This year, social media and customer contact tools changed the rules of engagement for retailers and consumers. Large and small retailers are using mobile and social media customer contact/relationship programs to bring consumers into the store.
But getting prospective customers in the store is less than half the challenge. Today, digital signage is being used to bring sale information and special offerings to life, enhance store and product branding and deliver engaging product demonstrations. Delivered in HD, these messages allow the customer to learn more at their own pace, without feeling they are being pressured to buy something.
Small- to medium-sized retailers realize that one of the most powerful and most effective selling tools that multi-outlet major chain operations have is their own smart video networks that deliver entertaining and informative video messages to shoppers while they are in the store. Most of them include company and supplier messages intermixed with music video and sports event airings. But the messaging is often fixed and lacks last-minute modification flexibility.
How to Achieve Quick ROI with Digital Signage
In addition, the more expensive, more controlled national/regional digital signage solutions these chains operate are built around the PC, which means people with IT and graphic design software expertise are required to manage and modify the signage activity.
Retailers that implement PC-based solutions with a highly controlled or fixed signage network don't have the flexibility they need to grow/change as their business changes. They're locked in and can't easily change their signage solution platform because of the money they've invested in it and the infrastructure behind it so they continue to rely on old-school printed signs, etc. to handle immediate and flexible messaging, which is a step backwards.
Figure 1 - Stand-Alone Kiosk - In addition to end-caps, retailers can now have stand-alone and movable signs that present an exciting, interesting message but also put the promotional products in front of the consumer so he/she can touch, feel, make a purchasing decision immediately. The stand-alone signage solution above also includes a side barcode reader so the consumer can check the price, include coupon discounts or take advantage of other special offers that were available to them from their mobile device message.
We have all seen end-cap signage improve sales of a specific product, but daily smartphone opt-in by shoppers receiving discounts and special offers are increasing these sales results three-fold when the SMS texting message is tied into in-store digital signage.
Retailers - all retailers - need a win-win digital signage solution that marketing managers and suppliers can install, move, network and tailor the messaging in nearly real-time to meet the needs of test marketing trials, changing inventory mixes and the ability to tie in-store messages to mobile couponing or special promotions.
Today's digital signage solutions have evolved beyond the programming and network management restrictions of PC-based signage to all-inclusive solid-state solutions that enable them to create and manage displays without requiring any technical expertise. The new PC-less players are also more reliable because PC issues such as the "blue screen of death", rebooting and viruses are eliminated.
It is well-known that consumers don't like to simply look at an attractive message but want to view, review product information and make their own decisions without sales people "selling" them something. They prefer to feel that they are making their own informed decisions. A number of industry analysts have noted that this interactivity is becoming more popular and more powerful because of the consumer's use of ATMs, smartphones and tablet applications.
Figure 2 - Work with Me - The new touch-activated screens helps retailers create a positive experience for the customer so he/she can make an informed buying decision. Using easy-to-program software the retailer can produce a step-by-step visual sales assistant for the consumer. By putting the customer in control of the information he/she wants to receive and enabling them to manage the decision process, retailers are able to produce a significant increase in sales and excellent return-on-investment (ROI).
Software that takes the complexity out of creating content as well as scheduling and updating digital signage makes it fast and easy for retailers to entice and engage customers in unique ways that use an informative style rather than a hard sell approach.
Retailers who are new to digital signage and retailers who don't have a lot of spare time can get excellent results with the solid-state signage solutions that include software that features visual -based wizards and templates for creating and managing their content. Messages can be easily changed or updated in real-time, and timely, highly customized content can be quickly scheduled to reach targeted consumers at multiple locations.
With this type of software, small to medium-sized retailers can have the direct control over the devices and messaging they need. They can empower regional, department or product line managers to do the work and fine-tune the messages without requiring specialized graphic design software training.
Figure 3 - Multiple Content Zones - Dividing a screen into multiple content zones is a valuable tool to surround key product portions and messaging with eye-catching and informative content such as weather, events and news. This softens yet improves your product messaging impact by providing a valuable service instead of blinding customers with a hard product sell.
You're in Control
Retailers who have begun enhancing their marketing activities with solid-state signage solutions have found that they have an advantage over chain store video networks because they can shift, rearrange and relocate digital signage more quickly.
Because their teams are "closer to the consumer action," they are able to respond to minor trends, local events, special short-term opportunities more efficiently and more effectively than the nationally controlled/managed signage networks.
Figure 4 - Stand-Alone Signage - Portable signage such as this free-standing concept unit by Intel is becoming increasingly popular with retailers
With these solutions, retailers can create entertaining sales messages, modify them and update them in just minutes using the simplified software provided with the system.
One of the keys to digital signage success is to develop and provide content that is compelling, vibrant and dynamic, content that takes advantage of the clear, crisp images that can be presented with HD digital signage.
An important aspect is to have image and portrait orientation that catches the eye and quickly presents your key message. With today's cost-effective HD screens, consumers expect audio and video signage messages to be delivered in the same quality they get at home in front of their TV sets.
Figure 5 - Living, Moving Message - Whether the retailer uses individual digital signage with messages in individual areas of the screen or a multi-screen wall area 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. In some retail outlets, ceiling lighting that changes in tune with the piped-in music is used to create a complete "living" environment that helps keep customers in the store longer and makes the buying experience even more pleasant.
In multi-location, multi-sign operations, managers are using standard network wiring and the Internet cloud to upload fresh, attention-getting sales messages and to manage the timing and placement of product multimedia messages.
Whether it's a large or small group of installations, they can be set up, configured and managed locally or from a central location by marketing and product managers. The leading signage players support full, high-definition video, so consumers get the same high-quality images in the store as they do at home.
For regional or widely dispersed stores, sales messages can be sent to individual, city or area-wide stores to maintain the same image, the same sales proposition--regardless of the location.
Figure 6 - Networked, Managed - By using wired or wireless network-enabled signage solutions, retailers can keep their content fresh and germane to the customers' shopping goals/needs. Retail department managers can schedule the playback of specific promotions to appeal to consumer types or even change them to specific times of day. Some retailers have also used their digital signage network to provide employees with important training or HR information prior to store opening or at the end of the day.
Some of the bundled software packages incorporate many of the comprehensive capabilities previously found only in the streaming media network solutions. This includes looping video playback, multimedia playlists, multiple display zones, day-parting, interactive button/touch screen demos, multi-unit video wall synchronization and more.
Figure 7 - Big Welcome - Large multi-screen, synchronized walls such as the one above not only welcome customers, they provide a vibrant, constantly changing set of messages that focus their attention on specific products or product categories. The video messages can be changed effortlessly by time of day, day of the week, special promotion or special event. Portions can also be used to highlight and tie into public service messages bringing the retailer even closer to his/her community.
Today's social media tools - social networks such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter - are not proprietary. They are available to all of us. Retailers who study these tools and then blend them into their marketing efforts are rapidly building a solid following of people who want to opt-in and receive news, information, special offers from local retailers. These tools can be useful, not just for sales but also in expanding the effectiveness and reach of your complete customer service/customer support programs.
These tools get the customer into the store. But that's only the beginning of the path-to-purchase. Research consistently shows that 50 percent of all purchase decisions are still made in the store. This is where the consumer is the most susceptible; the most open to receiving product information that talks directly to them.
The consumer is standing there waiting to be educated, informed, assisted to ensure they make the right buying decision.
It is at this moment - this time - that you are in a better position than any other retail establishment in your area. You don't have to compete for their attention because they are in your store watching your key informational and sales digital signage messages in brilliant HD.
The key now is to entertain, educate, inform, convince them that you can provide the best products, services and support that they want/need.