The best part of the 10th In-Store Asia was the show itself, the look and the feel, as if, instead of the Pragati Maidan ground, we were transported to a fancy mall in upmarket Gurgaon. Most of the stalls were designed artistically, aesthetically, almost like an haute couture fashion show – high ceilings, designer light displays, designer wood furniture, wood paneled walls, you name it. At some stalls, we had high-end functioning bars, with a bartender in uniform to boot. There was much to admire about print as well, especially the use of special papers and other substrates and innovative, short-run print designs.
Used to the businesslike print shows we usually attend (where the quality of the machine/ process is more important than the look), we were dazzled by the presentation. By this standard, the show is a success. After all, the whole point of the show was to create an ambience on a shop floor, in a mall or as a standalone boutique store, to bring in customers, to lead them to the shelves, entice them to pick up one product or another. And the exhibitors did their best to outshine the others.
The objective of In-Store Asia is to bring all key stakeholders of retail design and solution providers under one roof, giving them the opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and forge business partnerships.
This year, over 95 exhibitors (with 20% international participation), covering an area of 45,000 sq/ft attended the event. The exhibitors included architects and retail design firms, visual merchandisers, in-store branding specialists, POP solution providers, POP manufacturers, store-fixture manufacturers, material manufacturers, lighting solution providers, suppliers of advanced printing, graphics equipment and solutions, among others.
The annual show, targeted at retail design consultants, apparel brands, retail solution providers, FMCG brands and retailers, offer a platform for meeting, interacting and exploring business partnerships and collaborations.
There was also a two-day convention on 4-5 August highlighting the ideas of new-age retailing for profitable business, where over 30 Indian and international speakers spoke on a wide-range of topics such as retail research, retail design, visual merchandising, design innovations, shopper marketing, design inspirations, retail development commerce and business excellence, among others.
Where print meets digital
During our wide-eyed tour, we also encountered some familiar names, such as Mumbai’s Jayna Packaging and Spectrum Scan, both master printers and past winners of the coveted PrintWeek India Awards. In fact, Jayna had on display its signature kid’s furniture made out of corrugated sheets, which won it the 2015 PrintWeek India Innovative Printer of the Year Award.
On the other hand, Spectrum has embraced electronics, including printed electronics, in a big way. The company has started a new branding solution – ‘Phygital’.
In the last few years, the idea of Phygital, a portmanteau word comprising physical and digital is gaining traction among the marketers, especially in the West. Phygital is about creating an ecosystem between the brand and consumer across physical and digital spaces, then drawing on the best from both in order to expand beyond a one-dimensional brand communication. Some common examples of phygital include QR codes, augmented reality, 3D, Google Glass, Apple Watch and so on.
In the context of the retail space, it is all about innovative displays, beyond the static, two-dimensional printed images. For example, at Spectrum, we noticed POP display of a large replica of a smartphone, which acts like an actual smartphone, enabling users to flick the button and move between screens.
According to Anil Mathai, head, sales and marketing, Spectrum Scan, these kinds of ‘phygital’ solutions are in use aboard for a while now. But they failed to make inroads into the India market because they were expensive. Mathai said Spectrum observed the technologies and developed solutions, which are affordable. And enquiries are pouring in.
Elsewhere too, we noticed experiments with digital. Yet, the debate of print versus digital has finally proved to be meaningless and unnecessary. At this point, we have consolidated on the technology, yet we are not giving up on the traditional processes. So online retail shops, despite their heavy discounts, failed to kill the traditional retail businesses. There is a dent in footfalls in shopping malls and such, yet shoppers still prefer a experience where they can touch and feel the product they are buying – clicking a few links on the phone is not enough retail therapy. At the same time, the shoppers are so used to technology that they crave for a shopping experience that is multi-dimensional, and interactive; so just the display of the product will not do anymore. We need to create a cohesive environment to present the product, and we need help of the digital technology to hook the customers.
The In-Store Asia show displayed numerous ways how this can be achieved.