Next Store: The Next Big Digital Thing

A new device for signage and visual merchandising is likely to be the new must-have tool
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Posted October 11, 2018

This month’s Next Store column begins with a new editorial direction, and I’m pleased it corresponded with this month’s International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) in Seattle. For more than three years, I’ve brought VMSD readers my point of view on technology’s impact on design jobs and customer experiences. As our industry evolves and its use of technology grows, I’ll be taking on products in this space that I believe deliver digital innovation, and we’ll explore how they can be applied in your projects.

This summer I attended AVIXA’s (Fairfax, Va.) InfoComm Show in Las Vegas to see what the world’s largest audiovisual event held for the retail design community. There was plenty to catch my eye as I looked at virtual reality, digital signage applications and much more. It was astonishing to see so many new approaches to make experiences even more dynamic in this already very dynamic digital age. After all, these “live events” experts really do understand how to put on a show, especially in regards to producing great shopping and hospitality experiences.

There was one gem of a product that captured my eye in a big way. In fact, I think Epson’s (Suwa, Japan) new LightScene projector holds the potential to be as impactful as the “gobo projection lamp” that was popular nearly 20 years ago. Remember when projecting a brand or logo image onto a floor or back-of-wall display was considered state of the art? 

So what is LightScene? According to Epson, it’s a new category of accent lighting and laser projectors intended for digital art and signage. To me, it’s a power projector just slightly larger than a traditional track light that enables brands to project signage, wayfinding and marketing messages virtually anywhere. In short, it has the capacity to bring immersive and engaging experiences to myriad surfaces.

For years, projectors have been used sparingly in rear-projected window scenes and other in-store displays due to their size, weight, cost and difficulty to mount. That prevented their broad-based application in our display arsenals. Yet, up to this point, it took this type of hardware to create compelling visual displays that were powerful enough to be seen in daylight and at a quality level that a branded environment demands … until now.

Two models are available in a spotlight design, both in white and black finish options. The laser projectors enable businesses to get creative and enhance typically static, mundane displays, like swimwear on a mannequin. Instead, imagine the same mannequin that now looks like its exploring an undersea world.

Other possibilities include interactive surfaces projected on tabletops or walls to an immersive running experience on a treadmill with a beautiful scene unfolding around the runner.

Certainly many of these features make the unit worthy of consideration, but what grabbed my attention that day was the thought that we can now forgo certain digital signage applications (i.e. screens) and substitute an easy-to-use projected light to make visual communications even more powerful. One of the examples I really liked was the ease of projecting a water effect over a large mannequin display promotion and then mapping onto a mannequin form a distinct marketing message. The effect in real time was stunning and made the whole display come to life.

In a world that is increasingly focused on the small screen, I see this product as a visually compelling way to encourage the customer to put their mobile device down and focus on the products and the displays.

While certainly not the only way to apply this tool, one cannot underestimate the impact to window displays. From mapping objects to surface projection, these devices will fit into a number of windows all from the same plane that the lighting would typically be positioned. These are essentially creative engines that will give designers new potential to bring textures, animations, wayfinding and branding to a new level.