Samsung's digital display technology.

Retail’s “next big thing” is, and it’s mobile. As consumers feel more comfortable about shopping and buying on mobile devices, smartphones and tablets are also becoming essential tools on the sales floor as store associates and managers use the devices to help improve the shopping experience.

Here, WWD speaks with Samsung’s Ian Hutchinson, head of business development for retail, Mario DiAntonio, team leader, channel technical account management at Samsung, and Diane Carlson, vice president, digital retail transformation at Samsung SDS America, about the challenges retailers and brands face, and the role of technology in creating viable solutions.

WWD: What’s the greatest challenge facing retailers ahead?

Ian Hutchinson: This challenge begins with how associates meet the connected consumer in brick-and-mortar retail spaces. Retailers today aim to meet consumers at the start of their purchase journey and continuing the engagement throughout the store. The connected consumer is someone who has already done a tremendous amount of research and is expecting an experience more personalized than what they would receive online. Today, retailers are challenged to create that interactive, customized experience in store.

Mario DiAntonio: Retail partners and brands are challenged to develop engaging and individualized experiences for customers, without requiring personally identifiable information. Retailers are also looking for innovative solutions to take advantage of their brick-and-mortar investments.

WWD: What does the connected consumer look like in 2019?

I.H.: The connected consumer has moved to mobile platforms as opposed to PC-based research. They will collect most of their information on select e-commerce platforms, like Amazon. Connected consumers will have access to information that will be as up-to-date as possible and will be informed by friends, peers and social networks.

Consumers today may compare two items that might not even look alike because everything in the mobile experience is competing for mindshare and money. In the connected world, connected consumers can scroll on a screen and decide where and how to spend their money and time.

WWD: How is Samsung helping retailers bridge the digital divide in the store? What does that look like for the sales associate specifically?

I.H.: Retail associates should be given the necessary tools and resources to be successful and meet the customer where they are in the store. With these tools, associates can ensure that the connected consumer journey is seamless both inside and outside the store. Associates leveraging mobile technology can dynamically meet consumer needs and provide them with the experience they want. Another way to bridge to divide is by taking formerly data-dark stores and shining in brightness through new points of data collection, such as in-store analytics and mobile devices. Through the Samsung Nexshop solution, retailers gain greater insight by capturing customer traffic data — and deliver a more intelligent, interactive shopping experience.

From NRF 2019, Samsung’s mobile tablet for in-store use.  Courtesy Image

WWD: With an enterprise presence at NRF, what digital display technology was featured?

M.D.: Samsung showcased solutions which fit into three categories of display technology use cases.

Communication is the first-use case. These traditional Digital Signage displays convey a message and elicit a response from the viewer, taking the customer experience to a deeper level. Some examples Samsung provided at NRF include digital menu boards, dual-sided outdoor signage and interactive touch displays.

Following that is environmental, as these displays help to transform the brick-and-mortar store environment into a pleasing experience, which delights the end-customer. Samsung Indoor LED displays are a great example of products we use to help transform the inside of our customer’s retail sports stores into something which resembles the “great outdoors.” Consumers will want to return to these retail stores to relive and share the experience.

Finally, there are directional needs addressed. Displays can be used to consciously and subconsciously direct consumers to areas of interest. A wayfinding kiosk placed in a mall is a great example of how we help our retail partners direct consumers toward a specific business location or special sale.

WWD: From an industry perspective, how will the checkout experience become more optimized with the aid of technology? Please share examples of this innovation at Samsung, and why it matters to the consumer.

I.H.: There are already many great payment technologies, but they are not being fully adopted. At Samsung, we’ve optimized the experience through technologies such as Samsung Pay and the ability for consumers to use wearables, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch, to tap the payment module. With the aid of technology, payment will be seamless and customers can be checked out by the same associate who helps them; resulting in a more personalized experience. Over the next five years, I see the age of the cash drawer at the point of exit completely disappearing.

WWD: How is Samsung’s Nexshop contributing to innovation in store and what differentiates it from competitors?

Diane Carlson: As a leading provider of data analytics and contextual marketing solutions, Samsung Nexshop is driving retail innovation by enabling retailers to make data-driven decisions while delivering more personalized, immersive customer experiences. It is the first of its kind — a true end-to-end solution for retail that offers a cloud-based analytics dashboard, real-time behavioral sensing technology and a powerful yet flexible CMS.

WWD: With increasing automation in store, do you find the need for human connection as relevant? Please explain.

M.D.: Absolutely. The opportunity to establish a relationship that extends beyond the brick-and-mortar location, will leave a lasting impression on the customer; a positive human experience. If customers have taken time to travel to and visit with a retailer, they are looking for a personal connection. This interaction comes with a responsibility and an opportunity for the retailer. Their responsibility is to provide a knowledgeable, personable associate that can connect with the customer and guide them through their individual experience. With the help of Digital Signage, the sales associate has the tools available to draw the customer into the store, excite them with promotions and product choices upon entrance and immerse them into a unique experience customized by that retailer. Samsung is excited to offer products such as Display and Mobile that provides endless opportunities for the retailer, the sales associate and the customer.

With data and technology such as digital signage, mobilized commerce and wider use of in-store analytics, the connected customer experience is being more fully realized. With that in mind — the future is bright for retail.

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