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How AV Integrators Are Helping Retailers Reshape Their Holiday Offerings

Published: December 7, 2020

You’ve probably noticed quite a difference in the holiday shopping experience this year, because of ongoing fears and protocols related to the continued spread of the coronavirus across the U.S. and around the world.

While the lines aren’t as long and the crowds aren’t nearly as large, retailers continue to find new ways to reach and connect with their existing customers and gain new ones at what’s traditionally the most hectic time of the year in malls and shopping centers. AV technology is playing a major role in that.

It’s been quite an evolution this year when you think about what our clients are thinking about and facing and all the change they’ve had to make so quickly and in real time,” says Jaime Bettencourt, senior VP of the global account management team for Mood Media.

Usually, Mood Media starts focusing on the holidays in the summer, thinking about music, visuals and other sensory elements, she says. As you might expect, “it’s been quite different” in 2020, says Bettencourt.

“Everyone has had to be very agile,” she says, noting a resurgence in messaging and communication.

“We’ve always done voice messaging in stores around promotions, but those messages have turned into activation points in the store around safety, such as social distancing and wearing masks,” says Bettencourt.

Mood Media helps its retail clients think about the omnichannel experience, creating a consistent in-store and online experience.

“We really try to help them connect the dots between those two,” says Bettencourt. A recent Mood customer insights survey shows 71 percent of people feel comfortable in the store but it’s clearly a different experience than they had during the last holiday shopping season.

How AV is Reshaping Holiday Retail Shopping

Bettencourt says there are more “mission shoppers” and not as much “dwell time” in the stores. But those quick trips in and out don’t mean safety is less important, she says.

“When someone goes in, they want to feel safe and get away from the stress,” says Bettencourt. Most retailers use friendly reminders about social distancing and wearing masks, but “you don’t want that to be the only thing they’re seeing. You want to filter it in in a balanced way.

“Digital signage is a huge part of the experience in stores. It’s about using it the right way,” she says. Using signage in the window can help to inform and inspire customers and those who are walking by.

Most retailers did away with Black Friday promotions in favor of extended period of sales this year, says Bettencourt, and “it’ll be interesting to see the results. “You want people to feel connected with brand and to feel like it’s a consistent story,” she says.

Related: Zoom Santas Are Keeping Christmas Spirit Alive with Virtual Wish List Meetings

“I think people are trying a lot of different things, from pop-up shops to outdoor markets to different types of messaging. We’re seeing more virtual try-ons and retailers using technology in ways they haven’t before,” says Bettencourt.

“There’s a lot of openness and things are going to market more quickly,” she says. “Any time you go through something like this, there’s a lot of innovation that comes out of it. The ones that will succeed are the ones who’ve been able to deploy technology more quickly.”

Retailers have had to “flip” the use of interactive touchscreens “on its head” at a time when no one wants to spread germs to others, says Bettencourt.

“You still want to have customer engagement but maybe it’s done in a virtual way,” she says, noting an increase in the use of QR codes and conversational AI.

“You have to look at it as being fun right now trying new things,” she says. Even the experience of visiting Santa Claus “is being reimagined as we speak.”

“Everyone wants to have that joy of the holidays but do it the right way,” says Bettencourt. “You’re seeing more personalized experiences in terms of age, gender and demographics.

“I definitely think we’ll see more ways for retailers to meet customers where they need to be met. The customer is the channel. Brick and mortar is never going to go away. Time will tell how all of this experimentation is going to work out. It’ll be fun to watch,” she says.

The retail market “is at a really good place,” says Bettencourt.

“The ones that are surviving and thriving are investing in new ideas and trying different ways to meet their customers,” she says.

“Retail is always really open to understanding what other verticals are doing. Everyone’s been focused on the basics: serving their customers while they plan for the future.

“Everyone’s really open to change and doing what’s right. You’re able to connect with people on a different level. That’s what shopping and retail is all about,” says Bettencourt.

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Posted in: News

Tagged with: Coronavirus, COVID-19

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