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5 Sports Technology Lessons for Retail

September 23, 2014
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Here at DI, we’ve done a lot of interactive technology installations for sports teams across the country. Our experience has taught us a bit about what goes into a successful technology project.

Articles about interactive video wall installations in retail stores are all over the web, yet many seem to offer only a “yes, we have one” approach. Few articles tips for executing interactive technology with your audience – and success – in mind.

So, here are five (usable) tips for interactive technology the retail industry can take from the sports world.

1. Interactive means more than a touchscreen
That’s part of it, sure, but there’s so much more that goes into any technology installation, whether in-store or in a stadium.

Interactive means making a connection. In tech terms, it’s feedback for performing an action. In branding terms, it’s understanding your audience and finding ways to use technology to meet their needs, address their desires and give them more than they asked for.

For instance, we’ve had a lot of success in creating pop-a-shot games for kids zones. Using gesture-recognition technology kids (and adults) can digitally shoot hoops similar to the tangible pop-a-shot arcade-style game.

We add a dimension of brand awareness, by making this game trivia-based. Users have to answer trivia questions to unlock the game. They also have to keep getting questions about their favorite teams right periodically to keep playing. It’s subtle, embedded brand engagement for sports teams.

2. Technology doesn’t work unless it’s easy and intuitive
If it’s not natural, there’s no point in installing it. People can easily be intimidated by technology that seems overly complex, so it’s important to design the user interface well. Intuitive navigation, design with the audience in mind and brand connections are key.

Technology in retail environments needs to give them data they can use, too. For instance, an interactive video wall Dimensional Innovations designed for a Utah Scheels All Sports store includes local ski data for users. As customers learn about Scheels, they also view weather reports and recommendations that help them plan a ski trip.

Often, a technology solution has multiple types of end users, all of whom have different needs and wants. These have top be addressed for true success. In the interactive video walls we created for the University of Michigan, users can navigate based on their interests. Serious fans can dive deep into specific players or the whole history of a sport. At the same time, those fans who only want to see a single interest can watch videos, play a game or look at photos easily from the main navigation.

3. Large screens in public places make for a communal experience
Much of the latest technology today is centered around personal use. Viewing interactive video walls with their large, public screens makes a phone or iPad screen seem tiny.

You can simply do more on a large screen than on an itty bitty phone screen. Things look better, they’re easier to follow and allow you to be more engaged.

Beyond the “wow” factor, the sports community has discovered that audiences gain from the experience from seeing what others do. Maybe alone, you would have never thought to do interact with a digital tiger that roars as you pass,. However, in a group, you could discover that touching the tiger’s screen causes claw marks to appear. (This really happens with the University of Missouri’s interactive wall that Dimensional Innovations designed and installed.)

We think retail can benefit from adding a a little of the sports fans communal experience to their stores. Let people experience your brand together, rather than in private isolation.

4. Joining in on a trend does not mean losing your competitive edge
The sports world uses as recruiting pieces to impress visitors, recruits, current athletes and boosters. If you don’t have one, you look like you’re behind if a recruit goes elsewhere and they do have one.

Retail can use this. Gain competitive edge as a high-tech space, along with other innovating companies. Simply personalize it for your company’s brand, audience and goals. Done right, you’ll stand out as a leader in the field.

Scheels All Sports Utah store is a great example of this as well. Rather than just creating any mascot, they had us insert the owner’s dog into their display. This highly lifelike Brittany Spaniel looks and acts so realistic, Scheels staff has reported small children trying to feed ice cream through the screen. That’s differentiation that makes you memorable.

5. Immersive experiences create engagement
While both sports and retail have to drive sales, it’s a difference of a team versus a product or service between these two markets.

Despite this difference, interactive technology is the perfect avenue to showcase features that require explanation or a more in-depth look. Sports often uses technology to add to the fan experience, drawing in people who would other side rush to their seat, view the game and then leave.

With retail though, a great example is that some shoppers find salespeople intrusive. Adding an explorative or educational component to the purchasing experience via technology allows for personalized service in-store.

Reduce Internet purchasing after window-shopping in your store by adding value they can’t get elsewhere, just as sports teams draw fans out of their seats and into the stadium.

Need more tips on interactive technology success? Contact us today.

About the author
With more than 10 years of creative and information technology experience, Curtis Walker leads DI’s team that executes interactive technology projects, digital user experiences and enterprise information technology efforts.