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Visual branding is continuing to develop. Innovations are following each other in rapid succession. Print is just one area in which innovations are being launched. So, you would think that the retail industry would be keen to reap the benefits of these developments, introducing innovative store interiors and high-tech display windows. Unfortunately, nothing could be less true. We recently carried out research among 62 retail organisations in the Netherlands, asking them about innovations in the field of visual branding and displays. Both in-store and to-store. Our research revealed that presentation techniques are traditional and lacking in innovation in many cases. To me, this is a missed opportunity.

Several figures from market research: respondents indicate that the most innovative media used are LED and TV screens. Scoring 97.3%, light is the most popular in the retail industry, followed by movement, which scores a far lower percentage (35.1%). Sound and interaction feature far less in Dutch scores, at 16.2% and 10.8% respectively. Trends in the visuals market, such as interaction achieved through the use of projections or holograms, are still not really making themselves felt in the Netherlands.


In today's digital age, the physical store is part of a total retail strategy for customer touch points. Naturally, this strategy must always include the webshop. The popularity of online shopping is continuing to grow, as shown by research conducted by Statistics Netherlands (CBS). This does not mean that offline stores will become obsolete. After all, the shopping street is where consumers are given the opportunity to 'encounter' a brand. This is the ideal time to make an immediate impression and to entice shoppers to buy something, whether straight away in the store or later online. So, offline retail plays an important role in the omni-channel strategy that brands pursue.

This type of strategy involves offering customers one ultimate, consistent and seamless brand experience. By primarily using traditional presentation tools in and around stores – window stickers, banners, TV screens and mats, for example – the potential of this channel is not being utilised optimally. Today, there are so many other ways to stimulate shoppers and you will need tools like this to gain ground given the strong competition for consumers, who can choose from an infinite range of products and services.


Products are being developed in the sign market at a rapid rate. There are many trendy possibilities that you can use to attract shoppers to your store and gain their loyalty. These include Visual Magnetics products, interactive floors, light bars in shelves or ‘lab walls’ featuring material samples. I believe that the market needs to utilise these tools more if it is to continue to be attractive to shoppers. This would manifest itself in direct sales in the short-term and in an integration of offline and online channels in the long-term.

The question remains: what is stopping Dutch retailers from moving forward? Are they afraid of higher costs? Are they still at the stage where they know too little about the new technologies available? Or do they still not 'believe' that visual communication does actually have a major impact? I think that more research needs to be done to establish the answer to this question. However, many retail organisations are saying that they do want to follow innovation, trends and developments and, by doing this, improve visual communication. Retailers also say that they expect their suppliers to come up with ideas and inspiration.

However, more will be necessary than ideas and inspiration alone. Retailers in other countries are ahead of the Netherlands and are already using the latest visuals. Consider Visual Magnetics, for example: this is a flexible and smart system that can be used to present products in a store with magnets, rather than screws or glue, or to display communications on a wall. Innovative retail concepts are not distant prospects for the future but the reality of today! The time has come for Dutch retailers to take the next step.

Ivo van der Lem



"If you want the competition to take the wind out of the sails, you need to understand who you're talking to."