Retail reality 

Digital Signage
No longer simply
'the bigger the better'

Where digital signage is used to mainly serve as a way of distinguishing yourself from the everyday store image, it’s now more and more a full-fledged digital answer to the omnichannel question. In our search for the ultimate customer journey through the physical retail store, digital signage is proving a versatile and reliable partner.

Content comes in all shapes and sizes
Originally, digital signage started out its career in retail as the biggest, most flamboyant billboard with moving images on the shop floor. Fashion retailers or luxury brands were outdoing each other to have the largest and brightest display. The bigger the better, with content that consists mainly of extended advertising commercials and flashily designed animated lookbooks.

The arrival, for example, of Touch and Kinect technologies suddenly spawned new, interactive uses for the screens, opening up a whole world of opportunities: touch interactivity, mobile integration, social media integration, gesture interactivity and gamification. Technologies for curated and social content are now also employed in search of the ultimate connection with the shopper, and retailers are not shying away from combining real-time data to reach a more personalised communication.

The retailer’s wish list

When we ask retailers for their opinion, it’s crystal clear to them which benefits they attribute to digital signage. The ‘Digital Signage Future Trends 2015’ report shows the main benefit retailers see from deploying digital signage, which is increased customer engagement. Secondly, improved branding and, in shared third place, improved customer service and increased upsell/ cross-sell opportunities.

That very same report reveals that 25% of retailers use digital signage, 17% have definite plans to do so, and 42% are unsure what to do. A striking note here is that only 4% use digital signage at every store location; the majority, 65%, apply it only to a limited number of locations. The retailers acknowledge the value of digital signage and 50% indicate that the budget for digital signage will increase over the next two years. But what is the business case for this increasing budget? Important arguments to this end are: increased brand awareness, screens have led to a sales lift, an increase in profit margin and more sales of higher-margin items.

When US fast-food chain Wendy's started its customer engagement mission in 2010, the objective was to make a switch from the 70 percent of its business it was getting from drive-thru to a bigger share for dine-in traffic. Wendy’s foresaw that digital signage would play a major role in, for example, enhancing premium menu options, steering people away from value menus to increase average check and, very importantly, reducing the customer perception of wait time. The perception of the ordering process is often that it is pressure filled, with lines queuing and a multitude of choices. Digital signage can assist in making choices and makes the waiting time more enjoyable by incorporating music and/or video playlists, TV, etc.

Analytics pushes the ‘buy’-button in someone’s head

Let’s not forget that digital signage can provide us with a great deal of information too. Information about the customer journey of the in-store customer: from measuring traffic and behaviour to face recognition. Public opinion and legislation will undoubtedly make attempts to put a stop to registering such information. Given the revenue implications though, retail will surely look for and find solutions to overcome these hurdles. After all, consumers are quite okay with giving up personal data (if it’s protected) if it clearly helps them live happier. Privacy is swapped for convenience.

The great thing about the analytics of digital signage is that you can adapt content in real time to the browsing and buying behaviour of the shopper in each retail department, or by region. Even adapting the content to weather conditions can be hugely relevant for digital signage. And the ultimate goal: using analytics in a predictive way, so that relevant content is displayed even before the shopper is looking for it. Now that’s basically clicking the ‘buy’-button in someone’s head!


The customer journey comes first

Based on the above, how tempting would it be to take marketing and technology as your starting point? Many retailers have the feeling: “I have to be innovative, I need an app…beacons…etc.” Winning brands don’t chase technologies, they focus on the customer instead. People come first. The essential questions therefore are: “Who are my customers?”; “What do they need/want?”; “How do I serve them?” and “How can we (customer & brand) start/continue a happy relationship?”. Know your audience(s), then take them on a journey in pursuit of customer intimacy.

Using digital signage to do so makes sense, for people use multiple screens in their everyday lives already. The question is how to best use those screens to take the audience into deeper engagement with the brand? Let’s zoom in a little closer on the role digital signage can play within the customer journey that’s taking place in the physical retail store.

When we look at which stages of the customer journey take place on the shop floor, we can define them as: searching, choosing and buying. What role does the store design play and what are the different tools in each stage? As far as digital signage is concerned, we can say that its main duty during the browsing stage is to inspire. The content needs to attract the attention of a shopper. Video and animation have a clear ‘sending function’ and the noticeability value lies primarily in the use of an eye-catching image, animation and the position and format of the display. During the browsing stage, we can try to entice the shopper by involving him or her with the brand story (engage). Interactive displays can offer gaming environments or give the shopper the possibility to start exploring some content.

And then it’s time to connect: after nourishing the shopper with enough inspiration, we’re hoping the time is ripe to begin the choosing process. In this stage, POS (so also digital signage) is aimed at guiding the consumer. Interactive touchscreens become ‘self-service’ staff, guiding people through content and encouraging more engagement through richer content. Eventually we arrive at the buying stage, where guiding ends in deciding.

A digital customer experience to the max
One outstanding example of digital signage throughout the complete customer journey can be seen at the Chicago Brand House branch (on Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile!) of sports brand Under Armour. You can’t get around it, digital signage makes its first awe-inspiring impact when entering the store: an overhead ring display measuring 9 metres in diameter welcomes customers to this sportswear Mecca. And immediately your attention is drawn to the huge dome with a display surface area of a whopping 215 m²! The brand story told here is literally ‘larger than life’.

When continuing your shopping route, you’re guided through the brand story through digital imaging as you go along, for instance by a five-sided suspended LED cube directly above the escalators. How clever is to let the shopper get a feel of your message by making smart use of the cube’s fifth display on the bottom? A very cool way of taking a traditional POS device to the next level.

Are you ready for the ‘Engage phase’? The Optojump Interactive Experience allows shoppers to measure the strength and height of their jump, and of course have their best jump recorded. There’s really only ever going to be one outcome after you’ve been drenched in the brand like this, and that’s that you’re now ready to connect with that brand. In come the Under Armour Record Kiosks; Mac minis officially start the relationship with the brand. Digital Signage… is getting bigger and most definitely better.

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