Now Starring: Digital Displays

Rich media adds dimensions far beyond static displays

In-store digital displays are beginning to hit the mark with retailers who are realizing the advantages of delivering targeted advertising, promotions and corporate communications. Digital technology also offers retailers the ability to alter promotional messages to address shoppers' needs in real-time as customers change throughout the month, week or day.

In-store displays encompass projected content on LCD screens, electronic shelf labels, digital billboards, sensor-enabled screens and interactive kiosks.

In this case, though, more is not necessarily better. Too many options can lead to an overwhelmed consumer. Retailers are recognizing that cluttered stores make it difficult to sell products and consumers don't want to be harassed by ads as they move down the aisle, reports Nikki Baird, senior analyst, consumer markets, Forrester Research. "Instead of being assaulted with glaring signs chock full of fast-moving ads, the digital store environment should present itself to consumers as fresh and clean, and be consistent with the brand promise," Baird notes.

Results from in-store digital media pilot programs have been promising. Sales lift estimates associated with in-store advertising are ranging from 15 percent to 60 percent depending on the item, according to the Forrester Research report, "Expanding TV's Reach to the Retail Point of Sale." The report also states that a variety of retailers, including Best Buy, Borders, Costco, JCPenney, Saks Fifth Avenue and Wal-mart, have tested a range of digital technology, from digital signs to in-store TVs to interactive kiosks. While some have discontinued their tests without completing a roll out, others recorded significant positive results and have moved forward with chain-wide deployments.

Educating the Consumer

"Digital in-store media adds dimensions that static media just can't," says Baird. "It is very powerful to use a high-quality video with fantastic sound to attract customers."

Although digital technology can serve a number of purposes, such as marketing and entertaining, some retailers are using it to provide pertinent information to their customers. UPS is looking to in-store displays to educate its customers' on the variety of services and products it offers. The UPS Store chain located in Canada is hoping to increase sales by five percent with the addition of in-store displays. "We believe with in-store displays we can up-sell, cross-sell and reduce our customers' perception of the wait time," says Malcolm Houser, executive vice president and COO, The UPS Store, Canada. "Our business tends to be a destination business. People come in with a specific purpose and don't tend to browse."

With these goals in mind, the Canadian-based UPS Store chain recently implemented Real Digital Media's Neocast player and software coupled with EyeQDigital for content. "We were looking for a system that would enable us to maintain and control the content for our network on an individual, regional and national basis," says Houser. "The majority of our stores will have only one screen, a media player and our office will input content via a central system."

Houser anticipates by year end 100 more stores will be up and running in-store digital displays. "We recently had a regional meeting and presented the technology to our franchise network. We had 71 stores sign up on the spot," adds Houser. The pilot store is running a series of loops focusing on mail rental services and spotlighting products. "There will be local input and we'll start with 50 different spots and will add to them over time," says Houser.

UPS Canada includes 297 stores and the UPS corporation operates more than 5,600 retail locations worldwide. The chain provides packaging, parcel shipping, copying, printing, faxing, office supplies, and other postal and business products and services.

Large-Scale Advertising

A wall at the top of the stairs in the center of the sales floor became the ideal location for a digital screen to run ads at the University Co-Op Bookstore on the University of Texas, Austin campus. "We wanted a better, cheaper, faster way to display ads to the tens of thousands of customers who climb those stairs each year," says Tom Steele, vice president of the University Co-Op.

A 15-foot diagonal wall projection provides marketing messages such as online textbook ordering, advertisements for new products and current apparel promotions. Fresh content can be displayed in static and moving images, such as flash movies, mpeg videos and DVDs. "This system allows the marketing team to upload content from their offices and view projected content remotely," says Steele. "However, the biggest advantage is the ability to change ads immediately."

In addition to winning the Rose Bowl this year, the University of Texas has found a win with digital technology. "We expected a two-year payback with the implementation of Epson's projector due to cost reductions from not printing banners," Steele notes. "However, because of the championship, we presented more material and this has reduced our expected payback time."

Consumer Control

Interactive displays take branding to another level by allowing customers to take part in the action. According to the AMR Research report, "The 21st Century Store Tech Trends Survey: Targeted Investments to Enhance Customer Interactions," "Shoppers make 70 percent of their actual buying decisions only after they are inside the store, so retailers that enhance customer interaction can distinguish their in-store experience from competitors' and provide the service that customers demand — enabling them to satisfy customer expectations, increase conversion and market baskets, and garner long-term loyalty."

Nike Canada is heeding this advice and offering consumers the opportunity to choose the TV commercials they would like to view, using their cell phones like remote controls. The retailer is utilizing an interactive advertising program offered by Digital View and Pattison Outdoor Advertising. The company kicked off the World Cup with a series of long-form TV spots featuring famous soccer players.

The commercials were shown via LCD projectors in several Canadian malls. Mall shoppers can choose, via text messaging, any one of five Nike Soccer Videos that rotate on the screen. The text message routes through wireless carriers to a custom receiver device that controls the output of Digital View's Remote Player 300 digital signage player. The system also tracks the popularity of the videos by counting the requests, and sends consumers return messages encouraging them to visit a dedicated Web site and opt in to receive other Nike news and promotions.

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