Digital signage and interactive kiosks made a stand amongst the aisles decorated with mannequins, product displays and light fixtures at this year's GlobalShop trade show in Chicago. Booths featurring digtial signage technology provided ample evidence that retailers are thinking about much more than just shelving and hangers.
And while GlobalShop may not be the go-to industry event for retail technology solutions to flex their muscle, it is an event that draws top retail designers looking for fresh ideas to improve the retail customer experience — giving technology exhibitors ample chance to make good impressions on the right people.
Large-format interactive digital signage kiosks were a common theme among the technology exhibited at GlobalShop. Ohio-based Micro Industries Inc. was no exception. The company's President, Michael Curran, explained how his products are high-end, high-performance solutions designed for interactive deployments in retail, medical, hospitality and transportation.
"The show gives us exposure to creative people that are associated with retail," said Curran, on why a tech company would benefit from a design show. "We can show them the capabilities that are available."
Curran showed off Micro's Touch&Go Messenger line, including the landscape-mounted Digital Director and the portrait-mounted Digital Lollipop. Also featured was Micro's in-house infrastructure software that Curran said offers an alternative to the traditional menu-driven list. The software's menu screen features a 5-by-9 matrix of three-dimensional cubes, giving users quick access to information through the cube's touch-controlled rotation. Each face of the cube is an access point to widgets like videos, customer registration and product details.
"The idea was to provide visual access to content that is easy to retrieve," Curran said. "It's meant to be visually engaging and to give an idea of all of the available content."
Continuing the theme of large interactive screens was Comark Corp.'s rugged monument kiosk. The wayfinding solution with a 47-inch touchscreen display made news recently for its deployment in New York City's subway system as part of a project with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Scott Plesh, Comark's solutions architect, said that retail is a new segment for the company — and all the more a reason to make appearances at retail-centric trade shows.
"Retail is something we are trying to get in to," Plesh said. "This kiosk is the first step to getting in to the retail market. We took the On the Go monument kiosk and packaged it for different retail environments like malls or outlets, basically taking our years of experience in other segments and bringing it to retail."
Lavi Industries is known in the retail industry for its patented posts used for line barriers. But according to Steve Covate, Lavi's VP of sales, the company has begun to change its focus in recent years.
"We've been in business for more than 30 years and we have always been a part of this show," Covate said. "But about five years ago we began to evolve, thinking about how we could improve the experience for customers in line and increase sales for the store."
The company began developing its arsenal of queue-management technology that has grown to include interactive kiosks, in-store cameras for predictive wait times and merchandising intelligence and digital signage screens — all running Lavi's in-house software.
"We have been along this journey from the beginning," Covate said. "We have learned over time that we have to continue to evolve to meet our customer needs. It's no longer acceptable to just elegantly put them in line or elegantly merchandise. We have to educate and help drive the sale of the store and make it more efficient and improve the customer experience."
Digital signage provider STRATACACHE also showed off its retail lineup at GlobalShop, including the gesture-based Digital Play. The interactive screen can be programmed to respond when a consumer interacts with the content, serving as an attract zone in retail environments and creating an active customer experience.
The company's VP of Retail Sales, Jason Barnett, said that the role of interactive and digital technology is growing within retail design.
"The people that we position our products with — the merchants, the marketing folks — most of the major retailers are here," Barnett said. "While a lot of the show is traditional fixtures like mannequins, shelves and lights, they are also doing digital stores and looking for ways to bring that digital experience inside the store."
Read more about digital signage in retail.