January 25, 2021 - Steve Jobs hated the thought of an Apple computer sitting on a shelf in a big box store sandwiched between competing products where an uninformed clerk would recite the specs of each to an unfamiliar customer.
As Walter Isaacson recounts in his 2011 biography “Steve Jobs,” the Apple CEO worried that the unique qualities of his products would be lost in that setting and, in turn, the company would never succeed in a retail store.
“Unless we could find ways to get our message to customers at the store, we were screwed,” Jobs said.
It’s an understandable worry. Product designers, engineers and managers go to great lengths to birth the best product possible and they want to see it succeed. If their product goes into a store and it’s displayed in an unflattering way, well, that’s a huge disappointment. It’s also a missed opportunity to inform a potential customer about the distinct features and benefits of the product.
Tough Times In Consumer Electronics
The problem is particularly acute in the consumer electronics industry where Jobs built his empire. The products can be complicated and a successful retail showing requires planning. A stable power supply, reliable Internet and digital signage are often essential to communicate the product’s full potential. Inevitably, problems arise in all three of these areas at stores around the world.
This is where Internet of Things software can help.
Take for instance, problems with digital signs. In a big box retail environment, these monitors attract customers by flashing brilliant colors, beautiful images and intriguing messages. But, they don’t run autonomously in the background. There’s a connected media player that requires software updates, there’s a content management system that requires scheduling and there are cables that need to stay plugged in. A glitch in any one of those areas can prevent the digital sign from working properly.
Related: Download a copy of our white paper on “Why Retailers Need an IoT Strategy”
With IoT software, product teams can remotely monitor all of the elements required to keep the sign working. The software can send alerts when it detects a problem. And, in many instances, it can initiate an action to begin fixing the problem. What types of actions? Anything from automatically assigning a technician to investigate the issue to forcing a frozen media player to reboot.
But, monitoring the sign’s hardware and components is just the beginning of what IoT software can do for visual merchandising. It’s now possible for marketing teams to know something about the people standing in front of a retail display and tailor the content on the digital signs to that audience.
For example, a male in his 20s standing in front of the digital sign can be shown one advertisement while a female in her 60s can be shown another version.
This type of targeted advertising helps provide content that’s more relevant and interesting to the audience. In turn, this improves the effectiveness of a company’s product marketing efforts.
Improving the Customer Experience
Beyond that, the software can collect data about people who interact with the display. What features of the product do they touch the most? Who’s ends up purchasing the product? How much time did they spend with the product before heading to checkout? All of these data points can help improve the customer experience in the store and, in turn, result in more product sold.
Steve Jobs was right to insist on a great retail experience for Apple’s products. Apple stores became the envy of the retail world and its concepts have been copied by, well, almost everyone. Given his legendary drive for perfection, there’s little doubt that he would have seen the utility of IoT software in retail.
Have thoughts on how software can help boost sales in a retail environment? Contact us today to schedule a conversation.