Some products are hard to demonstrate in a retail environment. Connected speakers, security cameras and Wi-Fi routers really need installing at home if customers are going to effectively interact with them. And without interaction, the chance of a successful sale is slim.

But there is a solution: simulation. We have been simulating software and hardware for many years, most recently for Weber, Kingfisher, and latterly for Google’s Nest and Wifi products. By recreating the apps that interface with IoT and smart home products, we help customers understand the product’s full potential, and we help staff to sell them more effectively.

In-store simulation

A few years ago, we built Nest’s demo app, creating a pixel-for-pixel reproduction, initially for field agents to demonstrate to customers in-store. With simulated smoke alarm alerts and video feeds, it gave them the tools they needed to talk shoppers through the many benefits of Nest’s suite of products - in a completely simulated environment.

When the time came to re-work its point of sale, we modified the app to work standalone, for customers to use themselves, through a Pixel phone mounted to the retail display. With coaching marks overlaying key features, it helped customers get a feel for the products, totally unaware that what they were seeing wasn’t live media, but an optimised demonstration that couldn’t be delivered in any other way.

Google rolled the experience out across Europe and the Americas, full localised to work effectively in those territories and markets.

But, in-store simulations aren’t just about showing off the potential of a single product: they can also be used to promote an entire ecosystem. Nest can interface with more than their own cameras and alarms. Depending on where the app is distributed, the content adapts to show the country-specific products and features of Nest.

Beyond the shop floor

And it is not only customers who benefit from simulation. Google immediately saw the training benefit of the Nest demo app so we modified it specifically for internal and retail staff training.

With our work with Kingfisher, owners of B&Q in the UK and Castorama in France, we started with staff training first. Every team member was issued with an Android device with software installed for checking stock and locating products.

Rather than requiring them to sit through formal training, Kingfisher installed our demo app alongside the real software, allowing staff to switch between the two very quickly.  The Demo app simulated the real app using key scenarios, with coaching marks overlaying the replica interface. This helped them learn both quickly and passively, in a far more relevant manner than clicking icons on a desktop computer screen. No classrooms for these trainees, just some quiet time anywhere in store. 

Yet, while simulations are initially designed to run on the same devices as the products they mimic, they are built from the ground up with portability in mind. Every simulation we produce can be lifted and transplanted into any device that contains a web browser; for online training or promotion at a trade show.

The great versatility of simulation is its flexibility: it can be used on the shop floor by staff and customers alike, by staff in formal training, and by customers when they are setting up a product at home. In a world where very few products ship with a printed manual, simulation is the most effective, engaging and easily updated tool that brands have for both selling their products and instructing customers during the sales process.