- 6 Aug 2012
Guest Blog: How Multi touch Technology is Improving the Retail Experience
Touchscreen technology may not be brand new. In fact, early touch screens were used over 30 years ago! Nowadays, any one of us with a smartphone or tablet will know what can be done on a small screen at the tips of your fingers. But, the explosive rate at which this technology is now being deployed is unprecedented, and the retail environment is no exception. Touch screens are a key enabler of next generation in-store shopping experiences which will drive brand loyalty and ultimately influence bottom line revenues.
For consumers that have already come face-to-face with touch-screen technology in store, this will most likely have been at the checkout in their local supermarket. What a self-service checkout can offer customers is a speedy and self-reliant way of shopping without having to interact with in-store staff – something people are far more comfortable with in this age of online shopping. At the same time, self-checkouts enable supermarkets to ease pressure on employees, whilst increasing customer throughput.
However, it’s interesting that self-service kiosks still require supervision from store staff who stand by to offer assistance throughout the checkout process. This stresses the need to optimise the user experience and the ‘on-screen’ ease of use. It’s expected that with more and more kiosks being developed and deployed and with the integration of enhanced technology that they will become quicker and easier to use all the time.
Self-checkout is far from the only retail use of touch screens. Whilst employees have been using touch enabled cash registers for years, we are now becoming exposed to a variety of new applications that leverage touch technology. If done right, these can enable a great shopping experience which both entices us into a store in the first place and influences us to make a purchase; ultimately leading to an increase in revenues for the retailer.
Digital signage has become prominent in recent years and is the method of displaying onscreen dynamic content and advertising to drive incremental sales. If you are passing a shop window, or at the checkout desk, which is more likely to stand out – A cardboard cut-out notice, or a moving advertisement? Over the past 5 to 10 years, the digital signage market has been establishing itself.
So far the content has largely been ‘one way’. I.e. displayed on a screen to a ‘passer-by’ as opposed to a ‘two way’ experience, where that same ‘passer-by’ becomes actively involved. This is beginning to change and with ‘interactive’ digital signage new forms of content are being created which ask questions, offer games and provide info to the ‘passer by’ on specific offers. This approach captivates visitors for longer, provides a more personalised, engaging experience, and importantly will gather useful ‘profile information’ for the retailer as well as influencing more sales.
In-store shopping assistance is a technique whereby touch-enabled displays in the store enable shoppers to quickly and easily find product information without having to queue for the attention of an employee. Often, the content will be similar to what is on a store’s website but will be adapted to the specific environment e.g. will include additional functionality such as where the items can be found in the store etc. In the future, real-time requests will also become common whereby if you find an item of clothing that you like on the screen, you will select a size and colour, and the items will then be waiting for you to try on in an assigned changing room.
And then there is ‘Multi-touch’, which Gartner research group believe will be one of the most disruptive technologies of the decade both for adding new functionality to existing applications such as much enhanced content navigation, and to enable multiple users to interact on the same screen simultaneously. Examples of this would be interactive digital signage, where the top half of the screen is the existing ‘retail’ experience, but the lower half of the screen is content/games, specifically for children so as to occupy them whilst the parent is ‘engaging’. Another use is at the checkout desk, where the cashier would perform the transaction on one part of the ‘screen surface’, as opposed to using a standalone checkout display, while the customer interacted with more ‘point of sale’ content on their side. There would also be more interaction for other customers waiting in line on the adjoining counter area.
The advancements of single and multi-touch technology is pretty incredible when one considers the unlimited, simultaneous touch points available, the ability to detect accidental touches and the underlying computer technology needed to manage all the different content and events at any time. What is needed now, is more and more ‘applications’ which take advantage of this technology to provide true benefit for both consumer and employees alike.
Stores want to be remembered by their visitors. It’s why millions of pounds are spent on branding and in-store improvements each year. They want you to feel positive about what they can offer and this is what the right dynamic content, interacted with through single and multi-touch screen interfaces can contribute to, if the user experience is optimised. In other words, if the checkout process is quick and easy and promotions or information gathering are enjoyable and not irritating. And ultimately, when a customer leaves the store, they are already looking forward to coming back.
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