Between the recession and the transformative rise of e-tail commerce, retail integrators have had to do a lot of adaptation in recent years.
First, the recession hammered the market and the number of new stores opening dropped sharply. Then, as the market was emerging from recession, online shopping morphed from a novelty to a mainstream reality, eating away at in-store retail profits — which integrators naturally depend on.
Despite these challenges, integrators like those listed here are finding a way to thrive in retail.
“Instead of fighting the trends, follow the trend,” says Ron Prier, owner of Bowersville, Ga.-based RPAV, a $6 million integrator that does more than 30 percent of its business in retail.
According to Forbes, online sales are growing at 10 times the rate of in-store purchases. So-called e-tail rivals in-store shopping because consumers can shop a wider range of products from the comfort of their own homes, all the while giving invaluable data about their preferences and personal habits to online retailers, enabling future, highly targeted sales. That creates a challenge for retailers and an opportunity for integrators.
“Clients are working very hard to differentiate the in-store experience from the online,” says Brock McGinnis, the systems division sales manager for Toronto-based Westbury National Show Systems. “They’re increasing their level of service. They’re using technology to do that — better sound, better lighting, better-trained staff.”
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This emphasis on in-store experiences is part of the bigger, more forward-thinking picture, another reason that e-commerce is good news for integrators — at least, those open to change. That’s because stores are increasingly looking for ways to merge the in-store and online experiences.
New York City-based Cliqk made waves when it designed dressing rooms for upscale women’s clothing store C. Wonder with touchpanels that let shoppers change the music and lighting in their stall and call attendants to request additional merchandise. Now the company is intent on finding ways to bridge the in-store and online commerce gap.
“This all has to deal with the entrenched mindset that these things are separate, and that’s just not the case,” says Mark Hernandez, Cliqk’s president and founder. The now for retail installers is integrating physical stores with online campaigns through networked digital signage, and integrating mobile apps to in-store screens to create customer engagement solutions like loyalty cards or checkout discounts, says Hernandez.
The next frontier, Hernandez says, is helping physical stores collect as much information about consumer habits as possible, much the way that online retailers do. That could mean barcode scanners in dressing rooms to keep inventory counts, and people counters that track not just the flow in and out of the store, but foot-traffic to the various parts of the show floor.
As the market transforms, integrators must continue to solve problems from their clients’ perspective.