If you talk to big digital agencies like Razorfish and SapientNitro these days, it sounds like the new money to be made in digital is based inside retail stores.
Razorfish is certainly putting its money where its mouth is. On Tuesday the agency is opening a 750-square-foot space in Atlanta, where current and potential retail clients will be able to see tech bells-and-whistles designed to create cool marketing features. For instance, they might personally test out image-recognition software that identifies characteristics like gender and age before digitally displaying targeted offers in realtime.
Or they may sample 3D video walls, interactive kiosks and other physical “screens” with which consumers can engage via their smartphones or tablets.
The initiative hardly stops in Atlanta. The Publicis Groupe-owned digital agency’s lab space—dubbed the Emerging Experiences Practice—will roll out to San Francisco later this year and hit New York during early 2013. Openings in Europe and China are also in the offing next year, said Jonathan Hull, Razorfish managing director for the Emerging Experiences Practice.
Hull said the lab spaces will help pitch new, tech-heavy ideas to retail clients while also serving as research-and-development (R&D) wings for Razorfish. “Sometimes [clients] need to tangibly come in to get it, to grasp it,” he said. “It’s almost like we can virtually transport someone to a scene like an automotive dealership or a retail store. And we can use it to mock-up up [projects] that we are doing R&D on. So, it serves dual purposes.”
Emerging Experiences Practice, Hull said, is the culmination of in-store digital work that his agency has done for brands like Audi, Delta and AT&T. The latter telecom opened a huge tech-friendly store in Chicago six weeks ago.
Non-retail-oriented digital ideas will also be trialed in the Atlanta lab, he said. “It’s a test bed to prove out emerging technologies,” Hull said. “We want to see if the idea is not only stable, but to also realize the potential and opportunity for these technologies from a commercial perspective.”
The development comes on the heels of SapientNitro issuing a dense report last week about how major retailers like Gap and Victoria’s Secret lack in-store digital savvy. It seems both agencies smell a good hunt on the in-store digital frontier.
“From a retailer-vs.-retailer perspective,” Razorfish’s Hull said, “I think this is going to be something of a battleground. This is one of the hottest areas. You are going to start seeing companies one-up each other.”