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Window Shopping, Interactively

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As competition from online retailers soars, physical stores are feeling the pinch. Consumers expect an exciting shopping excursion with all the bells and whistles of interactivity, not just a stroll through the aisles. One company is hoping to bring shoppers back to the mall with a new “window shopping” experience.

Digital services agency United Future designs, develops and markets transmedia experiences for brands like T-Mobile USA, Alaska Airlines and Holland America. While working with T-Mobile, United Future developed a touchscreen in-store experience that triggered the idea of interactive glass storefront technology.

“We incubated the idea for Interactive Storefront out of our own digital retail experience,” says United Future president Scott Holmes. “When consumers go into retailers’ stores today, they expect to see monitors with video.” Pointing to statistics that predict the continued growth of online commerce, he says “Retailers must bring the online experience into their stores.”

Drag and drop
With an interactive glass storefront, shoppers can touch a screen to drag and drop apparel choices onto a mannequin sized to fit their own measurements, getting an idea of how outfits work – even if stores are closed. Purchases can be made at the same time using a QR code and the retailer’s secure website. Social media users can share their purchase with friends by scanning another QR code.

Necessary equipment, provided by United Future, includes the storefront glass, a layer of touch-sensitive film that adheres to the glass, a projector and a laptop. Each system is customized to the client, Holmes says, but can be rolled out fairly quickly since the basis for the technology is already in the system.

Retailers can change specials weekly, daily, even hourly on the interactive glass window while also gathering information about customers. Different stores within a chain can offer different specials or displays, and all promotions and information for the interactive glass are controlled from a keyboard.

Attracting customers, increasing sales
The first public application of the interactive glass was for Yokohama Tire at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show: A wall display projected photos and Twitter messages posted by visitors. Since that debut, activity has been geared toward retail.

Holmes says retailers’ return on investment will come from elimination of paper sales pieces like danglers, window and in-store signage. More customers will be attracted to stores offering the technology, he says, with accompanying sales increases.

Future plans include enabling payment by credit card or by tapping the glass to use a payment method on a smartphone. Another plan: making the experience even more personalized by allowing consumers to use photos to see how they’d look in clothes without using the changing room.

United Future is talking to major brands and retailers about interactive storefronts. “Our product extends the shelf,” Holmes says, “by helping educate the consumer and bringing the retail floor to life. That, to me, is the future of where retail is headed — toward more experiential shopping. We must connect across all retail channels to succeed in the future.”