Following the great economic downturn of 2008, retail sales have rebounded relatively well, and businesses are finally starting to look toward future investment again. According to the most recent Census data, health and personal care and motor vehicle sales are leading the industry this year, and likely will for the next several.
For value-added resellers (VARs), momentum in the retail sector means exciting potential for new pro AV business. While at first glance pro AV and retail might not seem to go hand-in-hand, the two are actually well-suited for each other. Consider the following ways in which the retail sector is embracing pro AV systems:
1. To engage their customers.
Customers remember unique, engaging and very positive retail experiences. Pro AV systems can be used to entertain and dazzle every customer, provide a higher level of customer service, enhance their shopping experience and encourage them to return in the future.
For example, a clothing retailer targeting young men and women might install a store-wide speaker system, as well as a couple microphones, amps and other equipment. Customers could be invited to do karaoke, give shout-outs to their friends, etc. For the right demographic, this level of fun engagement could encourage shoppers to come back many times.
For a growing number of customers, this type of engaging, immersive experience is simply expected. As consumers become increasingly comfortable with and reliant upon digital technology in their day-to-day lives, they will continue to expect to encounter technology throughout their shopping and entertainment experiences.
For other retailers, pro AV technology might simply help to provide a higher level of customer service by keeping shoppers informed. For example, projection displays can inform consumers of current specials, new products and store hours. At quick-service restaurants (QSRs), menu boards can provide dynamic, up-to-the-minute pricing and availability for popular food items. By using AV technology instead of static signs, the information can be changed quickly and easily as needed.
2. To promote their brand.
Retail advertising and in-store design is becoming increasingly visual, with retailers investing heavily in signage and technology that will help to establish and enhance their brand. Pro AV systems that include projectors, digital signage, speakers and audio systems, and creative lighting help to reinforce the look and “feel” of a company’s brand, whether it’s high-energy and youthful or mellow and relaxing.
3. To improve service.
While audio-visual technology can be used to dazzle customers in the store, behind the scenes it can be used in very different ways. Systems such as video conferencing and chat can encourage real-time collaboration between sales staff and team members at corporate or in other branch locations, both locally and globally.
This type of fluid collaboration helps to ensure that staff members across an organization all receive the same updates, directions and other information, which helps them to do their job more effectively and provides customers a more unified experience. With real-time dissemination of new sales or marketing information, promotion details and market trends, employees can better serve customers and make faster, more informed decisions.
4. To train staff.
Video conferencing, chat and desktop sharing applications and other AV systems can also help with training retail employees. Not only does a higher level of collaboration enable enhanced in-house training and personnel development; it’s also ideal for training remote employees.
Training provides new (and existing) employees a well-established foundation for each task. And when all employees are trained according to a standard protocol, the result is a more effective, more efficient company overall.
What type of retail AV projects have you worked on or seen in your experience as a shopper? Would you say that the retail industry as a whole has embraced pro AV, or is it more of a gradual process?