Why Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Going 'Digital'

The way retail customers get their information is changing. Here's how one company helps them make the most informed decisions.
March 06, 2014

The retail landscape is as competitive an environment as any in the business world. Retailers regularly explore new and innovative ways to attract consumers' attention and stay one step ahead of their rivals.

Above and beyond any traditional methods of luring customers, advancing in-store technology has become a clear standout. Whether it's LCD screens or LED panels, touchscreens, gesture-based software, or 4D projection, retailers now have a plethora of options when it comes to delivering content to consumers through digital installation. Of course, none of these options would be useful in today's world if they didn't have the ability to seamlessly integrate with a consumer's social-media applications and deliver a customized shopping experience.

My company, MagicInk Interactive, is a pioneer in field display technology and has worked with many large brands to create customized experiences. MagicInk Interactive grew organically from its sister print agency, ADSPACEink, when it became clear that brands and retailers had a need to display digital content. Rather than reprinting materials each season, brands could make a one-time investment in the display system and update content remotely. Our platform also has the ability to remotely manage content distribution in real time. For example, a brand with multiple stores across the country can manage all content displayed on each installation from a single computer. If it's raining in Portland and sunny in Los Angeles, the company can push rainwear in one market and swimwear in the other. This is accomplished by creating customized playlists of content. The client need only express that they would like to push a specific playlist in various markets, and with the click of a button the installation screens are updated.


MagicInk's Hugo Boss shirt wall installation at Macy's Herald Square, designed to integrate product with technology without sacrificing display space.

Thinking about entering this area of digital marketing? It's important to understand that the various types of display installations have slight advantages and disadvantages when compared to one another, and what works for one project might not work for the next. Here's an explainer of how all this cool stuff works:

LED Panels

LED panels are extremely bright and create images that are visible from long distances. The panels also have a degree of flexibility and can be sculpted around objects, such as column. LEDs are great for outdoor installations in areas with high foot traffic, such as large billboards in Times Square or column wraps inside shop-in-shops. These are also traditionally used for advertising purposes.

LCD Monitors

The pixelation of LEDs is noticeable when viewed closely, and they will never be as clear or crisp as a high-definition LCD monitor. For close proximity, such as window displays, LCD monitors tiled together can create a seamless, crystal clear effect. LCD monitors are a great option for a brand or retailer looking to create a more intimate and interactive experience, as monitors have the ability to be converted into touch screen applications; LEDs do not.


MicroTiles are a relatively new display technology that provide the best image quality for indoor environments. What makes this technology fun and interesting is that they have the ability to be stacked much as you would Legos or Tetris, allowing the client to create custom shapes and structures. MicroTiles are the only color-perfect product on the market and have the ability to match an exact Pantone color. The image is so clear it is often indistinguishable from real life.

In the past, retail displays typically stayed within one theme, either lifestyle product or printed imagery. Today, we are observing retailers integrating products with digital displays in very creative ways. Seventy percent of shoppers make the decision what brand or product to buy at the point of purchase. By integrating technology with product, retailers are helping consumers make educated decisions during the purchasing process by giving them additional relevant information, such as manufacturing techniques, inventory, and sales and promotions.

The future of digital displays is an ever-evolving platform. In the immediate future, technology will communicate directly with the consumer's mobile devices to facilitate purchases. This benefits retailers, as they are able to collect critical demographic information about who is shopping in their stores, as well as create targeted marketing campaigns to drive sales. Consumers benefit as well, since product information is easily accessible and the purchasing process is streamlined by being able to buy products directly from their mobile device.

Take a walk through major department stores these days, and you will begin to see that many brands have already started embracing this technology. As Marigay McKee, the new president of Saks Fifth Avenue, said in a recent Women's Wear Daily interview, "Future-proofing the requirements of the customers that we may not have today is about understanding the evolution of the market." One thing is for sure—digital integration into the retail environment is here to stay. Those that embrace it will be one step ahead of the curve.

Eddie Kreinik formed ADSPACEink in 1997 with the goal of producing high-end display graphics for the retail industry. In 2008, Eddie formed MagicInk Interactive with the intention of offering a digital alternative to print displays to AdSpace Ink's existing client base.

Photos from top: Shutterstock, Liz Taurisani