Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Innovating with Technology in the Face of Retail Headwinds

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Not everything in retail these days centers around the proverbial ‘retail apocalypse’. It’s refreshing to also hear positive news, including that from global digital signage provider Scala, which is working with brick-and-mortar retailers to digitize their spaces to create the ‘Store of the Now’.  

Scala helps customers increase sales and create powerful communication solutions with customized digital signage. Last year they were acquired by STRATACACHE, whose group of complementary, scalable digital solution companies power networks for the world’s largest brands.  

“What we’re seeing is the most significant drivers of growth in retail come from online – particularly Amazon – but it isn’t as bleak for brick and mortar as it may seem. This is because the retailers who are learning how to turn the store into the digital equivalent of Amazon in real time is sort of the holy grail – delivering the idea of digitizing physical,” says Jonathan Rosen, senior vice president, content, strategy and creative services at PRN, a sister company of Scala in the STRATACACHE family.

He says the idea of taking digital and bringing it to physical spaces is really coming of age right now.

“I think it’s kind of ironic in a way that while physical is transforming and stores are becoming smaller and the economics are changing, digital has really opened up a way for us to learn how to better tailor physical experiences. And if we use those learnings properly, we’re incredibly bullish on retail and all of its outlets,” says Rosen. 

Over the last few years they’ve been able to develop a suite of differentiated technologies that are designed to integrate digital right into the store and connect people across multiple channels in real-time, allowing for the kind of personalization and targeting that occurs regularly online.

“The successful retailers that are deploying technology in their stores are seeing a significant return on their investment,” adds Rosen. 

Another trend that is developing is the number of digital-first retailers who are now going into bricks and mortar. 

“We’re seeing a lot of that trend because when you start digitally, you learn so much about your consumer that you’re really able to easily build the brick-and-mortar outpost, tailoring it to what you know because you learned all of it through your digital practice,” says Rosen.

“Where we see a lot of growth as well is bringing those ideas into other kinds of venues where you’re seeing real-time newsworthy product promotions that are dynamically triggered based on real-time selling opportunities uncovered by data,” says Rosen. “We’re also seeing a lot in terms of product selection tools that are digital.”

Michael Arnett, managing director for Canada with Scala, adds that technology such as Scala’s can be embraced in the retail environment for the better.

“We provide bespoke solutions and those solutions are technology-driven, but really we’re an enabler of providing something bigger and better. Our solutions deliver customer experiences, changing behavior and making shopping more seamless – saving precious time for shoppers,” says Arnett. 

“Optimizing Customer X at the place of physical engagement enhances the kind of connection that brands strive for,” Arnett added.

“The fact is that people since the beginning of time have wanted to head to the market – to the public space,” says Rosen. “Physical spaces are really important for the human psyche. It’s really just about how do you take and transform all of that information that we’re swimming in right now, and convert that into a meaningful experience for today’s shopper.”

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Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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