lifestyle feel, thus adding on sales (example, how a bag may look with the shoes when clubbed together).”
Shashank Arya, Director – DAR Group talks about the in-store communication practices adopted for their premium footwear brand – Berleigh. “We primarily go for bold and oversized façade branding that reflects our exterior from afar. Backlit glass façades for hi-street stores and in-mall installations are a must do for us to start with. In-store, we have dynamic screens that project the BTS videos of the shoot, our campaign and products. Apart from this, we have ticket-jackets, shelf-talkers, in mall magazines, standees and POS collaterals that form the core of our in-store communications.”
To be seen in between other brands, Arya talks about the practice put in place at malls. “In-mall, we take prime space-on-hire for stronger visibility that includes namely walkaways, escalator branding, cubes and standees that strengthens the store presence in the mall. We do in-store activations at regular interval and our experiential installation in the mall atrium area provides the consumers with the first moment of truth at the entry that builds their involvement with the brand at the very first step.”
According to him, ground floor and atrium area branding for in-mall stores are the best as it has the maximum walk-ins that also helps to drive some in-mall walk-ins to the store.
The Surprise Factor
Anything that is predictable is boring. Even if for a short while, anything that enthralls the customer remains to stick with her for long. This could perhaps be something as simple as store personnel handing over a balloon to a customer who walks in with a child. Rao talks about the importance of imbibing the spirit of festivities when the occasion demands.
He says, “To ensure that our customers can ‘live fashion’ rather than only virtually experience it, we design occasion specific, in-store ensemble displays that are distributed at vantage points across the store. These ensemble displays showcase exclusively curated fashion trends of the season, providing the customer with the power of choice – be it for a complete look or individual trends.”
An interesting initiative undertaken by Lifestyle which moves beyond being visual is that of bringing in ‘sound’. Arya reveals, “Since communication starts well before the consumer walks inside the store, we have enabled voice-based search on our app which has positively impacted the interaction between consumers and the brand, making the shopping experience more personalised and convenient.”
Taking a Novel Approach
Where talking about sale and new collection is not that challenging, conveying the features of innovations in fabric or introducing any feature that otherwise isn’t easily visible to the customer needs to be done tactfully. Rao talks about the system adopted at Lifestyle.
“Fabric innovations are communicated to customers in a creative way through our in-store radio. Since strong visual cues are a great way to communicate as well, highlighting something as intricate as fabric innovations is effective through digital touch-points like digital walls, screen and standees.The communication remains crisp and avoids the risk of it becoming monotonous,” he says.
Srivastava shares the example of their One Glass Denim to talk about how they use the in-store communication medium to talk about the innovation in fabric or any other techniques they have in place, “It is true that communicating the fabric or material innovations can be challenging at times. However, whenever we introduce a new fabric or a different fabric which is something more than cotton, we make sure to highlight it inside our store at key visibility areas.
Sometimes an interesting cue about the innovation also invokes interest in customers and they themselves ask the store executives about it. When we introduced our pro-environment ‘One Glass Water’ range of denims, we did just that. We had put up interesting LED displays inside the store and customers were really interested. The sales of our One Glass Water denims almost doubled after the display.”
Revealing the plan of action put in place for Vans, Bajaj shares, “We plan special displays for the launch, etc. and give the display enough time at the store and these are product- based displays. Just by a look one can understand what the product is about. This sense of clarity that the customer gets opens them up to know more.”
These displays, according to her, could be focal displays/ window display and displays at the fixture as well. She adds, “Apart from making a display look good it needs to be informative as well. This information about the product doesn’t have to be text/ bullet points but can be about the surroundings of the product, where is it coming from? Why is it required? These displays are the best — they merge well with the idea of the product and can be understood by the target audience.”
For Berleigh, according to Arya, their biggest assets to convey the salient features of the brand would be their Customer Service Representatives who educate the customers about the manufacturing, sourcing, other operations and logistics of the product.
He says, “We have been doing shelf talkers that provide the brand history and unique selling proposition of the brand to the customers. For our private brand, Heel and Buckle London, we are looking to creating a visual asset that will capture the sourcing, manufacturing, finishing, packaging and display of the product and establish the differentiation point of the brand and offerings.”
Tarang Arora from Tribe by Amrapali is all for LED Screens doing all the talking. For his jewellery brand, he says, “Currently we are using LED Screen’s to transfer the information about our new collections and celebrity style. They are the shortest and the most effective form of in-store communication.”
Arora also talks about the emergence of digital look-books saying, “Digital look books are picking up the market space, they are user friendly and informative. Shoppers are most likely to buy products seen on a model, which ultimately drive’s sales for the company, through a digital look-book you can also inform the customers about the upcoming collection. Flexes or Standee’s also have a great impact on customers, the look that they see gets imprinted in their head.”
On floor store personnel are the face for the brand much before the customer can engage with any other mediums put in place. Even if the customer does not end up personally having a conversation with the store staff , the very body language is enough to make the customer feel welcome or out of place at the store. Aptly explaining the importance of on the floor sales staff , Srivastava shares, “Sales personnel are perhaps the most important people. After all they are the ones who become the first touch point for a brand’s customer. No matter how many LED’s or signages we put up, we would not be able to tell all the details about any collection or innovation through them. They just act as interest builders, but it is the sales executive who sustains and fulfils that interest. One cannot deny that no mechanical communication can ever replace the way humans communicate. The tone, body language, personality and knowledge of a sales executive play a major role in sale conversions.”
At Numero Uno there is a team of designers who conduct proper training sessions for the store sales personnel.
In this, they are given first hand experience of the new collection or innovation. Srivastava elaborates, “Our visual merchandising team is also present during the session to elaborate on the proper display and stacking of the new products. They are also shown the kind of signages the store would be getting to inform customers about the new collection and their placement inside the store at key points is also discussed. In case, any of them don’t understand any aspect of either the product or the display, they are assisted on one-to-one basis.”
Rao shares his take saying, “On-floor sales personnel play a very crucial role as they are the first tangible communication touch-point for customers. Before the launch of a new collection or any product innovation, the entire store team goes through an extensive knowledge session, which enables them to understand the product and the collection at hand. For a brand that is a fashion outpost, it is important for our sales personnel to be able to communicate the latest fashion trends, offers and campaigns while enhancing the customers’ overall experience.”
Another reason that makes it imperative to have the store staff well in knowledge of what is happening is to help customers decode information in case they do not understand. Bajaj shares, “The information conveyed through display can sometimes be technical, hence it can attract the customer but to completely understand it, it is imperative for the floor sales personnel to be completely aware and proficient about the product so that they can help the customer with all the information, which they ask for.”
The Role of In-Store Communication to Increase Impulse Buying
When a customer is awaiting her turn at the billing counter, it is imperative that the time that she has on her hand is made best use of and the easiest way to do so is to indulge her into some impulse buying. As long as the product being sold to her does not carry an expensive price tag, it is sure to get noticed and be alluring enough for her to add in her shopping bag / basket.
Rao says, “Placing interactive content that is both relatable and aspirational is a way in which in-store communication can be effectively used at check-out points. Given that decision making during an impulse buy is quick and spontaneous, the communication surrounding it should be designed in a way that creates an immediate connect with the consumers and the product.”
Srivastava talks about how LED screens behind check-out points are extremely popular options to point out some tempting offers that the store has but the customer might have missed out on.
“Even placing tabs, tent cards or standees at the cash till with relevant offers for the customers can make him notice it. I also believe that the checkout is a vital point where we can tap the customer once again and induce him to buy more. Our perfumes, deodorants, socks, belts, wallets and shoe care range are usually displayed at the check-out point.”
Summing up on the ever-changing dynamics of in-store communication, Srivastava shares, “More and more technologically advanced in-store communication mediums have developed. LED installations and virtual product tours are interesting and informative. International brands like H&M, Zara, Calvin Klein, etc., are using these effectively to give an experience to the customers. Indian brands have also deploying technologically advanced methods to attract people. The recently introduced virtual shopping wall, Scan N Shop, at the Delhi International Airport is a big leap towards virtual reality. The entire game has shifted to giving a memorable shopping experience. Use of tabs in assistive shopping and checkout seem convenient and effective as well. Brands have started using online catalogues attached to these devices to bridge the gap between online and physical stores. So, customers get ease of online while experiencing the world class retail environment.”
And Rao aptly concludes, “Incorporating technology that is both interactive and engaging is one of the surest ways in which the dynamics of in-store communication have changed over the years. Tech in offline is not just about enhancing business functions, it is about enhancing the overall shopping experience for the consumer as well. From communication to consolidating significant consumer insights, the impact of technological inputs is already noteworthy when it comes to curating meaningful experiences for the customer.”