“Pictures came and broke your heart”
Not too long ago people sang about their worries about approaching technology. Seeing those lonesome nights of being eared to the radio perish and rapidly transgressing into MTV hyperactive talking heads. Yes…pictures came and turned our world into a mixed media melange. But did it break our hearts?
We like experience. The radio star did not die, he just ‘blended’ in for omni-channels’ sake. Let’s face it, we have been spectators and voyeurs since the beginning of time. Whether it was a marvel in the Roman Colosseum or a recent ballet performance in the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. We simply love a thrill. Performance arts have always been spectacular for the mind, addressing all senses. Easy to rewind on our hard drives, like it all just happened.
The lone sound of the ballerina’s pointe shoes tiptoeing over the stage, the whirling dust caught by the strong light, her eyes glancing into the darkness at the unrecognizable silhouettes of the audience, the faint smell of wax polish mixed with the perfume of your loved one. The plot thickening… What a delightful freeze-frame, a two-hour standstill. It is strange how we only seem to escape through our senses when they are triggered simultaneously. We mastered the art of organic orchestrated delight. It lacks one particular element though…. interactivity. The last element to complete the wow!
We want wow!
So how does one mimic an experience and add interactivity to it? That cannot be ‘real’ right? As time is limited we simply cannot spectacularly serve all our senses on a daily basis. In an urban office environment, there is often more than one stimulus missing. We miss out on 360 degrees of wow. So if we have to choose, we’ll take our visual cortex to be the nominator, far easiest and most rewarding. We forced the radio star to blend in and boosted video on it’s way to success. Needless to say, its cross-fertilization will result in a whole new sense addressing ballgame.
Step into the retail arena
Within the retail arena, brands are thinking of new strategies. It’s not about bricks and mortar ‘or’ online- but both, and every other variant of Omni-reach…The physical retail space is becoming the ‘new theatre’, not solely anymore about service and selling space, but an event and experience space.
Statistics inform us of the audiences going to the theatre, ballet, and the arts are swelling. And the choice of dining experiences has exploded and shows no signs of a slow-down. So we want social engagement and we want a ‘freeze-frame’. We are ever increasingly at the overload of information- quick sound bites of written and visual information. Attached and connected to our smartphones from the moment we waken to switching off the light and retiring to bed. When do we get the opportunity to process or pause or experience wow?…
Buying our ease
We require quiet reflective moments or spaces…this need will grow, and time will be carved out in our busy schedules to accommodate this. Apps such as Headspace seek to help us escape digitally through meditation and mindfulness. And we need in total contrast to our 24/7 digital drip, to turn up the volume on moments of wow and interactivity. And retail needs to acknowledge and embrace this to succeed.
New tool-shed for brand leverage
New digital tools are emerging, including virtual reality systems, which surprisingly it’s the ‘luxury’ brands, with currently only 8% of global luxury sales being online, that are the ones championing immersive technology. Virtual opulence has become a playground of brand convenience, but also brand leverage, where the customer can dwell, and simply get lost for a while…
Dior Eyes is a virtual reality headset creating a 360-degree behind the scenes video immersion in the launch of a ready to wear collection that follows models as they prepare to strut the catwalk. Harrods Estates have created a virtual tour of some of the most desirable properties in London. And Amari supercar dealer allows potential customers to enjoy remote showroom tours and engagement with showroom staff guiding you around and in their supercar collection.
The luxury of wow
There has always been an unspoken understanding that luxury brands and digital technology don’t mix. But advances in virtual reality are changing that, where a virtual experience can enhance the luxury experience. Combining a virtual experience with then a real physical experience- like the watch brand taking key customers on a tour of their Swiss manufacturing base followed by lunch on a mountain, where the table is carved out of ice- creates a brand high, that converts a consumer into a brand ambassador.
Tech concurs transaction
The multi-sensory experience is not just for luxury brands and will find itself on the wider retail brand palette. More space in-store will be given over to technology. More space will be given over for curated events. And the transaction taking place at the cash desk will follow the same quick demise of the fax machine. Apple stores are a leading light, with the store more a playground than shop, with genius bar and lecture space given equal stature to the retail product itself. How many customers shop in-store, versus experience the brand in-store, then shop online?
Facilitating sales through emotions
It’s an incredibly exciting pivotal moment in retail. And the correct front-end strategy will need to be bold, brave and mold-breaking- but worth it. And all this is not finger in the air risk-taking, but can then be carefully tracked by measuring human emotions. The likes of Real Eyes, are forward thinking with their technology to assess and calculate emotion and social activity- with a view to guiding brand connection and commercial traction.
Big Brother?… possibly. But also a free-flowing spirit with choice will prevail. And kicking leaves in the Autumn to remind us what season it is, or putting the world to right over a cuppa, will continue to keep us grounded.