Starbucks’ Interactive Storefront Window is Latest in Digital Trend (video)

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Starbucks Interactive Storefront
Two Canadian Starbucks have digital storefronts on display. Check them out before they’re gone!

As if they needed more ways to draw you in, Starbucks is experimenting with interactive touchscreens to attract customers to their stores. Two Canadian branches of the international coffee shop are sporting displays that allow you to play simple games by touching video images projected on a window. If you’re in Toronto (4 King St. W.) or Vancouver (2510 Granville St.) you can stop by the stores there to see the experimental displays in person. They should be up until February 26th. Otherwise, just check them out in the video below. Created by The Media Merchants, Starbucks’ interactive screens are more than just a simple way to get people to pay attention to their boring old cafe, these windows are one of many signs that marketing is leading the way in digital displays.

The ‘game’ played on these interactive storefronts is very rudimentary and unapologetically marketing-driven. Users guide an animal of their choosing (hummingbird, butterfly or dragonfly) to collect the ingredients for Tazo brand teas that are currently being promoted heavily in a campaign at Starbucks. Mind-blowingly creative? Not at all. But it’s a very well executed idea and has great visual appeal as you can see:

The Media Merchants, who handled the actual installation for the Starbucks interactive storefront campaign in Toronto and Vancouver, are a great example of new trends in embedded marketing. Video projectors let you transform any blank wall or open surface into an art display or advertising space. We’ve seen the sides of entire buildings digitally painted in this way, and in fact the Media Merchants are one of the many groups around the world experimenting with that medium. Check out their presentation during Nuit Blanche in Toronto:

As we’ve recently discussed, enormous digital displays are only a third of the marketing domain that savvy advertising agencies are exploring. To really lure a customer in you also have to give them something to interact with. That can be done via a touchscreen, as with the Starbucks presentation, or by getting people to interact with billboards via their mobile phone. Here is The Media Merchant’s take on the concept:

The final leg of the digital advertising tripod are displays that know who is looking at them. We’ve seen digital billboards in Tokyo use cameras and other sensors to determine the demographics of those passing by to provide a more personalized experience. No news of that yet from The Media Merchants or Starbucks, but you can bet it’s on the horizon.

In fact, Starbucks’ exploration of interactive storefronts with the help of The Media Merchants is just one of many ways in which the coffee company is using technology to secure its customer base. They have their own smart phone app that you can use to pay at their shops. Plugs for laptops and free WiFi – these may seem like commonplace features in cafes now, but Starbucks was among the stores that pioneered these fringe services. I think the Seattle-based coffee mogul understands that its continued success relies on keeping track of all the emergent trends in technology. Will we see more interactive touchscreen windows at Starbucks? Considering the unique nature of The Media Merchant installations, probably not soon. But the same basic idea (interactive digital displays that use gaming to advertise) is already cropping up all over the place. Eventually the costs will drop enough, and the control systems become sophisticated enough, to make it feasible to put these kinds of ads on surfaces everywhere. When that happens we may all need a big cup of coffee just to help us deal with the digital overload.

[screen capture and video credits: Media Merchants]
[source: The Media Merchants]