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Next is Now: Five Hot Trends from EuroShop 2014

BY CSA STAFF

By Ken Nisch, JGA

EuroShop 2014, coined “the world’s largest retail trade fair,” is a chance to see the industry’s “What’s Next” and to discover the areas that global retail thought leaders have placed as priorities in the creation of state-of-the-art experiences. Held in Dusseldorf, Germany, in February, more than 109,000 visitors from 110 nations attended the event to get an extensive overview of the latest industry developments. With the constant drum of “Internet and Ecommerce” in today’s world, EuroShop reinforced how the shift from brick-and-mortar to online is actually not a threat, but rather a partner for becoming consumer-centric. We thought the best way to approach “What’s Next” is to share a recap of what the more than 2,000 exhibitors revealed.

1. Technology

Not surprising, technology influenced the aesthetics of EuroShop and its futuristic sensibility. Mannequins, who through the use of state-of-the-art robotics, have the ability to be “refaced.” Their identities can be changed through a series of faceplate options that are removed and replaced through a ballet of robotic arms is but one example that is not only technical in nature, but as well, indicative of the influence of technology in experience.

The use of interactive screens for in-store ordering, customization, and to facilitate the brick-and-mortar space as a destination, becomes an environment that is not only about logistics supply, but as well, a portal to expanded offerings and personalized goods.

Clear LCD screens that create a series of layers similar to what one would see within the scenes at the opera provide a 3-D effect. And elements such as 3-D projections, the use of avatars, and various projection devices are all examples of technology at the forefront.

2. Faux-to-Real

Because of the enhancement of photographic technology, 3-D printing and manufacturing techniques, everyday pragmatic materials such as glass, porcelain, tile, concrete and acrylics now take on a lifelike sensibility, but with operationally-friendly results. One of the best examples is the explosion of porcelain surfacing materials that appear to have realistic features wood, stone, and even precious materials such as lapis or onyx; doing so in a faux-to-real sensibility.

Combining nature and science brings the opposite, but similar marriage between technology and nature. One example, a wood flooring manufacturer whose computer-aided assessment of each log’s “personality” (i.e. not only the best yield of material, but creating one-of-a-kind planks from each individual log) marries those planks in a very organic and elegant set of curves and voids with the next log. This allows each assembly and installation to be unique, consistent, and ready for field installation, guaranteeing uniqueness as well as execution. This particular material had options such as allowing LED lighting to be recessed into the material and exposed through the highly consistent and undulating joints between the “bespoke” flooring material, as an additional marriage between nature and science.

3. Getting Social

Retail environments can take a cue from the exhibits, where the inclusion of social spaces throughout the show within booths and displays was new to the 2014 Expo. These spaces were often created through a series of ceiling drop elements, i.e. large floating fabric and/or lattice drums or squares, and where the creation of stair-step-stages became gathering points or places where informal shows and presentations were held. And through the definition of either elevation or form, these spots became “spaces within spaces.” Also worthy of consideration is how this digital world can create a “third place” to serve as a key marketing tool, not just as an amenity or a complement to a retail space.

4. Contrasting High-Tech and High-Touch

Given the role that technology and lighting plays within today’s store environment, the customer still yearns for warmth, a welcoming environment and the human factor. The integration and seamless integration of these two factors was highlighted at the show. A sense of being in a “rustic Italian market in Tuscany, but with color corrected, state-of-the-art lighting integrated into the found antique furniture” was a theme that was visible time and again. Bringing in nature with green walls, the use of technology in translating and layering evocative human; natural and spiritual images was a common theme.

5. Power Lighting

Given the impact of EuroShop’s lighting exhibits, lighting became the most powerful trend. If the show was any indication, the ceiling of the future will be the last and the least favorable option for the placement of lighting, with illumination seen as an integrated element of all design objects of furniture and fixtures.

Atmosphere allows of lighting to be evocative — mimicking a sunrise and a sunset, a starry night, a thunderstorm, being placed under the ocean or in the clouds — while doing this all through the nuance, without literally capturing the image of any of these experiences, was something that had the ability to turn the sensibility of atmosphere in a moment.

The positioning of lighting made news, not as a mindless, ambient “spill of lumens,” but rather as a strategically focused and placed producer of highlight and focus. Literally integrating lighting into bookshelves, fixtures, under, below, or within fixturing — with devices that were no thicker than a small wire delivered the punch of lumens within a jewelry case, to materials and finishes that in their own right were luminescent, providing contrast to objects displayed on or in front of the units.

Lighting’s role to be empathetic and intuitive was exhibited throughout the Expo. Lighting features that responded to the movement of passersby, the sound in the space, and whether the customer was interested in being viewed in a daylight environment, evening light, candle light; something that could be driven off of things such as NFC (Near Field Communication). This allows the garment to communicate with the lighting as to what would be the best illumination for the customer to view the garment (or eat the meal, or look at the product being displaced), without the store personnel actually being responsible for resetting this light effect, be it in terms of lumens, intensity or focus.

Just imagine the advances that will take place in the coming three years before EuroShop 2017. Stay tuned!

Kenneth Nisch is chairman of JGA, a retail design and brand strategy firm in Southfield, Mich. Nisch applies his knowledge and entrepreneurial insight to create concept and prototype development and brand image positioning. He can be reached at [email protected].


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Why Your Customers Are Leaving Empty-Handed (And What to Do About It)

BY CSA STAFF

By Gary Ambrosino, TimeTrade Systems

Retailers are bending over backwards to meet the growing demands of today’s ever-connected consumer; however, most are still coming up short. The traditional rinse-and-repeat practices — slashing prices, offering free shipping and promoting exclusive products — aren’t winning over fickle consumers or helping gain a leg up on the competition.

A major part of the problem: retailers aren’t investing in the areas that consumers really want, according to a new survey of more than 1,000 shoppers. Mobile apps and online shopping can’t replace face-to-face interactions with knowledgeable store associates.

Before retailers start shuffling plans for 2014, or even getting a head start on 2015 planning, take a look at what consumers revealed. The results may surprise you.

Where Retailers Are Missing the Mark
Although most consumers are attached to their devices, they are craving a human connection, and want easier ways to get the face-to-face guidance. Having an overwhelming amount of information at their fingertips — product reviews, customer forums, opinions on social media — isn’t making the buying process easier.

According to the survey findings, more than half of consumers step foot into stores without knowing exactly what to buy — revealing a huge opportunity for retailers to directly influence the buying process. Unfortunately, of those who need help making up their mind, 93% can’t find the right person to help them, and 90% will leave the store empty-handed.

When asked about their standout in-store experiences, consumers revealed the two most sought-after traits of retail associates when shoppers are looking for this help: fast, convenient service and smart recommendations. Turns out, consumers are really looking for is a little personal attention when they shop, and admit that makes the difference between completed sales and walking out the door with money in their pockets.

What makes this problem even worse: retailers know how valuable their in-store employees are when trying to convert indecisive browsers to paying customers: 80% of retailers that noted that sales increase by 25%-50% when shoppers are assisted by knowledgeable associates. That’s a tremendous missed opportunity.

So What Do Consumers Really Want?
When consumers do find the help they need from in-store associates, 93% are likely to complete their purchase. And there’s an even biggest upshot for retailers: Not only that, 85% are likely to purchase more than they had intended when they get the answers and guidance they walked into the store seeking.

The byproducts of one standout, in-store experience can leave lasting impacts on a retail brand. Overall, after being assisted by a knowledgeable in-store representative, 84% of the surveyed consumers leave the store more satisfied and 90% would shop with that retailer again.

Technology can’t replace or replicate the power of spot-on recommendations from the exact person who can help an indecisive shopper. Rather, technology should allow consumers to more easily find that associate. Nearly 75% of consumers would book personal appointments before walking into stores, if given the opportunity, which allows retailers to know exactly what shoppers need in advance and can ensure that customers get exceptional, personalized service every time they shop.

If retailers are looking to bolster sales in 2014, they need to refocus on the customer using their greatest asset: in-store staff. Slashing prices might be a way to get a customer to walk in the door, but it’s the experience that keeps them coming back.

Gary Ambrosino is president & COO of TimeTrade Systems, whose responsive customer engagement platform allows consumers to connect with a brand, anywhere, anytime — and then gives companies deeper insight than ever before about what consumers want next. He can be reached at [email protected].


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Wilson looks to score with digital basketball

BY CSA STAFF

Wilson plans to introduce a sensor equipped basketball that can discern between made and missed shots and then feed information to a smartphone or tablet.

Due for release later this year, the new product is the result of a partnership with SportIQ, a Finland-based company focused on artificial intelligence, and Wilson’s recently established digital division.

“We are not pursuing the launch of a digital basketball for the sake of launching a digital product. Wilson has a long history of true product innovation," said Alan Davenport, Wilson’s global director of basketball. "This intelligent basketball brings a unique approach to training through real-time statistic generation delivered to a smart device. The opportunities for individual and coach-directed training are truly unlimited."

According to Harri Hohteri, CEO of SportIQ, the company taught the ball to differentiate between a made shot and a missed shot and we deliver this data to a smart device with no attachments to the rim or additions of any kind.

"During my career as a professional basketball player in Europe, I would have benefited greatly from this type of understanding around my training,” Hohteri said. “What was my shooting percentage from different distance ranges or areas on the court? What did I need to be working on? We’re now bringing our high basketball IQ to the field of digital technology to answer these questions.”

Even though the new ball won’t hit the market until the holiday season, Wilson execs are already alluding to the possibility of smart ball technology coming to other sports.

"We recognize the growing trend around the ‘Internet of things’ and are working to deliver real consumer-centric solutions for the world of sport," said Tom Gruger, Wilson’s vp of digital. "From training to gaming, we want to delight our target players on this new virtual field of play. Our upcoming basketball launch is the first step in an exciting new area of innovation from Wilson."

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