Chain Store Age: Digital Signage – Blazing a New Trail

Discussion
Apr 09, 2007

By Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Through special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of a current article from Chain Store Age magazine, presented here for discussion.

Looking to engage the consumer during each shopping trip, Roots Canada hopes to leverage its existing digital-signage network to create a more interactive, customized and unique store-level experience.

In 2000, the apparel chain, which operates 120 locations across North America and 20 in Asia, positioned digital plasma screens in the cash-wrap area of three flagship locations. Wired to DVD players located in each store’s back office, the screens displayed content burned on pre-recorded DVDs.

But this initial installation had limitations. It was difficult to update data or keep content current. “Simultaneously, the cost of the plasma screens was starting to drop. This prompted us to evaluate other options,” said James Connell, director of e-commerce, digital marketing and new media, Roots Canada, Toronto.

Roots explored satellite communications, but the technology was not cost-
effective. In 2002, it chose a digital internet-based solution from ADFLOW Networks, Ontario, which promised the immediacy and reliability of satellite at an affordable price, according to Mr. Connell.

ADFLOW’s Dynamic Messaging System enables Roots to internally create content and centrally manage and deliver media. Using Flash multimedia technology, the chain’s web team creates clips of new products, animated logos and media campaigns, as well as messages about Roots’ environmental commitments and its affiliation to sporting events, such as the Olympics.

These tailored messages are stored in a centralized web server provided and managed by ADFLOW. Files are downloaded to digital players that reside in the back office of each store location. “The players poll the central server every 20 minutes for new content,” he noted.

Stores using these displays have yielded between 12 percent and 15 percent higher sales than locations without the technology.

“Most stores have screens at the front end, but a couple of locations position the plasmas near their entrances to lure in shoppers,” Mr. Connell added. “The maximum number of screens any store has is eight.”

Besides making the shopper’s perceived wait time at the checkout seem shorter, the solution impacts sales.

“We have a custom bag program that enables shoppers to customize the color, stitching or their initials on leather bags,” Mr. Connell said. “During past holiday seasons, we added small LCD screens in our leather departments to educate shoppers about the process and different options.”

Currently, Roots is exploring how to take its network to the next level.
“We want to further integrate it into our store experience,” Mr. Connell said. “For example, we are evaluating how to integrate a digital touch screen application into a mirror.”

This would enable Roots to customize messages as a shopper passes by and could also enable shoppers to take a photo of themselves wearing Roots merchandise and send it to their cell phone, a friend or post it on a socializing Web site, such as MySpace.com.

“Digital signage has evolved beyond an entertainment tool into an engagement tool,” Mr. Connell said. “We know the network can do more than just present content, so we want to learn how it can further engage our customers.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of the potential of digital signage as a customer engagement tool? Which retailers are best suited to take advantage of the greater accessibility of such technologies and which ones aren’t?

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18 Comments on "Chain Store Age: Digital Signage – Blazing a New Trail"


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James Tenser
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
If I ruled the retail world, I’d expunge the terminology “digital signage” from our lexicon. I believe its use leads us to an inaccurate set of ideas and ultimately to a misunderstanding of what is happening in the complex communications environment that is today’s retail store. In-store video screens in stores are merely pieces of shopper media hardware that may be used to support a variety of message-carrying functions. At their most basic, they may be used as remote-controlled static image displays–a substitute for printed signs or lightboxes that must be manually changed out. Other screens are used to deliver in-store video channels in overhead or static locations. Still others are embedded in fixed, interactive kiosks or the new crop of shopping cart solutions. Content carried on these various screens may originate with the retailer, its vendors, or a third-party network operator who contracts for in-store distribution rights and sells time on the system to advertisers. There is more than a little competition today among technology vendors who are trying to sell retailers on complex,… Read more »
Jen Millard
Guest
Jen Millard
15 years 1 month ago
Many retailers have jumped on the Digital Signage bandwagon and have spent money prior to really evaluating how they could update content easily and of course, how they would measure results. Retailers need to keep their pulse on new ways that media can enhance the shopping decision–and of course, digital signage is all the rage. I think that many retailers feel that if they install a few screens at POS they will immediately see results. I think the greater challenge prior to installation is to determine how this new media will enhance the consumer experience. Does it allow a different clothing view? Can it assist with item information and background information? Can it facilitate warranty information? And then of course, before it is installed, create a reasonable and accurate way to measure results. Retailers that are entering this new arena should be cautious and think strategically prior to installing them. These systems are costly and have yet to show that they provide a clear ROI. There is certainly a place for new media in retailers… Read more »
Douglas Robinson
Guest
Douglas Robinson
15 years 1 month ago

In-Store Digital Signage in the form of Narrowcast Video Advertising must first and foremost be “relevant” to the shopping experience and “engage” the consumers, otherwise, it’s just more annoying non-stop commercials. The biggest drawback to In-store narrowcast or digital signage is determining ROI. The tools for developing good measurement metrics just aren’t there yet. I believe that once a reliable method of proving ROI is developed, we’ll see a big shift in media dollars being targeted toward in-store. There are three major efforts going on right now to develop media measurement metrics for in-store; COMB in Canada, POPAI, and the PRISM program spearheaded by P&G, Coke, Kellogg’s, Wal-Mart & Kroger. The PRISM methodology seems to winning the race, much like the “VHS-Betamax” battle. Once there is a standardized method of measuring in-store media effectiveness, you’ll see screens everywhere, and soon.

Alison Chaltas
Guest
Alison Chaltas
15 years 1 month ago
Digital signage is a far cry from boxy TVs blaring, hanging from the ceiling on an industrial-looking bracket, à la a hospital room. As the TV screens get flatter and the content gets better, they can be placed more strategically to entice shoppers into an in-store interaction, instead of the typical one-way communication of traditional advertising. Creating interest at the end of any aisle with a TV featuring products or services can lure a shopper into the aisle, where there would logically be a much higher propensity toward a higher level of attention and interaction. By choosing to go down that aisle, the shopper has already made the decision that the products are potentially relevant. In categories where products are either high-end, more difficult to understand or impractical to demonstrate in the store, in-aisle digital signage can also function as an efficient alternative to in-store product demonstrations. For example, certain types of power tools might be impractical to demonstrate in-store. But, by utilizing an interactive touch-screen TV and making choices about the type of project… Read more »
Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
15 years 1 month ago

Digital signage does replace print signage. However, there is one additional value to the retailer, which is huge. They can use digital signage to rotate messages. Advertisements that once required someone to physically remove and change print signage can now have signage programmed to alternate automatically. No different than banner ads do on company web sites. Our “Instant Messanger” and “Face Book” population is growing up. The first generation of these kids are graduating from college and they are now shopping for their own groceries. This technology is something they are used to and will probably expect. It may also prove to be another revenue generator for retailers who want to sell digital signage time to manufacturers in the future.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
15 years 1 month ago
My company chairs the largest NA conference on this medium while also operating as a niche consultant for all flavors of in-store digital media. We live and breathe this category and feel that many of the comments above hit the nail on the head while others are a twinge off. Roots was one of the first adopters of digital signage and we applaud their tenacity in testing and evolving their strategy. We feel strongly, however, that just like the Internet is a medium with many potential uses, so is store digital signage and we should not try to squeeze it into any singular box for use cases. It, and the many emerging in-store technologies that are rapidly appearing on the retail horizon, are the guns. What we do with them are the bullets. Yes, store digital signage can be an engagement tool. But it’s also a potential tool for awareness, sales generation, loyalty/retention, social sharing, brand experience…the list goes on. How these tools are utilized needs to be rooted in the needs and challenges of… Read more »
Todd Belveal
Guest
Todd Belveal
15 years 1 month ago
Digital signage has solid potential as an engagement tool, and unless you believe the Internet was simply a replacement for offline sources of information, it will likely be more than simply a replacement for printed signage. That being said, it seems important not to over-estimate the challenges associated with delivering the type of interactivity we all experience online, or at ATM’s, or when checking in at the airport. Those retailers that are in the best position to benefit from digital signage are those where guidance is important to the purchase decision, such as electronics and fashion apparel where trend and information can encourage purchase. As we have seen in some of the best new retail experiences over the past year or two, such as the Apple Store, digital signage can add to the experience in a way that printed signage cannot. I agree that as retailers improve at competing on experience, a sound digital signage program will become increasingly important. eventually leading this new application to become an important contributor to the shopping process as… Read more »
Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
15 years 1 month ago

The retailer needs to ask, is the signage compelling to the customer? Or is it playing so often and so loud that it becomes annoying to customers and associates alike? Consumers often don’t take the time to even watch a 30 second much less a one minute in store video because they are “in a hurry.”

Customized messages discussed here are interesting and may appeal to a certain type of shopper. The idea of including new content continuously is also a benefit.

Time will tell if digital signage really adds to sales.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 1 month ago
Reminds me of the “walls of weirdness” (so-called “media walls” of stacked CRTs looping loud music videos at the back of trendy clothing stores) I used to encounter when carrying the plastic for my daughter’s shopping excursions. This updated version is an excellent tool in today’s fashion world. Hopefully they’re making their suppliers pay for everything. I’m curious, however, about the feature that customizes messages for passing customers: “Ooo, that belt you’re wearing is so last week!” I also like the opportunity for clothing retailers to go beyond mannequins. For both (all?) sexes, it’s difficult to grope through hanging racks to see how a garment looks (or even what’s available) and then imagine how it would look on you. A video presentation would help. The depersonalization argument has little validity. What is the most common customer response when salespersons approach them? All together now, “I’m just looking.” Is that a signal that shoppers want to get personal with (be pressured by) clerks? Probably not. However (you knew there’d be a “however”), the idea that shoppers… Read more »
Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
15 years 1 month ago

The shopper is looking for relevance. If the signage adds to the experience, whether digital or not, it’s good.

To apply digital signage technology, each retailer must take a careful look at the in-store customer touch points. Where does the message need to be more informative and more consistently delivered? Perhaps there is a product category where shoppers are starved for knowledge, maybe something new.

My favorite area to talk about is the dressing room. This is where 90% of women’s apparel buying decisions are made. Once she finds a garment that fits, suddenly she want to know as much as she can about the garment. And often no sale associates are in sight. For what occasions is it appropriate? What does it go with? How about care? If digital messages could be tailored to these questions, digital signage would deliver relevance to an extraordinary degree. And everybody would win: retailers, manufacturers, advertisers, and shoppers.

Ron Margulis
Guest
15 years 1 month ago
Digital signage to this point has, for the most part, simply replaced print signage. There are a few exceptions, mostly in specialty and consumer tech retailers, but most of the in-store digital signage I’ve seen isn’t that engaging. Maybe this is because retailers have favored the model under which vendors pay for all promotions and the vendors haven’t seen all that much value to such programs. Or maybe retailers have too many other challenges and just haven’t devoted much time (or imagination) to developing truly engaging programs. Probably a bit of both. Also, it’s interesting that there seems to be a correlation between the use of self-checkout systems and the interest of consumer in digital signage. People waiting to use the self-checkout pay closer attention to digital signage than at manned POS stations, which is sort of counter-intuitive because these consumers are using the self-checkouts to get out of the store quickly. One more point on self-checkout–I haven’t seen anyone do a great job in using the self-checkout screen for promotion or customer engagement, and… Read more »
Liz Crawford
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Digital signage will be de rigeur for all retail–sooner rather than later. Here’s why: digital signs, in conjunction with cellphones, provide the mechanism for Convergence at POS. These signs will be used to provide custom communications to opted-in shoppers as well as a way to purchase, possibly eliminating the cash wrap all together. The possibilities for advertising and promotion are boundless.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Interacting with the customer digitally is just one more example of the “depersonalization” of the shopping trip. With kiosks for recipes and coupons, weigh your own produce scales, self checkouts and too few employees in the stores, is it any wonder that the consumer does not see grocery shopping as a positive experience?

Retailers like Wegmans have real people demonstrating products and cooking up recipes, and well trained department heads to answer questions and recommend products. This is the “selling” that works!

Herb Sorensen, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Context is everything here. If helpful messages appropriate to the context are provided, they will work. But imagining the context just doesn’t cut it. You actually have to quantitatively measure the shoppers you intend to speak to with your digital media. Otherwise you simply pretend that your own subjective thoughts on the subject are an accurate reflection of objective reality.

Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 1 month ago

I’m struggling with how digital signing at the cash wrap can be reasonably expected to enhance sales…. Unless the messages are around impulse items, are we expecting the consumer to get out of line to go back and get something they’ve just learned about?

I think the sales increase noted may be more a result of the attention given to the stores…correlative rather than causative.

Digital signing isn’t the issue. That’s just a technology to replace print. Dynamic content delivery is the issue and the opportunity. The consumer benefit of in-store streaming video content is focused on informing and empowering…improving consumer satisfaction through delivery of pertinent and valuable information at the point of purchase. This is why in-store demos work. Embedded video screens, supporting key items within the assortment, selected for a bona fide need within the consumer for information and empowerment…logically, isn’t that a good use for the technology?

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 1 month ago

Digital signage works best when the retailer can put onself in the shopper’s shoes. If the shoppers are bombarded with the blare of competing messages whose quantity and volume prevents careful thinking, it’s likely that the battle for attention will be won, and the war for customer loyalty will be lost. Will shoppers appreciate the selling suggestions or resent the intrusion? It’s like the difference between personal service and commission breath. It’s not hard to sell the products on the screen. It’s hard to keep the loyalty of everyone else.

Nick Brubaker
Guest
Nick Brubaker
15 years 1 month ago

Digital signage, in-store TV, motion activated audio and video…are today’s consumers really seeking opportunities to add to the average of 2500 marketing messages received daily? We are an instant gratification society and apparently marketers believe that the only chance to make a sale is to employ the equivalent of a blitz or full court press to force the purchase decision now! It is impossible to fully educate consumers regarding benefits and features of a given product during a brief encounter at the shopping isle. Quality packaging and direct to the point promotional copy writing will usually get the attention of the consumer. Perhaps more attention should be paid to after market actions by the consumer. What effort is being made to invite the customer to informative, interactive websites to learn more about a brand or a companies products and services and to provide rewards and incentives all from the comfort of home with few distractions or time limits? Repeat business from satisfied and loyal customers is the goal!

dane grover
Guest
dane grover
15 years 1 month ago

As a manufacturer of retail digital signage, including the software, our focus when marketing the product is the importance of “opt-in” marketing. Digital signage represents a soft, rather than hard sell for the consumer. Our products do not include sound, thus the viewer can make a decision to watch our display or not. If they choose to watch the display, then they are in a receptive, rather than defensive state of mind and the message is more likely to be received and acted upon. Our next most important marketing position is the death of static signage, as more and more consumers become blind to paper signage. Full color, dynamic images that are changing, informative, and humorous capture attention and create a viewing platform that will attract advertisers. This is a new medium and we are successfully engaging the early adopters, but the mainstream POS market is yet to be convinced.

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