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Looking back a few years, only the largest retailers were able to afford and manage the complex digital signage solutions that were available. In recent years, growing numbers of small- to medium-sized retailers have adopted the technology, including applications offering interactivity. Displays and controllers have become more affordable and easier to use than ever before--without sacrificing quality or features.
Today, millions of digital signs are in daily use, benefitting both the location owners and their viewers.
Signage usage is growing so rapidly because consumers want, need, expect more information. In addition, federal regulations for retailers such as quick-serve food outlets have stimulated digital signage usage. Now they can go beyond the dull fat/calorie counts for menu items to include dynamic HD, streaming video content and attractive, interactive screens that provide a combination of compliance and customer appeal.
In addition, retailers and manufacturers are finding that digital signage provides a targeted means of presenting their messages in a way that is just intrusive enough to be meaningful and memorable for the consumer.
These are just a few of the reasons retailers - across the board - are finding new, more creative ways of implementing digital signage that not only promotes sales and specials but also strengthens the outlet's/products brand image.
New technologies, simplified deployment and ease of use are empowering retailers and brand managers with solutions for connecting with the consumer. Solutions that are also more affordable to buy and more energy efficient to operate.
Immersive Signing - The retailer wanted to create more than just informational signage and sales, they wanted to produce an enhanced consumer experience. Digital signage HD content and ceiling LED lighting were coordinated to change with the in-store background music. The result was an installation that felt alive.
These factors are the key reasons integrators report that they're not only installing more new digital signage solutions for retailers but are also being asked to upgrade installations with new, easier to use technology.
Touch, gesture, geo-location and image recognition have taken us beyond a one-way digital connection to new ways of effectively engaging the customer.
For example, a recent InfoTrends study reported that digital signage displays:
* Provide 47.7 percent effectiveness increase on brand awareness
* Actually increase the average purchase amount by 29.5 percent
* Generate a 32.8 percent growth in repeat buyers
* Generate not only a 32.8 percent more in-store traffic but customers spend 30 percent more time in the store
Not long ago, one of our integrators installed digital signage systems in two very different retail establishments. One was a grocery chain and the other a clothing store.
Live End-Cap - Retail end-caps are nothing new for retailers. They provide "prime real estate" for product exposure. This grocery chain used digital signage to rotate multiple videos to test messages and consumer interest in the products to optimize their inventory turnover.
For the grocery chain, one of the signage components was an end-cap, top of freezer display. Suppliers saw a 100 percent sales lift for the specific products included in the signage promotion and four times improvement over printed-sign end-cap promotion.
For the clothing store example, the retailer used a smartphone promotion that was supported by the in-store digital signage message. The four-week campaign asked shoppers to sign in by dialing a specific code to receive exclusive announcements on new "rollback" offers.
Merchandising managers found that they had three times as many shoppers sign up for discounts on a daily basis when SMS texting was used on the in-store digital signage, compared to just the product promotion alone.
Over the past year, we've seen what can be synthesized into six key factors and trends that have helped integrators and retailers achieve solid success. These are:
- Content and screen layout design
- Open platform
The content strategy should be the key in the organization's hardware and software decisions. There's an overused phrase that "content is king" and while it is true, the consumer is the queen. In other words, the one who makes the final decision on the success or failure of the content.
All too often, people settle on a specific hardware/software solution because it meets today's needs. Then they find out - usually in a very short period - that they are locked into a design that doesn't grow with their needs and doesn't offer the sophistication of their content providers or the consumers.
More Than Moving Pictures - Today's consumers are increasingly video savvy and they expect clean, crisp content that is designed to not only catch their attention but deliver results. Fresh content and updated messages keep customers involved with the store, department.
Vibrant, dynamic content brings the retail to life. One home electronics retailer has a series of stand-alone message and synced series of digital signs throughout the store. From the moment the store is open until closing, you feel the action, the excitement.
It is important that the content be eye-catching and interesting to the customer. While historically we were able to provide virtually any quality of content because the in-store signage was "interesting and new," today people expect high-def content that is entertaining and informative.
Content should also be updated and freshened frequently, because people don't like "stale" content in the store any more than they like being trapped by days and weeks of watching the same TV ad.
Changing Message Zones - Most of today's advanced digital signage software makes it easy for retailers to segment the digital sign so multiple messages can be delivered simultaneously on the same screen.
While many retail installations use standard, full-screen images in their in-store promotion, many are now taking advantage of multi-zone software solutions to display complementary content simultaneously. The result is a more informative, eye-catching approach.
For example, with a multi-zoned display, you can stream live TV or a product message, RSS or ticker feed, date/time and even current weather information.
The multi-zone capability gives the retailer the optimum flexibility of providing the series of news and messages that are more attractive, more attention-getting for the consumer.
The growing use of personalized and self-service types of devices such as smartphones, tablet systems, ATMs and self-checkout areas clearly indicates that a people want to obtain and control the information they need by themselves and at their own pace.
Touch screens and interactive signage applications really invite and encourage the customer to engage with the information they gather in unique, personal ways. It also provides a positive experience for the customer because he or she usually makes a much more informed decision. The purchase is usually made more quickly but there are fewer returns.
Work with Me - The new touch-activated screens help retailers create a positive experience for customers so they can make informed buying decisions. Using easy-to-program software, the retailer can produce a step-by-step visual sales assistant for the consumer.
Standard interactive signage solutions can range from buttons to touch screens and barcode readers that allow customers to "guide the product discussion" to the points/features they're most interested in reviewing. With interactivity, it's almost like having a very well-informed sales representative available that can provide the customer with quick, accurate answers to specific questions.
One of the more interesting interactive deployments that we're seeing retailers using are motion sensors that recognize and respond to the customer. Over the next year, we're certain facial recognition solutions will be available that will determine if the customer is male/female, young/old and other criteria so the signage message can be tailored to his or her wants/needs.
By implementing SMS texting with the signage solution, retailers are able to have a kiosk solution that lets the customer receive and use option codes. The interactive displays enable retailers to capture customer feedback and review the effectiveness of the promotion or messaging so they can increase sales and achieve an even better ROI with their digital signage.
Tying mobile and in-store digital signage marketing together will provide substantial long-term growth potential for our integrators. Yes, it will develop slowly and will have a sharp learning curve for our customers, but it will arrive.
The hardware/software solution our integrators tell us is producing the most sales and most profitable sales right now are the synchronized multi-zone or multi screen solutions.
Multi-zone signage allows retailers to present a key product message and lead the customer to added features, benefits, capabilities all on the same digital sign.
With the digital signage software the retailer can link content between the zones so the consumer experiences the continuity of one point/feature extending to the other zone.
The other types of synchronization that we are seeing - and will discuss shortly with specific installations - are video walls and lighting/signage/sound syrhonization. The linked signage walls spread the content across multiple displays while the total environment sync ties lighting, digital signage display and environmental music together to create unique moods and special look/feel to the area that is constantly changing.
FNAC is an international entertainment retail chain and one of the largest retailers of its kind in France. Digital media players drive more than 4,000 displays on their digital signage network.
Living, Moving Message - Whether the retailer uses individual digital signage with messages in individual areas of the screen or a multi-screen wall as shown above, the experience is similar. Content can be linked between the zones and complete video walls can be created with the content spreading - and moving - across multiple displays
The in-store signage is used for promotions, ticket sales, TV sales and more. Their master signage controllers send serial commands to change the rotating and rolling screen messages in a controlled fashion.
Custom networking in the retail outlets and across the complete chain enable authorized headquarters department managers as well as local store personnel to add and update content in near real-time. The ability to manage the messaging on a regional and specific store location basis allows them to carry out local special offerings as well as deliver corporate designated presentations at specific times and in specific areas of the store.
Stand-Alone Kiosk - Integrators are helping retailers and suppliers develop stand-alone kiosk solutions that place attractive messages in front of consumers so they can get the information they want and make a purchasing decision immediately.
Two footwear installations - ODLO and MBT - have been very interesting, very creative and very results oriented.
The retail floor kiosk incorporated touch screens and barcode readers that trigger the playback of information on the specific shoe type/model the customer was considering. In footwear, clothing, electronics and other industries, the consumer is faced with a wide array of options. With the kiosk example, the customer simply passes the product's sales tag under the barcode reader and the system instantly plays back the product features/benefits information so customers know if it is the right product for them.
In a slightly different digital signage kiosk installation, the company uses RFID technology to trigger the information playback. Alternatively, they can use the touch screen to "scroll" through the product offerings and find the one that meets their needs.
The measure of the success of these types of installations is not only the volume of daily sales but more importantly, the dramatic reduction in customer returns.
We've seen a growing number of manufacturers from high-end entertainment to sports/activity still/video camera firms that are using similar digital signage kiosks/displays to promote, explain, and sell their products in stores.
They're able to precisely control their company/product feature and benefit messages so they don't have to rely on retail sales people who may or may not be able to provide accurate information to the customer. Technology explanation, demonstrations and real use example with high-def video loops put the customers in control of their buying decision and they are increasingly looking for and demanding that control.
iPhone, iPad Control
One of our partners developed a unique exhibition tool for special events that we see gaining usage initially in high-end retail outlets and then more broadly as retailers begin seeing the potential.
Virtual Control - By combining digital signage with a mobile device such as the iPad and iPhone, consumers can experience the product virtually and can quickly move through additional information/features.
Within the retail community, we're seeing a lot of interest in providing them with portable devices that provide effective content delivery and improve customer/message interactivity. Right now, nothing exemplifies this more than the Apple iPad and iPhone.
The person holding the device is able to select, play, pause, and resume the video content.
Mattel has begun testing the use of this type of solution with video playback on their product displays.
Buick has begun testing this approach around the country where they put the Apple device into the customer's hands so they can test drive the car in a virtual environment. In addition, they can scroll to the correct item and view videos on the specific features of the car.
There's a world of opportunities that integrators can take advantage of that tie these widely recognized smartphones and tablets to digital signage solutions.
Historically, digital signage has been a group of large screens, digital controllers, hardware network and content sent from Point A to Point B. The challenge for retailers is the environment is constantly changing.
Stand-Alone Signage - Portable signage, such as the free-standing unit above, and the compact digital signage solution on the display area are becoming increasingly popular with retailers because quite often they don't have network wiring or electrical power located close to the sales area they want to highlight.
Displays are periodically moved to different locations, new clothes or other items are changed weekly, if not more frequently. Retail is not a static environment; and retailers typically do not have power and network connections in every corner of the store.
Several clothing retailers have begun implementing freestanding digital signage displays, kiosks and display case portable signage to give the customer new, exciting information and visuals from the moment they enter the store and in the various departments.
Using reliable wireless networking, the retailer can promote new items, special offers and discounts in real-time directly at the specific display area. By tying the messages to customer opt-in text messages, they can test promotions and time-of-day offers to refine their marketing and sales activities and generate optimum results.
In-store digital signage has been viewed as a way to improve the shopping experience and make shopping easier. At a time when retailers - like almost every organization - are working with reduced budgets and smaller staffs, having the ability to leverage the use of technology is becoming extremely important.
We are rapidly moving beyond the use of digital signage as an extension of the home TV with specially targeted ads. Interactivity, portability and remote control are just a few of the developments and innovations now being used on a daily basis by retailers. It isn't broadcasting or narrowcasting, it's enabling customers and assisting them in making the best, most intelligent decision possible for the product or service they want and need.
While we've focused on retail, virtually any industry can benefit from digital signage to effectively communicate with their targeted audiences and bring their messages to life.
Jeff Hastings, CEO at BrightSign
BrightSign, LLC is a privately held company located in Saratoga, California founded in 2002 by Anthony Wood, the inventor of the digital video recorder (DVR).
BrightSign is a leading supplier of solid state digital sign and kiosk controller products that are innovative and easy to use for the commercial digital signage market worldwide.