Putting the Real into Retail: An interview with Laura Davis-Taylor

December 3, 2014Stephanie Gutnik

Laura Davis Taylor

“As a shopper, I’m still not experiencing enough positive evolution,” said Laura Davis-Taylor, Senior Vice President, Director of Omnichannel Experience at The Integer Group. “People get so caught up in technology and shiny objects, they forget its purpose is to solve consumer’s problems and make them happier.”

Laura published her book, “Lighting up the Aisle (Principles and Practices for In-Store Digital Media)”, with co-author Adrian Weidmann in hopes it would inspire marketers to revolutionize the in-store environment. Four years later, however, the only thing she states has really evolved is mobile, making Laura more adamant than ever to evangelize her vision of a realistic, engaging customer experience.

Laura began her career in advertising as a Brand Planner at Greenstone Roberts. “It’s a very important job in an agency,” said Laura. “You must place yourself in the shoes of the people you’re trying to connect with, empathetically understand their perspective and deliver a brand promise.” Focused on IT hardware sales, Laura was intrigued by the Internet (at a time when there were only a few dozen websites) because it was accountable, bidirectional and natural. Soon, interactive and online marketing brought Laura into store design.

“I love store design but the physical store too often lacks a brand connection. When I was told to figure out digital signage (there were about four digital signage software companies back then), I thought, “here’s my next career”. Signs have worked effectively since used by cavemen and I was excited by the possibilities of bringing the best of online into stores with screens.”

Having been in the space longer than many and working for prestigious firms such as Creative Realities, BBDO and now, The Integer Group, Laura is not afraid to say it like it is. Her confidence in the ability to use all digital tools uniquely – they all fit in the same bucket, she insists, for the creation of true brand awareness and loyalty is infectious due to her bubbly persona and astute observations.

“People enjoy shopping online because they browse by occasion and inspiration, followed by category and price – the opposite of physical stores,” explained Laura. “The more relevant a message to the viewer, the more digital signage, or any medium, is effective. Day-parting and targeting open the door to hyper-personalization, real connections and a bright future for in-store digital media.”

What might in-store look like down the road? Laura emphasizes the need to tailor and contextualize digital signage strategies from the public screen (if content is not personable and actionable, it’s wallpaper) to its private counterpart. Laura cautions beacon enthusiasts to think like consumers and ensure messaging is helpful enough to be appreciated instead of blocked. She also invites marketers to optimally use the stopping power of digital signage by asking the same questions one might when planning other digital campaigns. Do online banners work? They could. It all depends on where they’re placed, the interest level of the product and the quality of the creative execution.

Ultimately, in-store digital media needs to create a pleasant environment, contribute to an agile ecosystem and deliver an overall brand experience that resonates with the consumer. Laura refers to Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, as someone who clearly understands this concept, seamlessly integrating digital tactics into every brand touch point, including a variety of impressive JCDecaux DOOH campaigns.

“It’s the challenge but also the opportunity,” said Laura enthusiastically while reflecting on her time working on in-store with Lowe’s, where she mediated 33 departments. “So many people with varying agendas must be brought together when selling digital media, especially in retail where nobody truly owns the store. When Lowe’s hired a Chief Customer Officer, a position that has emerged as of late, it gave me hope. Digital signage is what snaps together the overarching experience and its use must be under the guise of somebody who embodies the customer – not a merchandiser trying to sell.”

About Laura

Laura is the SVP, Director of Omnichannel Experience at The Integer Group. Focused on helping clients turn shoppers into buyers amidst today’s ever-changing retail landscape, she has been creating shopper strategies that bridge home, life and store for over 20 years. Her experience is multi-faceted, ranging across account planning, Internet marketing, store design and, more recently, next generation retail experience design.

Laura believes passionately that good brands do not make promises—they deliver them. Done right, it is this that builds irrational brand loyalty. With this philosophy, she has worked with brands such as AT&T, Toyota, Best Buy, Coke, L’Oréal/Lancôme, Lowe’s, Office Depot, Russell Athletic, Foot Locker and Unilever.

he is an active industry speaker and educator and her book, “Lighting up the Aisle: Practices and Principles for In-store Digital Media”, was the first practical guide for how retail brands can harness technology to reinvent their shopper experience.