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5 ways in which multi-touch screen technology can help retailers

Paolo Pedrazzoli, Touch Systems EMEA marketing operations manager for 3M tells Talk Retail about the technology that has taken the world by storm, the multi-touch screen, and how they can help retailers.

Retailers and their store designers are always on the look-out for new ways to engage with customers in store. Video and touch screens have been used in the retail environment for some time, but now there’s a new audio-visual tool in town: multi-user multi-touch screens. These are already being adopted by some of Europe’s leading retailers because multi-touch is opening up opportunities to generate more revenue and engage with customers in ways that were previously very hard to achieve.

The screens are typically anywhere from 15 to 55 inches in diameter and can be wall-mounted or in table-top designs, with computing technology hidden behind the scenes. The units are typically standalone, but they can integrate remotely with other systems.

Technology aside, what matters here is the user experience that multi-user multi-touch screens provide. It’s hard to describe something that is so visual in words, but try this: think about a smartphone or tablet, and how people swish, swipe, pinch and expand fingers to view or interact with on-screen information. Now imagine that experience on a much larger screen and – most importantly – with the ability to support several users at the same time (up to 60 simultaneous touch points) so they can interact with each other, or engage with different content at opposite ends of the screen.

Here are five ways in which retailers are using – or can potentially use – the technology to enhance the in-store experience:

Display multiple information at once –  multiple ‘windows’ on the screen can be called up, covering not just basic in-store information (product guides, maps, stock availability) but also links to loyalty card information, home delivery bookings, chat with live customer support and video demonstrations (such as recipes, fashion guides or DIY tips).

Several people can use the system simultaneously, together or separately – for instance, two parents might be designing their new kitchen by dropping products into a planning tool at one end of the screen, while at the other their children are competing together in a video game.

Mobile or pop-up store applications – as well as being permanent fixtures, the technology also lends itself to more temporary or mobile use. A European firm is developing a mobile vending machine, based on a three-wheeled electrical car. Using the multi-touch screen, consumers can choose real products (such as soft drinks), redeem vouchers or enter competitions to win an extra gift.

Virtually extend retail store space – floor space can be extended, making products that are only available online easier to view. This helps to speed up the buying process and, as one European retailer has found, has increased sales.

As part of integrated retail campaigns – multi-user multi-touch screens can also link to bar codes as part of integrated marketing campaigns, or connect to back office systems such as CRM to create a means to collate information about customer behaviour.

Of course, the theory is only as good as the execution and there are a few points to bear in mind. First, compelling content is essential, the technology is just a means to deliver the information. The system must be easy to use and not need constant attention from staff or the supplier to keep it working. Similarly, choose multi-touch screens that are robust, have fast response rates, and can handle high volumes of users. To achieve all this, it makes sense to work with one of the growing numbers of multi-touch system specialists in Europe. This is an emerging market, so select a firm that already has the experience, rather than learning at the customer’s expense.

Get all this right and multi-user multi-touch becomes a valuable customer engagement tool in the retailer’s armoury.

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