Global Stores Jazz It Up With Tech Tricks

New Delhi: | Updated: Aug 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
Why is shopping top of the charts in so many of our overseas holidays Dont we get almost everything under the sun here in India now No points for those who guessed that its the shopping experience which is a differentiator abroad. Even after all the retail chains that have opened in the country, shopping in phoren lands is irresistible. And among the biggest shopping pullers is the display, clubbed with size, in the stores abroad.

Whether its Harrods, Walmart, Marks & Spencer, Rite Aid, Watson or Ross, retail stores and malls abroad are all about impressive display. Cashing in full steam on catch-them-by-look principle, global majors in the retail business are making the best use of technology to jazz up the layout of the stores and add new dimensions to their display. For part cosmetic and part functional reasons.

So, if on the one hand technology providers are concentrating on point of sale, back office solutions, electronic funds transfer, security and total automation of stores, theres another set working on their display, from videowall applications to suspension devices to interactivity. Objective: To turn the stores around into visual delights, but with purpose.

Take for instance the case of Electrosonic, a global provider of audiovisual technology, which believes that retail installations are designed to inform, entertain and guide shoppers, while providing ambience for products. So, all over the world we have examples of stores and malls using the audiovisual media to cater to the aesthetic sensibilities of the shopper.

The recently-opened Audi Forum in London, it has been reported, exhibits the kind of tech-driven display that we are talking about here. The forum is divided into several areas, with internet cafe, boutique offering a wide range of Audi merchandise and exhibition/event facilities on separate levels.

Technology is most evident in the exhibition/event area with a glass communication wall. Superimposed on this wall is a videowall, controlled by by a Vector image processor. At work here are also a LED (light emitting diodes) lighting system, Whole Hog software, Helvar dimmers and a Crestron control system. For best effects, the image processor and the paraphernalia are linked to two video projectors located in the ground floor and basement showrooms. Also, the displays are accompanied by groovy sound emanating from electric speakers. If thats not enough, theres a touchscreen with interactive software too.

Similarly, take the case of Best Buy, leading consumer electronics retailer in the US. As it wanted to venture into the high-definition television (HDTV) area, Best Buy chose to create a videowall of HDTVs. To showcase the benefits of HDTV in the best possible way, according to Mr Tom Schneider, general manager of Electronic Display Services for Best Buy.

Another good example of using the latest technology for phenomenal display is Dickson Cyber Express, a cyber-shopping mall in Hong Kong. Cyber Express is a unique retail environment, with conventional shops supported by Internet and Intranet terminals that extend the retail experience to 24 hours a day and allow customers to browse for goods when they wish, says the website of Electrosonic, which put together the audio-visual package for the mall.

Yet another retail store to go for state-of-the-art display is Mills Malls. What it wanted was very basic: To put in place a system to carry commercial messages throughout the large mall. It got what it wanted through video display solutions and integral suspension devices.

Sport good chains are also not untouched by the display mania. The NBA (National Basketball Association) Store in Manhattan is a case in point. The giant scoreboard suspended over the main atrium, with huge videowalls on each side, exhibits technology to the full. And what you get is a continuous display of themed videos and live telecast of matches to establish the basketball theme for the store.

According to Mr Bill Daugherty, vice president of NBA business development, the multi-sided scoreboard, similar to what fans would see in an NBA arena, is very important both as a design element and as an entertainment feature of the store.

Again at the Opel Co-ordination Centre in Berlin, visitors can surf the world of cars on the ground floor, where there are 10 interactive displays, with intranet and Internet connection, according to information given in the Opel Centre website. Theres also a provision to make visitors go through the development process of a new car, with the help of 15 three-dimensional display, three touchscreens, six LCD displays and an interactive LCD. Then when youre on the upper floor, you get a visual treat of the Opel pioneering technology. Further up, and youre into a cinema, screening short films on the company.

The range is wide. So, on one end of the spectrum, we have a cellular phone company such as Orange, which uses simple videowall images to attract customers and keep them in its outlets in the UK.

On another, for instance, theres PicknPay, a supermarket retailer in South Africa, using hi-tech gizmos to animate their stores and entertain customers. All in all, welcome to the uninterrupted world of shopping...err shopping display rather!