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Citizen opens world first augmented reality point of sale with Macy’s

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Major department stores were in a parlous state before the pandemic, but stay at home orders and other social distancing measures have made their task even harder as customers shifted to online shopping.

A new initiative by Macy’s Manhattan flagship and Citizen Watch America aims to bring punters back into the store while adapting to shifting consumer preference for browsing and shopping from screens.

The companies are using new technologies to deliver novel in-person experiences that combine the info-gathering power of the internet with the excitement of being able to touch and try a product.

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Citizen’s new point of sale in Macy’s uses LG Transparent OLED technology for high-impact digital visuals that draw customers towards showcases where the real watches behind the graphics can be browsed and tried on.

Luminary Design | Citizen AR Display Case from Luminary Design Co. on Vimeo.

The innovative retail project is the brainchild of Citizen Watch with Pac Team Group, Luminary Design Co. and LG Business Solutions.

“Our goal for this location was to present a highly engaging sales video that doesn’t require a salesperson and effectively mirrors the digital 360-degree product examination that online shopping has made standard,” says Peter Barry, director of merchandising operations & logistics at Citizen Watch Company of America.

“Luminary Design and Pac Team Group created this one-of-a-kind display case experience using cutting-edge LG display technology that very few consumers have seen before, and we immediately saw visible reactions of excitement and surprise among visitors.”

The Challenge

Located right next to direct competitors, the new Citizen Watch area in the store had to do something unique to stand out and draw attention. Recognizing the engaging effects of vivid digital content, it was clear that a technological approach would be the most appropriate for today’s shoppers who expect clarity and modernity when researching purchases or forming brand loyalties.

For this, the store designers at Pac Team Group contacted LG, which offered assistance in choosing the best products and also introduced the team to the digital experiential experts at Luminary Design Co.

“When LG and Pac Team approached Luminary with the challenge of creating an entirely new kind of retail experience, we knew immediately that LG Transparent OLED was the best technology for the job” explains Brian Beyt, founder and president of Luminary Design.

“We imagined an experience that pairs the depth of online shopping with the tactile benefits of physical retail. The result is a captivating product showcase that elevates and transforms real watches through a coordinated dance of visual effects, practical product information, and synchronized showcase lighting. All of these elements combine to turn shopping for a watch into an informative and exciting new experience for customers,” he adds.

The Process

At first, the display was envisioned as a decorative element that would draw people into the store, where more information would be presented on traditional 75-inch digital displays.

As the teams brainstormed and came to understand the full capabilities of the LG Transparent OLED, it found a more central role in the store’s design and digital journey.

According to Antonio Schiano, Pac Team Group’s vice president of project development, it was crucial that the technology and digital content in the store be seamless, easy to understand and not get in the way of sales, while also remaining passive so customers can shop and learn at their leisure.

“As a high traffic location with significant sales potential and hugely valuable branding opportunity, the customer experience has to be fluid and allow fast transitions from learning to trying to buying,” Schiano explains.

“Being located directly next to competitors inside a major department store, the Citizen Watch store also needed a clearly differentiated aesthetic and vibe, including the color palette, lighting, spatial design and ultimately the feeling visitors have when they enter and leave. One sure fire way to hit all those marks was to use a technology that almost nobody has seen before, and Luminary was able to provide that with their unique use of LG’s commercial displays.”

Luminary leveraged its experience with the LG Transparent OLED technology to make it virtually disappear.

“We sought to create something that fit seamlessly into Pac Team’s retail environment – something that didn’t look like technology at all. When what appears to be an ordinary display case suddenly transforms into an immersive product demonstration unlike anything people have ever experienced, it creates a rare moment of genuine surprise and delight,” Mr Beyt describes.

Dynamic animations move and shift from individual product features to full-screen content takeovers, even including moments where one half of the display case is transparent, while the other half plays a thrilling product video.

The visuals are tied directly to physical watches through carefully timed reveals using “Transparent Squares” within the video content.

Once a watch is revealed, floating 3D animations emerge from the physical timepieces and fill the screen to provide larger views of each model.

The Result

Considered by all companies involved to be among the world’s first consumer-facing uses of an augmented reality display case, it’s common for discussions about the installation to include phrases such as “the next generation of physical retail.”

It’s easy to see why: Citizen Watch noted almost immediate upticks in traffic volume and sell-through rates. For the company and its customers, the concept store is a hit.

“I think the success of this admittedly experimental store concept is going to push competitors to try to recreate our experience, or perhaps consider other cutting-edge technologies to enhance the physical retail journey,” says Mr Barry.

“Internally, we’ve already recognized other ways LG Transparent OLED displays could be used, even in our smaller stores. As customer expectations ebb and flow, we are always looking for what’s next, and this semi-automated demo and sales system is perfect for promoting our products without a sales associate.”

According to Dan Smith, vice president, business development at LG Business Solutions USA, this installation is a textbook example of creative designers and artists finding innovative ways to leverage new technologies and capabilities.

“Retailers and designers looking to reinvent in-person shopping in the digital age must be willing to adopt new technologies,” Mr Smith says.

“LG’s innovative commercial display technologies, including LG Transparent OLED, enable new kinds of sales interactions that captivate customers’ attention and provide concrete benefits for in-person shoppers. It’s exciting to witness the success of this project at Citizen Watch; kudos to everyone involved for breaking new ground in experiential retail.”

Smith said that, in the future, and possibly for other Citizen Watch stores, additional features and engagement tools may be added, including touchscreen capabilities and controls, proximity-based automation that changes content as a customer approaches the display, and even QR-code based interaction and screen control that doesn’t require physical contact.

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