There is a huge difference between in-store technology and either web or app. Context and location has a huge effect on whether users will actually engage with it. We’ve installed devices in stores all over the world, and our data shows that 20% of those devices receive over 80% of the engagement.
There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules: it’s not as simple as saying that devices placed near the entrance will be used more than devices at the back of the store. There are many different factors to take into consideration.
For each individual device, start by asking what it will be used for. Is it to attract customers? To promote specific items? To browse for product information? To locate items in the store? Or to fulfil a transaction? From that, you can assess where the customer is most likely to be when they want to complete each specific task. Is this something they want to do as they enter? While browsing? Or when they’re getting ready to leave? It’s also useful to assess what exactly you mean by a successful engagement: there is often more to consider than just the raw user numbers, and every device is different.
Compare, for example, a wayfinder that helps customers quickly locate items within a store, with a device that takes customers through complex product information and ends up with them making a purchase. In some cases, success may involve customers spending more time with a device: in other cases, success involves them spending less time with the device, if they managed to do what they wanted quickly and easily. You could even measure success by how it affects the burden on store staff: if they’re spending less time telling customers where to find things and whether items are in stock, or answering common questions, then the devices are doing their job.
Traffic flow presents a conundrum for in-store device placement. On the one hand, you want to place devices in busy areas so that as many people as possible will notice them. On the other hand, people usually don’t want to stop and engage with those devices when they’re in the middle of a crowd. Of course, you probably already know the sweet spots in your store for getting people’s attention: they’re almost certainly where you currently place your best-selling items or your existing promotional material, so you may be reluctant to give those up.
How long do you expect the customer to use each device? The longer you want them to spend with it, the lower the traffic flow needs to be. A wayfinder or a self-checkout, which only requires a very short engagement, can work well in a busy area. On the other hand, a screen offering detailed product information should probably be placed in a less busy zone. In some cases, it may make perfect sense to tuck a device away in a more secluded area, in which case you may need signage to tell people it exists and direct them towards it.
Lighting and acoustics play a huge part in engagement. If the device uses audio, whether for input or output, consider how much background noise there is likely to be. If it’s in a noisy part of the store, users may have trouble hearing the sound, or the device may not be able to understand their commands.
Poor lighting can render a screen almost unusable. It may be hard for users to see what’s on the screen, or to pick up QR codes on their mobile device. On the other hand, placing the screen in an attractively lighted area can encourage customers to go and take a look. This can present a difficult challenge for store designers: the lighting that works well to showcase products may not be ideal for illuminating digital signage.
To be honest, although we’ve noticed some of the factors that can affect engagement, we can’t claim to have found a magic formula that will determine the best placement for any given device. Every client is different, and every store is unique. What works in one location isn’t guaranteed to work somewhere else. So if a device isn’t getting the attention you were expecting, try moving it and see what happens.