Huge designed and built several classes of in-store digital experiences for a new 80,000-square-foot Sport Chek/Atmosphere store, the flagship location for FGL Sports. Located in Canada's West Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America, the experience spans 470 digital screens.
A new customer experience, enabled by digital.
FGL approached Huge with an exciting opportunity to transform the retail experience in a new flagship location. The company was no stranger to digital innovation. In 2013, it opened a digital pilot Sport Chek store in Toronto. This two-story, 12,000-square-foot store leveraged 140 digital Samsung screens to power a variety of new in-store experiences. Keeping in line with its mission of helping Canadians lead healthy, active lives, Sport Chek used digital interfaces to enable users to customize their own Reebok running shoes and analyze their running gait on a treadmill.
FGL gained several insights from this pilot, which they asked Huge to incorporate into the direction for the flagship store-to-be. Huge ran a client workshop with the FGL team to get up to speed on business requirements, existing enterprise technology platforms, physical space requirements and key dependencies associated with the project. We learned that one of the goals for the flagship was to provide customers with relevant and entertaining production information throughout the store. Ideally, customers could use the new digital experiences to view extensive product information for every item available in the store, including in-stock sizes, color, ratings and additional images and videos.
Designing from the user's point of view.
Entering the design phase, the Huge team faced the dual challenges of creating a holistic, unified concept for the store as well as designing the discrete interfaces and experiences. What made this particularly difficult was that the physical Sport Chek/Atmosphere store was not completely built yet. To overcome this hurdle, Huge developed a virtual 3D model of the store in Maya, and created a navigable world on the Unity platform. We modeled the store’s physical space using CAD files provided by the architect, and then used the Oculus Rift VR headset to “visit” the store virtually. Our design and technical teams were thereby able to explore the installation areas from a first-person perspective. What’s more, for the experiences that involve multiple users, this system made it possible to experiment with the usability and develop nuanced user scenarios.
"Your Better Starts Here."
Huge strived to align our creative concept and direction with Sport Chek’s brand message of “Your Better Starts Here.” We created experiences that enable visitors to elevate and advance their game by exploring interactive tips and product information straight from the pros. These large-format experiences (some of them more than 16 feet tall) leverage proximity detection technology to attract and engage passing customers, gesture control technology to allow users to explore content and touchscreen technology to let them navigate a comprehensive product catalogue. We also outfitted certain digital “stations” in the store with RFID detection and barcode scanners to trigger customized content for featured products. What’s more, Huge designed all the experiences with scalability in mind; we wanted to create a solution modular enough to refactor for a small footprint as the concept rolls out to additional stores.
How we built it.
For the foundation of the many digital experiences in the Edmonton store, Huge developed an integration architecture to consume real-time, localized inventory data. We determined a content and taxonomy strategy to ingest and display vast libraries of media content. Additionally, we conducted technical integration exercises to extend presentation and distribution platforms to support the needs of the interactive applications.
"Oculus freed us, breaking down the barriers between architecture, interior design and digital strategy."
When development began in earnest, we created scaled-down versions of the experiences and tested locally while the retail environment was being constructed. Collaborating with Stratacache for the hardware platform and digital content distribution network, and with Telus for the networking and physical installation services, we conducted development work sessions and structured the development environments to facilitate development across offices, organizations and time zones.
When the store was almost finished, Huge’s development and creative teams spent three weeks on site at the new store, overseeing the experience installation and fine-tuning the code base and visual designs to fit the physical store environment. They also made sure to accommodate influences such as ambient lighting intensity, guest traffic patterns and hardware mounting compromises. We ran integration testing, environment soak testing and failsafe procedures to guard against power or network loss.
The best store in town.
The all-new, digitally powered Sport Chek/Atmosphere flagship store officially opened on March 20, 2014. Through this engagement Huge helped Sport Chek achieve its goal of bringing relevant and useful information to the in-store retail experience in a highly personalized and innovative way. The suites of tools and services we created for the sports consumer strongly differentiate the brands and further FGL’s tradition of having the best store in town.