Retailers and brand owners increasingly embrace digital signage to enhance the shopping experience and create a more pleasing environment for their customers. In this article, we will look at the main reasons why digital signage has become such an important part of the modern marketer’s arsenal.
1. Changing customer behaviors at the point of decision
Digital signage displays are used to display ads and product information right where customers make their purchasing decisions. When properly implemented, product information displays can become a very powerful tool that will inform, inspire, and entertain customers. For this to work, displays must be installed at the right location and the advertising content must be relevant and engaging.
When digital signage deployments fail, it’s usually due to poor content or bad display installations. In order to be noticed, displays must be positioned strategically. It’s crucial that proper sight lines be considered at the planning stage. Content is another very important consideration. Remember that content attracts the eye, but useful content keeps customers looking.
Keeping customers shopping on site
Retail store owners and operators often complain about “showrooming”. This is what happens when customers start using their smartphones to shop around for better prices. Proactive store owners know they must reach these customers and provide as much information as possible while they are in the store. It’s the best way to help curb this practice.
Showrooming is a phenomenon that can be addressed in a few simple steps:
- Make sure your digital signage displays are always showing high-quality content that is relevant to your customers. If you install displays in different departments, publish the right content for each department. For example, you should show promotions for tablets and portable devices in the electronics department, and be sure to prominently display your best price with a call to action on each ad that you publish.
- Optimize content for the display location, time of day, day of the week or holiday.
- Be bold. Advertise the fact your store offers expert advice, technical repairs or any other high-value The number one complaint about e-commerce is the lack of service so you should make sure your customers knowif you offer professional services, warranty details or any other information they may find relevant.
- Publish positive reviews from social media sites. Even better, publish live feeds on your displays (but be sure feeds are moderated, of course).
Modern retail requires real-time and dynamic content to compete with smartphones and other portable devices. It’s one of the main reasons why traditional print-based signage is being phased out and replaced with digital signage displays.
Remember that print material can’t be changed over quickly enough to meet the needs of 21st-century retailers.
2. Evolving and adapting to a new retail landscape
The cost of producing, stocking and shipping print material is going up
Printed signs are falling out of favor with retailers for many reasons and cost is at the top of the list.
Looking at it from the production side, it’s a catch-22. You must place very large print orders to lower the cost of individual signs which can be a nightmare if you’re a small or medium size business.
Retailers can be asked to pay high upfront costs to produce and ship their print material. If your business is too small to have its own warehouse, your costs will increase because someone else will handle stocking and distribution for you. These costs add up but it’s only one of the many issues retailers face when ordering printed signs.
Environmental regulations can add complexity and cost to the printing process. Today, printers use vegetable inks, recycled paper/cardboard, recyclable packaging materials, and environment-friendly adhesives which are getting more expensive.
And all this effort is only to get the material produced and out the door. Retail store operators face additional expenses when they dispose of their signs once their promotions or advertising programs expire. All of this adds up quickly.
Digital signage offers a different proposition because most of the costs are borne upfront. It’s why some retail chain owners/operators get a bad case of sticker shock the first time they cost-out a digital signage deployment.
You must deal with hardware and software acquisition cost, followed by shipping, stocking and installation charges. Some stores may need electrical work or network cabling installed. But when you take a long-term view, you find out digital signage can be a very good investment.
Flatscreen displays and media player hardware costs have been going down for years and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. What used to require expensive PCs and cabling has now been replaced by smart displays that have the media player hardware built-in. The benefits are lower acquisition and installation costs because there are fewer components to buy and install. Screens are getting thinner and lighter so the mounting hardware is more streamlined and less expensive to buy. Many media players can communicate using WiFi so there is less network cabling required. In fact, some installations require an 110v wall plug and little else. All these factors contribute to lower installation and maintenance costs.
We find a similar phenomenon on the software side where on-premise software is being replaced with cloud-based content management systems (CMS). Here’s why… With cloud-based software, there are no upfront costs to pay. Instead, you have a monthly fee for the software that you use and all back-end services are included in the price. You save on each license as you roll out more displays. Also, cloud-based software is proven to be an efficient and scalable option for any size business. CMS Software and back-end server maintenance costs are shared by every subscriber and included in the monthly fee which further reduces costs and complexity. Not every organization can afford to have a large IT staff on hand. For many small to medium size businesses, Cloud-based solutions are the logical choice.
Keeping content fresh
With digital signage, content is updated with a few mouse click and this is another area where print can’t compete. With printed signs, you must order replacements and store the signs until they are needed. Then you must pay someone to remove the old signs and dispose of them before hanging new ones. It’s labor intensive. It’s also slow and inefficient. This is why retail chain owners and operators have embraced dynamic digital signage. Easy and frequent content updates are key to keeping customers happy and engaged. It’s what’s expected today.
Let’s see why…
Social media apps like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have made a strong impression on millennials. Consumers who grew up using these apps have developed certain expectations, so retailers must “up their game” if they want to remain relevant.
With this crowd, static content just won’t do. It’s one reason why so many retail chain owners have embraced digital signage for their stores. Digital signage displays offer a modern communication medium that reaches and engages today’s shoppers. Digital signage’s ability to display real-time information has become essential to the modern, competitive retail store operator.
Digital signage offers a level of engagement that is unmatched. It works with mobile technologies that everyone uses and complements them. For example, customers can be very vocal about the products the like and the services they love. They will post ratings and discuss their experiences on websites, Twitter and Facebook. Digital signage can be used to display this information stream on flat panel displays and video walls in a retail setting. Social media postings can be curated so only approved content can be shown. This is a great way to enhance your branding, inform people and improve the entire customer experience.
Compete… or else!
Consider today’s competitive environment. Merchants must constantly evolve their pricing strategies to compete with physical and virtual stores. Before e-commerce became such a dominant force, retailers would manage pricing zones at a very basic level. They would look at the numbers and types of competitors within a certain radius from each store then set pricing and advertising strategies accordingly.
Back then, retail chains would focus on specific sectors. They would only consider stores that directly competed with one another. This all changed with the advent of superstores and warehouse stores (think of Wal-mart, and Costco in North America – Tesco in the UK and many others). By now, grocery stores had to compete with larger competitors who also sold sporting goods, automotive accessories and décor items. These are “one-stop megastores” that offer a powerful mix of price and location. They offer aggressively priced products and shelves that are always well stocked.
These megastores also pull in consumers from further away, which compounded the problem.
Soon after, e-commerce happened and small retailers started facing even stiffer competition. Amazon and other specialty e-commerce stores launched, shaking up the retail sector and sending traditional retail chains into a tailspin. E-commerce businesses now compete globally and offer even more aggressive pricing, with free shipping and easy returns.
In the beginning, bricks and mortar retailers were caught off-guard. They needed to adapt quickly or risk losing their customers to these new competitors.
Modern retailing 101
To this day we hear stories of retail chains closing stores or going into bankruptcy. These are the retailers who haven’t evolved quickly enough to meet today’s retail challenges. Many still rely on old technologies (static print material, for example). They don’t understand the importance of dynamic content, or the need to engage customers using social media.
Here’s how you compete in modern retail:
- Link your point-of-sale systems with your digital signage so information can be updated in real-time. Display accurate pricing every day. Use automation to increase sales such as adapting your advertising content based on environmental data. For example, a CMS system that detects when certain products are overstocked and automatically adds them to the currently scheduled playlist or items that are promoted whenever the weather changes.
- Tap into your company’s social media accounts to display positive comments from your customers. A strong endorsement from loyal customers can help boost sales and improve the bottom line. Use social media to promote in-store events to help drive foot traffic. This is especially important when competing with online retailers.
- Entertain customers with in-store contests and build brand loyalty.
- Adjust promotions based on competitive pressures. Monitor the top online e-commerce competitors and price-match key products to retain customers.
- Reward top customers with in-store recognition, awards, and other engagement tools.
Getting your digital signage project on track
Let’s say your organization decides to roll-out their own digital signage network.
How would you go about it?
Here are a couple of tips…
Look for solutions that support real-time data from a variety of sources such as social media, websites, infotainment, proprietary and corporate databases (including point-of-sales systems), video and static ads. Find a CMS software that scales well so you can start with a small test-run and then expand to the entire organization. Look for a reliable and competent CMS Cloud partner. Pick someone who reinvests in their business to ensure their product will evolve, and who will continue to fund research and development over time.
Consider a CMS software platform that offers a user-friendly interface. Don’t just go by a technical assessment when selecting a CMS product. It’s not all about technical features. It’s about people too. Tools that are too difficult to use or complex to learn can lead to failed projects. Be sure to do a lot of end-user testing and take these results into consideration before making a choice.
Work with experienced software suppliers. There is nothing more frustrating than discovering your software won’t scale easily or isn’t compatible with your corporate databases. Insist on references and make sure the product is flexible enough to meet your requirements. Look for products that offer an application programming interface (API) or a software development kit (SDK) as these indicate a solution that can be integrated with a third-party software.
Think about the future. Make sure the software you choose today will fulfill both current and future needs. You must feel comfortable the platform you select will continue work when new technologies are introduced.