Stores Magazine recently said, “One of the key messages at this year’s NRF Annual Convention and Expo was that there is no more multichannel. There is no more omnichannel. There is just you and the consumer, and her expectations are very clear: give her what she wants how she wants it, and as close to instantaneously as possible.”

The new buzzword that sums up this approach: real-time retailing. It means being able to understand and effectively serve customers at every point in the purchase cycle.

This sounds like a logical next step in thinking about how to best serve customers in our electronic, social, mobile, gotta-have-it-now world, but it’s a critical transition in putting the consumer first. Buy in-store or online, pick up in-store or have it delivered: to most consumers, it doesn’t really matter.  What does matter is a consistent experience and meeting or exceeding their expectations.

In fact, a recent report from ATKearney, “Fifty-five percent of consumers prefer to use both stores and online throughout the entire journey. Of the 30 possible multichannel journeys, the most common is one in which online is used solely for initial product discovery and the store is preferred for trial, purchase, pickup, and returns.”

As you can see from the ATKearney table below, the customer journey is fragmented.


Most of the magic behind real-time retailing is reimagining the customer buying experience through new technologies and methodologies to answer the demands of today’s consumer. In a recent Accenture study, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek report on real-time business, “89 percent of respondents said it was important for retailers to let them shop the way they want. And 49 percent said the single best thing retailers can do to make shopping more convenient is to better integrate in-store, online and mobile shopping.”

When it comes to the real-time retailing ecosystem and integrating shopping experiences, tightly integrated inventory management systems are key.  But in-store digital signage can also play a role, especially when it comes to the in-store purchase and pick-up.

The objective is simple.  If customers are in-store, make it easier for them to complete their journey on their terms.  When it comes to store pick up, take advantage of the fact that they’re in-store to cross-sell and up-sell based on the item being picked up.

Endless aisle applications extend the number of SKUs beyond what’s in store in an elegant and efficient way. They can and should be integrated into inventory management systems to determine what’s in store, what’s not and how quickly a particular product can be shipped to store or right to the consumer. Endless aisle applications allow customers to take a deeper dive into products and select the one that best fits their needs, whether it’s in-stock or not.  Their experience is elevated and they get the product they want in an easy and convenient way.

Dynamic digital signage at pick-up points also can make a difference, particularly when it comes to cross-selling and up-selling customers. For a shopper waiting to pick up a laptop he ordered online, digital signage can effectively promote accessories like a mouse or laptop sleeve.   It also can also be used to communicate services and extended warranty offers.


While digital signage plays a secondary role in the world of real-time retailing, it’s still an important component.  It’s a major part of the in-store experience and serves as a critical touch point for shoppers. As we’ve said a number of times before: as beguiling as the technology that supports real-time retailing is, it’s important to have a strategy in place. Your brand and what it means to the customer experience comes first. This kind of retailing won’t pay off unless you get real about marrying it to your brand, too.

Want to know more about how digital signage can help boost the customer experience in retail? Read our white paper on beacon technology.