Interactive Retail Displays: The Future Face of Retail

Ann Marie Alanes
6 min readOct 4, 2017
Photo credit: darrenquigly32 eatsa collage by Ann Marie Alanes

As many major retailers close their stores left and right, those left standing are finding ways to survive the onslaught of e-commerce. Many are recreating the mobile and online digital experience in their stores. One way in which this is being done is through interactive display technologies. Below are a few of the benefits of using interactive retail displays:

#1: Less Labor Costs

As minimum wages are increasing, the price of technology is decreasing. Technology does not request vacation time, get sick or request raises. Employers are already being hit by costs associated with the Affordable Care Act and mandatory paid sick leave laws. Companies are looking at their profit margins and are finding that technology is the answer. Bankruptcy lawyers, traffic lawyers, and teaching assistants might be automated successfully because much of their knowledge is routine. So it’s no surprise that the food, manufacturing and garment industries will be the first to adopt on a global scale, with the retail and grocery industries following close behind. This is why consumers will soon be ordering from self-service kiosks at many fast food and fast casual restaurants such as Wendy’s, Chili’s, Panera Bread, Olive Garden, McDonald’s, Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s.

#2: Even More Profit

Some stores discovered that the use of interactive touch displays changed customer behavior in favor of store profits. Now that customers were not involved in face-to-face transactions, they no longer had to hide the fact that they could not pronounce certain products. According to academic researchers, Goldfarb, McDevitt, Samila, and Silverman, after the installment of self-service kiosks in a liquor store “…the market share of difficult-to-pronounce items increased (by) 8.4%.” The study, concluded that, “…consumers might fear being misunderstood or appearing unsophisticated in front of the clerks.”

Additionally for every transaction, interactive touchscreen displays never fail to upsell. All the accessories and/or additional ingredients are presented consistently. Extra items to compliment the order are always suggested, increasing the likelihood that the consumer will purchase the item(s).

And the medium itself is intrinsically persuasive. Interactive retail displays communicate with both pictures and words. A Dartmouth College study presented some of the most polarizing, political views to participants and found visuals to be the most persuasive. The brain works in a way that visual information will always take precedence over sound. It’s called the McGurk Effect. A human being that upsells by vocally listing items to a customer will always be trumped by item descriptions accompanied with beautifully presented visuals.

Target’s Open House in San Francisco features interactive kiosks that control IoT (Internet of Things) diagrams displayed on large wall screens in various rooms that you would find in a home.

#3: Valuable Customer Data

Pioneer stores such as B8ta and Target’s Open House allow brands to field-test their prototypes. They’ve also created a system that allows manufacturers to get new technology products into their stores faster. Each unboxed product is presented with an informational kiosk that offers videos, images, full descriptions, and whether the item is in stock. In a visit to the B8ta store, I spoke with one of the employees on the floor, Blake Thompson. He identified himself as a B8ta Tester, indicating that his main role was to demo products and walk visitors through any items they had questions about. He explained that the portals provide useful customer analytics such as dwell time, allowing brands to have insight on what products and features might be of more interest to consumers. Customer analytics can be collected through these kiosks, or with sensors, as well. Float and ShopperTrak operate a fully interactive lab featuring various retail environments using sensor technology that “tracks every action at a per user level”. With this knowledge, a brand can change information on their display in real time, allowing them to tailor their presentation in a way that is more appealing to their customers.

B8ta, an IoT store in Palo Alto, CA, encourages their customers to interact with both the products and their informational kiosks.

#4: Better Customer Service

Consumers enter brick-and-mortar stores with more knowledge under their belt. They know about the items they are looking to purchase and where they can get these items at the cheapest price. Operational expenses, as well as the online benefits of discount codes, price comparison sites, a wealth of reviews, free shipping and no taxes, are all working against brick-and-mortar companies. Consumers are finding that products offered online are often cheaper. There are fewer reasons to visit a store. So when consumers do decide to enter a retail space, they expect to touch, try and feel the products they’re interested in and they expect a great customer experience while doing it. Interactive retail displays are playing a big role in offering better customer service.

Self-serve kiosks allow people access to visual and interactive information 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. The only times I’ve ever visited the Bespoke San Francisco location in Westfield Shopping Centre has been late at night on non-event days. With its minimalist design, locked doors and lack of human presence, one would be clueless as to all it offered. With the use of visually engaging images, interactive maps and well organized information, the kiosk there helped me to understand everything that this event, pop-up, demo and co-working space had to offer.

The Bespoke kiosk, located outside a closed co-working space in the Westfield San Francisco Centre , offers information and maps 24/7 regarding its demo, pop-up, co-working and large event spaces.

Eatsa is a new fast casual chain of automated restaurants in — or soon to open in — San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles and Washington DC. They have interactive retail displays for both the ordering and pick-up stages of the transaction. On a visit to the California Street location in San Francisco, I saw several ordering kiosks, all active and in working order, allowing for shorter lines and faster service. If you didn’t already know, speed positively affects the bottom line. Researchers from Northwestern, Harvard and Colombia Universities found that, “…a seven second reduction in service times in fast food restaurants can increase the company’s market share by 1% to 3%.” This does not even take into account the customer preferences and histories collected through Panera Bread’s self-service kiosks, as well as robots at the production lines in the kitchen that already work at faster speeds, i.e. 400 burgers per hour, with further improvements to their speeds in the future.

Eatsa’s California Street location in San Francisco features custom-made order kiosks purposely designed to be portable due to the location’s smaller square footage. Order kiosks can be placed outside the storefront to make more room inside the store.

The kiosk at Eatsa allowed me to choose dishes from a menu or build my own dish from scratch. In the end it listed everything I chose, improving the accuracy of my order. After submitting my order, a separate screen above the pick-up portals confirmed that my order was in the process of being made. Upon completion, a message would appear on the transparent door of one of the pick-up portals, indicating that my order was waiting inside the portal and where to touch the portal door in order to access it. The constant feedback that the displays offered me, reassured me that my order was not forgotten.

#5: Slow-Shopping

Many brick-and-mortar businesses use all types of techniques to get consumers to spend more. Product placement at eye-level, limited-time sales events, and the Gruen Transfer are just a few of the psychological tricks pulled to increase consumer spending. One new method of note, the Slow-Shopping Theory, is on the rise because consumers now prefer experiences over product. In this movement retailers implement the modus operandi of slowing down the customer’s shopping experience so the odds of them purchasing more product increases. The decision to have less product and more experiences has helped Origin stores increase their sales by 20% to 40%.

Interactive retail displays have been playing a part in keeping customers engaged for longer periods of time. Self-service kiosks immerse consumers in brand and product knowledge, Magic Mirrors allow consumers to see what they would look like in different clothing styles, and the use of sensor technology allows large screens of visuals to be influenced by the movement of passers-by, causing them to stop and interact or enticing them to come into the store.

With all the benefits to the bottom line, it’s easy to see why Interactive Retail Displays will become the future face of retail.



Ann Marie Alanes

Pastry-loving stan of the NFT crypto art and music space, and your self-appointed stylist. I am not funny.