3 unintended consequences of poorly designed interactive retail screens
I was out with a friend shopping in the mall not too long ago – a place where I always like to pay attention to how marketing is slowly changing within the space. In some of the larger, higher profile malls, digital marketing is finally seeing some much needed growth.
King of Prussia mall, right outside of Philadelphia, Penn., for example, has a tremendous billboard sized video wall hanging from the ceiling. The massive screen easily fills up half of your field of vision with bright and fluid video, practically forcing people to look at it either out of curiosity or an inability to see anything else. The signage is no doubt effective simply because of its sheer size.
But being wowed by the size of that screen made my experience within the mall's Ann Taylor store that much more painful. Mounted on the wall is a self-service touchscreen that lets customers look for clothes that aren't in stock at the store. I thought it was a great idea, because my friend was facing the exact problem the machine was designed to solve: Her size wasn't in the store, so why not use the touchscreen to see if the product was in stock and order it right then and there?
Things didn't turn out so convenient. The machine was barely usable. The unit responded to touch, but all of the pictures had little broken link icons in place of where the actual products were supposed to show up. The interface wouldn't move past the first page either, regardless of the link that I tapped.
Reflecting on this experience, I started to think about the unintended consequences of poorly implemented self-service:
1. Lost sales: It took all of 30 seconds for me to look at that touchscreen, realize it wasn't going to solve my problem and take my business elsewhere.
2. Decreased customer retention: Not only did the store lose my business, but it increased the probability that I will go to another store that will meet my needs more quickly and easily.
3. Bad PR for interactive digital signage: Who knows how many people saw that machine, but I'm sure there were plenty. All of those people will remember that bad experience, which only hurts support for self-service technology in retail. I'm sure an executive for the company will see numbers showing dismal performance for those machines and will eventually decide to remove them.
These problems can all be solved if companies spend more time developing and implementing a proper self-service digital signage plan. While it will cost more than slapping together a touchscreen and an existing website, the ROI will come when customers actually can use the product for its intended purpose. Just ensuring proper functionality could actually help as a customer service, increase customer retention, and provide an easy way to expand store offerings without increasing a retailer's physical footprint.
Michael Ionescu Since 2004, Ionescu has built a proprietary software/hardware package for state tourism and hotels. Ionescu believes successful kiosk networks are built upon ongoing collaboration between the client and provider to develop flexible systems that clients and users are happy with for years. www