Revolutionizing Retail

Floor-to-ceiling upgrades move retail facilities closer to selling experiences vs. products

To compete in today’s world of retail, stores have to go above and beyond. In terms of architecture, the focus of the space has to be taken away from “selling products” and turned toward selling an experience. And technology plays a big part in creating that experience.


Disney is one brand undergoing a major floor-to-ceiling upgrade to move closer to this new ideal. Its existing retail stores (240 stores across the United States and Europe) will be updated to feature technology that no retail store has ever offered before.


“The world doesn’t need another place to sell Disney merchandise – [the stores will] only work if it’s an experience,” says Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide. And create an experience they did.


Steve Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, joined the Disney board after the 2006 acquisition of Pixar. Andy Mooney, Disney Consumer Products’ chairman, says that Jobs pushed Disney to dream bigger as it planned its new store design.


As a result, high-tech touches are seen throughout the redesign.


A forest of 13-foot-tall Lucite trees will crackle with video-projected fireworks and sound at the push of a button.


RFID-tagged merchandise will be able to “talk” when they’re near each other. For example, if a child carries an RFID-tagged tiara over to an RFID-tagged mirror in the store, Snow White or Cinderella may appear in the mirror to say hi.


Mini high-tech theaters will play the latest offerings from Disney; scent systems are linked to the theaters and can fill stores with certain scents depending on the time of year or which features are playing. The theaters will also be set up to allow children to watch film clips they select, participate in karaoke contests, or chat with stars from the Disney Channel.


The new stores will be unveiled starting this summer. Details aren’t readily available in terms of what kinds of technology are being incorporated, but Disney does say that it will be delivering and projecting content in a way that has never been done or seen before. As Fielding explains, it’s not the content that’s different (it’s the same content you’ll find in other places) – it’s the presentation. The content will be offered in a new, unique way (that’s all the information Disney is sharing right now). The screens that Disney will be using to deliver this content are custom-designed and 100-percent proprietary.


Virtual Disney concierge desks will be available in all stores, allowing parents to sign up to receive information about Disney theme parks, the Disney Cruise Line, or the Disney Vacation Club. This technology gives parents something to do while their children are busy interacting with new activities and toys. The store will appeal to all ages with the technology it incorporates.


Some other new high-tech retail trends on the horizon (not necessarily being used in Disney’s new store design) revolve around making the shopping experience better for customers.


As a potential customer approaches a storefront, for example, new technology could allow advertising to pop up on the windows based on the products being displayed. In addition, information could be sent to the customer’s web-enabled phone about the products.


Touchscreens could allow shoppers to find out more about products or place an order, meaning that customers may not even have to enter the store to buy the product. Or, if they visit the store afterhours, they can still place an order and find product information even when the doors aren’t open to the public.


Fully interactive touchscreen tables and counters inside the store could allow customers to browse product lines and read more product details, or build a list of products to compare. If they’re in a hurry, the customers may be given an option to transfer the info displayed on the touchscreen to their phone so they can continue shopping later.