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Find the Perfect Fit with Real-Time Analytics

Product innovation plays a vital role in the competitive athletic footwear market. It’s a nonstop race to bring new designs and inventive fabrications for both athletic performance and everyday wear.

But great products need great marketing—especially in this crowded and brand-conscious segment. Enter the concept of Phygital—the blending of digital and physical to create unique and differentiated customer experiences—especially in street-side retail.

For athletic wear, in-store shopping is very much alive. Consumers love to touch and feel products, and the immediate gratification of getting their purchases right there and then. But they don’t want to chase down help or wait for a salesperson to appear. In fact, 62 percent of consumers prefer in-store self-service to avoid lines and save time.

On top of that, a majority of shoppers leave stores without making a purchase. It’s an all-too-common experience. One survey found that up to 96 percent of global shoppers walk out empty-handed. Their reasons ranged from not finding the perfect product to poor customer service.

How One Brand Got Phygital

ASICS, the athletic footwear company, is a leading brand with a 60-year history of producing high-quality, high-performance shoes. It had a big challenge as competitors established high-profile lifestyle brands. The company faced an uphill battle to grow market share.

One place that ASICS set about increasing brand awareness as well as sales was at its 19 flagship stores in cities such as London, Paris, and Dubai. Here, the company has uniquely deployed interactive digital displays, AI, and computer vision to provide immersive and customized shopping.

ASICs worked with Skratch AV Limited, a system integrator specializing in retail visual solutions. The company has deployed 145 Phygital Video Wall systems across high-profile locations, creating the best of both worlds—an eCommerce-like experience and the “touch and feel” of retail.

In each of the 19 flagship store locations, the solution centerpiece is a supersize digital wall display, partnered with an interactive kiosk. Using the kiosk, customers benefit from an immersive and engaging experience to find the best products to fit their needs. They can browse the online catalog or respond to a series of questions with information such as age, sex, size, style preferences, and more.

With this information and using real-time analytics, the system provides on-the-spot product recommendations. What’s especially unique is that the bestselling models are on display right at the video wall. Those that are recommended are visually highlighted, making it easier for the customer to pick them out, get more information, and benefit from a tactile interaction.

The system creates more customer engagement enabled by a software-driven customized experience that allows customers to envision themselves in the ASICS product—driving more ad hoc purchases.

“The holy grail is to allow someone to come in without any prior knowledge of that brand, choose the shoe that is perfect for their requirements, feel the shoe, try it on, and then make a purchase,” said Lee Stephens, Director of Business Development at Skratch.

Store personnel on the floor, armed with tablets, are available to check on in-store inventory, bring shoes to try, and streamline the purchase process, which increases the likelihood that customers don’t leave empty-handed.

The results for ASICS have been remarkable. Kiosks have up to 300 sessions per day with up to 75 percent engagement, leading to a significant reduction in walkouts and an increase in sales.

Captivating Customers with AI

Skratch works with ANQ Ltd. for these retail deployments. Alongside the Phygital wall display and kiosk, the ANQ iBillboard platform controls the content, user interface, and metrics dashboard, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Architecture of the Phygital Video Wall

The system uses AI to create customer profiles and return immediate, personalized product recommendations based on real-time insights. It gathers all customer data input, which is sent via the cloud to a consumer interaction metrics dashboard.

Cloud-based analytics use all the information collected from customer input and responses to better understand demographic trends such as which shoes are viewed most frequently. User experience data shows, for example, how customers navigate the system and at what point they stop interacting.

“There’s constant analysis of this data. Clients have the ability to log in remotely and view stats online—daily, weekly—whatever they prefer,” said Stephens. The retailer can send information to each store on any given schedule, performing periodic updates to modify content, add new products, or otherwise change the experience.

The Videowall and Kiosk player are powered by Intel® Core processors and NUC—providing system scalability. Skratch also uses the Intel® vPro platform for remote management and control.

“Intel® technology enables us to deploy a scalable solution and the tools we need to service our customers,” said Stephens. “We can remotely diagnose and fix issues that might arise at a given store, saving the time and cost of sending technicians on-site.”

Approaching the Future

Phygital marketing is proving to be an exciting trend in retail. And technologies such as digital video and AI bring even more possibilities for customer engagement, sales growth, and operational efficiencies.

One example is at the ASICS flagship store in London, where they have started using robotics to further automate the sales experience. Customers can see the items they purchased being picked by robots and delivered down the system. This is just one idea of the future.

“The solution is evolving from a new way of engaging customers and offering a unique information portal and product finder,” said Stephens. “We envision an ‘endless aisle,’ where customers can actually order the product, try the product on, and buy the product. All without the need to interact with a member of the sales staff.”

About the Author

Erik Sherman is a journalist, analyst, and consultant with a background in engineering, technology, and business management. He's written about such topics as semiconductors, enterprise software, logistics, software development, advertising technology, scientific instruments, biotechnology, economics, finance, marketing, and public policy.

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