Stephen Brown VP of Marketing & Innovation & Leon Nicholas VP of Retail Insights and Solutions, WestRockStephen Brown VP of Marketing & Innovation & Leon Nicholas VP of Retail Insights and Solutions
The drivers of competitive advantage are always evolving. When it comes to the highly competitive atmosphere of the retail industry, companies are always looking for the next advantage to drive differentiation. The rise of online shopping has uncovered an untapped medium to communicate with consumers to optimize every aspect of the shopping journey—whether in stores or online. But how does one enable this next evolution? “The secret lies in a unique synergy between the physical (packaging & display) and the digital (sensors/screens/ smartphones) world,” shares Stephen Brown, VP of Marketing and Innovation, Merchandising Displays. WestRock’s vision is to be the premier partner and unrivaled provider of winning solutions to customers, and its Merchandising Displays business is focused on turning shoppers into stoppers and browsers into buyers.

WestRock’s Merchandising Displays business leverages a long history of entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation to challenge the traditional concept of separate online and in-store spheres in the retail landscape. The business stands at the crossroads of the digital and physical realms of the retail industry to digitize packaging and deliver a personalized experience to shoppers. Through unique combinations of digital signage, IoT sensors, and video analytics, the business curates the perfect solution offering that enables businesses to interact with their customers in a personalized, contextualized, and dynamic way. “WestRock brings digitization to the retail marketplace by delivering better experiential shopping experiences combined with interactive packaging experiences, and improving consumer engagement and operational efficiency,” explains Brown.

Powering Retail 4.0

“The merchandising and packaging ecosystem thrives on delivering experience rather than a product, and WestRock best meets this requirement,” says Leon Nicholas, VP of Retail Insights and Solutions. WestRock delivers a one-stop-shopping experience to its clients through its wide range of products and services aimed at better customer experiences through digitization of the value chain.

To truly understand WestRock’s dexterity in transforming businesses, one must dive into the company’s differentiated product and solution offerings. The company’s Merchandising Displays business offers a connected packaging solution by combining the expertise of two established tech giants—Digimarc and EVRYTHNG. WestRock’s innovation lies in stitching Digimarc’s enabled barcode technology with EVRYTHNG’s IoT Smart Products Platform to bring embedded, real-time, connected digital intelligence to billions of packages, in-store signs, and display panels. WestRock leverages its years of expertise in creating immersive experiences—through signage and sensory elements—based on the ambiance required for different retail departments such as electronics, clothing, and beauty.

As a part of digital enablement, WestRock implements Digimarc’s invisible barcodes on packages that can be scanned by smartphones, point-of-sale scanners, and other machine vision devices. These ‘digital triggers’ are integrated with the EVRYTHNG market-leading IoT Platform, giving each physical package a unique Active Digital Identity (ADI) and data profile in the cloud. This empowers WestRock’s clients to generate personalized interactions and have a better understanding of their customers’ shopping behavior.

In addition, WestRock’s Merchandising Displays business maintains a strong partnership with InStoreScreen—an innovative point-of-purchase display company—for its 4K-enabled shelf-based digital signage programs. The display solutions use high-definition and short video clips to help retailers attract shoppers and present specific product information for dynamic interaction. The solution can be equipped with optical sensors to identify gender, age, and mood, and then display relevant ads that may invoke further interests of the shopper through personalized in-store experiences. “Our solutions allow businesses to tell stories in a more dynamic way,” explains Brown.

The merchandising and packaging ecosystem thrives on delivering experience rather than a product, and WestRock best meets this requirement


The visual displays also allow businesses to dynamically update the products’ prices and display relevant offers in real time, which can be customized according to the time of day and weather, for example. This specific feature is most relevant for targeted marketing campaigns, for instance during a holiday promotional period or a new product launch. “The built-in sensors responsible for video analytics give stores the ability to optimize, customer experience, and store products, increasing sales through content that can differ for every store,” adds Brown.

A Partner to Count On

WestRock’s Merchandising Displays business has cemented its position as a prominent solutions provider in the retail merchandising space after successfully showcasing its innovative platform and announcing a new collaboration with Intel at the National Retail Federation (NRF) 2019. With hundreds of manufacturing facilities, design centers, research labs, and sales offices around the world, WestRock’s capacity for digitization in the packaging and merchandising industry cannot be understated.

As an example of the value of WestRock’s product offerings, Nicholas details an installation that substantially redefined a national grocery retailer’s shopper engagement strategy. WestRock’s Merchandising Displays team collaborated with this retailer to deploy shelf-based digital signage technology in their stores. The solution was swiftly installed in the store as smart shelf displays. The resulting combination of digital signage, sensors, and analytics enabled the grocer to post a 12-24 percent increase in sales of consumer goods and register positive feedback from shoppers with regard to their shopping experience.

Ensuring Unparalleled Business Excellence

2019 began on a positive note for team WestRock due to the excitement generated at the NRF show in January, and the company is expecting additional rollouts throughout the year as part of an heightened effort to establish a truly connected physical-digital world. A number of company executives have experience across various industry verticals, enabling a more dynamic and targeted approach to various customers’ marketplace challenges. To further fine-tune a shopper’s retail experience via digitization, WestRock has also sharpened its focus on cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Over the years, the company has been at the forefront of a number of efforts around sustainability and digital packaging to drive differentiation. “We are a forward-thinking merchandising solutions provider, uniquely oriented toward where the market is headed, but in a way, tailored for our customers to help them ultimately drive more sales and conversions,” adds Brown.

WestRock plans to use its insights in order to provide a service that will be consequential to attract the next wave of millennial customers. By further leveraging the cloud and IoT technologies, “We will stay focused on delivering customers’ expectations surrounding enhanced storytelling, information, and value of our customers' products,” concludes Nicholas.