Creating the Store of the Future Today

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Customer Experience Concept Store Tackles Problems Facing Bricks-and-Mortar Retailers.

Technology is nothing without proper strategy

The National Retail Federation recently tapped experiential branding and marketing company, Creative Realities, and architecture firm Hybridia Design, to create its Customer Experience Concept Store. The store was featured at the NRF's Big Show, held at the Javits Center from January 11th-14th, and introduced new ways for bricks-and-mortar retailers to attract shoppers.

The resulting store was a blend of strategic concepts and interactive technology that may help in-store retailers compete with online retailers. Called "Sonic Bar," it showcased the importance of a customer's in-store experience.

"To create Sonic Bar, we focused on the core strategic concepts of exclusivity, community, and interactivity," said Creative Realities CEO and founder, Jason Friedman. "Though we specifically addressed music stores, these concepts can be applied to virtually any kind of retailer."

The store was divided into zones. One zone, The Virgin Theatre, sponsored by Virgin, featured screens playing "live," exclusive content. The idea is that special content, like live concerts, would be screened at retail locations to give customers experiences they cannot get at home. The in-store concert, performed by the band WAXAPPLES, was created by Creative Realities.

A second zone of the Sonic Bar was the Cactus Lounge. There, guests could hangout, use their laptops, and talk with friends in the communal space. "The store of the future" would use its database and advertisements to bring together people with similar tastes in music.

A third zone featured Sonic Bar Stations, which were kiosks that showcased the capabilities of RFID ("Radio Frequency Identification") technology. Visitors to Sonic Bar were given a Sonic Bar Card that they swiped at the interactive kiosks. The card brought up playlists that guests could add to, cut, or rearrange, depending on personal preferences. The Creative Realities-created kiosks had other features to boost interactivity, including themed scents, courtesy of Scentair, and customizable avatars, which users could email to their home accounts.

A fourth zone was the control room of Sonic Bar, and showed how RFID technology could monitor which songs were most played, how many people emailed themselves their avatar, and other statistics valuable to retailers.

Within each zone, there were products featured by sponsors, including Cactus Commerce, Creative Communications, eCast, First Data, KeyRingThing, Microsoft, Panphonics Speakers, Scentair, and Skyfactory, among others.

"Technology is nothing without proper strategy," said Friedman. "Sonic Bar took a conceptual look at the future of retailing, and though new technology will open new doors, the key to those doors is still sound, integrated strategy."

About Creative Realities
Creative Realities is an experiential branding and marketing firm that creates wow environments and customer experiences for organizations in the fields of retail, hospitality, entertainment, healthcare, education, and general corporate. Its clients include Bank of America, Foot Locker, Harvard University, Hyatt, Meadowlands Xanadu, Radio Shack, Samsung, Stanford University, T-Mobile, TiVo, and Time Warner. In 2007 and 2008, Creative Realities was named to Inc. magazine's "Inc. 5000" list of America's fastest-growing, privately-held companies. For more information, visit, and the blog,


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Mark Levy
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