As retailing goes through its most challenging times in many years, there are at least some retailers who recognise that evolution is a natural process and that change is inevitable.

Whilst online retailing is booming and consumers are more tech savvy than ever before, stores remain largely Internet free zones and retailers have provided little or no digital technology in stores up to now.

RED and digital technology leaders, AOpen, have collaborated to combine retail design and best of breed technology, specifically aimed at improving the customer experience in stores, and which is best described as In Store Digital (ISD).

The partnership has culminated in the launch of the Retail Evolution Lab – a dynamic and interactive showcase of design and technology – aimed at demonstrating how digital can be used to reinvent the shopping experience

RED DESIGN GROUP, one of Australia’s leading retail design firms, has long recognised the need to integrate digital seamlessly into the design and fit-out of stores, working with a number of progressive retailers to achieve some outstanding results.

AOpen, one of the world’s largest digital technology companies, has already developed some of the most innovative digital devices for use in stores, and acknowledged the value of a collaboration with RED DESIGN GROUP to bring together creative store designers with the technical skills of engineers of hardware and developers of software.

Opened on March 12th, the Retail Evolution Lab is a unique, permanent expo space rather like a gallery. Instead of artworks, there are digital devices of all sizes and shapes embedded in realistic retail scenarios. The whole space could be called a ‘connected store’, using a combination of ISD devices such as screens, tablets, E labels, digital media engines and wifi, in which all the content is remotely managed via the Internet.

True to its conception as a digital gallery, the Lab opens with its first exhibition entitled ‘A Touch of Digital’. The space is rather like a black cube, and digital content on screens blends with strong, geometric graphics on the surrounding walls to create a visual illusion where you can’t distinguish between pixels and ink.

RED’s design welcomes you on entry with striking animated graphics on a video wall made from screens with bezels so thin they hardly visible.

A touchscreen on a bench-top interacts with a wall screen to engage customers in downloading mobile apps.

On a column we see how ISD might be used to sell cosmetics and skincare in a department store.

Dominating the space is one of the biggest warm touch screens on the market. Used in schools as an interactive whiteboard, it is really an oversized tablet with all the functionality of a PC – and now being displayed as means to educate and inform customers in stores.

Part of the Retail Evolution Lab showcases what ISD would look like in a supermarket.

There is an innovative display of health food showing a combination of a display screen, a touch tablet and digital E labels on the shelf edge – all connected to an online Content Management System. The aim is to provide customers with additional information to help them choose the right product, and then navigate them straight to the shelf where it is displayed.

Instead of printed price tickets on gondola ends, digital screens glow above displays of special offers, with animated graphics catching the eye of the customer, and a motion sensor tracks the movement of shoppers to the display providing valuable metrics about the effectiveness of promotion and its content.

One of the masterpieces in this unique digital gallery is the first commercially available transparent digital screen which lights with a fascinating layered, and translucent colour display.

With all this innovation to absorb, the Retail Evolution Lab is not about future gazing.

It showcases real technologies available commercially either off the shelf or within a few months.

The Lab has avoided digital gimmicks. This space is full of practical, hard working tools that retailers can use to improve the customer experience, save labour costs, improve their marketing effectiveness at the point of sale and increase sales.

A good example of the new generation of digital shelf price labels, developed by AOpen technicians, which combine the power of video and animated graphics with the functional requirement for price and product information, bar codes and inventory management tools.

The Retail Evolution Lab is also a showcase for the strategic partners of AOpen and RED DESIGN GROUP.

Intel has provided their AIM tracking technology to demonstrate how big data can be collected to track and analyse shopper marketing.

Fujitsu’s Telentice system and SCT’s Blocks platform collectively power all the ISD equipment.

Leading shop-fitters, Ramvek, have supplied and installed the retail fixtures in the Lab and connected up the digital devices in a seamless fit-out that demonstrates how stores will be built in the future.

Now officially opened by CEO of AOpen, Bernie Tsai, the Retail Evolution Lab is inviting the retailers and marketers of Australia to the inaugural Touch of Digital exhibition.

What you will see in the Lab is only a taste of what is to come and we expect that once you experience it, the examples and demos we have set up will generate thoughts, stimulate new ideas and ultimately result in innovative digital strategies and solutions that could change the face of retailing for ever.

If you are interested in visiting the Touch of Digital Exhibition in our Retail Evolution Lab you would be very welcome to contact us.

Be part of creating reinvention for stores and improving the shopping experience for your customers.

We have a feeling that stores are still going to be around for a long while – but they have to keep pace with change.

See you at the Lab.