This second installment of our three-part series on new retail tech looks at interactive retail and how Adidas is using digital tech to create a more immersive bricks-and-mortar brand experience for customers.
Immersive brand experience
A certain trefoiled German fashion retailer has changed the way we window shop. It’s not so much about the browsing now as it is about the buying. Adidas is using interactive tech to create a more immersive brand experience for bricks-and-mortar customers with a touch-enabled interactive storefront.
Adidas Neo concept stores – launched not to long ago in European cities including Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Helsinki – are proof positive of the brand’s commitment to digitizing the real world retail experience, doing so with interactivity top-of-mind. The shops feature Neo Window Shopping, interactive storefronts that act as a fully functioning virtual store, complete with life-size digital products for people to play with.
Exterior store windows act as the point of interaction and, featuring LCD monitors installed behind touchscreen-enabled glass, passersby can touch hotspots on the window to consume all sorts of video content related to Adidas’ Neo product line, as well as interact with a virtual mannequin to uncover further product info. If they see something they like, customers can use their mobile phones to facilitate a purchase process that sees their preferred product put in a personal shopping bag and shipped to their homes.
The experience is completely customizable says Raffael Sarracini, Senior Manager, Digital Commerce and Marketing, Adidas Canada, and is an extension of the Adidas Neo e-commerce experience (the line exists largely as an e-commerce play). In being accessible 24 hours a day, the storefront is a useful tool to help pull people through store doors during normal business hours.
“It’s a traffic driver and we’ve found, at the locations we’ve piloted in Europe, that it’s actually resulted in a lift in store traffic,” says Sarracini. “It continues to broaden our reach with consumers.”
There are even more technological treats available at Adidas’ Neo stores beyond the interactive storefront. Inside, mirrored displays in fitting rooms use RFID tags to provide product info and outfit suggestions, points of sale are also RFID-enabled and salespeople can use the tech for inventory-related functions like monitoring when an item travels from the storeroom to the sales floor.
The stores also have social media mirrors that let customers take photos of themselves while sporting items they’ve found to send to friends via Facebook or Twitter, and shoppers can also control in-store music through a digital jukebox.
While there are currently no plans to export Neo Window Shopping to Canada, Adidas has something similar that Canadians can try out in its adiVerse Virtual Footwear Wall. It consists of a grid of LCD monitors with a touchscreen layer on top of it, which can be configured to a number of different standards to fit the retail requirements of specific locations. A powerful computer displays content pulled through a hard drive that Adidas updates every quarter or half year with the new product catalogue. Products included in the wall can be limited to a few or include the entire range, and content around them is really rich. An Adidas-made boot preferred by international soccer star Lionel Messi, for example, might have up-to-date stats that feature his scoring tally while wearing the boot. Different social or user-generated content around particular products is built into the experience, and customers can access more in-depth footwear information, such as their technological elements.
The wall can deliver items to a cashier to pay for them at checkout, or have them shipped to their homes, though that e-commerce component isn’t yet enabled in Canada. Adidas can track how many people are interacting with the wall to get a model for conversion or engagement rates, look at which products are most popular and get the longest interaction, and which aspects of the experience are resonating most with consumers.
“That allows us to tweak the content on the virtual footwear wall to be most relevant for consumers,” says Sarracini. “The neat part about that is we can tweak it based on location. We can really cater the experience based on the geographical demographics.”
The two predominant benefits of the adiVerse are saving on shelf space and achieving greater customer engagement by facilitating a deeper and more resonant in-store brand experience.
Rich content increases engagement
“It allows us to have a smaller physical presence on the shelf and still show or expand our range that’s presented to consumers,” says Sarracini. “You’re really expanding your reach in that area. The second part is the rich content. So, versus a regular shoe that you can pick up and touch, which are still very important aspects, we can give you more of a story and more of a marketing background on that product. The wall goes back to our ambition of driving the most interactive, pleasant and delightful consumer experience, which gets people in the door and interacting with our brand”
He’s quick to point out that the Virtual Footwear Wall is not meant to fully replace physical displays, but rather complement them. In Canada, Adidas currently has one live at the Yonge and Eglinton Sportchek in Toronto.
Neo Window Shopping and the adiVerse Virtual Footwear Wall well illustrate how interaction is a priority for Adidas when it comes to using new retail tech to combine the on and offline worlds of commerce.
A deeper brand connection
“When you provide an interactive experience you can provide a much deeper brand connection and allow the consumer to spend more time with your brand, which is always a good thing,” says Sarracini. “It’s about building a connection with the consumer and also driving awareness of our product lines. It also ties into our omni-channel strategy of rolling out devices that can enhance our commercial reach. So, the interactivity is more of a brand component, but the actual devices themselves, and their functionality, allow us to deploy a really broad omni-channel strategy that’s not necessarily possible with some of the regular laptop or tablet devices that are currently in some retail environments.”
Adidas is leading a growing number of retailers that are responding to trends like Showrooming by finding increasingly creative ways of integrating e-commerce into bricks-and-mortar retail. Sarracini says at the end of the day, Adidas’ strategy around that is to control the experience.
“There’s no question about it, online and bricks-and-mortar retail are converging,” he says. “Adidas recognizes that and we’re trying to deliver the most comprehensive experience that leverages the unique nuances of each channel to provide a better consumer experience.”
While POS, logistics, supply chain, the traditional core channels of retailing still command the lion’s share of North American retail budgets, a larger portion of those budgets are being spent on digital technologies within retail. For Adidas’ part, says Sarracini, it is actively continuing to investigate ways of bringing new tech to market in order to improve upon experiences like the adiVerse and Neo Window Shopping.