interactive retail anyone?

I am doing some research for my thesis and could use some help. In short it is the design of a retail space / marketing project for a furniture company.

The impetus of the project came from a statement I read in an incredibly boring psych journal. It stated that the more time a consumer spends in a retail environment the more likely they are to make a purchase. (Duh?!)

The way I see it, in order to facilitate this passage of time a dialogue or interaction must be encouraged between the consumer and the environment. An additional benefit of such an environment would hopefully be quantifiable market research… Check out the work ideo did for prada NY for an example.

Has anyone seen or heard about anything that might relate. I’m looking for high and low tech.


While I only sort of halfway recommend this book, it is essential for you to familiarize yourself with it only because you are doing a design thesis and invariably somone will ask you if you have “read” it. Not that it is really readable so much as scanable, but it does offer up some insights about what shopping is, and how it has supplanted traditional forms of “community” and “interaction” such as religion etc.

As far as hardcore behavioural research of shopping environments, the firm envirosell offers up these:
There are loads of consultancies like envirosell who study this area. Each has their own special niches as far as techiniques and industry experience.

Good luck

I actually work for a firm that specializes in retail design so I would be happy to answer any questions or help steer you in the right direction.

Something you might want to check out is the muzak website they develop multimedia and audio systems for retail environments. Their website has some really compelling videos that show how you can change a shopping experience through changes in background music. They might also be a good source a hard data.

I would also check out and - visual merchandising + store design and the national association of store fixture manufacturers. They always have a lot of articles and links to companies that do similar work to mine. These publications are mostly used to inform corporate buyers on new trends for retail design so they can be a little boring, however, if you look around you will find good articles and information on interaction, lighting, audio, etc as they relate to retail.

If you are interested in environmental work from IDEO than you should check out their book “extra spatial”.

Oh I almost forgot, when you go to the muzak site click on high bandwidth and then click on the “M” logo on the left side. The text “what does your business sound like?” should appear. Click on that and it will take you to the videos and links to more info.

We were innovating Dynamic Digital Signage at Siren Technologies (now MarketForward) in the 1990’s. We had some big successes with introducing “smart signage” into retail environments like McDonalds, Eddie Bauer, United Airlines, US Postal Service, Harris Bank etc.

Definitely read Paco Underhills “Why we Buy.” (Yup, now you know what he means by the “flying french fries” reference.)

I am pretty familiar with the havard guide to shopping and I actually own the Ideo- Extra Spatial book. It is along the lines of the projects in the ideo book that I would like to move.
The benefit of the approaches found in extra spatial, by comparison to the digital signage or muzak, is that the experience becomes almost custom to each consumer. I realize scenarios similar to the trainstation in minoriy report are a bit out of reach (not to mention “big brother” scary), but it is the concept of indviduals being truly integrated that intrigues me. In this way the shaping of the retail environment is partialy done by the consumer, and the results can then (hopefully) be translated to useable information by the client.

Check this out.

Although I see your interest in wanting to look into this kind of retail environment I think that it is also important to look at the possible dangers of having an environment that is dynamically shaped by the whims of the comsumer.

I think the big dream for retailers has always been to possess the ability to shape their stores to be all things to all people. Things like dynamic signage, RFID, etc are constantly bringing us closer to that possibility, however, I think than in the quest to please people and make as much money as possible we are forgetting the time honored traditions of craft and specialization.

The real danger in trying to be all things is that we create environments that are like swiss army knives, they may be able to perform a lot of tasks, but can do none of them particularly well. It reminds me of a quote from a friend “I am a knower of many things, master of nothing”.

It may just be me but I see technology as something interesting to have at our disposal, but nothing to make such an intricate part of our lives as you are referencing from movies like minority report. I think in the end it robs us of the real interaction which should be occuring in our day to day lives, interaction with each other - face to face.

You have made a valid point and have also roughly outlined part of my design problem. After all, if I wanted a completely user defined shopping experience perhaps a web site would be a better solution than a retail store.

However, we shape our environment just through our existence. Saying that I want the shopping environment to be shaped by the user doesn’t mean that I want an intricate system of sensors and lights brow beating the consumer as in minority report. At the end of the initial post I did say high and low tech.

I am hoping to facilitate a more symbiotic relationship between man and technology through architecture and interior design.

I was once told about a running shoe being developed by new balance which serves as a good expample of this kind of relationship. The shoe, in a sense, told the user how they ran by revealing certain words as the sole was worn away.

I am interested in being turned on to innovations like the new balance shoe and those found in the extra spatial book.

Not true! During development Spielberg collected a panel of futurists who spelled that scenario out, in part via the work that we were pioneering.

In fact, we were developing a similar technology that would have used facial-recognition technology to collect realtime CPM (Cost-Per Thousand is the metric used in the ad biz.) We were sensitive to the privacy issue, so we were only interested in capturing anonymous impression calculations by time of day, not direct ads at individual consumers. That realtime data would allow advertisers to track effectiveness: particularly if you can use high enough rez cameras to also see where people are looking, when and for how long.

Think about it: right now public space advertising is a giant black hole: There’s only a 5% ROI! When ads are produced, there is rarely any tracking on its effectiveness. Instead advertisers move onto the next project, more interested in winning creative awards than in actually effectively addressing their client’s need. (Read Sergio Zymans “The End of Marketing As We Know It.”)

I have to agree with cg on this. I’ve worked on research 4-5 yrs ago that would make things like minority report trainstation possible. It all depends on how big brother scary we allow society. Infact that was and is always one of the things that scares me about the trend toward ubiquitous computing…which is what the field is called people. There’s even a yearly conference. Ubicomp 2005

whoops that was me - ubicomp

I actually saw a documentary on minority report a few years back that discussed the meetings between the invited “futurists”. However, I had no idea some of the things you were talking about were so close to fruition.
I must confess some of the lingo confused me. If you feel like doin’ some schoolin’ and breaking that down into layman’s terms it would be appreciated. If not its cool, I’ll just be googlen’.
Regardless it sounds right up my project’s alley. At the heart of this project is using integrated elements of the retail environment to collect useable information for the client.
I’ll check out the zymans writing.