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Retail merchandising displays or point-of-purchase can carry a stigma of being outdated, but they are as important as ever with the majority of consumers still shopping in stores. However, that doesn't mean they can't be improved by hot new technologies such as AI.

Conversations around the future of retail tend to focus on digital initiatives. Currently, there is excitement around generative AI and the ability to automate digital content such as Coca-Cola's "Create Real Magic" campaign with OpenAI. There's talk of how to market in the virtual metaverse, and, of course, there's the pervasiveness of omnichannel shopping. And at the heart of omnichannel chatter is how shoppers are using digital content for research, e-commerce for in-store pickup or delivery, and mobile apps as shopping assistants in stores.

It's understandable; digital advancements connect consumers and retailers in new ways and are very much worth talking about. But the tried-and-true, analog marketing initiatives in physical stores can't be forgotten. Case in point: those in-store displays.

Longtime soldiers of the retail battlefield, retailers and their CPG partners will roll out endcaps, corrugated shipper displays and massive front-of-store merchandisers to generate impulse buys and brand awareness. And, as long as the vast majority of sales occur inside brick-and-mortar stores, displays will remain an essential part of the retail store experience. The opportunity now is how technology can be used to enhance these proven tools.

Here are two key ways where technology and digital can support secondary displays and ignite the in-store experience.

Add Engagement to a Traditional Display
Physical displays are great vessels for new product launches or seasonal products, reeling in shoppers to try new flavors or stock up on supplies for back-to-school season. Clever graphics and messaging stop shoppers in their tracks.

Displays can also further engage consumers through simple tactics like a QR code to scan. Consumers can snap a photo of the code and be directed to a website for information on product sourcing. Or, maybe that code will soon send a consumer to a metaverse experience or a way to play with generative AI to customize a digital screen on a display.

The possibilities are endless for brand marketers and retailers, but it starts with the basics of a well-built, exciting display that grabs a shopper's attention. In this case, technology's role is a way to bolster further consumer engagement, not replace the main selling needs of the display.

Keep Displays Properly Stocked
When thinking of a customer's retail experience, having well-stocked shelves and correct pricing trumps excitement. This can pertain to displays, too.

Displays carrying the wrong product or no product at all after it sells through are eyesores. At a time when the labor shortage is being felt acutely by retailers, associates are busy, so allocating time to check on displays can be difficult. It may not be the most exciting example of computer vision and retail, but machine learning and analytics can serve retailers, associates and shoppers by keeping the store experience intact, feeling fresh and working to optimize sales and margins.

For example, retailers can arm in-store associates with tablets powered by computer vision and AI-driven analytics. An associate can use the tablet to scan an image of an endcap, and the AI reads the image, instantly highlighting what products are misplaced on the display. The AI also reports back pricing inconsistencies or whether the promotion tied to the display is in compliance with guidelines.

Just as stores can leverage this tech to keep planograms in order, they can keep displays running at optimal levels. The AI assists store associates and supports retailers on the back end to maintain an efficient retail experience.

Technology's role in the store

Whether it's store staff armed with tablets, or using computer vision cameras and even robotics, technology can bring stability and accelerate retail performance. Yes, digital experiences can bring excitement, too, but an efficient store with novel displays is also an experience.

Displays that are properly stocked versus those that take up space with the wrong product inside or half-empty shelves create a better shopper experience, creating stronger trust and loyalty.

Monitoring promotion display compliance and presentation, especially when working in tandem with planogram space that is properly stocked and accurate, can have a strong impact on a customer's experience and loyalty. P-O-P may be a longtime tactic, but when bolstered by technology such as AI, retailers can greatly enhance and optimize how they manage secondary displays and the customer experience overall.