Trend: When Digital Displays Fuel Social Commerce

American Eagle Left: American Eagle’s flagship retail store in Times Square allows shoppers to post their photo to the marquee for their “15 seconds of fame”, you can even read how some shoppers, like Bryan, from Birmingham, posts his photo for the whole world to see.

Smorgasbord of Digital at Times Square Makes it Hard to Stand Out
After finishing my keynote at PRSA, I’m here in New York’s Times Square, and witnessed first hand the closing of the square yesterday during a false alarm bomb scare (it was just an abandoned cooler, thankfully).  After the Square was reopened a few hours later by NY’s finest, I got to sit down, and take in the digital sights and sounds.  Although I’ve been here many times, Times Square is an amazing experience, no where else in the world can you see so many logos, brands, and ads bombarding you in full color digital experience.  It was interesting as I took in the many logos that have been my clients over the years, and watched as even caused the night sky to feel as if it were dusk.

American Eagle’s “15 Seconds of Fame,” Attracts A Crowd
One particular marquee took my fancy, the American Eagle screen.  This massive screen has two facing sides, giving a multi angle experience in blazing LED color boards.  In between the “Summer of Love” campaigns showing scantily clad pubescent teens surfing and dancing on the beach, they showed how regular consumers (most are non-models, as you might guess) get the opportunity to go into the store, and have their picture taken in front of a beach setting and then be displayed in front of millions of people as they walk by. You can read about the details by agency R/GA and from Bloomberg.  I’m going to assume innovation of digital screens will start right here in Times Square, then spread to other venues.  This personalized experience allows actual customers and tourists to display their picture along with a short message to others.  We should expect this will eventually evolve to allow personalized messages in store to appear.

Expect In-Store Screens To Evolve from Static To Customized and Social
What could the future hold?  Expect stores to ask you to “Connect using Facebook Connect” to your mobile device as you step in the store.  By doing so, you can receive customized recommendations on your phone and on digital displays.  Expect that your friends that have been here, will digitally indicate which clothes are right for you.  Expect digital displays to recommend what’s best for you based on what your friends ‘like’ (see how Levi’s is doing it on the web) then spread to in store.  While far fetched, see this video of how Cisco expects to improve the buying experience.  What about the risks?  Expect privacy to be less important to millennials who don’t mind sharing their experience with others, and early prototypes to show customized content –without revealing a person’s full identity on an in-store screen.

Get Ready as Digital Displays Represent Consumers:
Yet with all of these changes coming in the future, I advise you to start here:

  • To Do: Start With Your Website If you’re a retailer or chain restaurant, start experimenting now with how social can create a new experience on your website.  See the case study on Levi’s as well as a detailed matrix of the different ways to integrate social on your site.  Experimentation will take time, so start with a more controllable web experience before cascading to the real world.
  • To Watch: Mobile Devices and Location Based Services: Watch innovation happen with digital displays, Microsoft Surface, Razorfish, and Cisco’s “Future of shopping” video, have all made early moves to demonstrate their experiments on this space.  Before spreading to in-store digital displays, see how mobile social networks like FourSquare, GoWalla, and Facebook play to this space.  See how Bing’s recent announcement on social shopping will become that ‘glue’ between web and the real world.
  • To Plan: Our Pragmatic Research Report: The Altimeter Group’s Michael Gartenberg (mobile and device expert) and myself (social and customer) will be publishing a report on this topic in the near future, in the spirit of our previous reports under “Open Research.”  Stay tuned at our blog, exciting times ahead, both on the computer screen, mobile screen, and digital screen in store.

Update: Facebook worked with Hershey’s to display Mother’s day photos in Times Square, see pics.