A member of the Pixel development team shared a link to a recent Gizmodo article with me this morning – we geeks do love our Gizmodo! The article highlights one of a plethora of latest innovations set to revolutionise retail (like all those others we hear about on a near daily basis).

The Motion e-bar is the fancy name given to a digital version of those plastic conveyor belt dividers you place at the end of your shopping at the checkouts. The elevator pitch for this latest addition to the retail-tech family, is that utilising low power e-ink displays a 30 second animated ad is played, triggered by the motion of the bar being picked up and placed onto the conveyor.

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, being the critical bunch we are here in the Pixel Lab (sorry, it’s in our nature), we can’t help but notice a number of potential flaws with this device. A few of which include:

  • The orientation of the message – Whilst it is great that the Motion e-bar can right itself if placed onto the conveyor upside down, it is clear in the video demo within the article, that if the screen is in the wrong orientation (i.e. message facing the server, not the customer), then there is little the device can do to shift its position. Our non-empirical guess would be that an upside-down message will lose a whole lot of the potential impact on a customer’s action!
  • The checkout journey – In our experience, it is, more often than not, the ‘new’ customer who adds the belt divider to the conveyor, which means, that person is often too busy loading their groceries onto the conveyor to pay any real attention to an advert on the conveyor (which is moving ever further away as more items are processed by the server).
  • The “Overstacker” – there is always the possibility of a customer inefficiently placing their items onto the conveyor in a way so that some items fall onto or spill over the divider. This would effectively render the digital aspect of the divider useless, and is almost impossible to guard against.
  • How do you impact behaviour at point of purchase? – Despite a number of common misconceptions often peddled by companies within our industry, impacting upon consumer behaviour at a till point is an extremely tricky act to pull off (unless its gum or sweets you are aiming to sell). Numerous studies have found that a customer at a till point is both consciously and subconsciously coming out of “shopping mode” and as a result is less susceptible to marketing messages. Shoppers won’t (having emptied the contents of their trolley/basket) easily be convinced to return back to the aisles because of one great saving or offer. Communications at POP need to be aimed at adding value to the experience for the shopper, or giving further incentive for another visit in the (near) future.

This isn’t an attempt to kill off a product before it is even fully launched. Certainly, we can see the application of this device in some settings at the right cost to users, and we bet that some retailers will see a real benefit when using this device – but you do have to look over each and every one of these shiny newfangled tech products with a critical eye. With an ever-increasing emphasis on ROI, far too often we here of retailers regretting the ‘magpie-effect’ getting the better of them when it comes to implementation on new technologies.

As we always say here at Pixel Lab; “It’s best to test”, especially when it comes to new tech!

References:                                                                                                             http://www.gizmodo.co.uk/2014/09/animated-ads-are-coming-to-supermarket-checkout-dividers-enjoy/

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