This year, the emergent theme from our Creston Unlimited Technology Expo reflected one of the biggest and most challenging areas for brands - retail innovation. Despite some astonishing advances in display technology, consumer behaviour tracking and contextual content delivery, retailers are still largely stuck in the 1980s when it comes to in-store innovation (with some obvious exceptions, like Burberry and Ted Baker).
Over half of our exhibitors displayed technology that has a role to play in making the retail space more engaging and consumer behaviour better understood. From this year’s line up, here are my top five to watch.
The user experience company Those has been busy this year developing new product Woodpecker. This portable, quick to install device creates an instant buzz in any shop window (or floor, or wall, or ceiling). The computer controlled pen can turn any surface into a Twitter wall, an interactive hand drawn map or anything else you can imagine a pen can do. Their recent installations include Liberty's window and the Lynx Black pop-up shop.
Want to know everything about what a consumer does on their mobile device? This app gives it to you. A collaboration between ICM and Marketing Sciences, Reflected Life is a system that enables its researchers to gather extraordinarily detailed consumer data from (willing) participants.
Walk inside a shopping centre or airport and your GPS stops working right? Wrong. With Pointr we can now offer consumers turn by turn navigation indoors using beacons. Retailers and venue owners can also receive anonymous location data from anyone walking past who has Bluetooth enabled on their phone, allowing us to check conversion rates for people walking past the store and create heat maps of footfall.
For me one of the most exciting areas in technology is helping brands create contextually useful apps and content; cutting through the white noise of digital advertising. Landmark's platform ties certain types of highly contextually relevant content to specific locations - only unlocking it for consumers when they are physically in the right place.
For sheer 'stop and stare' factor you can't beat a giant, animated, floating hologram. This is what Kino-mo has created. A portable, quick to set up holographic display that's bright enough to grab a consumer's attention from across a store even in a well lit environment. They also just won Richard Branson's 'Pitch to Rich' competition. You have to see it to believe it (image above of the Kino-mo bikes).
The start-up landscape is constantly changing, but can always be relied on to provide a sense of the challenges consumers and brands face. The fact that there’s so much innovation in the world of retail is hardly surprising, given the disparity between consumer expectation and the reality of the retail environment. And it’s not just retail; financial, healthcare and marketing are all on the verge of the next big disruptive change - a change that will almost certainly come from the start-up sector. To be on the right side of that wave, it’s imperative to pay close attention to what’s coming out of tech city.