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Projection mapping is the next retail reality

In the contemporary retail space, it takes something extra special to cut through the clutter. Now that consumers carry incredibly sophisticated screens in their pockets, screen-based in store digital signage simply doesn’t stand out enough.

Meanwhile, shelf-wobblers, floor stickers and general signage are fast becoming an antiquated, analogue mess that doesn’t even have the redeeming quality of digital connectivity. So where can we find that all-important wow factor?

Forward-looking retail insiders predict the immersive and experiential nature of virtual reality (VR) will ride to the rescue. But in its current phase of development, VR isn’t a scalable in-store solution.

Perhaps that’s why retailers like IKEA are experimenting with augmented reality (AR). Unfortunately, though, AR is still heavily dependent on a device, like a smartphone, to get people to engage with it. So AR lacks much-needed immediacy.

But projection mapping – the art of fitting projected animations to 3D products and spaces without screens or devices – is rapidly becoming a scalable, affordable and device-free way to create that crucial wow factor. And it’s a wow factor that is now proven to drive sales: a recent projection mapped display for Quality Street in Asda stores generated a 41% sales uplift.

In fact, an Asda spokesperson who was involved in the project was quoted as saying: “This technology is incredible and takes POS displays to a new level. We’ve had a positive response form customers who are stopping to take a good look. It’s providing a whole new way of active selling.” A ringing endorsement for in-store projection mapping, if ever there was one.

At a time when we – both consumers and retailers – continue to be in thrall to digital’s creative opportunities, physical marketing is making a comeback. So there is now a real urge to combine the physical and digital worlds by applying virtual content to real spaces, without the obstructive barrier of an intermediary device.

Cue projection mapping. By projecting carefully branded and precisely mapped animations or images over a physical space – whether it be a product, installation or retail environment – digital content becomes seamlessly blended with its physical environment. This means consumers receive the instant gratification of a device-free immersive experience, whilst retailers benefit from a display that utterly demands and captivates attention.

Once limited to star-studded events with almighty budgets and giant ‘canvases’ like the White Cliffs of Dover, projection mapping is fast being democratised by ever more affordable projection and content management technology.

Projectors that fit into the palm of your hand are now incredibly powerful and bright. Lasers and LEDs are now built in such a way that they require minimal maintenance. And now those media servers are cloud-based, and sophisticated content management solutions like DisplayMapper are available at a fraction of the price.

Hell, it’s now even possible to make a projection display visible in daylight – the Holy Grail of projection mapping. These technological advancements are the reason why projection mapping can be scaled down from vast canvases to become a feasible and affordable in-store retail solution.

Although still the exception rather than the rule, in-store projection-mapped displays should be a no-brainer because they tick all the boxes. Experience? Tick. Physical marketing? Tick. Sharable? Tick. Immersive? Tick. Engagement? Tick. Affordable? Tick. ROI? Thanks to Quality Street’s 41% sales uplift, we can safely give that one a double tick.

By combining storytelling and branding, whilst integrating digital content with physical spaces and removing the triple-edged barrier between product, message and consumer; it’s safe to say that retail’s nascent use of in store projection mapping will elevate the technique from being a virtual reality to a real reality.

By Tom Burch, MD of Projection Artworks

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