Point-of-sale gets positive touch

Interactive digital screens are putting consumers in touching distance of meaningful engagement with point-of-sale activity. By Maeve Hosea

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At Oriental fusion restaurant Inamo, which has a branch in London, the founders are hoping that using digital innovations to let customers purchase their meals will help attract new business. Diners use the tabletops as large touchscreens to select their food and drink and can also look up local information or services such as cinemas, play games and change the ambience and design of their individual tables while they are waiting for their food to be served.

“A huge amount of customisation is possible,” says Inamo co-founder Noel Hunwick. “One guy wanted to propose to his fiancé in a novel way, so we put a ‘Will You Marry Me?’ dessert on the menu.”

Digital ads that allow consumers to interact directly with advertising at PoS are also becoming more common. In a pilot project with shopping centre Westfield and CBS Outdoor this summer, agency Clusta set up LCD display screens that connected to iPhones through WiFi or the 3G network.

The consumer could then interact with the ad at the shopping centre through their smartphone. Russell Townsend, managing director and co-founder of Clusta, says: “The proliferation of smartphones and the applications culture is driving this – everyone uses the web and knows they can find out more about something there. Doing it when out and about is a progression from that.”

Josh Kampel, vice-president of technology provider YCD Multimedia, says this consumer familiarity with technology is why PoS activity needs to keep evolving. “Consumers have become accustomed to using digital platforms like the internet and mobile devices to gather information,” he says. “These same platforms return targeted promotions based on search and segmentation data.”

YCD uses technology for demographic targeting via facial recognition and SMS/mobile integration with digital screens. A recent PoS installation for make-up brand Bobbi Brown attempted to address many of the challenges facing a retail brand by creating an engaging digital customer experience featuring information about new products.

Marker code
Similarly, a new concept launched in June 2009 by technology developer Holition within Holt’s jewellery store in the Hatton Garden area of London takes the form of a marker code seen as a logo printed on paper or cheap plastic.

It is placed on the wrist or finger of a customer and appears to show a 3D image of the item of jewellery being worn when viewed on a computer screen. This requires a camera to be focused on the code, superimposing on it an item of jewellery. The technology has many potential applications, but here it allows expensive items to be “tried on” without having to hold stock.

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Case study: Barclays

Barclays Bank has used digital interactive elements inside and outside its Piccadilly branch in London’s West End to try and offer relevant and engaging content in an entertaining way. 

Its Nightlife screen transforms the branch exterior into a digital projection after dark, using facial recognition software to digitally mirror passers-by and display quirky thought bubbles above their heads.

“This is a playful installation that many people find fascinating – we’ve even had impromptu crowds gather to cheer on people moon walking in front of the projection,” claims Nicolas Parmaksizian, head of business development at Barclays. 

In the banking hall, as part of the brand’s “attract and engage” strategy, the “Being London” piece is a digital installation capturing and reflecting the “mood” of London at any given time. Customers can interact with a large screen via floor-based podiums, using it to access information about entertainment and interest options in the capital, supported by content from publisher Time Out.

The Microsoft Surface technology in the Premier Lounge area uses touch and grab actions to allow consumers to navigate through the contents of the Premier banking offering on-screen (in a similar way to using an iPhone screen). Barclays says sales of its Premier Life propositions have gone up by 198% in Piccadilly Circus since the launch.

The branch, which opened in March 2009, also uses digital screens to entertain customers while they are queuing as well as communicating topical marketing messages. Since the digital technologies have been installed, 90% of customers now say they find their wait time acceptable.

This “branch of the future” is a result of Barclays testing more than 30 technologies with more than 200 customers in the company’s innovation lab, capturing feedback on what worked well and then refining the design.

The bank says it has been careful only to innovate where technology can enhance the service and customer experience. “We are cutting edge with a purpose and a return. We don’t innovate for innovations sake,” claims Parmaksizian. “The whole point for customers is to have purposeful, engaging technology that supports the personal, helpful service offered by our branch staff and to have this choice of how and where they do their banking with us.”

Within the bank’s wider business strategy, Barclays has also been rigorous in making sure its innovations can be justified against a 20% return on investment target.

“Because some of the innovations are more abstract, it is necessary to think creatively and look beyond the typical marketing lens for how this will play out,” argues Parmaksizian. “Our innovations have generated value in a variety of contexts, from reducing queue time while increasing footfall (both by about 20%) to improving staff sales productivity (up 33%).”

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