United Colours of Benetton: creating theatre at the front of the store

When it comes to digital interaction in the store, United Colours of Benetton is ahead of the curve compared to many other clothing brands.

The retailer has put significant investment into creating environments that encourage two-way engagement with shoppers, transforming the store into a place of theatre, as well as an opportunity to transact.

To discover more about United Colours of Benetton’s exploration of the digital store environment, Retail Connections spoke exclusively with Giovanni Flore, the company’s Retail Digital Signage Project Manager, ahead of his appearance at the IoT in Retail conference later this month.

Tell us more about your involvement in United Colours of Benetton’s digital store strategy

I’ve been working for Benetton since 2008, and in 2010 and was initially brought into the company’s communications research centre, Fabrica, to lead a ground-breaking digital signage project called Live Windows. Today, I manage a new digital signage project for United Colours of Benetton’s global network, which includes more than 100 stores all over the world.

How significant was the Live Windows project to Benetton’s digital strategy?

Live Windows was very significant to the development of our digital strategy, because it allowed us to test many solutions – and fail on occasions. It’s quite rare in the retail environment to be involved in an experimental project of such proportions.

As part of Live Windows, we developed high resolution media walls for store windows in 12 locations. These walls were the size of billboards, and we did everything internally, from developing the technical installations to technology integration, and creating the content and content management system.

The project is still recognised today as a point of reference in the digital signage industry, in terms of its size, impact and content/design experience.

How does digital signage contribute to United Colours of Benetton’s digital store experience, and how do you optimise it across your store estate?

Live Windows was over in 2013. The current project is part of the new store layout, called ‘On Canvas’.  We are currently able to showcase products in a new way through our digital signage programme. We have developed an extremely flexible and modular framework, which means that our digital signage can fit every size and format of store in our estate. Additionally, we have created different playlists in fourteen different languages that can be used to fit the products that are in each store at any one time.

Give us some more detail on the technology you use to create digital store experiences

It’s interesting, because Benetton has been experimenting with interactive technologies for so long that we have crossed three generations of digital signage during the course of my work with the company.

LCD panes, we find, offer the best visual solution, and we have tested them in conjunction with a number of sensors to trigger effects on video walls in-store based on shopper interaction. We’ve also tested technologies that transform the whole window into a touch screen surface, and touch screen film behind glass, which is synchronised with cameras.

Which of United Colours of Benetton’s digital campaigns have you been particularly proud of?

I always think that the most recent campaign is the best one! But I am very proud of a campaign that Benetton Group did in 2011-2012 called It’s My Time, our first ever global online casting. It brought together many elements, from guerrilla marketing to digital, store and live events, and attracted more than 100,000 participants. What was interesting was that the final casting created a real portrait of the global audience United Colours of Benetton attracts.

What is your advice for other retailers looking at adding more digital experiences to their stores?

These are not technology projects; you cannot leave internal management to IT. Every single stakeholder – from the CEO to the cleaning staff in the store – need to be involved to make it a success.

Also, if you are integrating technology into the store, you need to be really familiar with that space. Store associates are a valuable resource here, because they are on the front line, the first interface with customers. It’s also important to involve them in the outputs of the project, as they need to be able to sell the experience. You cannot have innovation without participation.

Giovanni will be leading a session onCreating Spectacular Retail Experiences with IoT Technologies’ at IoT in Retail, which takes place at London’s Science Museum on Friday, 28th October. Click here for more event information.




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