Monitors and plasma screens have become as common in retail as a bottle of Windex tucked beneath the counter.
But while modern consumers—particularly those who grew up on a steady digital diet—welcome the presence of screens in all of their environments, it’s smart to ask if your TVs and monitors are enhancing your customer service, or keeping shoppers from spending.
In general, screens should only be present and “on” if they’re fulfilling a specific function, such as walking clients through the design of an engagement ring or educating them on your company or merchandise. This could manifest as a somewhat static screen displaying diamond information or as an interactive touch-screen experience for clients to play around on—in the vein of a build-your-own-ring program.
Jim Froeschle, account executive for Stuller’s retail design division, which integrates screens into nearly every jewelry store it designs, says jewelry retailers who don’t integrate screens are doing their business a disservice. “Customization, in an ideal world, would be done with a touch-screen monitor that’s in a prominent place in the store and in your sightline,” he says.
The other area where screens make sense, he adds, is in repairs. “When the jewelry is taken to the back to be repaired, you can [live-stream] how it’s actually being handled. It builds trust with customers.”
Of course, your workshop can’t be littered with Taco Bell bags. “A lot of retailers have a big aversion to showing their workroom,” Froeschle concedes. “They think, What if I drop Grandma’s ring? You really have to figure out how that would work for you.”
Ultimately, any monitor on the sales floor should be multifunctional—able to show repairs in process, present custom design options, and perhaps, says Froeschle, even air TV shows—when it’s appropriate. “When there’s a special event on, like the Oscars red carpet or a big game—when you’re located in a college town and it’s on everyone’s mind—it integrates the community into your store,” he says. “Do I think a TV should be playing throughout the day? No. It has to be a big game, not Rachael Ray.”
And if you don’t do custom design in your store, you may not need screens on the sales floor at all.
Jennifer Magee, vice president and senior retail designer for Martin Roberts Design LLC in Stamford, Conn., which has designed stores for brands including Cartier, raises the issue of “technology looking cheap” in retail environments. “We haven’t found luxury brands wanting them,” Magee says. “There’s still a preference for customer service, not screens, relaying messages.”
Digital gear, in general, says Magee, “is highly distracting in retail. It has to serve a purpose if it’s there. Every once in a while we get someone who’s like, ‘Let’s throw a screen in there.’ And we’re like, ‘What do you want it to do?’?”
She does, however, believe touch screens work beautifully for staff-guided experiences. “Touch screens become more valuable when you have an opportunity to sit a customer down,” she says. “You can walk them through different options or help them do any processing online.”
But remember: Most of your customers saunter in with their own smartphones and tablets in hand. And for a lot of brands, Magee says, “it’s about facilitating the use of those devices.”