Neiman Marcus grows customer engagement through interactive displays

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Neiman Marcus has a long tradition of innovation and meeting its customers where they are — be that online, offline or both simultaneously. Last holiday season, the 111-year-old luxury retailer launched a pilot program in a Dallas store with digital display platform provider Perch Interactive to drive sales of shoes, denim and gifts.

Perch’s interactive displays detect products customers are touching or picking up and respond with digital content such as videos, how-tos, ratings and reviews, omnichannel ordering and product personalization. The displays, embedded in retail shelving, respond to customer behavior to engage customers, analyze behavior and increase sales between 30 and 80 percent, according to Perch.

Several brands have used the technology: An installation for Kate Spade allows customers picking up “Make It Mine” purses to see how the item can be personalized with thousands of color combinations; at Bumble and Bumble salons, Perch displays demonstrate how to use hair care products, along with offering ratings and reviews.

Of note is the way Perch optimizes physical contact — it’s one of the most important customer indications of interest: Research from the University of Chicago shows that shoppers are 40 to 60 percent more likely to buy a product if they pick it up.

Combining physical and digital

The 2017 holiday season marked the first time Neiman Marcus and Perch worked together, and the project progressed swiftly. “We engaged Neiman Marcus two months before the holiday season and delivered the first concept quickly to store,” says Perch CEO Trevor Sumner. “The process is relatively fast because we re-use assets that the brands already have to help sell their products.”

Research from the University of Chicago shows that shoppers are 40 to 60 percent more likely to buy a product if they pick it up.

Perch’s interactive retail experiences can be built by a graphic designer without using any code. “The key is to build a strong concept and storyboard design,” Sumner says, “and then format and animate the core assets to get multiple rounds of feedback to ensure successful delivery.”

The company’s campaign management system is designed to build rich interactive experiences without custom software. The displays ship with their own 4G cellular hotspots so IT involvement and dependence on in-store Wi-Fi is optional.

“Of course, successful projects require deeper interaction throughout the organization,” Sumner says. “From Perch’s side, we had a project manager running point for project delivery, a graphic designer building the interface and our deployment support organization ensuring successful delivery and deployment.”

Perch Chief Technical Officer and founder Jared Schiffman drove the relationship with Scott Emmons, Neiman’s head of innovation. For Neiman Marcus, Emmons led the initiative in coordination with Neva Hall, the executive vice president of stores, along with store management, who coordinated in-store installation.

Emmons’ responsibilities include researching, testing and piloting new technologies and applications for all of the Neiman Marcus Group. Recent projects to come out of the retailer’s Innovation Lab include the MeMomi MemoryMirror, touch table lookbooks, beacon-enabled holiday passes, intelligent mobile phone charging stations and digital directories for its Bergdorf Goodman subsidiary.

Removing a product triggers related digital content; customers can explore the different types of content to learn how to style the look with images of coordinated picks from apparel to additional accessories.

“Their technology did a great job of combining physical retail with digital capabilities,” Emmons says. “The technology is very intuitive, which is critical for the success of any new customer-facing technology. We worked on several proofs of concept in our Innovation Lab, so that we could mature the use cases for this proposed new technology.”

Educating customers

The public-facing pilot began with two station setups: In women’s shoes, customers could select from sample shoe styles placed on a sleek fixture connected to a large touchscreen. Removing a product triggered related digital content; customers could explore the different types of content by touching various tabs on the screen to learn, for instance, how to style the look with images of coordinated picks from apparel to additional accessories.

“We really did not have to make any changes to the store beyond supplying a counter-height surface to place the standard Perch shelves,” Emmons says. Perch technology runs on a standard power outlet and network connectivity for uploading content was done over Neiman’s existing Wi-Fi infrastructure.

“We expanded the pilot by not only adding a station in men’s shoes, but by also adding a unique Perch-enabled jeans rack in men’s,” Emmons says. “The jeans rack was a custom installation, so we did have to make room on the sales floor to accommodate this new rack.”

Power and network requirements for the jeans rack were the same as the standard Perch shelves, Emmons points out. “Perch worked closely with our marketing team to select the products that we wanted to feature,” he says, “and then provided turnkey services in getting content prepared and deployed to the stations.”

Though Neiman Marcus did not release specific sales numbers from the project, Sumner says Perch “works immediately with its clients to see how the marketing campaigns are doing from day one.”

With Neiman Marcus, that included working with in-store staff to get feedback about customer interaction and engagement, which he was “positive from the onset.”

Janet Groeber has covered all aspects of the retail industry for more than 20 years. Her reporting has appeared in AdWeek and DDI Magazine, among others.

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