Contributed by Rob Hollands, Director of Brand Experience, Anthem Worldwide (London, UK)

 

“Lots of companies don’t succeed over time. What do they fundamentally do wrong?
They usually miss the future.”1

When Larry Page made that comment in an interview with Charlie Rose, he was reflecting on the fearless innovation that makes for a successful technology company, like his own startup, Google. But when you think about traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, is there even a future to miss? For years the conventional wisdom has been that the future is moving online.

But conventional wisdom, by definition, misses the future.

 

Storytelling in the aisle
One exciting new area that’s ripe for exploration is using technology to actively tell brand stories within the retail aisle.

As reported by Marketing Week, the top 20 storytelling brands in the UK for 2015 include no supermarkets or High Street retailers for the first time ever, and only one FMCG brand, Guinness.2 Technology companies dominate the list, led by Apple at #1. That leaves a lot of room for retailers and brands that can engage shoppers in an active story, beyond simply competing for the most striking or prominent display.

Consider the project that Anthem recently undertook in collaboration with Nestlé, Asda Walmart and our technology partner Projection Artworks, a pioneer in 3D mapping software for daylight-visible projection systems.

The goal was to stop and engage the shopper in the aisle, creating an experience that cuts through the visual noise of the retail environment to tell the brand story in an arresting and compelling way—and to directly impact sales with measurable results.

Nestlé identified Quality Street as the test brand for the project, one of the UK’s leading confectionary brands. The activity was then planned across 10 Asda stores over a three-month period from Halloween to Christmas, the two biggest holidays for Nestlé. Other Asda stores would feature conventional displays with a similar theme to act as a control group for gauging sales results.

We explored using shoppers’ mobile devices to augment reality, but concluded these ideas weren’t quite right. The need to download an app would be intrusive for people looking to shop efficiently during a busy holiday season, and there can be connectivity issues in some of the more rural store locations.

We also explored in-store screens. These can be great for conveying information, but have perhaps become too familiar for the uniquely attention-grabbing experience we wanted to achieve. People are surrounded by screens these days, and they’ve lost some of their magic. Screens are also difficult to integrate into the shelf edge, and can get broken or even stolen.

We’ve done interesting projects in the past using projection, but these are typically outdoors, at nighttime, on a large scale, in a single location and often using a purpose-built screen. Projection can tell a beautiful and engrossing story, but the limitations of projection technology have kept it out of the retail environment.

Until now. There’s an old adage for brainstorming creative ideas: Whatever you think, think the opposite. That’s what we did, and it led us straight to Projection Artworks.

 

A new viewpoint on projection
Amazing advancements in LED technology over the past few years have made it possible to replace bulbs in projectors while reducing costs, minimising size, increasing reliability and enabling daylight-visible projection. DisplayMapper software provides 3D projection mapping with content synched and controlled from the cloud. Content is streamed over the store’s Wi-Fi network—with 4G as a backup—to an Android player connected to a daylight-visible projection system.

This system allows video images to be precisely mapped and projected onto any surface, including the display header and even the product itself—creating experiences that, until now, shoppers have never encountered before. When you see the effect of a well-designed in-aisle projection, you literally can’t help but stop and watch.

It’s a beautiful experience, and you can get a feeling for the impact it has in-store by watching a short video, Anthem Launches UK’s First Interactive Point-of-Sale Campaign, on YouTube.

The Projection Artworks YouTube channel has some early concepts and demos of 3D mapping and daylight-visible projection technology, but the Nestlé Quality Street project in Asda stores was the UK’s first interactive point-of-sale campaign. It uses a small, unobtrusive projector that can be installed in under two hours, without disrupting existing fixtures, opposite the retail display and high enough to extend beyond the reach and sightlines of shoppers.

A forward-facing camera allows for monitoring of activity around the display and gives insight into how shoppers are engaging with it. It’s interesting to note that shoppers never thought to look back and up to see where the projection was coming from. From their point of view, it was as if the animated images were appearing by magic.

The projector is wirelessly connected to the cloud for content delivery, so new animations can be pushed to stores instantly, with creative direction from any location. This enables marketers to change the entire creative experience at any time to reflect new promotions, holidays, media events, shopper insights, time of day—virtually anything that can help drive sales—while getting immediate feedback on sales results.

And those results were far beyond our expectations. Compared to the control group stores with the same display footprint and branding, but using a static header card, the 10 stores with DisplayMapper animations produced a 41 percent increase in sales. Sales of Quality Street products in other aisles without the projection also increased by 7 percent—presumably as the result of a “halo effect” as the animated display put the brand at top of mind for shoppers.

Just as important as converting shoppers, the project converted store managers, who are eager to deliver new experiences in the aisle that are easy to implement and that produce strong results. Asda Walmart, as an organisation, has also given its enthusiastic stamp of approval: “This technology is incredibly innovative and takes POS displays to a new level. We’ve had a positive response from customers who are stopping to take a good look. It’s providing a whole new way of active selling.”3

 

Project the future, make it real
As exemplified by the Nestlé-Asda case study, the future of retail is bright with new opportunities. But brands and retailers can’t stand still. Web and mobile technology has given today’s shoppers endless distractions and unlimited choices. However, they can’t do the one thing that retailers can: provide real-life experiences, with stories built around real products at the point of purchase. Technology can help deliver these experiences—not just on smartphones, but on the physical shelf.

The takeaway? Always be looking for new ways to make the retail experience extraordinary. If you think something can’t be done, think the opposite. Technology can make it happen. Projecting the future is the first step in making it real.


As Director of Brand Experience at Anthem Worldwide (London, UK), Rob Hollands is responsible for delivering insights and innovations to clients to grow our client partnerships in Europe and beyond.  He focuses on “connecting the pack” to digital experiences, developing strategies and creative that engages consumers in new and innovative ways. Over his 15+ years in the industry, Rob has brought digital strategies to a wide range of clients in the CPG, finance, apparel, and cosmetic industries.  He has been an active leader at Anthem for more than 9 years, leading client strategy and crafting the very best, award-winning experiences. http://www.anthemww.com/

[1] “Computing Is Still too Clunky: Charlie Rose and Larry Page in Conversation,” TED Blog, March 19, 2014.
http://blog.ted.com/computing-is-still-too-clunky-charlie-rose-and-larry-page-in-conversation
[2] Jonathan Bacon, “The UK’s Top Storytelling Brands 2015,” Marketing Week, November 13, 2015.
https://www.marketingweek.com/2015/11/13/the-uks-top-storytelling-brands-2015
[3] “Anthem Launches UK’s First Interactive Point-of-Sale Campaign,” Anthem International, March 10, 2016.
http://www.anthemww.com/news/anthem-launches-uks-first-interactive-point-sale-campaign

The author is a 3rd party contributor to AdAsia and this article represents his views.