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Creative Realities and Radio Shack's Store One

Have you ever met a store that is perhaps smart enough to have a personalized conversation with you on its own - without the help of employees? Experience the 'sales concierge' for a flagship Radio Shack Store.

By Louis M. Brill

When concepts are brought to reality, sometimes breaking out of the shack is breaking into reality at StoreOne.

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  • In a collaboration between Creative Realities, Inc. (CRI) and Radio Shack, an immersive interactive media system was designed that used some traditional elements such as digital signage and kiosks to customize the experience for each guest and even act as an electronic 'sales concierge' for a flagship Radio Shack store decreed as StoreOne. The system enabled the dynamic media to adjust to a pre-specified assessment of the customer's level of technical interest in Radio Shack's electronic offerings.

    Radio Shack's StoreOne was developed as a prototype experiential retail store of the future for shopping and consumer retail entertainment experiences.

    Creative Realities Inc, (Fairfield, NJ) was the experiential technology designer and the implementer of the Radio Shack Store One system, and is a company who presents themselves as an experiential marketing firm as explained by Chief Marketing Officer, Mark Levy, "our company creates 'wow' customer experiences and environments for retail, healthcare, hospitality, entertainment and general corporate situations."

    Levy pointed out that CRI begins all projects with a needs analysis to determine what their clients goals are; What do they want to achieve in terms of how they (the client) communicates with its customers? And, what kind of an experience does the client want to present to its customers to accomplish that?

    The Radio Shack project involved their new 38-acre corporate campus which included three six-story buildings, a commons building and a flagship Radio Shack store, which has been branded as StoreOne. CRI's challenge was to design a store that gets smarter about you as you shop it. In Radio Shack's case as noted by Andrew Groelinger, Chief Operating Officer, "they wanted to create a different kind of a sales environment that could reeducate the customers about its product offerings and inspire them to purchase it at that store.

    "Customers tend to see Radio Shack as a place to buy things for immediate needs (replacement batteries, cell phones, a new DVD player, etc.), Radio Shack sees themselves as more of a total consumer solution center. They wanted to create more of a consumer experiential center that would allow people to learn more about the store's overall product offerings and how much that could fit into the customers' everyday life."

    StoreOne's kitchen area includes a refrigerator complete with a built in Internet access, and additional counter top screens (maybe for finding that hard to make coq au vin reciept?). Overhead displays interact withy customers as they pass through kitchen area.

    The original concern was described by Tim Abbott, who at that time was the Program Director for StoreOne. "Our concern was that we knew that the way people shopped was changing and that their shopping expectations were changing as well. Thus StoreOne was built primarily as a 'concept store,' to test and learn about those shopping expectations. We created it as a place to do research on high-tech customers to enhance and increase sales conversions of in-store product offerings. This was done by creating experiential shopping opportunities in the store where shopping became more of a fun event as people could now interact with the store."

    As Levy noted, "the outcome of that retail exploration was to redefine Radio Shacks product offerings in a new light at StoreOne, where it sold its products less by category, and more by application. Here the retail store was designed to look like a traditional apartment or home living situation with all these different rooms, such as a kitchen, a dining room, a living room, and a home office. The next step was to fill each room and show case it with its associated electronic products; so in each room: garage (cell phones, GPS devices), living room (plasma and/or LCD displays, stereo home entertainment systems), home office (cameras, color printers and networking) the appropriate electronic products were positioned with nearby kiosks and overhead digital displays with product content info.

    Within the StoreOne entry rotunda, a RFID 'welcome'' station greats customers as they enter the retail store.

    Once StoreOne was designed and filled with electronic products, this became one of the store's big communication challenges in dealing with their customer base, where the customers all have different levels of understanding of the various consumer electronic products and how they work. They also have different consumer needs and various budget levels to buy these products which is a conundrum for all retail stores as they try to entice customer consuming habits into educated purchasing decisions.

    An even bigger challenge is finding a global way of dealing with this universe of customers, and doing so with a single computing system that could address all of these individual, unrelated needs, in a singular way to answer their questions and raise their current comfort level towards making a purchase.

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    In StoreOne's living room area, laptops abound as the new trend in desktop computing.

    "The solution was to utilize an RFID (Radio Frequency ID) technology to provide input to the system." said Groelinger" When a customer entered StoreOne, in the main rotunda, there were four registration kiosks that were dedicated for people to register their tags and input profile information. The units played an attract loop whenever not being used for registration.

    "All the software related to the Store One RFID system was all custom-programmed by CRI. The initial registration kiosks used their custom software to input customer information into a database along with the RFID tracking number. The customer by holding an RFID card (looks like a hotel key card or a credit card) near a kiosk would find the kiosk asking them a series of fun and simple questions. Their answers would identify them as to how techie they were, and in turn help the store's digital media system respond to their questions in a comfortable language based on their RFID customer profile."

    Once the customer profile was created and associated with that RFID card, it could be read at any of the product stations, and the store would know "who" was looking at the product, what they spent their time on, and how they flowed through the facility. As store visitors began their shopping explorations, when they stopped at a product kiosk, the nearby kiosk would be triggered out of an attract mode into a "live" mode where it read an RFID card within proximity. The media on the kiosks was affected by the profile; if someone was more technologically savvy then the content played to that; if they were more "lifestyle" focused, the media played that way.

    By water, land or snow - this garage has it all. Note how garage is integrated with customer digital displays as well as mobile retail shelves (foreground) with appropriate merchandise in stock.

    Within StoreOne, there were also overhead screens in each of the different shopping areas that provided fun facts, simulcast broadcasting of the kitchen demonstrations, and product information. These displays were augmented by the number of people with similar profiles to play content most relevant to the largest group in the area.

    "All of this information was also captured on the back end," said Groelinger, to share with the marketing team, so that the marketing analysts could identify which types of people cared about which types of products in order to deploy the correct products to retail locations nationwide based on demographic desires."

    "Customer reaction to StoreOne was over whelmingly enthusiastic," said Abbott, "with most customers encouraging Radio Shack to transfer the various experiential features of Store One into the rest of their stores (easier said than done, as there were over 5000 company RS stores in United States and Pureto Rico at that time). The issue here was that RFID was (is) very cost prohibitive and something that could not automatically be issued as a nationwide store release."

    In today's marketplace RFID sales enhancement technology has become much more affordable, and at this point in the retail community. Creative Realities says in at least 70% of their conversations with potential clients, some form of an RFID application comes up as a possible technology consideration. As for a sales enhance tool, it may be the ultimate "silver bullet" for retail, but it's certainly pushing more of the "silver" towards the cash wrap, which in turn makes it more encouraging to retailers as a possible digital signage merchandising enhancement for their stores.

    Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech media communications.
    He can be reached at (415) 664-0694 or

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