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ADTEL White Paper

Retail Digital Signage: Form, Fit & Function - a Guide by NEC

In the majority of cases a technology partner can be indispensable in recommending the best choices when it comes  to hardware.

By Richard Slawsky
Contributing writer,
DigitalSignageToday.com

© 2013 Networld Media Group
Sponsored by NEC

An effective strategy can maximize the benefits of digital signage in retail.

Digital signage has become ubiquitous in the retail environment. Although estimates of expected growth in digital out-of-home advertising vary widely, research firm PQ Media pegged the global growth of digital signage at nearly 20 percent in 2012 following 15 percent growth the previous year.
The United States is the largest digital out-of-home market in the world,  according to a 2013 PQ Media study, followed by China and Japan. While the use of digital signage in a retail environment has been shown to boost business, simply erecting a few screens in a store isn’t a guarantee of a sales increase.  Some of the biggest roadblocks to a successful retail deployment, per the National Retail Federation, are a lack of strategy and poor coordination among other activities in the retail setting.

Form

When a retailer sits down to develop a digital signage strategy, three words should be kept in mind: form, fit and function. “Form is the type of digital signage the retailer will be using,” said Rich Ventura, director of sales – vertical solutions with digital signage provider NEC Display Solutions. “That could be a video wall, it might be interactive signage that allows customers to browse the retailer’s catalogue, it could be traditional static signage or it could be a kiosk that allows customers to place orders for shipment to their home.” Many stores in Minnesota’s Mall of America, for example, use a large screen in the front window in an effort to draw in customers while smaller screens mounted on shelving end-caps display information about the products on those shelves.  Some Nike-owned retail stores in the United States feature kiosks that allow users to customize products in-store for home delivery. And many retailers are replacing printed material at the point-of-sale with digital signage. Form considerations include screen types (LCD vs. plasma, commercial grade vs. consumer grade, LED vs. CCFL), mounting and wiring.

Fit

Fit refers to how that signage is integrated into the store itself. Is it a seamless part of the layout, or does it look like an afterthought? “Retailers don’t want to have a screen every two feet,” Ventura said. “They need it to fit within their environment and to make it look like it belongs within the store.” One of the most common mistakes Ventura sees retailers make with digital signage is to put the biggest, grandest display they can right near the door. Although that may serve to draw customers in the store, they rarely make it beyond the entryway. Instead, those elaborate displays should be located further inside the store so customers have the opportunity to progress through a variety of areas.
Milwaukee-based Sendik’s Food Market, for example, deployed 42”, 1080p HD screens throughout its stores in an effort to cut down on the cost of printing paper sales flyers and to better communicate with its customers. Although grocers tend to limit digital signage to the checkout lanes Sendik’s took a different approach. “When you walk in the store, you will see two to four of them immediately,” said Paul Doty, director of information technology at Sendik’s. “One will usually have a welcome message, while the others provide information on sales and specials. Each department has between one and four digital signs as well, strategically placed to work with the flow of traffic. If you follow the normal pattern within our stores, you will view all of them.”

Function

While form and fit are largely dependent on factors such as the retailer’s budget and the layout of the store, function is not restricted by these elements. “How does the signage function as a sales tool?” Ventura said. “What does it do to drive sales for that retailer?” Overall, signage should guide customers through the store, Ventura said, beginning at the front door. “Digital signage is an opportunity for that first handshake with the customer,” Ventura said. “It could be something as simple as displaying a special to get them in the store or running some type of video that might interest the customer or set the tone for the brand.”
Content choice depends in large part on what type of customer the retailer is hoping to attract. For those seeking to draw in the 18-to-35 demographic, colorful content with a lot of movement might be appropriate. A retailer seeking a more mature clientele would be more likely to choose lifestyle videos. “A lot of people think if they put a TV running cable or satellite on it up inside a store that will immediately increase their dwell time,” Ventura said. “There is a small chance that it will happen.  What is does do though is open the possibility for one of your competitors to advertise in your store.”
It’s also necessary to keep content fresh as opposed to looping the same 30 second video over and over. Additionally, when developing digital signage content it’s important to have that content carry the same look and feel as the other ways the retailer markets across their many other channels. “When you run a business, you touch consumers through your website, advertising on TV, on the radio and in the newspaper, through social media and you touch consumers via digital signage,” Ventura said.  “Not maintaining the continuity among all your channels, particularly the digital signage channel, doesn’t make sense.”


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