“The role the store is playing is changing,” says Mr. Ross, who was previously chief marketing officer at Home Depot. “Shoppers are walking up with a different set of expectations.”
Some retailers have started testing basic versions of the new technologies. J. C. Penney has a “FindMore” fixture at select stores. The size of a door frame, it comes with a 52-inch touch screen that lets consumers see the retailer’s full range of merchandise. Consumers can email data about an item to themselves or a friend or scan a bar code to learn more about a product and get recommendations, such as tops and accessories that match a pair of pants.
Stop & Shop Supermarket is testing handheld scanners in 289 stores that show customers personalized discounts as they shop. The offers are based on such factors as shopping history and just-purchased items. The scanner also lets consumers place deli orders and check out faster.
But IPG’s retail lab offers a window into what the future could hold. Among the new technologies on display is a device that transforms the front window of a store into a giant touch screen. Instead of looking at a static mannequin, consumers can interact with the screen to select outfits for an avatar. Meanwhile, kiosks allow a customer to chat with a virtual sales associate who can provide advice on such topics as how to install a new flat-screen television.
Another device is a mirror that enables a shopper to scan a dress and then project that clothing onto her body before going to the dressing room. She can also tap the mirror to view different colors, find matching shoes and send the image to her Facebook profile.
Specialty retailer The Limited is considering installing interactive mirrors in some of its stores in the next six months, says Chief Executive Linda Heasley. The technology will help consumers match styles or even warn that two pieces of clothing don’t match.
“It’s like ‘Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, what is the best outfit of all?'” she says.
The new interactive retail technologies come as retailers are putting more emphasis on their in-store marketing efforts. Faced with increasing fragmentation in traditional media, marketers hope to connect with consumers when they are in a place where they can make a purchase immediately.