Physical Interactivity: Developing the Relationship Between Customer and Brand

Tim Swales
Technological advances are reshaping the retail landscape, with the potential for physical interactivity creating new consumer experiences.

New challenges and opportunities for retailers

Retailers are re-defining their store propositions and seeking ways of meeting changing customer needs in the physical space of the store. Increasingly this means providing a physically interactive destination that embodies the brand, entertains customers and provides multichannel engagement opportunities.

High-end fashion and consumer electronics retailers are pushing the boundaries of digital technology, encouraging customers to experience the brand through physically immersive multimedia content, just as they do online. Video content, large screens and interactive displays are the norm, with new innovations appearing all the time – for example, micro-chipped clothing can be used to transform a mirror into a screen, evoking the garment’s catwalk look.

Consumers are increasingly empowered to interact with brands and with their peers, often creating their own content on user generated content sites. This is a more participative approach to branding, where the consumer is actively involved in the brand building process.

Club Nokia

Faithful+Gould has supported retailers with interactive installations, notably Nokia’s innovative Club Nokia initiative. Club Nokia encourages Nokia customers to interact with the brand at their Los Angeles live music venue.

Customers can capture their experience at the show through an interactive digital timeline. They can interact during the performance by uploading content directly to the timeline via SMS, MMS, email, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections. Weighted foot pedals and touch-screen interfaces allow users to scroll through the timeline, view content from past shows and learn about forthcoming shows and events. With eight interactive stations, visitors can activate separate timelines on LED wall panels, creating a dynamic wall of digital graffiti.

Adding value through project management

Design and installation of these complex technologies adds to the retail client's challenges. The project management scope should therefore consider:

  • Involvement from project inception, to include a reality check – is this really feasible?

  • Importance of brand awareness / protection / consistency through the property portfolio if applicable

  • Local issues / global brand standards if applicable

  • Constructability and cost – liaising with the design team

  • Materials specification

  • Planning issues and consents

  • Health & safety implications

  • Scheduling/sequencing

  • Whole life costing

  • Sustainability

  • Future-proofing / obsolescence

Clients may be working with a new build, an existing building or a mobile installation. Each brings different issues. Mobile installations are another medium. Given the rapid pace of technology change, it’s prudent to consider when the installation will be reviewed and how long it should last. Can it be adapted for future update?

Looking to the future

This is a growing market for retailers. Outside of our own client base, there are some interesting innovations happening. Looking to the future, we can expect to see more industries exploring new and creative ways to interact with their customers. Greater use of physical interactivity is likely to become a standard part of the consumer experience at sports arenas, airports and supermarkets, as well as the continued use in the music / entertainment and high-end retail environments.