In this third and final installment in our series, we will provide some examples of brands that are using digital in physical spaces. These innovative brands are using digital in such a thoughtful, engaging way that physical spaces are brought to life and brand promise is delivered as never before.
In most industries, the adoption of innovation – whether it’s technologies, concepts or products – follows a similar pathway that can be tracked from introduction to mass acceptance and adoption. Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations  first published in 1962 outlines this process which categorizes adopters into innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The spread of the new concept follows a process that includes the innovation itself, communication channels, time, and the surrounding social system or culture.
In terms of deployment of digital signage, most retail brands fall somewhere between early adopters and early majority, meaning that the technology that enables digital signage already exists and is being refined, and proof-of-concept has been achieved. In fact, as we outlined in part 1 of our digital signage series, eight out of ten brands experience a 33 percent increase in sales by employing digital signage, but it’s more than increase in sales that benefit brands. Brands that employ digital signage are enhancing experiences for customers in a meaningful way.
Brands are beginning to see the value, both in terms of dollars and engagement, in investing into the implementation of digital, but how do brands continue to innovate when implementing digital environmental strategies? Several brands are using the latest technologies in an imaginative way to actually have people involved in the video on the screen. Whether it’s use of personalized emojis or a point-of-view (POV) vantage, some exciting developments are taking place on the brand stage.
Imagine that you are standing at a bus stop, and there is a digital screen in front of you that has you staring at a herd of zebras running through the street directly behind you. The display has all the cars whizzing by in real-time, in what seems to be, the middle of the herd. You even see yourself standing there. This is digital signage for a HSBC credit card promotion at a roadside bus shelter in Hong Kong.
The signage has combined its branding messages with augmented reality to take those waiting at the bus station on an experience to another world. The big idea behind the signage is to “Ignite people’s hottest travel wishes” according to outdoor advertising company JCDecaux Cityscape. The end result is an immersive experience that allows consumers to imagine themselves on a number of adventures, which the HSBC credit card can help facilitate.
The consumer retail sector is one of the leading industries with groundbreaking usage of digital strategies within spaces. Within the retail landscape, there is one brand that is on the forefront with their innovative textiles, trends and spaces. Nike has continued its pioneering approach with their Berlin flagship store, featuring customizable digital enhancements, including mobile apps, media walls and digital kiosks, but it’s more than deploying digital technology. What makes this Nike store innovative is how Nike applies these digital technologies in a novel, enhanced way.
Within the Nike experience, media walls are used to house lifestyle and community content, such as ticker updates, weather and social media posts, but Nike takes the experience further, creating a multi-touch and multi-user display. Instead of using the digital wall as simply a messaging portal, the brand has transformed signage into an interactive experience, incorporating user-generated content like selfies and fan favorites for customers to push to their personal devices with a customized hashtag.
Pushing the Interactive Experience further, Nike’s Bootroomtransforms a standard touchscreen into a multi-touch surface that combines technologies like product videos, sport statistics, and comparable shoe data. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology enables product detection paired with 3D-cameras that allow for a 3-way interaction between the digital surface, product, and user. While all of this is happening front of house, the back of house technology works with real-time availability for size and color through an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, resulting in the merging many different technology capabilities into one cohesive user experience.
Another retail industry innovator is Rebecca Minkoff who is combining technology and fashion in a novel way. Fortune describes Minkoff’s digital brand innovations, “Ten years after launching the accessories label, designer Rebecca Minkoff, 34, and her brother, Uri, 40, run a $100 million lifestyle juggernaut that has made a name, in part, by embracing tech trends as fervently as they follow fashion.” In an interview with Fortune, Minkoff says, “We want to stay one step ahead of the consumer. What does she need now and tomorrow.” A social media trailblazer, Minkoff was one of the first designers to embrace social through Twitter and Tumblr and live stream the runway.
Minkoff’s latest evolution takes place at her Los Angeles flagship store where an interactive wall display dubbed the ‘Magic Mirror’ because it lies dormant as a mirror when no one is interacting with it. Once someone taps the screen, the interactive experience allows shoppers to browse the latest looks, find products they like, request a fitting room, and even order a drink. These features are in-addition to videos of runway shows, photos, social media channels, and the brand’s mobile app. Ready for that fitting room you requested? Receive a text when the associates have it ready for you.
Once in the fitting room, the interactive experience continues. Another ‘Magic Mirror’ gives the customer the opportunity to change and control the environment by adjusting the lighting. Minkoff also uses RFID technology in her products, which allows the digitized fitting rooms to recognize the items a customer has in the room with them. By knowing what is in room, stylists can retrieve a different size, cut, or color by on-screen request from the customer. Technology also includes ‘wear-it-with’ recommendations from Rebecca herself, allowing the voice of the designer directly informing the retail experience. Once customers are ready to check out, they simply touch the screen in the fitting room.
Through digital signage and interactive elements, Minkoff achieves a seamless, interactive and customized experience that is at once cutting edge and personal, and it’s paying off. This type of innovation within their connected stores is resulting in 30 percent of customers asking for additional items from the dressing room mirrors; apparel sales increases by up to three times; sales increases by 50 percent in three cities with connected stores – San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City; and 75 percent of customers engaging with the “wear-it” feature.
Throughout our digital blog series, we’ve discussed both strategy and implementation and developed a framework for understanding digital’s place and purpose in the evolving consumer marketplace. What makes these brand examples Innovators within their industries is more than just having the coolest, newest technologies in their environments; these brands have successfully deployed advanced technologies in a creative, functional way focused squarely on enhancing the customer experience and providing multiple vehicles for customer engagement. In short, they’ve developed something memorable, useful and fun.
Whether it’s RFID technology working in tandem with interactive screens and inventory management systems or customizable elements that enhance the customer experience allowing for exploring, saving and sharing, the Innovators we’ve examined in this series are pushing brand experience beyond what consumers may expect of traditional retail environments. Brick-and-mortar establishments have a unique opportunity when customers travel to in-store locations, and with these new innovations, have developed must-see, first-hand experiences that set the stage for ongoing brand curiosity, loyalty and engagement.
What in-person brand innovations do you love? Let’s keep this conversation going by using #brandexperience.
 Rogers, Everett. Diffusion of Innovations, 5th Edition, Simon and Schuster, 2003.