Innovating Customer Experience at Retail
With his 25-year career spent in store planning and retail architecture, Brian Dyches is an authority on global retail design, marketing, and customer experience. As a headliner at SEGD's CX Workshop March 10 at the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas, he'll cover trends, innovations, and opportunities for designers, technology experts, and brand marketing professionals to harness the power of digital technology.
He took some time this week to talk with SEGD.
In your work, you’ve been all over the world observing consumer behaviors and helping design strategies to reach them. What is your role now at OpenEye?
I joined OpenEye in 2013 after many years in store planning and design and retail architecture. What I noticed several years ago is that retail architecture was not prepared for a conversation about digital technology. And I also noticed stores were beginning to invest more in digital technology than in traditional architecture. So my role at OpenEye is to connect the design and technology sides. OpenEye’s approach is always to talk about how the conversation should start with strategy and design and content, not with hardware specifications. If you don’t have a digital and content strategy and if you don’t understand the design intent, how can you create a meaningful digital experience in the environment?
Some fun things are happening around customer experience at retail. What innovations are you seeing?
The retail industry has the most to gain from embracing technology. And it has been the slowest to adopt technology’s benefits. Retailers were very late to the dance with social media, e-commerce, and now mobile commerce, mostly because of turf wars between facilities, information management, and store planning. But I’m beginning to see daylight now. Retailers are figuring out that digital technology is the best and most cost-effective way to engage with customers and if you’re not engaging with them at this level, your competitor certainly is. Retailers really have just moments to capture minds and spirit and make that transaction. This is where digital experiences can really help.
So what trends are you seeing in compelling CX in retail spaces? How is digital technology being used to engage and excite customers?
It’s about blended experience and it’s about reflecting the brand everywhere. Digital signage is only a part of the overall experience. There are the olfactory components, the audio elements, the physical fixturing and graphics elements, and of course mobile technology. The experience is 360 degrees and it requires that all parts of the store be well integrated. That’s where designers come in and have the edge on technology providers who know the hardware but not how to speak the language of design. We finally have the tools to synchronize these elements into a very meaningful, orchestrated experience. My favorite example right now is the smart dressing room at Rebecca Minkoff [stores]. They partnered with ebay to develop some very innovative concepts including touchscreens linked with Kinect sensors, lighting and music controls, and sophisticated tracking technology. They realize what we’ve always known in retail: that if you provide customers with a wonderful experience in there, the odds of their buying your product skyrocket. What they’ve done is a beautiful execution of a well defined content strategy that provides compelling information about the item you’re considering.
What about the fact that digital screens are everywhere these days? Are they effective?
Definitely we need to work on better integration of displays in the environment. Some clients believe digital is just about “hang and bang.” Others are more sophisticated. We know now that integration of digital screens in the environment is part and parcel of creating a great experience…so that the displays feel like they blend in with the environment and support the brand versus overpowering it. That’s why when you work with digital strategy from a conceptual/ideation basis, integrated with design intent, you will always have a more successful outcome. I believe that soon, we won’t be constricted by the 6 to 9 ratios and digital wallpaper is coming.
What do you think about the CX Workshop and the partnership between SEGD and the Digital Signage Expo?
I think the tech world is at the cusp of understanding that no matter how great the hardware is, creating great experiences should be driven by design, not technology. Everyone has a place in the ecosystem, and this is the beauty of connection. SEGD members and other designers have the ability to bring the conversation to a whole new level, and drive the experience creation. We’re approaching the precipice of what interactive design is about, and having design, brand, and technology working together will get us there.