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Retailers are cautious about using visual in-store and out-store communication in their stores. This was revealed by qualitative market research that Van Straaten, a specialist in innovative visual communication, held amongst  62  retail organisations in the Netherlands. Traditional presentation techniques still dominate store display-windows and interiors. “This is a missed opportunity,” says Niels Van Straaten. “There are so many other ways to stimulate shoppers. The lack of innovation means that offline retail continues to be a neglected part of the omni-channel strategy, despite the potential it has to offer. Retail expert prof. dr. Cor Molenaar endorses the research conclusions: “This research shows that retailers are still embracing a very traditional approach. There is very little innovation on the sales floor, despite the fact that customers need to be triggered."

With competition from online shopping increasing, traditional retailers are finding themselves faced with the challenge of gaining the loyalty of the shopping public. The surprising, innovative use of visual media could actually surprise and trigger shopping consumers to go to stores and part with their money there too. To find out which forms of visual communication are the most popular and assess their innovative potential, Van Straaten presented 62 leading retail organisations in the Netherlands with a number of questions.


The research shows that just limited innovation exists in the retail industry where visual communication is concerned. Although about 85 percent of the companies that took part do use some form of visual communication, 20 percent state that they make ‘little to no use of innovative visual communication.’ LED and TV screens are named as the most innovative media used. Elements like light (97.3 percent) and movement (35.1 percent) are present both in-store and out-store. However, the same does not apply for interaction, for example; this is used by just 10.8% of the companies involved. Trends in the visuals market, such as the interaction achieved using interactive projections or holograms, are still not really making themselves felt in the Netherlands.

However, technology is becoming more and more important to Dutch retailers. The use of screens, iPads and interactive tables is becoming more common. This reflects the shift towards omni-channel marketing, which involves the full integration of online and offline. Many companies do not make any distinction between the various channels, but aim instead at achieving just one ultimate, consistent and seamless brand experience for their customers. The physical store continues to be an important touchpoint in this marketing strategy. To utilise its potential to the full, new visual presentation techniques must be applied more and as part of a unique approach.


Niels van Straaten, the Director of Van Straaten, feels that the lack of innovation in the visual communication used by retailers is a missed opportunity: "Product development in the market is fast-paced. Today, there are a whole range of trendy ways to stimulate shoppers. These include Visual Magnetics products, interactive floors, light bars in shelves and ‘lab walls’ featuring material samples. The retail industry really needs to use these tools to stay attractive to shoppers, especially considering the unprecedented popularity of online shopping.”

Retail expert prof. dr. Cor Molenaar endorses the research conclusions: “This research shows that retailers are still embracing a very traditional approach. There is very little innovation on the sales floor. Customers need to be triggered and receive pulses whenever they visit a store. This can be achieved through lighting, sound and smell, but also using movement, like videos. Further integration with technology is also possible by linking databases with images and smartphones. The presence of smartphones could even be utilised during the buying process too. Interactive mirrors and augmented reality can contribute too, by creating a bigger buying experience. Also, interactive displays and digital signage can be used to approach and trigger customers better than would be possible with passive posters. Retailers shouldn't focus on the buying process alone, but should also constantly assess what works and what does not. This research provides a good indication of what needs to happen in the market!”