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The “screens concept” has been around for awhile.  First came the one-way screens, at the movies followed by TV.  Then came interactivity via the computer screen, followed by the mobile phone or PDA.  And more recently digital touch-screens are popping up everywhere, earning the official position as screen #5. 

What’s in a screen? A screen is a user interface that gives a brand a way to display brand messages, to create branded interactions with customers, to invite those customers to engage, and encourage them to participate with the brand in some way.  Screens play different roles at different stages of the customer journey, pre, during and post.  And increasingly, shoppers expect retailers to deliver an experience across all screens that’s seamless and coordinated.

If you track with that logic, we would argue that there’s even a sixth screen.

And in retailing, it’s the screen that's perhaps the most important of all.

Like some of the other screens mentioned above, the sixth screen also gives retailers a way to engage with customers.  It provides an opportunity to communicate brand cues, to display brand messages, and create interactions that invite customers into the world of the brand and encourage them to participate. 

That sixth “screen” we're talking about is the physical retail environment itself.

Granted, we’re stretching the screen concept a bit to make a point.  Because we think it’s useful to do that for a couple of reasons.

1) Thinking of the “store as screen,” shifts the context from the physical world to the experiential.  It puts all the physical things retail store designers normally work with -- architecture, displays, lighting, graphics, finish materials, signage, identity systems and a host of other considerations – into an experiential context.

In fact, progressive retailers are beginning to think about their physical stores as if they were websites. They are employing the concepts of user experience, or ‘UX’ as it’s known in the world of web site design, in the way they approach retail store design.  It’s all about “usefulness” and putting customer needs and their experience first. And it’s about engaging customers and using their input via feedback loops and iterative releases to guide the design process.

2) The other useful thing we find about the “store as screen” concept is that it encourages the integration of the in-store experience with the other screens in your multi-channel strategy.  Shoppers are increasingly expecting their in-store experience to be as personalized and attentive as what they’ve been trained to expect on-line.  And increasingly, they expect retailers to seamlessly integrate personalization across channels.

One retailer that’s responding to this trend is Neiman Marcus. They’ve developed an app that applies personal data on its shoppers to create a personal shopping experience. This starts online with fashion recommendations based on established personal preferences, and ends in-store with a personal shopping assistant at the ready with a range of options based on those preferences.

As digital becomes more integral to the shopping experience, traditional retailers and store designers are re-examining the role played by their physical stores.   Emerging innovations are redefining what convenience means to customers. Which is more than simply allowing customers to pick up or return products ordered online to a physical store. It’s about using the store as a service hub, refashioning store set up, rebalancing space allocation across channels, and altering the character and atmosphere of a store to put customers in the mood to buy. It’s about creating a whole new in-store user experience that connects seamlessly with all the other contact points (all the other screens, if you will) that the brand has with its customers.

In many ways, the store like every other screen in your marketing arsenal.  Only bigger.

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