The Perspective 
Tuesday, 08 July 2014

Submitted by Ashley Ropar
Marketing Manager
Industry Weapon

For that matter, nobody's reading those occasional emails, either.
Or the quickly-scribbled reminders on the whiteboard in the lounge. Yet those haphazard attempts at corporate communication aren't uncommon. In a fast-paced work environment, companies find it difficult to maintain strong communication amongst employees. There's always something new to report and there's no way to get that information out instantaneously. At least without digital signage.

It seems pretty obvious, right?
A digital platform allows you to constantly distribute accurate, useful information to each and every member of your team. More exciting and advanced than traditional fliers and emails - let's not even touch on the whiteboard - digital signage demands attention, meaning your message will be received, not ignored.

On Average, an employee receives 304 business emails per week. Lost within that overstuffed inbox important internal emails simply cannot get the attention they need. Trying to sift through emails is exhausting and a waste of employee time: In Fact, 10 IQ points are lost while constantly fielding emails, which is the same effect as losing and entire night of sleep. That guy's going to have some trouble focusing today.

Constantly struggling to convey the latest meeting and event times, as well as their dates and locations?
Relay that information on you digital screens, alerting employees and allowing them to organize their schedules accordingly. No longer will employees be uninformed about where to be and when, juggling layers of information jumbled up within dozens of emails.

Digital signage also serves as a motivational tool for employees to stay on-task.
Display the latest sales numbers and approaching deadlines to remind everyone of their responsibilities as well as the company's overarching goals. Recognize employees who have gone above and beyond by reporting their achievements, announce upcoming events and milestones, and share media coverage.

Internal digital signage is targeted specifically for your employees.
Broadcast it in lounges or breakrooms, hallways, conference areas, cafeterias - any place that employees typically visit at least once a day. External signage, such as media displayed in office lobbies can act as a PR tool. Visitors can view content customized for public consumption, such as image-enhancing company news, employee and company achievements and messages from business executives.

Incorporating digital signage into your office space carries across-the-board benefits. Improve company-wide communication, increase employee morale and motivation and share relevant, engaging information with visitors to promote positive company PR.

Allow digital signage to revolutionize how your company communicates.
The results will speak for themselves.

1https://www.atlassian.com/time-wasting-at-work-infographic
2https://www.atlassian.com/time-wasting-at-work-infographic (repeated)
3Northern Sky Resources, 2010 Global Market for Digital Signage 2nd Edition

Industry Weapon, Inc.© 2014 | more@industryweapon.com | 1-877-344-8450 | Industryweapon.com

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Provided by Reflect Systems

Cedar Fair Entertainment Company, one of the largest amusement-resort operators in the world, is using digital engagement to thrill park goers and improve overall guest experiences.  Operating 11 amusement parks, three outdoor water parks, one indoor water park, and five hotels, Cedar Fair continuously strives to provide guests with an unmatched experience.  In fact, Cedar Fair’s Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio is consistently voted “Best Amusement Park in the World” in Amusement Today polls.

Cedar Fair amusement-resorts provide an ideal environment for experiential digital brand media.  Spanning across all 11 amusement parks, the digital experience starts immediately when guests arrive.  Entry gate digital signage is being utilized to help direct the flow of traffic, indicating which lanes are open or closed.  To add a touch of personalization, entry gate screens also designate lanes reserved for attending companies and groups.

Entrance Screens

Digital media engagement continues throughout the parks with screens strategically placed in ride lines and restaurants to entertain guests while they wait.  Multiple screens throughout the parks also provide guests with real-time weather information.  A custom weather app tells guests when to expect the hottest or coldest hours of the day, or inclement weather, allowing them to plan their day accordingly.

Additional screens located in the parks provide Cedar Fair with the opportunity to educate their thrill seeking guests on other attractions and rides, announce upcoming promotions, and provide entertainment with music, games, and videos.

Cedar’s Fair’s constant pursuit to boost the overall guest experience has led to its world renowned success and solidifies their reputation of delivering world-class fun and entertainment.

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Tuesday, 17 June 2014


By Bill Bishop
Chief Architect
BrickMeetsClicks.com

Stuart Armstrong was pushing the boundaries of using POS data at IRI to understand shopping behavior when I first met him. Today he’s pushing the boundaries of using digital screens to communicate with shoppers inside stores at ComQi.* In between, he developed multi-channel marketing strategies for the consumer goods and retail industries.

I think he has important things to say about where we’re going with the technology-enhanced shopping experience, which changes in the retail environment are most transformative, and how retailers and brands are using interactive screens to build customer relationships.

You’ve spent a long time at the intersection of retail and communications media. How would you describe where we are today?

A lot of the things we’re doing today with omni-channel, big data, technology, millions of dollars, and many hours are taking us back to the future – back to something retailers used to know how to do very well. It’s taking us back to the intimacy of customer service that retailers used to offer.

Back in the day, Sam the grocer might stand on the sidewalk beside his nice-looking produce. When Mrs. Smith walked by with little Patty, he knew what she’d bought, what she liked and disliked, and even that what flavor of penny candy her daughter preferred. It was a great customer relationship. It was personal. He knew her needs and he met her needs. And she talked with her friends about Sam the grocer, the original social media.

Then we moved to the other end of the spectrum with individual consumers. Broadcast media came on the scene, and we went through a bubble. Brands and advertisers developed a theory of reach and frequency, and they built a whole economic structure around mass media: Bombard enough people with messages and the small percentage of individuals that responds will be enough.

Today, we’re trying to get back to the level of intimacy we used to have with individual customers. We may be using technology to get there, but in the end, retail is a high-touch story, not a high-tech story.  We’re using purchase histories and data analysis to re-establish relevance and recency. The more we can relate to consumers at a specific time with relevant information, the greater share of mind we gain and the greater the opportunity to influence purchases.

Which recent developments in retail strike you as most important?

There’s been a tsunami of change in the past 5 years. I think these three are important to recognize.

1. BYOD (bring your own device). Smartphones have spread far and wide in the last 5 years, and 40% of shoppers want to use their device while they are in the store – to compare prices, to scan QR codes, to look up alternatives. It’s changed the in-store experience, and now that people can shop anytime, anyplace, retailers and brands need to be present in the digital space as well.

2. The endless aisle concept. Retailers are trying to do more with less – offer more variety, greater selection, better experiences, but with less square footage. This means smaller on-site inventory and fewer back shelves. The endless aisle enables retailers to say “Sure, we can get that for you” and deliver fast.

3. The potential for technology and data to underpin greater levels of customer service. Frequent shopper programs have mostly delivered a sea of discounts. It degrades the brand and takes away the intimacy. There’s huge potential to use technology to improve customer service.

Powerful synergies arise from these developments. Check-in, for example, is a huge opportunity that touches on at least two of them. Say you go to the big electronics store to buy a smartphone and check in by swiping your device. And say check-in triggers the ability of the sales associate to call up your purchase history. The associate will understand your needs better, and you’re going to get much better service. Using technology and data to deliver customer service like this can bring retailers closer to the kind of relationship Sam the grocer had with his customers. Using it just to push promotions doesn’t create the same kind of intimacy or trust, and the more our customers trust us, the more information they will be willing to share.

What do these changes mean for product brands?

Brands are building stronger presence in stores using the “store within a store” concept. Fashion brands have done this for years in department stores, and CPG and cosmetics brands do it in grocery and drug stores mainly with displays, but brands are branching out into other venues now.

Remember that smartphone purchase? The last time I bought a smartphone, my sales associate walked me over to the manufacturer’s display and introduced me to Sally. “Sally will show you how to use your phone,” he said, and for the next 20 minutes Sally did exactly that. Sally works for the manufacturer, and she was servicing, not selling – but because she was servicing, she was selling.  (Sometimes brands are delivering this kind of service via kiosk or screen.)

Brands used to print and send out mass mailings and figure that ½ to 1 percent of people would trip over them and buy.  Now they’re starting to target stores where they have particular opportunities to grow sales and investing larger amounts of money in those locations. 
 
You talk about the importance of screen-rich environments. What do you mean?

Screen-rich environments are playing a big part in the increasingly interactive store shopping experience.

  •     “Public screens” deliver one-to-many messages. You find these on the aisle, over the aisle, or even worked into the décor as part of the millwork; they don’t have to be a screen on a stick.  
  •     “Private screens” deliver one-to-one messages and are the best vehicle for customer service. These are the mobile phone screens of individual shoppers, where they can download information and receive personalized offers, support or instruction.

Some screens can do double duty. My company recently helped roll out a digital price board in the automotive service sector that doubles as a “video on demand” screen. Remember Mrs. Smith? Imagine she comes in for an oil change and notices the price difference between synthetic and regular oil and asks about it. Her sales associate might or might not know the answer, but now he or she can use the same sign to show her a 90-second video that explains the difference. Now Mrs. Smith gets the answers she needs to make a decision from a credible source. This would be a powerful tool for many areas within grocery and drug store environments such as health/pharmacy, organics and even the wine department. By the way, it's important to note, that supporting sales in this manner has dramatic effects in increasing sales and trading up the purchase.

Finally, screens can now interact with each other – which means that Mrs. Smith can download the video explaining the difference between synthetic and regular oil to take home and discuss with her husband, and not just in English. If the household is Hispanic why not furnish the information in Spanish? Another example of delivering better customer service that results in increased sales and shopper loyalty.

Which retailers are doing the best job with screen interactivity?

Burberry’s High Street store in London is one of the best. They’ve created an entirely new shopping environment. They can even create a rainstorm to inspire shoppers to buy a raincoat.

There’s a similarly great use of digital screens in the Victoria Secret Harold Square store in New York that includes a 3-story video wall and screen synchronization following the shopper up and down the escalators. (In the interest of transparency, that’s our technology.)

What do you see on the horizon?

More wearables. Google Glass is a prototype, but heads-up display will evolve and wearables will become more common. And more augmented reality, where you can place your phone over a digital or static menu item and it will tell you about calories and nutritional value. Digital signage will serve up targeted content and mobile with will deliver a lot of the information people want without having to print it on a label or a menu or a shelf tag.

*ComQi is a global leader providing a cloud-based Shopper Engagement Technology that influences consumers at the point of decision, in-store, using all digital touch-points: digital signage, mobile, video, touch, web, and social networks. ComQi’s mission is to deliver an end-to-end solution that is tailored to engage consumers by optimizing communications and marketing strategies that provide the best ROI. Learn more about them at comqi.com, follow them on Twitter and Facebook, or visit their YouTube channel.

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Friday, 28 February 2014

By Stein Soelberg
Director of Marketing
KORE

 

Digital display advertising and digital signage is undergoing a technology revolution.  With electronic billboards and displays being deployed in more diverse and sometimes even hard to reach places, service providers are transitioning – from hard wiring displays to wireless connection via cellular networks – for content management on these displays.  While the use of cellular (and satellite) to connect and manage these displays (also called machine-to-machine or M2M communications) presents some challenges, the new market and revenue opportunities afforded by untethering digital display technology are not to be ignored.

As the largest global service provider for M2M connectivity, KORE predicted that M2M would shift dramatically in 2014 to richer data transport, with applications like digital displays coming online that yield a much higher bandwidth profile than our market has ever seen. Five factors have come together to foster this transition:

  1.     A monumental drop in cost per connection and cost per MB or GB of data consumed;

  2.     Smaller and cheaper devices that require less power to communicate wirelessly;

  3.     General ubiquity of cellular coverage (given the availability of multiple network options);

  4.     The trend towards single, predictable rating and billing due to eliminating roaming costs; and

  5.     The ability to pool or share data between multiple devices to reduce operating expenses

Contrasting the digital media industry with another bandwidth intensive application provides an apt analogy. Until this year no one in his or her right mind would have pegged cellular as an option for business continuity applications such as router back-up. Historically, using cellular to back-up enterprise routers (replacing an extra, expensive T1 line) would have been, simply, cost prohibitive. The connection itself, not to mention potential overage charges associated with data bursts, was just too much to swallow. But with today’s rate plans, many of which account for the ebb and flow of device usage by “self-adjusting” month-to-month based on the volume of data used – combined with plans that allow data to be pooled and shared across devices – makes cellular much more fiscally feasible.

Which brings us back to using M2M to control digital signage and advertising. Content managers and their applications can now track the performance of digital signs in real-time, ensuring they are operating properly and don’t require repair.  They can update messaging and advertising in more granular fashion, which allows for more campaigns to be shared among a wider pool of advertisers on the same sign. Same asset – now more revenue. Signs can be modified based on unplanned weather conditions, traffic conditions or, in the case of mobile billboards, proximity to a given business. As it drives by the Subway shop, for example, maybe the commuter bus billboard displays a code for 50% off a foot-long sub, good for the next 30 minutes.

In short, the opportunities for advertisers to get content in front of consumers at the right time, and for sellers of advertising to create customized programs for said advertisers expand exponentially once cellular gets involved.

Critically, centralized management systems also exist that allow companies to manage all of their signage from a single interface. Managers can track the performance of digital signs in real-time, ensuring they are operating properly and don’t require on-site adjustments. These systems help reduce operating expenses, increase customer satisfaction among advertisers, and propel the application service providers forward in terms of innovation and additional revenue streams with higher profit margins. The ultimate benefit is scalability.

On April 2, KORE will lead a Webinar on this topic in partnership with the Digital Screenmedia Association. Owners and operators of digital signage networks can register here for a chance to learn about current and future landscape of digital network management, including a primer on global cellular platform capabilities and intelligent network scaling to find the right balance between signage ROI and the customer experience.

Photo: czarcats

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Saturday, 28 September 2013

By Richard Ventura
Director of Sales – Vertical Solutions for NEC Display Solutions

 


While digital screens have been deployed in a variety of retail applications such as menu boards in restaurants, digital end caps in electronics stores, directory boards in malls and digital mannequins in clothing stores, the true power of digital has yet to be fully tapped.  You may ask, what is that true power?  It is the power of full engagement via interactive digital signage.

Traditionally, retailers have used digital signage as a way to run advertising of products and goods with very little integration into store systems.  Those that have integrated focus mainly on inventory databases and their point of sales (POS) systems to capture customer data that can be mined to better align with customer preferences.  Further, many retailers utilize traditional kiosk systems to allow for online ordering, guest registry access and even for hiring future employees. 

What many are missing, though, is how to utilize their systems and capture customer interactions in order to create a full engagement between the brand and the consumer. When looking at interaction and engagement, there are three types:  passive, active, and mobile.

In the restaurant space, many brands have deployed customer-facing kiosks where people can place their orders and learn about specials without any human interaction.  This is an active way for the brand to interact with the consumer, and increase sales and efficiencies.  Following more of a passive way to interact with the consumers, others have deployed “order-ready boards,” where patrons are informed when their meals are complete.  While guests wait for their food, they have become a captive audience, a fact not lost on these businesses, which are cross-marketing and up selling various services and goods to them.

Interactive wayfinding kiosks in malls, hotels, airports and other retail businesses let consumers print maps and coupons, make dinner reservations, and purchase goods and services.  This creates an engaging experience, even if for only a few seconds, that allows the consumer to fully experience the brand(s).

Forward-thinking businesses also are letting consumers use their smart phones and tablets to interact with digital screens, kiosks, store end caps and video walls.  Many top restaurant brands have created iPhone and iPad apps for ordering food selections and counting calories – and through Near Field Communication (NFC), enabling interaction with digital screens themselves for scanning QR codes, downloading coupons and making purchases.  Also, many retailers are utilizing these applications to create a virtual store-within-a-store concept.  A consumer can pull up reviews, check inventories, place orders, and in some cases, test-drive a product all via their smart phones and tablets.

Research firm DisplaySearch says the market for public displays across industries is showing strong growth, set to push near 12 million units sold in 2018, an increase from just under 3 million in 2011.  DisplaySearch’s Jennifer Colegrove asserts, “Touchscreen penetration is rapidly increasing. Over the next several years, touchscreens will undergo strong growth in large-size applications.”

Through these devices and technologies, retailers gain opportunities to engage customers and build relationships.  But as the phenomenon of interactivity grows, the question about customer service looms large.  Is customer interaction with machines better for brands than dealing with company employees?

From my perspective, the answer has more to do with customers and supplying them more options than to say that human interaction is always better.  Interactive digital screens can empower customers to bond with a brand in ways that they choose and in ways that enhance their retail experiences.

As we’ve seen more and more, some people would rather shop online than walk into a brick-and-mortar store.  When these types of people do step into stores, they prefer to shop on their own, peruse in-store kiosks for more information, make their purchases and leave as soon as possible.  Salespeople won’t impact what they want to buy or have the opportunity to upsell additional items.

But there are others who want that personal attention.  The upshot is that the retailer can match the demands of a variety of consumers where and how they want to interact with the brand.  These options give retailers a better chance to capture more of an audience.  Interactive technologies introduce a new dynamic to selling.

Some stores are availing themselves of this new dynamic.

Best Buy, for example, has introduced interactive kiosks in airports to sell iPods, headphones, game cubes and other technologies.  It’s the “big box” retailer’s way of meeting the needs of the marketplace by giving people options on how and where to buy.  At the same time, it continues to offer its bricks-and- mortar department stores and the Best Buy Mobile stores.

Apple has done a phenomenal job of making sure that before a buyer can close out a sale online, in a store, or through its IOS application, that options for cables and extended warranties appear and are part of the sales equation.  That breeds additional sales.
While these are some of the best practices, the retail industry still has to make progress, according to a recent study.  SapientNitro’s Insight 2013 Report indicates that most retailers are failing when it comes to deploying digital signage and interactive technologies.  Just 22% were rated as truly interactive with a value-add beyond just merchandizing or a display.

Here’s how to make the interactive experience relevant:

  • Deliver the right content and messaging  
  • Design a technologically sound kiosk that people will be drawn to
  • Deliver a meaningful experience. 

If the interaction with a kiosk or digital screen is “bumpy,” or if consumers have to scroll through too many products to place an order, they will walk away.  There needs to be a way to guide them through the process with a series of questions and interactions, and their time must be respected

An interactive system built on good design, tied to other sales channels and offering a solid customer experience will increase sales.

Here are the questions retailers need to ask themselves before deploying interactive digital signage:

  •     What are our goals and strategies?
  •     How will we execute the plan?
  •     How will we measure results?
  •     Who will support our interactive system?
  •     How will we expand the deployment?
  •     What types of technologies will be used?
  •     Who will manage the content?
  •     How do we keep the content fresh and impactful?

The question is not whether to deploy interactive technologies, but when, and to have the plan in place to do so.

Watching young children interact with technology is a particularly noteworthy barometer.  Whenever they encounter a computer screen, their expectations are that it is interactive.  A touch mentality is so ingrained in this generation that it should give retailers pause.  These little patrons are the formation of a digital interactive society.

This article was originally published in Retail Merchandiser magazine.

 

 

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Tuesday, 09 July 2013

By David Anzia, Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc.

Two big motivators are pushing retailers to transcend walled-off commerce and implement omni-channel strategies.  The first is connected consumers who have expectations of both individualized and seamless interactions with retailers. The second is the pressure certain retailers are feeling from shoppers engaged in showrooming and the unrelenting competition from online retailers like Amazon, who are the beneficiaries of that behavior.

You need only to attend a retail conference or engage a few retail executives in conversation to understand the need for speed in overcoming infrastructure hurdles to erase the barriers between consumer touchpoints. More than half of respondents to RSR’s 2013 Cross Channel Benchmark survey feel consumer expectations outpace their ability to deliver on a consistent retail experience.

On the consumer-facing side of this retail upheaval, continuity of experience – enabled by engaging interactive merchandising, a choice of self-service options and informed assisted selling – will be the driver for garnering the loyalty of digitally savvy Millennial shoppers. Those are the shoppers that will account for nearly a third of retail sales by the end of the decade.

As an in-store merchandising company whose projects often involve bridging retail channels, it is clear to us that omni-channel retailing offers benefits that transcend the challenges of implementation. Beyond the infrastructure changes and organizational realignments required is a vision for attracting and retaining high value customers and driving greater sales.

Improved Customer Perception

Customers expect integration and will become impatient waiting for it to become a reality. The blurring of channels isn’t just a retail phenomenon. It is advancing into other aspects of consumers’ lives like entertainment, where two-screen viewing is becoming a behavioral norm. Retailers are in a transitional time where speed of implementation can be differentiating and brand-building or slow response can be frustrating and damaging.

Increased Sales

Retailers who have inventory visibility and availability in the customer’s channel of choice have a better opportunity to complete the sale. The proof of this tenant is in the success of department store shopping kiosks and category tablet kiosks that give shoppers access to a wider selection and provide multiple points of access to complete the purchase. Consumers who shop across channels are actually spending more with their favorite retailers.

Better Data Collection

Visibility across channels means a more customized experience. Retailers that can track customers across channels and understand preferences can better serve their customers.  They also gain insights into crafting offers that motivate customers to get out from behind their screens and engaged in store, where the likelihood of impulse purchase is greater.

Enhanced Productivity

An omni-channel strategy can arm store associates with tools that increase access to information and promote efficiency. Tablets have become the front line of defense against customers armed with more information than store employees and a great offense for turning customer data into loyalty-building service.

There are benefits and best practices involved in the use of technologies – tablets, smartphones and touchscreens – that are the face of omni-channel retailing for consumers. The Convergence of the Connected Consumer and Omni-channel Retailing is a new resource we’re offering. It examines how retailers can take advantage of these tools to carry out their omni-channel strategies.
 

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Thursday, 08 November 2012
The Digital Screenmedia Association (DSA) has announced the winners for the DSA Crown Awards, which recognizes excellence in digital out-of-home content.

The DSA Crown Awards ceremony was held aboard the Duchess Yacht, which cruised around Manhattan, New York on Nov. 7 following the first day of Customer Engagement Technology World.

The categories for the content awards were Point of Sale, which is all about content on screens in store catering to the shopper; Point of Transit, which is all about reaching people are on the go, such as at airports and with digital billboards; and Point of Wait, for places where people have dwell time such as banks, elevators, and doctor’s offices. New sub categories based on budget were introduced this year.



The awards ceremony was co-hosted by Marcy Patzer of Scala and Keith Kelsen, author of Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage.

The winners are:

Category – Point of Sale (content budget of $10,000 or more)
  • Gold: McCormick - Guess That Spice, submitted by 5th Screen Digital Services and HP
  • Silver: Sprint - Green Mountain Bike LCD, submitted by Two West
  • Bronze: Sprint Studio Holiday Grand Moment, submitted by Two West
  • Honorable Mention: McCormick – Flavor Print, submitted by 5th Screen Digital Services and HP
Category – Point of Sale (content budget less than $10,000)
  • Gold: Mercedes-Benz “Visualizer,” submitted by Scala and Pro-Motion Technology Group
  • Silver: Sprint - Need For Speed EVO 3D LCD, submitted by Two West
  • Bronze: Cedar Fair - Digital Menu Board Optimization, submitted by Allure Global Solutions
Category – Point of Wait ($10,000 or more)
  • Gold: BBVA Flagship, submitted by John Ryan
  • Silver: Sprint - Trail of Destruction, submitted by Two West
  • Bronze: Sprint - Buyback Virtual Queue, submitted by Two West
  • Honorable Mention: Loews Don CeSar Hotel - Concierge Board, submitted by JANUS Displays
Category – Point of Wait (less than $10,000)
  • Gold: Sprint - Total Equipment Protection, submitted by Two West
  • Silver: Family Dental Care, submitted by Digital Clinic
Category – Point of Transit ($10,000 or more)
  • Gold: Monterey Bay Aquarium - 150 Feet of Awesome, submitted by Inwindow Outdoor
  • Silver: Tesco - The UK's First Interactive Virtual Grocery Store, submitted by Monster Media
  • Bronze: McCarran International Airport Digital Signage, submitted by Four Winds Interactive

Mark Lopez and Lou Thurmon of Two West with their six Crown Awards.

Judges for the DSA Crown Awards included Michael Chase of St. Joseph Content, Paul Flanigan of Pro-Motion Technology Group, Pat Hellberg of The Preset Group, Jim Kealy of 2hemispheres, Keith Kelsen of 5th Screen, and Anne White of HypeHouse.

Each of the entries were scored independently by the judges, who took the following into consideration:
  • Did the content meet the objectives?
  • Was the content engaging?
  • Did the content fit the environment?
  • Did the content fit the audience?
After all the judges submitted their scores, the scores are tallied and the highest average score in each category were chosen as winners. Judges who had entries in the competition recused themselves from judging their entry.

"The spectacular thing about this year's awards were the amount of entries featuring interactive engagement,” said Keith Kelsen, judge and co-host. “Looking at this year's gold winners shows that interactive content is a significant trend for the industry. For retailers, interactive engagement helps make their stores a digital destination.”
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Tuesday, 18 October 2011
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair once said that "A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many people want in and how many want out." Using this metric, digital signage continues to present a good business for both users and suppliers. In reality there are so many people (meaning suppliers) that want into the space that it has proven to be a stress on the industry. But it verifies that the space offers many success attributes and smart companies and users can’t stay away.  
 
Although the in-store digital media industry continues to be a good business opportunity for both users and suppliers, it also continues to be a relatively immature and fragmented industry. The hyper-focused keys to success revolve around measurement and content. Unfortunately, much of the industry is not on the same page as it relates to both of these elements.  

More money to fund the industry both from a supplier perspective (new and expanded networks) and from a user perspective (ROI) will come from the inclusion of digital signage in the overall consumer path to purchase. Including the digital in-store experience with the broader vantage point of how shoppers make their buying decisions (which includes online, social, mobile and traditional media) will propel digital signage to become an essential element of a brand’s media mix equation.
 
The case for digital signage is still valid. Advertisers will not stop advertising! Consumers are on the go and hard to reach as they spend more time out of the home (OOH). In the home is where much of traditional media has historically reached consumers. With this OOH dynamic, traditional media continues to erode in effectiveness. Brands, retailers and agencies all see these lifestyle induced effectiveness changes and are thus undertaking online, social, mobile and in many cases in-store digital initiatives. Since digital is the most targetable and the most measurable medium in the history of advertising, it will grow in importance as brands employ targeted campaigns.  
 
But as John Maynard Keynes once noted, "The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones."

The industry, led by ad agencies, has resisted embracing many of these new digital mediums and has stayed in a comfort zone of traditional media for both economic and structural reasons. Fortunately, each day that goes by shows more and more agencies and brands showing sincere interest in moving away from the old model and welcoming the new.  
 
Suppliers need to get on the same page in providing guidance to the other players in the chain. Unfortunately too many suppliers live in silos in a world where users and brands are looking for integrated solutions. Users alarmingly are not measuring the results with the new media measurement tools nor are they deploying enough dynamic content aimed at utilizing the power of the medium. Traditional media companies have been very slow to look at and accept digital signage and the new media companies in the industry (Apple, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft et. al.) have chosen to explore online, mobile and social as their near-term strategies. Clearly they will ultimately see the power of having a digital presence at the most important: point of purchase. 
 
Lest this sound too negative, there is no question that in-store digital signage will succeed! Remember the old adage, "if you don’t like change, you will like irrelevance even less." The dynamics of the shopper behavior, the path to purchase, proven measurement superiority and the continual evolution of more power/less price for technology all credibly predict success for in-store digital signage. 
 
Putting the following pieces together into a cogent, price-performing strategy will insure success for the industry: 
  • Content – The most effective deployments use micro-targeted content strategies with dynamic broadcast quality content. But with the cost of a 15-second spot in the $1,500 to $2,500 range for content created in a traditional fashion, most budgets find it hard to fund the required volume of content. The solution can be found in the new cloud-based content development tools recently hitting the market. By using the cloud, professional templates, easy-to-use techniques (i.e. you don’t have to be a graphics designer), a layered construction approach to allow for constant previews before rendering, and a large library of micro-stock clips and graphic elements, users can effectively bring the cost of a 15 second spot down to the $250 to $300 range. The economies are obvious. At these prices, users and brands can aggregate the volume of broadcast quality content to enable the targeting needed for maximum results.  
  • Technology – Just looking at the flat panel display as one example over the past 10 years, you can see a favorable cost curve that will continue across all aspects of the technology for the application. These price / performance curves will continue if not increase at an increasing rate. 
  • Advertising – Ad dollars follow buyer behavior and measured results. With consumers spending more time out of the home, and with the measured better results of digital versus traditional media, the ad dollars will continue to grow for digital.  
  • Mobile – Over the past few years, mobile and in-store digital have been addressed as two independent segments. Over time, mobile, together with social and online, will merge with in-store to enable a brand to seamlessly reach consumers in their out of home lives.   
  • Measurement – Analytics tools are improving and DPAA has leveled the playing field via standards for digital as it relates to traditional media. Getting users to use the tools and incur the expense is the next hurdle. WalMart's Smart Network is setting the tone and it is inevitable that others will follow. 
Hurdles still remain for the in-store digital media sector to become a major force in merchandising and advertising. But with the lifestyles of consumers dictating new marketing techniques to reach them and with mobile, social, online and in-store digital showing measureable advantages over the eroding traditional media options, digital media will continue to move down the path of success.  
 
Stephen Nesbit has been in the digital out-of-home industry since 1999. He is currently principal at Shadow Oak Holdings, LLC and can be reached at snesbit@sbcglobal.net.
 
Posted by: Stephen Nesbit AT 08:37 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Wednesday, 31 August 2011
There was no calmness after the storm last night in Times Square for the jointly produced MXM/DSA event around convergence of screen media between digital signage and mobile.
 
The event had over 65 participants (standing room only) in the board room of Duane Morris overlooking the digital display wonderland of Times Square; there is even a vantage point from the room where you can see both of the massive LED screens at either end of the square at the same time.


 
Stu Armstrong, immediate past president of DSA and managing director, direct sales for ComQi moderated the panel session.
 
Bob Gold, CEO, Gold Mobile, shared with the audience about how NFC will become a key part of the digital signage as a way to not only interact, but transact at the same time.  Bob also  mentioned that “mobile is the disruption to take us away from traditional impression based media strategies to one of engagement in real time right in front of the display. SMS, QR codes are part of the process, but there will be so much more.”  
 
In actuality, Jeremy Lockhorn, VP emerging media, Razorfish mentioned, “Out-of-home was always a hard placement as a media strategy as the content does not sit alongside media such as TV, radio or print. Now with digital out-of-home, the interactivity component can now make advertising marketing out of home more of a strategy with content engagement and delivery.”
 
“Today with interaction of digital signage you need to have a social-mobile strategy as well. Not only can you have Twitter integrated into a marketing message real-time, but down to the tweet can be controlled and moderated. Think about that whole new level of engagement,” said, Drew de Cavalho, sales, AdGent Digital.
 
Six Flags participated in the event with a presentation from Adam Oliveri, VP of corporate alliances, Sean Anderson, director, interactive and Lisa Checketts, manager of digital.  Together they mapped out the landscape of the potential of captive audience marketing from everything around how they “geo-fence” different areas of the parks to leverage location-based services to come in the future, to how they make waiting in lines more entertaining and enjoyable. 
 
“Today, you can interact with a digital sign with your mobile and win a spot at front of the line. We are integrating digital signage and mobile connectivity everywhere. Even though QR codes on signposts in the different waiting areas and SMS has become quite standard, we are looking to the future with our app and a variety of service integration to match our Six Flags video network,” said Adam. 
 
Adam also mentioned one of the biggest challenges they have been able to solve with their partners was the new engagement metrics and measurement strategies. “We are building a clear model around dwell as a key part of engagement.”   
 
The topic of measurement was strongly emphasized by all of the panelists. Tom Hennigan, partner of Times Square Domination (an ad network for the screens of Times Square) said that building impressions from one screen to multiple screens that all have interactivity has been a challenge. “We work in steps to build a campaign that grows over time to give the best for clients. ROI is critical for us and the level of brands we are dealing with for this media.”   
 
Other challenges with measurement were discussed deal with how to connect the actual campaign to a comparison across other screens.  With all the different formats it is becoming more and more complex to get a formula right across all the screens, but Jason Newport, SVP mobile for Carat said they are working hard on this as it is key to our clients. 
 
After this success, the DSA and MXM have started to discuss when the next event will take place. Please send in comments if you would like to participate and be involved.
 
Following the event, John Matthews, Comscient wrote:

Congratulations on an excellent MXM event last night at a great venue with a view! The MXM event was excellent with a great panel with above average content. It was a refreshing change from many of the digital media events that take place in NYC these days. The event also attracted a better quality attendee with more mature mobile and digital out of home media industry leaders and innovators. Definitely a worthwhile and valuable event with great insights and I personally am looking forward to future events.
 
Check out #MXMDSA on Twitter to see related tweets.
 
Matthew Snyder
Matthew Snyder is producer of MXM Events and CEO ADObjects, Inc.
Posted by: Matthew Snyder AT 02:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
The Digital Screenmedia Association has released a first version of the DSA ROI Calculator to its members for review and comment.
 
“Return on investment is a critical factor in the planning and measurement of digital screen media networks. Understanding the costs and benefits in a comprehensive way lends tremendous clarity to the process,” said Matt Schmitt, president of Reflect Systems and chair of the DSA ROI Task Force.
 
DSA’s task force on ROI was formed with the goal of providing an ROI framework to be created and maintained by a cross-functional team comprising industry analysts and consultants, vendors and association members that represent end-users.
 
ROI considerations contemplated and included in the ROI calculator model include:
• Type of venue 
• Goals of the network (sales lift, customer experience, advertising, training and cost savings)
• Scope (number of locations, number of displays per location)
• Content strategy
• Costs for capital investments and operating expenses
 

A screen shot of the results page.

The ROI Task Force gathered data from respective organizations and industry sources, discussed the scope and the approach to be used in the ROI framework, and have planned for future updates to be more inclusive of all the types of screen media applications, such as interactive kiosks and mobile devices. The first version (marked as a beta model) is intended to provide DSA members with a working tool to be useful right away, while also providing a way to give DSA feedback, questions and suggestions for improvements. 
 
Based on feedback on the first versions of the ROI tool, which is spreadsheet-based, DSA will likely begin to develop an online version.  
 
“As the team leader for the DSA ROI Task Force, I’ve been excited to work on such a rewarding project. There is no doubt it's a challenging endeavor – not because ROI is difficult to explain, but because there are various types of digital screen media deployments and business models, as well as a number of factors that influence the expenditures and benefits,” said Schmitt. “I'm confident that, with the collaboration of committee members, their respective organizations, the DSA and association members, we're off to a good start in providing valuable tools for the benefit of our entire industry.”
 

The DSA ROI Calculator is available immediately to DSA members. To learn more about membership in DSA, click here.

Posted by: The Perspective AT 12:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Monday, 04 April 2011


Jim Kruper
President
Analytical Design Solutions Inc.

The self-service industry has another new technology to absorb: mobile devices. These devices, such as the iPad, have become more functional and are available in a broader range of products. As companies seek new technology opportunities, usage has expanded from the consumer, the original intended user, to self-service. Unfortunately, this change in usage causes security issues similar to kiosk self-service applications. Security issues are mostly unavoidable in the iPad; however, the good news is that these issues can be addressed in Android devices.

Why deploy mobile devices as self-service apps? There are a number of factors. Mobile devices are easy to connect to Wi-Fi or cellular data networks. They have mature and intuitive touch screen interfaces. They also have the flexibility to be mounted in a fixed kiosk pedestal or to be deployed as a true mobile device. Since mobile devices were designed for consumer use, and therefore not made to last as long as higher-quality OEM devices, mobile devices usually cost significantly less.

What applications are well suited for mobile devices? The sky is the limit, within the constraints of the hardware, including hospitality, retail, health-care and even construction. For example, health-care providers have begun offering paperless check-ins and hotels have used mobile devices to display all of their services electronically within each room.

The Apple iOS iPad was the initial breakthrough tablet device, but since its introduction there have been many Google Android tablet devices announced. Despite being first to market and such a success that it opened the self-service industry to the possibilities of mobile devices, the iOS operating system is surprisingly not well-suited for self-service. Self-service imposes many demands on an operating system that are far different from the standard consumer use of the device; unfortunately, by having a closed operating system, Apple has tied the hands of anyone wishing to write robust self-service applications. On the other hand, Android has an extremely open operating system that is well-suited for self-service. When Microsoft ships Windows 8, which is planned to target mobile devices, then it too will be a viable platform for self-service.

However, similar to the difference between a PC used in self-service and one used in a consumer environment, the mobile device needs to be protected from abuse, negligent or not, by the self-service user. The user’s personal information needs to be similarly protected, since the device will be used next by a complete stranger. This protection takes many forms.

Protect the desktop/launcher
It is critical to prevent the user from accessing the desktop/app launcher. The user should be allowed to run the specified application, but prevented from configuring or executing any other applications as well as downloading and installing any new applications.

Browser lockdown
If the application uses a browser, and most will, it is important to ensure the user is limited only to the domains or pages allowed. In addition, if displaying Internet Web pages, then links such as mailto tags or file downloads need to be blocked. When the user has finished, all traces of that user’s presence on the device must be removed.

Remote monitoring
An important aspect of any self-service deployment is the ability to remotely monitor the device to determine its current status. Is your application running? Are any components reporting errors? For a mobile device, the requirements can expand to include also the physical location of the device and the battery life remaining.

Device security
Mobile devices have one major drawback: they are mobile. It is important for the user to a) know the device needs to be returned, b) indicate to the user when the device is about to leave an approved operation area and c) lock down the device and provide retrieval information to the deployer when the device has left the approved operation area.

Mobile devices have great promise to improve the self-service experience; however, there are challenges to mobility that must be addressed. Today, Android OS is the best platform for self-service.

Jim Kruper is president of Analytical Design Solutions Inc., developers of KioWare kiosk software.


Posted by: Jim Kruper AT 11:53 am   |  Permalink   |  5 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 28 March 2011

Anna Kuzina, public relations manager at DigiSky
Anna Kuzina
Public Relations Manager
DigiSky

 

 


About 10 years ago, digital signage first appeared in the Russian market. Currently, digital signage systems are widely used in metropolitan cities and are being actively introduced in regional areas.

Digital signage advertising networks in the Russian Federation are similar to those in the United States and Europe, but there are differences and varied features. The networks in Russia are mostly from the old generation, in reference to general concept and installations. The majority of the retail and corporate digital signage networks do not use content management systems; instead they utilize USB flash drives or CDs for upgrading and managing the systems. This method appears to work, due to the smaller size of retail and corporate networks compared to Europe and the United States.

The first digital signage advertising network in Russia appeared in the retail sector. Scala’s digital signage network was integrated in the Ramstore retail network. The Ramstore chain features shopping centers, hypermarkets and supermarkets throughout the Russian Federation. Multiple screens were installed throughout stores, displaying advertising content along with entertainment to shoppers. Now, digital signage appears in a variety of retail stores.

The extent of the digital signage expansion also can be seen in the corporate, information and safety sectors. For example, DigiSky, a digital signage network provider, launched a pilot project for the OBI franchise center, a home improvement retailer in Moscow. The OBI deployment included a display with corporate content, Bluetooth capabilities and touch screen kiosks.

In Russia, the main focus of digital signage is in the implementation of interactive technologies and audience measurement tools. Also, there is a clear interest in the innovative information medium, such as interactive kiosks and digital shop windows.

Satellite content distribution systems are another widely used feature in Russia. Due to the country’s massive size, the use of remote access helps minimize operational costs. For instance, DigiSky and City Fitness, a chain of fitness clubs, worked together to develop a content distribution system that is managed remotely from the headquarters in Moscow. Each fitness club has portrait-shaped digital posters and two channel audio devices. The content is then distributed remotely, so every club, even those thousands of kilometers from Moscow, feature the same content.

Digital signage deployers in Russia are eager to learn about the newest technologies and systems. The key Russian industry players include:
• Captivate Media
• DigiSky
• Dismart
• Magitel
• Polymedia
• Screen Media

The interest in the digital signage industry in Russia is rapidly developing and more international players are planning to start activity in the market, such as Harris, Haivision, XPlace and others.



Furthermore, digital signage events are starting to grow in popularity in Russia. The fourth annual Colours of Digital Signage show, organized by the AV Club, takes place on Sept. 6, 2011 in Moscow. For the past four years, this has been the only show held in Russia dedicated to the use and innovation of digital signage and audio-visual informational systems. In 2010, the conference was attended by 189 industry specialists; representatives of more than 15 companies, including both the world leaders of the market; and well-known Russian companies specializing in digital signage. The first day of the conference was aimed at the corporate sector, and the second day was dedicated to the issues of using digital signage systems in the advertising sector. Lectures presented at the conference described all the aspects of digital signage industry development.

The Colours of Digital Signage is the main Russian conference in the digital signage sphere. For now, there aren’t many digital signage shows or exhibitions in the Russian Federation. This year, Out-of-home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) Europe is scheduled to begin hosting seminars in Russia on a regular basis. In November, the Digital Signage Conference (DiSCO) will be a part of an Integrated Systems Russia show.

Posted by: Anna Kuzina AT 03:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Wednesday, 23 March 2011
The digital signage industry is a small world – but it stretches across the globe.

And that global community is pulling together to do what it can to help relief efforts for the still-developing catastrophe in Japan.

Organized by digital signage expert consultants Dave Haynes and David Weinfeld, DOOH4relief is "a collective, voluntary effort to drive fundraising for the still unfolding tragedy" in Japan, according to www.dooh4relief.com.

Spurred by a Weinfeld tweet over the weekend recalling a similar effort for the Haiti earthquake last year, the two Daves started working on rounding up help.

"The idea is you've got literally hundreds of thousands of available screens out there in North America, and globally and virtually all of them will have some available media inventory time ... between us (Haynes and Weinfeld), we kind of got the word out that this is going on, we can help, who wants to pitch in?" Haynes said via telephone this morning.

"It's just kind of steamrolled from there."

The effort already has garnered several spot ads soliciting donations to Red Cross and Red Crescent relief efforts that have been made available for download at www.dooh4relief.com. Some of the ads were already in development independently by companies such as rVue, Haynes said, but the site is now providing a central clearinghouse for the public service announcement content.

DOOH4relief has been a catholic effort, with agencies and firms from across the world offering to help out. Insteo, headquartered in California, is hosting and managing the site. And according to Haynes' 16:9 blog, Cineplex Digital Solutions and Groupe Viva in Canada are working on spots, and a U.K.-based associate of Montreal-headquartered Ayuda is working to spur efforts in the United Kingdom.

Belgian firm idKlic has contributed a spot that references both the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies – that is already up and running in 600 Belgian pharmacies.
Al Barq Digital in Abu Dhabi/Dubai has joined in and is working to get the ball rolling in the Middle East region.

According to Haynes' blog, "ScreenScape has asked its SMB user base to run spots, the Canadian Health Media Network is poised to run spots on its member networks as soon as they come available, and RMG Networks in the US – has already started running spots on its large New York Times and fitness networks."

"We are also in touch with the Canadian and US digital out of home/place-based member organizations, and OVAB Europe via Al Barq."

Spots developed by rVue and Context Media also are available, according to Haynes' blog.
Also according to his blog, "the files will be 15s and 30s and will conform where possible to the DP-AA content guidelines for resolution, bitrate and file type."

There are now four PSAs up on the site, and there should be several more coming in today, Haynes said this morning. There are more in development for the French-speaking parts of Canada, he said, and he's hoping a company will soon step up to develop spots in Spanish aimed at Latinos.

Also, Haynes is "taking great pains" to make sure that this effort is not used in any way "as a back-patting exercise," asking networks and others to not alter the spots beyond tweaking them for formatting.



Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 07:25 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 25 August 2010
Return on investment, or ROI, is a critical consideration for any technology investment. With digital screenmedia networks (digital signage, kiosks, etc.), the need for calculating and considering ROI is especially important, given the capital costs of many networks and the ongoing expenses required to maintain them.

The Digital Screenmedia Association’s task force on ROI was formed with the goal of providing an ROI framework to be created and maintained by a cross-functional team comprising industry analysts and consultants, vendors and association members that represent end-users.

ROI considerations reflected in the framework:
• Type of venue (retail, corporate, healthcare, transportation, etc)
• Type of screenmedia (digital signage, kiosks, multipurpose displays)
• Goals of the network (sales lift, customer experience, advertising, self-service applications)
• Scope (number of locations, number of displays per location)
• Content strategy
• Deployment model (on-premise, hosted, managed services)

ROI task force members:
  • Chair: Matt Schmitt, Reflect Systems
  • Sean Andersen, Six Flags
  • Michael Chase, St. Joseph Content
  • Bill Collins, DecisionPoint Media
  • Paul Flanigan, The Preset Group 
  • Scott Francis, PRN
  • Rocky Gunderson, SeeSaw Networks
  • Pat Hellberg, Kaicon
  • Janice Litvinoff, Cisco
  • Bob Michaels, Magenta Research
  • Mike Parkinson, LG Electronics
  • Mark Webster, Rollouts
  • Paul Flanigan, The Preset Group

We have gathered data from respective organizations and industry sources, discussed the scope and the approach to be used in the ROI framework release cycle and plan a near-term introduction of the first deliverable. The current plan is to introduce a first-version ROI document and calculator package October 1, 2010. This first version includes an introductory document outlining the assumptions and considerations used, along with instructions on how to use the included ROI calculator to easily input relevant information and arrive at a simple ROI model. This version of the framework is most useful for "passive" digital signage implementations and does not yet dive into some of the elements specifically related to interactive kiosks or self-service applications.

Future plans of the committee (certainly to be influenced by association membership and feedback) may include considerations for multiple analysis models based on network types and goals of the organization. It's well understood that it is difficult to maintain a single ROI input and calculator model that will work accurately for all types of screenmedia projects. Based on feedback on the first version (which is document- and spreadsheet-based) the committee may then work with the DSA to launch an online tool that uses a wizard type of approach to reviewing the ROI models.

It's exciting to work on such a critical project. There is no doubt it's a challenging endeavor – not because ROI is difficult to explain, but because there are so many flavors of digital screenmedia deployments and business models. But I'm confident that with the committee members, their respective organizations, and the DSA and association members we'll provide some beneficial tools and information for the benefit of everyone.

The committee could greatly benefit from member input on a number of things, including:
• opinions on the most critical ROI elements
• most important measurement criteria (sales lift, ad revenue, cost savings, etc)
• realistic cost savings criteria when using digital (over static signage, non-networked digital solutions, etc)


This type of valuable input is always appreciated and will greatly help the ROI task force deliver the best information possible.

Feel free to forward any feedback, ideas, or questions to me at matt@reflectsystems.com anytime.

Matt Schmitt is CEO and founder of Reflect Systems, a leading provider of digital media solutions. He also serves as chairman of the DSA's task force on ROI.

See also: DSA's webinar on Digital Signage ROI

Posted by: The Perspective AT 06:45 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 26 October 2009

In the ongoing battle to attract and retain consumer mindshare, retailers are increasingly turning to innovative marketing mediums to engage and stay top-of-mind with consumers. Gone are the days of unlocking the door and turning on the radio; today’s retailers are pressing fast-forward to fully customized soundtracks. Paper POP table tents and static signage are being replaced by sophisticated digital media networks.

Smart companies are implementing ways to take the in-store experience beyond the lease line to extend brand affinity, drive consumer behavior and provide relevant lifestyle content to the consumer. All these advancements aim to enhance the shopping experience, lifting it to more than just a trip to a store, but rather a theatrical experience where purchasing merchandise is only part of the journey.

Not only are these solutions successful at engaging consumers, but they have also been proven to extend dwell time and increase brand awareness – key factors in ongoing loyalty and long-term buying relationships. Keeping consumers inside the store is even more important today than it has been in past years. The current economic downturn has meant a loss in revenue, so on those days when consumers are out and about, it is imperative that a retailer attract them, keep them in store, and close the sale. Just as important is that, as your customers go mobile, so must your brand.

A recent Retail Systems Research report ("Walking the Razor’s Edge: Managing the Store Experience in an Economic Singularity," June 2009) states 70 percent of retailers surveyed said they use in-store technologies to maintain or improve the customer experience and extend that experience past the lease line. According to the same report, two-thirds of the retailers surveyed said they have reduced their payrolls in the wake of the economic slide, but those same two-thirds of retailers surveyed have not changed the expenditures devoted to in-store technology.

So, what are some key elements of the "store as theater" retailers can take advantage of to increase mindshare, and stay connected and engaged with their customers?

The eyes have it

Digital signage is becoming the fastest-growing segment of retail media and advertisers are taking note; a 2007 Forrester survey found 72 percent of advertisers are looking at in-store media as an alternative to traditional advertising. In-store digital signage has the power to effectively relay brand messages to consumers by providing the message diversification needed to captivate shoppers in a new way.

With digital signage networks, advertisers can target consumers in different parts of a store, in different locations, in different ways, at different times of the day, delivering some of the most target-specific visual marketing yet. For example, signage content at an athletic retailer might run footage and/or related product advertising in the footwear section of the store, while the exercise equipment section highlights an instructional video on a specific piece of equipment. According to industry research, in-store messaging drives a 40-percent uptick in sales. It does this because it has the ability to be personal and connect with a consumer on a different level.

Digital signage increases traffic, which in turn increases the capacity to capture the consumer. Gaining a shopper’s attention by placing that consumer into the messaging is a key factor in increasing brand awareness and sales. For instance, a person who is passionate about surfing may see themselves as the focal point of a sign on display at their local surf shop. They connect with the image and are therefore drawn to that store, creating a more loyal following.

They’re all ears

Much like digital signage has the ability to draw a shopper’s attention through visual elements, music attracts consumers through emotion and sound. Customized playlists that put brand to music have the ability to focus on specific demographics, catering to a certain genre and style while staying true to your brand essence. And with choices ranging from commercial satellite subscriptions and pre-arranged "mixes" to regularly updated fully custom programming, there is an option to fit every environment and budget.

In-store music is another area that has benefitted from technology. While many retailers still opt for their programming to be delivered via CD, more and more are choosing to have their tunes delivered over the Internet. Internet delivery has a number of advantages, including ease-of-use and fewer requirements of the on-site store employees. More sophisticated systems/services even allow for track selection and message insertion right from a Web browser.

In selecting a music provider, it is vital to make sure their service enables a level of customization that will fit your current and future needs. Things like day-parting — arranging music for different vibes to coincide for different times of the day — and a true understanding of how to convey your brand via music can make or break the in-store experience. Finally, make sure your chosen provider is current with their licensing agreements. In-store music is "public performance", and leading providers can handle all licensing so you know you’re legal.

Brand on the run

It is more important than ever that retailers implement strategies to take the in-store experience to consumers, wherever they are, to extend brand engagement beyond the lease line. This "anywhere concept" truly extends the lease line of a retailer by allowing consumers to be exposed to branded entertainment media at any moment, whether its an hour or a week after the consumer has left the store.

Mobile, Web radio, branded podcasts, artist promotions and compilation CDs are powerful vehicles for reaching consumers. They provide the means to remain engaged with consumers across multiple touch points, while delivering personalized content that extends brand visibility and affinity. Whether cooking dinner in their kitchen, out for a jog, or sitting in their cubicle at work, an entertainment media campaign keeps your brand in front of consumers on their terms, making sure you stay top-of-mind.

Retailers that can target consumers with multiple touch points at various points of the day and week, in various locations and regions, with branded content and messaging are the retailers who become most successful. These retailers have learned that, for consumers, the shopping experience is not just about selling products — it’s about creating a shopping experience which is fun and exciting, and establishes a true brand connection.

Craig Hubbell is executive vice president of media services for PlayNetwork Inc., where he is responsible for all media services, including music services, video display, and advertising and entertainment services.

Posted by: Craig Hubbell AT 01:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 21 September 2009

Transactions completed by consumers in North America using self-service kiosks are projected to more than double over the next few years, according to a new research study from IHL Group.

The report, "2009 North American Self-Service Kiosks," forecasts the value of self-service kiosk transactions will grow from $775 billion this year to more than $1.6 trillion by 2013. According to Lee Holman, lead retail analyst of the IHL Group, the ongoing recession is contributing to the growth of self-service kiosks as businesses and institutions turn to the technology to keep labor costs in check. Also helping to propel the growth is consumer acceptance of self-service kiosks as what he termed "a way of life."

In particular, retailers, restaurants and transportation authorities can expect to see continued double-digit revenue growth from self-service kiosk transactions, said Holman.

The report is outstanding news for the digital signage market. As I’ve written about before in this space, pairing traditional linear digital signage with interactive capability is a powerful tool for anyone who has a message to deliver and a transaction to conduct.

That’s because such hybrid interactive digital signs can be used to promote events, merchandise and services as normal digital signs do, and with the touch of finger be transformed into interactive mode supporting self-service transactions for the very items promoted in the normal, linear digital signage presentation. For example, imagine digital signage kiosks strategically positioned around a shopping mall promoting what’s showing at the mall cinema with movie trailers, text, graphics and animation. After attracting the interest of passersby, some will decide to act on the impulse to watch a movie. With a clearly visible instruction to touch the sign to select a movie and buy tickets, the sign switches to interactive mode offering the customer the opportunity to browse movie times, select a show and purchase a ticket — maybe even dispense a coupon for concessions too.

All that’s needed to turn a linear digital sign into an interactive self-service kiosk is the right software, someone to build, test and deliver the branching and transactional aspects of the interactive presentation and any one of several different technologies that recognizes a touch to the screen as an interactive input.

One particular hybrid interactive digital signage application in a suburb of Wichita, KS, takes interactivity to an even higher level. The Walnut Valley Garden Center in Andover, KS, is using interactive digital signage to provide customers with self-service guidance on completing landscaping projects, recommending garden products based on their specific project and fulfill orders on an expeditious basis. The garden center application illustrates another important aspect of digital signage-based self-service kiosks not covered in the IHL Group report. Specifically, hybrid, interactive digital signs can be used to enhance efficiencies in areas of business such as customer service, order processing, inventory control, marketing and personnel allocation. Taken together, efficiencies in these areas can have a real impact on the bottom line of a business.

That’s a substantial bonus for businesses that stand to benefit from a more than doubling of self-service kiosk transactions over the next few years. Isn’t it time you joined the digital signage revolution?

David Little is director of business development at Keywest Technology.

Posted by: David Little AT 01:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 04 September 2009

Product packaging is a powerful and effective means of communicating a product’s potential, promise and desirability to consumers. There’s no argument about that. However, product packaging is a little overworked these days — a package must clearly list ingredients, nutrition facts, instructions for use, safety information, consumer hotlines, and make room for a bar code. And all of this is before the important stuff! It must also do a stellar job of displaying its brand, attract consumers and make them desire the product — and do this better than every other product package within view.

Until recently, product packaging has been pretty much up to the task of delivering all that is asked of it. But, with bigger stores carrying ever-larger assortments, packages need to shout louder to be heard over the competition. Compounding this problem is the admirable drive to reduce packaging, which finds manufacturers with less package ‘real estate’ to use for messaging. In some cases, there is no package to use for messaging (think bicycles or car tires) — just a tiny shelf tag to tell the story. And if your product package can’t tell its story, your product won’t make it into the cart. Consider that a recent Miller Zell study shows that 60 percent of purchase decisions are made right there in the aisle.

Interactive media systems bring products to life. Video games locked in display cases are replaced with on-demand trailers, searchable extended inventory and instant pre-ordering.
Interactive media systems bring products to life. Video games locked in display cases are replaced with on-demand trailers, searchable extended inventory and instant pre-ordering.
It’s no surprise then that we’re seeing an increasing number of retailers and brands using in-store interactive media systems to help their overworked product packaging. Interactive touchscreens offer near-infinite real estate in a compact space, which makes it possible to provide in-depth technical information, to show product demonstration videos or simply tell a product’s story. The feel-good origins of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or the quest for innovation that led to Dyson vacuum cleaners make for compelling "aisle theatre," and are sometimes just the things that cement purchase decisions.

Another retail trend I see is the inclusion of extended inventories — products which are merchandized in the store, but only available online or via ship-to-store delivery for later pickup. This trend brings the best of web shopping to the brick-and-mortar store, but often comes without all the great sorting and filtering tools the web provides to make sense of all this choice.

Think of digital cameras, or other technical products that require some consideration like golf clubs, laptop computers or even baby carriers. Without a knowledgeable sales associate and only a shelf tag to do the talking, retailers are increasingly turning to in-store interactive screens. These assistive shopping systems guide consumers through the selection process and provide independent user ratings, product reviews, and even price comparisons. The trend toward these systems is growing, as it is preferable to maintain a single, accurate product decision tree, than to train thousands of store associates on the intricacies of a dozen or more high-touch product lines.

Looking to the future of in-store interactive systems, it’s clear the gel has not set — retailers are still discovering new ways of mixing packaging and interactive technology to connect with consumers. Decades from now when computing is truly ubiquitous, and packages are literally alive with moving images, every container could be in itself an interactive experience. Until that future arrives, in-store interactive systems may be the best way to think outside the package.

Posted by: Troy Carroll AT 01:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 24 August 2009
There has been a great deal of talk over recent years that the digital signage industry is finally “crossing the chasm” of early adopters and pioneers into the mainstream. We believe that this process is now underway and that the growth in the industry that has often been predicted is materializing.
 
We believe that this is based around five key factors:
 
a) Clearer understanding of the benefits of digital signage by sector.
 
When any new medium arises, it tends to use paradigms from old media to launch the new medium. For example, television borrowed from theatre and the Internet borrowed from magazines. This continues for a while until the new medium begins to create its own vocabulary and changes things in line with the way consumers use the new medium.
 
Similarly the DOOH space initially used the paradigms of billboards and television when it first launched. While these paradigms may be appropriate in certain situations, it is only now beginning to re-invent itself as its own medium meeting the specific needs of consumers in a place-based way.
 
There is now a much clearer focus on understanding the role and objectives of the network it is an advertising, merchandising and information network with clearer metrics on measuring the ROI.
 
This also spills through into understanding how the signage network will work in different environments and how the customer should be addressed. Advertising has classically gone through four phases: interruption, entertainment, engagement and dialogue. In the first phase, the ad interrupts what the consumer is doing and often forces them to watch the ad. This was the classical television advertising model of the seventies where consumers had no choice but to view the ad.
 
The eighties marked the start of entertaining advertising where the consumer wanted to see the ad and received a payoff from it. The Internet moved things along in the nineties towards an engagement model where the consumer focused on ads that interested them and they became more engaged with the products. Finally in the last few years brands have realized that advertising is about a dialogue with the consumer. Mobile and social networking technologies facilitate this ongoing dialogue.
 
Digital signage can also use these models effectively in different environments. For instance, in environments with a fast moving audience (outdoor, transport hubs, malls), the interrupt model still dominates the out of home space. In areas with a higher dwell time (cinemas, beauty salons), you start seeing more of an entertainment and engagement model while in other specific areas of healthcare, some retail environments and food services you can now move towards an engagement and dialogue model.
 
The dialogue model is being used effectively by some digital signage providers. For example, EnQii partner with Ping Mobile, who link the digital signage software to their mobile marketing infrastructure. This allows viewers of digital signage ads to respond and interact using their cellular or mobile handheld technology.
 
This type of strategic analysis of the networks allows the operator to ensure the best content is delivered in the most appropriate fashion to get the desired result.
 
b) Maturing of the technology and content
 
Another area that is driving the industry forward is the maturing technology. Historically, the industry has moved from unconnected DVD based networks to simple connected networks to more complex networks with sophisticated advertising scheduling.
 
Going forward, it will be important that the network owner has technology that utilizes the basics – it needs to be scalable, reliable and secure. But it also needs to be an open platform that allows third party and internally developed applications to link to it to provide cost and revenue benefits. EnQii, for example, has always been a believer in open API’s (Application Program Interfaces), which allows customers to create front ends that link to the software so that they can link into their own workflows. This also allows linkages to “best of breed” systems such as ordering systems for digital menu boards, wayfinding, ePOS and queuing systems on an as needed basis.
 
Finally, the technology needs to be easy to use, but complex enough to perform all the key tasks needed. This is no mean feat, as the software has to be used by marketing professionals as well as systems administrators. The wrong design fill frustrates both types of users, whereas the right design will ensure neither of them notice the complexity.
 
The content has also matured. Initially networks often put up TV or stills that they had available. However, current networks such as Footlocker, Care Media, Harley Davidson, and the WHEN network are realizing that ultimately what matters is that what is seen on the screen and a deep understanding of customer behavior will allow the networks to get the best results.
 
c) ‘Serious’ companies beginning to invest in signage networks
 
As is typical for companies “crossing the chasm”, network operators have gone from an entrepreneur with a dream and some family funding to large multinational companies beginning to invest as well as financial companies putting serious investment behind networks.
 
This is important because a lot of early failures in the industry’s experimental years have been from entrepreneurs who secured a good estate and some financing, but they made the mistake of assuming that they could build advertising revenues as they rolled their network out. Typically ad revenues come in on a stepped basis over time. Ideally, networks need a certain critical mass which is dependent on the advertising strategy (national, regional, local) and the desirability of the demographic before receiving any revenues. Hence, there is a need for adequate funding to bridge the gap to that critical mass as opposed to assuming ad revenues will flow as soon as just a few locations are installed.
 
In the last six months we have seen companies like McDonald’s and well-financed companies like Care Media and Zoom all invest in the space. These rollouts bode well for the industry, especially in recessionary times. The food services sector, healthcare, hair salons and a few others continue to do well in a soft economy as the network operators realize the importance of staying close to the consumer and influencing their purchases when dollars are tight.
 
Finally, the ad agencies have also started to set up dedicated divisions for digital out of home with Kinetic and Posterscope taking the lead in this area.
 
d) ‘Serious’ suppliers providing a full service
 
The flip side of serious network owners is that of serious suppliers. Historically the digital signage industry was a bit of a cottage industry. Over recent years this has changed and EnQii was set up specifically to create a leadership position in the space. The focus moved from hardware to communications – having a deep understanding of what signage works and what does not and how to get the best return. Operating as a global player and being well funded became the focus in order to be able to invest in the best technology for the customers. It became about creating the best partnerships and offering a full service solution to large networks. The idea is to let the networks do what they do best – monetizing their customer by offering the best service and content while allowing the service provider to do the rest and minimize the risk of the venture.
 
e) The view from China
 
Finally, the growth of DOOH in the Chinese market has proved that there is a real business there. Focus Media is generating close to $400m a year in revenues and has bypassed many of the agencies to go directly to advertisers for a large portion of this money. AirMedia had revenues of $119m and Vision had revenues of over $100m. While some dynamics in China are different – for instance, there is a higher propensity for out of home consumption – it proves that there is real money to be made in these businesses.
 
In summary, optimism remains about the growth of the DOOH sector and the belief that it will continue to accelerate as all involved learn more about the medium and how the consumer interacts with it.
Posted by: Ajay Chowdhury AT 01:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 30 December 2008
That is the question that was posed to exhibitors of KioskCom Self Service Expo in October by Mark Freed of J.D. Events, the show's owner and operator. It was a good question because there is often a blurring of the line between the two. Historically, digital signage was on LCD or plasma panels and mounted high on a wall, while kiosks were various computer screens from 8- to 19-inches and were usually touchscreen interactive. But when you consider LCD technology that has become cheaper and more commonplace, coupled with the use of touch overlays that are capable of being used on 42- to 60-inch screens, well, it's not a stretch to say that digital signage is interactive, and essentially a very large screen kiosk.
 
Or is it?
 
Digital signage can be interactive, and I think that is what determines what you call your project. Digital signage management tools often limit the amount of full programmable interaction you can create to accomplish your goals. After all, the main difference between kiosk management software and digital signage management software is that DS tools allow for scheduling of content into predefined zones or templates. A kiosk application is not expecting "scheduled content" and the way that information is laid out on screen can be most anything imaginable. So if you are running a system with a digital management tool you should think of your application as digital signage or perhaps interactive digital signage.
 
If you are using a kiosk management tool, well, it could be a kiosk. But it could also be simple digital signage. It's confusing, I know. Even for those of us in the industry, the lines between them are gray.
 
Some digital signage management tools such as Scala are highly programmable and allow for integration of Javascript, VbScript or Python scripting to extend the dynamic content from a database. Not all management tools allow for this level of robust flexibility. The flipside is that Scala is dramatically more expensive than simpler digital signage management tools, which means it is often used for enterprise level signage.
 
So when is a project digital signage and when is it a kiosk? The show made it a contest for exhibitors to come up with an interesting answer. Below are some of those answers. The winner was Dr. Robert DeVargas, chief financial officer of Eternal Interactive LLC. He made his answer a bit of prose which I enjoy:
 
Is it signage or a kiosk? The answer's tricky to tell;
For everything a kiosk is, the signage is as well.
There is one trait to ponder, that may put this to rest;
It's not how each one functions, but how they're used the best.
For it's signage at a distance, for many eyes to see;
But when a user's on it, a kiosk it must be.
 
Thanks, Dr. DeVargas, for a good, quippy response. Below are some of the other responses:
 
"Digital signage is a kiosk when its message contains a call to action that can be immediately acted upon by interacting with the same sign."
                                        --Jeff Brinson
                                                      Presentation Concepts Corp.
 
"Kiosks and digital signage share the same mandate of attracting, engaging and communicating with today's hi-tech consumer offering everyone universal and ubiquitous access to the benefits of the digital economy. This new culture of fast-paced individuals who manage their lifestyles through technology ... have indeed spawned the age of the kiosk and digital signage as a means of meeting their unique needs for digital engagement in the public sector."
                                        --Doug B Matatall
                                           iPhoenix Corporation
 
"When is a kiosk digital signage? When you see it hanging 10 feet off the ground where you can’t touch it. (Good for physical security concerns, bad for interactivity)."
                                        --Tim Burke (author of this Perspective)
 
"Q: When Is A Kiosk Digital Signage?
A: A kiosk is digital signage when it is networked to other kiosks and large-format displays, and showcases digital content in any form. Additionally, a kiosk qualifies as digital signage if it is tightly integrated with, and strategically complements, a digital out-of-home media network, regardless of its size, placement, or environment. Finally, if consumers can't tell the difference, and respond positively to displayed content, then the kiosk is digital signage. Today, marketers do not need to choose one or the other. Rather, cost-effective kiosk and digital signage applications may be seamlessly deployed side-by-side, working closely together to stimulate consumer behavior."
                                        --Ian McKenzie
                                                      Dynamax Technologies
 
"When you can attach an ROI and you know what channel the sale came from."
                                        --Lou Boudreau
                                                     SkyMall Corporate Office
 
As you can see, the answer depends on whom you ask.
Posted by: Tim Burke AT 12:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 07 October 2008
It has been an active discussion topic and frequently asked question within screen media network communities for some time now. A decade after I saw the first digital signage screen by Captivate Network in an elevator at ACNiesen's headquarters, the rate for digital signage advertising is still a puzzle that no one — not even a savvy ad agency executive — can provide a clear formula for calculating.
 
Why can't we just adopt the traditional cost per thousand impressions (CPM) rate for the established medium as a baseline? Not so simple.
 
JimmyDunSSO.jpg
Pricing ad placement is not a clear-cut science to begin with. While the ad rates for established media, posters, newspapers, magazines and TV have many considerations (viewership, demographics, ad size, running length, etc.), the ad pricing on digital signage screens inherits almost all attributes from the traditional mediums, but also involves many new dimensions.  
 
Through the use of targeted and on-demand content distribution technologies over the broadband infrastructure, the narrowcasting nature of digital signage networks provides an effective way of reaching and engaging audiences with relevant content catered screen-by-screen to specific locations and viewers’ interests. Some well-implemented networks even allow direct interaction with viewers through interactive screens or cell phones for in-depth one-on-one communication and tracking.
 
No one will argue that the screens with targeted audience and viewer engaging technologies have better value and effectiveness in direct comparison to the traditional media such as posters, billboards and broadcast TV. But that does not mean you can demand two or three times the cost of the equivalent billboard or TV ads with similar viewer counts.
 
The price of any successful product is based on the following three stages — conditions, if you will. The ad product on digital signage screens is no exception.
 
1.      Market acceptance: While we are seeing evidence that sponsors are very interested in digital signage screens, the advertising companies are not fully jumping onboard simply due to the lack of historical statistical records and immature tracking methods. It is easier to justify the cost of a $2.5 million 30-second spot during the Super Bowl than a $1,000 monthly cost on a well-located digital signage screen. However, the recent activities of digital signage network deployments by large international ad agencies indicate that advertising on digital signage screens is entering the mainstream market.
 
2.      Return on investment: Since return is directly related to the pricing, more case studies must be done by major research firms on successful deployments. The interactive viewer engaging and tracking technologies deployed on the screens will further add value in both effectiveness and precise tracking of sponsor dollars.
 
3.      Demand: Better managed and well-covered high-value networks with focused demographics and geographic coverage will translate to higher demand, therefore higher price on ads.
 
As the industry moves along, the market will set the pricing structure in the near future.
 
In practical matters for deciding the pricing at the current stage, the equivalent size print billboards at a similar location should be a good measure in pricing the ads on digital signage screens. Based on the experience of our clients, not counting the large LED billboards, the acceptable monthly rates on LCD or plasma screens are ranging from $100 for a typical community or retail location to $5,000 for a focused high-value demographic venue with limited ads per screen.
 
It is critical for any digital signage network startups, large or small, to have a long term financial plan along with a deployment strategy that focuses on maximizing the network value on the deployment investments. Here's some advice for building the value of the screen time:
  • Stay focused on vertical markets and geographic coverage. Leverage committed financial resources to maximize the screen count and audience reach.
  • Ensure content quality and relevance.
  • Choose technology partners carefully. The cheap solution may not necessary be a good choice.
  • Partner with peer networks and established media companies in sharing the resources including viewer coverage, contents and sponsors.
Jimmy Dun is the vice president of business development for Dynasign Corporation.
 
Posted by: Jimmy Dun AT 12:05 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 09 September 2008
As I enter my 14th year of promoting the benefits of deploying self-service kiosks, and now digital signage, the phrase "the more things change, the more they stay the same" continues to resonate in my mind.
 
While the technologies and functions for each deployment continue to change and reach into new markets, there is a base component that remains the same — building from the past.  Regardless of where your program is set to launch or who your target is, researching and understanding the past successes and failures of the customer-facing technology (CFT) programs that preceded the new application continues to play a primary role in the deployment process. 
 
Having been involved with many of these deployments from both the buyer's side and seller's side, it is very apparent that those who had a well-conceived strategy based on analyzing previous successes and failures experienced greater results than those who attempted to start from scratch. While there is nothing wrong with wanting to create a new direction or concept for your deployment, the core belief that a clear understanding of customer and employee behavior and trends serves as major strategic asset to ensuring your success the first time out, still holds true just as much today as it did 10 years ago.
 
Self-service and kiosk deployments studied preceding CFT initiatives — from ATMs to the Internet to early kiosks — as part of their development process. I believe that the Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) signage industry stands to gain significantly by following suit and learning from the trials and tribulations encountered by the kiosk and self-service industry.
 
Yes, I can hear professionals in the Digital OOH market now: "Sacrilege! Kiosks have nothing to do with digital signage! Don't even speak of it! Heretic! Traitor!" 
 
My reply to these individuals can be summed up in one word: Nonsense. 
 
It's nonsense that Digital OOH deployments should avoid building off of the lessons learned by other kiosk initiatives because kiosks are an interactive customer facing technology, just as Digital OOH is categorized as either an interactive (touch) or non-interactive (static/passive) customer-facing technology.
 
For 13 years I've been involved at all levels of the Customer-Facing Technology industry, dealing in everything from kiosks to Web sites to handhelds to digital signage. I've worked with thousands of deployers and purchasers, and just as many technology and service providers. I have conducted extensive research and industry analysis, and even demonstrated the benefits of these customer-facing technologies to professionals serving arenas in the mainstream universe, such as retail, hotels, travel, government, food service, etc. 
 
My work has brought a number of "hot button" DOOH issues to my attention, including:
  • Securing funding and appropriate technology for the project.
  • Gaining complete organizational support, from senior/executive level buy-off to employee acceptance.
  • Improving the customer experience.
  • Creating relevant and engaging content, and ensuring your content is presented in the right context.
  • Providing ROI metrics to purchasers and advertisers.
  • Increasing revenues with the deployment while reducing operational expenses.
I can say with full confidence that these same issues have been brought up within the kiosk industry as well. The only difference is that the kiosk market has discussed and analyzed these issues in great detail, and gone on to implement successful action plans to remedy the problems. More importantly, the research and results are now used as the platform for many DOOH deployments.
 
A review of some recently published comments also highlight the belief that digital signage deployments and kiosks face similar issues — as do all customer-facing technology deployments:
  1. "Consumers need the promise of relevant information if they are going to engage a kiosk” — Bill Lynch, Source Technologies.
  2. "Whoever is championing the deployment of digital media must get buy-in from, and work in tandem with, IT." — ISM Retail.
  3. "The goal with of integrating any systems with your digital media network should be consistency — removing pricing discrepancies or avoiding the advertisement of non-stocks, for instance." — Ken Goldberg, CEO, Real Digital Media (RDM).
Kiosks and digital signage share an incredible amount of analogous DNA, and are often deployed simultaneously. Organizations that embrace learning from the histories and actions have proven this point with their successes, and they have loudly proclaimed that events which encourage strategic discussions around multiple CFT deployments and promote interaction, analysis and knowledge-sharing have significantly helped them to quickly and efficiently launch and succeed with their CFT projects.
Posted by: Lawrence Dvorchik AT 11:58 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
 
If you ever want to know how well a given business program is working, you can spend money on focus groups and surveys. Or, you can just ask a child.

My five-year-old son and I were walking through Wal-Mart the other day, when he noticed the "Wal-Mart TV" screens for the first time. We've spent plenty of hours in Wal-Marts before, but the screens had always escaped his gaze (perhaps because they're mounted at heights that give an adult a neck-ache).

But today, he says to me: "Daddy, that's the TV channel that only shows commercials."

An exclamation mark appeared in the air over my head. Why yes, son, that’s right – it's a TV channel with no programs, only commercials.

Now honestly, how many of you would watch such a channel if you were at home? A few of you might have just raised your hands – marketers and ad-men and ad-women and connoisseurs of the art form of the commercial – but for most of us, a network of all commercials, all the time is a nightmare that sends us scrambling for the big, friendly TiVo button.

But there is no TiVo button in a store, only a growing number of screens that the shopper cannot get away from.

In-store media is a powerful tool, and when it is properly done, consumers love it. When the content is entertaining and place-appropriate, it feels like a benefit to the shopper. When the content is nothing but ads, it feels like an intrusion into the shopper's privacy.

Blame the all-too-human nature to be pennywise and pound-foolish. Many retailers, having just written the not-insignificant check for the screens and the software and the installation of their new digital signage program, turn to face the content beast and say, "Oh, wait, we can save some money here by using ads we're already running on television or the Web."

And yes, you can. You can also hire terrible customer service people to save a few dollars in the short-term. How well does that strategy work?

In-store media, evolving thing that it is, is a massively complex touch point between you and your customer. Give it the attention and intelligence it deserves. Do not let it become your company's version of the TV channel that only shows commercials.
 
Posted by: James Bickers AT 11:45 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
 
So, you’ve decided your business or institution will be well served by adding a new digital signage network. Now what?
 
Where to turn and what to do can be confusing, especially if you’re responsible for your organization’s communications or IT department but don’t really know anything about a digital sign. While there are many good companies in business to help you achieve your goals, you can make the endeavor easier and far more successful if you avoid the problems many before you have encountered when rolling out and maintaining their digital signage networks.
 
Having worked with hundreds of customers on their digital signage needs, we at Keywest Technology have seen a lot of difficulties that easily could have been avoided — along with the associated delays and added expense — with a little knowledge up front. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. So, keep these top 10 digital signage pitfalls in mind as you plan your new digital signage network to make the experience smooth and rewarding.

No. 1: Lack of a clear purpose
 
Someone in your organization has read that digital signage can make marketing messaging more effective. It can reach potential customers at the point of purchase, promote desired behavior, target different demographic groups associated with different times of the day, and do many other wonderful things.
 
But what exactly does your organization need to accomplish with digital signage? That’s the seminal question. Without clearly defining the purpose of a digital signage network, it is impossible to find success in any phase of its deployment or use.
 
Taking the time up front to define the expectations for the system and to write them out on paper for the approval of key management will provide direction and focus effort on attainable goals. Struggling to fulfill a nebulous purpose for the digital signage network will rack up unnecessary expense and leave everyone connected with the project frustrated.

No. 2: Taking on digital signage as an IT project
 
Digital signage network. The very words sound IT oriented. While there’s a lot of IT technology involved with digital signage, taking on a digital signage network as an IT project is dangerous.
 
While highly skilled, the typical IT manager does not have the background nor the experience needed to roll out a successful digital signage network. There’s a powerful temptation on the part of IT managers to look at digital signage playback as if it were a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation. It isn’t.
 
PowerPoint does an excellent job at making business presentations, but how many TV stations rely on PowerPoint to create and playback the programs, commercials, news and promotions you see nightly? Exactly zero. With respect to playing back video, graphics, text and animation, layering multiple visual elements and building and maintaining a playout schedule, a digital signage network is more like a TV station than a boardroom with a projector and a PowerPoint presentation. Keep that in mind if an IT manager volunteers to take on your organization’s digital signage project. 

No. 3: Lack of content
 
Congratulations. You have a digital signage network. What are you going to display? Having a digital signage network without content is like having a newspaper without print. There’s just a whole lot of nothing and an overwhelming sense of emptiness.
 
Communicating in some form must be part of the reason behind the decision to add a digital signage network. However, there is no communication without content. Fortunately, many organizations have existing resources to draw upon that can be repurposed as digital signage content. Logos, commercials, promotional video, print advertising, plans and drawings all can be reused in whole or in part to communicate a message on a digital signage network.
 
Additionally, RSS Internet feeds are a tremendous resource for updating a digital signage network with fresh, “newsy” content, weather and sports scores that can give an audience a reason to take a second or third look.
 
Regardless of where it comes from, content is critical to the success of a digital signage network. Knowing where it will come from is as important as actually having the digital signage network in place. 

No. 4: No one assigned to manage the project
 
While it’s not like designing the International Space Station, putting a digital signage network in place can be a complex undertaking. For that reason, it’s essential that any business or organization taking on a digital signage network assign someone to manage the project. Having an individual identified to own the project will minimize the impact of the unforeseen problems that inevitably creep into any complex undertaking.
 
Just as bad as having no one assigned to manage the project is its closely related cousin: management by committee. Offering up conflicting directions from multiple individuals will leave your system integrator bewildered and your project incomplete. 

No. 5: No one to update content
 
While RSS feeds and subscriptions to news wire services are two sources of fresh information for a digital signage network, where will updated content conveying your company’s specific messages and current offerings come from?
 
A digital signage network that attracts attention has an insatiable appetite for fresh content. Thus, it’s essential that an organization taking on a digital signage network assign a qualified, competent person to the task of creating that content. Without someone in charge of the network’s content, the text, graphics and video being displayed soon will grow tired. Stale content will have the opposite of the desired result for a digital sign. It actually will drive viewers away and impart a sense of “been there, done that” that will be difficult to reverse.
 
No. 6: Taking the cheap way out
 
There’s nothing wrong with being budget conscious about a digital signage installation; however, selecting products, including displays, controllers and software, and services such as content creation solely on their price tags can result in a system that in the long run will cost an organization dearly.
 
Systems designed solely on the price of the component miss the point. Digital signage networks are about communicating information — perhaps a marketing message, maps and directions or instructions — to their intended audience. Spending money on an inexpensive system just because it’s cheap could cost a business or organization far more in lost opportunities than the money saved. 

No. 7: Not knowing the locations of the signs
 
Knowing where your organization wants to locate the flat panel monitors in its digital signage network is important for a few reasons. First, locating the digital signage content players needed depends on where the sign or signs it’s controlling are located. The length of cable that's running between the player and the sign must be taken into account. Clearly defining the location of the signs will allow you to minimize construction/renovation expense and avoid paying for “do overs.”
 
Second, understanding exactly where the signs will be positioned will make it easier to understand what will be needed to mount the flat panels in use. Are wall studs available where a sign will be located? Or, will a freestanding structure be required? What’s the condition of the wall studs? Is electrical power available? What’s the status of ambient light sources? Will a window or skylight need to be shaded to reduce glare?
 
Third, not knowing where the signs need to be located may be a symptom of a bigger problem: namely, not having a clear idea about the purpose of the digital signage installation.

No. 8: Installers without general contractor capability
 
Installing digital signage can be messy. Drywall and plaster may need to be cut. New electrical plugs with isolated grounds may need to be installed. Beyond those obvious construction challenges, less apparent structural modifications may be required. Those can vary from relocating HVAC ducts to reenforcing walls.
 
For that reason, choosing a digital signage installer without the skill and experience to serve as a general contractor for the project can be a big mistake. Depending on the specific installation, it’s not unreasonable to assume carpenters, electricians, plumbers and even heating and cooling contractors might need to be involved to make necessary structural modifications. Having an installer who can serve as a general contractor to bring those diverse resources together and manage them properly can save lots of time and expense. 

No. 9: Failing to allot adequate time to learn the system
 
Far too often, the people responsible for new digital signage installations at businesses or organizations are so excited about their systems that they can’t wait to show them off to upper management. After all, a significant sum of money went into making the digital signage network a reality. So showing it off as soon as possible only seems natural.
 
However, creating content for a digital signage system, scheduling it and making changes to playback along the way require some skill. It takes time to be properly trained to use a digital signage network. Failing to allocate sufficient time to learn how to use the system not only could be embarrassing in front of management, but disastrous to your communications efforts with the general public, if they’re your first audience.

No. 10: Failing to keep future expansion in mind at the time of initial design
 
Designing yourself into a box when first contemplating a digital signage network can be costly. Without casting an eye towards future needs, it’s possible that portions of the network might need to be replaced before they’ve been amortized to accommodate expansion.
 
Without exception, experience shows that businesses and organizations that fund the addition of digital signage networks express interest in expanding their systems after they’re installed.
 
*                                  *                                   *
 
There you have it, the top 10 digital signage pitfalls. Take these lessons to heart as you proceed with your digital signage rollout, and you’re much more likely to have a successful experience. More importantly, your company or institution will avoid costly mistakes that will delay the installation and prevent your communications from having their desired effect.
Posted by: David Little AT 11:36 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 19 May 2008
Sometimes, when I speak at conferences, I joke about some of the long-standing traditions we have at the Postal Service: "More than 230 years of tradition unmarred by progress.” 
 
Beyond that self-deprecating attempt at humor, I’m proud to say that there has been significant progress over the years – from simple innovations like self-adhesive stamps and flat-rate priority mail boxes to more complex ones like automated mail sorting and printing postage online. 
 
The Postal Service also has made progress with the testing and deployment of large, complex communication networks. In 1996, we introduced Postal Vision, an employee communications network that now is integrated with our USPS-TV network. As an “early adopter” of digital signage, we began testing the impact of digital vs. static menu boards in retail lobbies in 1999. And in 2003, we laid the groundwork for a test of digital signage that began in selected post offices in 2004 – The Post Office Channel. This third effort took advantage of the advances that had taken place in a growing medium including content delivery methods and the declining costs of technology.
 
One of our challenges is to improve the customer experience in more than 32,000 retail locations. Digital signage can have a positive impact on the retail environment in several ways. One opportunity is to increase the range of information available to customers while they are waiting to be served. The Post Office Channel features product and service messages to educate and inform retail customers. For example, one message compares the product features of overnight express mail and two-to-three-day priority mail. Another compares delivery confirmation to signature confirmation and shows which form to use depending on which service the customer chooses.
 
A second opportunity is to redirect customers and actually change customer behavior. Part of the long-standing tradition of how customers behave in our retail space is that many are totally focused on getting in the full-service queue and getting served as quickly as possible. That sounds reasonable. 
 
But what if there are 10 people in line and all you need are some stamps? Can digital signage help change customer behavior and redirect them to the Automated Postal Center (APC), a fully automated kiosk that not only sells stamps but also allows customers to mail packages?
 
We focused on changing this customer behavior specifically by including a digital screen at the main entrance to each of the test sites. Nicknamed the “Stop and Turn” device, it is a 30-inch screen hung portrait fashion in a custom mount. The content on this screen is all very short (3-5 seconds), bright colors, and designed to catch the eye of customers as they walk into the post office. It’s also very direct in its messages. “Jump the line. Ship packages at the APC.” Or, “Get out of line. Buy stamps at vending.”
 
In addition to 2,500 APCs, the Postal Service offers 70,000 alternate access locations where customers can buy stamps or mail packages without ever setting foot in a Post Office. This includes supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores, ATMs and a robust online commerce site at usps.com.
 
We established four key metrics for our digital signage test: revenue lift in products promoted on the screens, actual and perceived wait time in line, customer satisfaction and shift to alternate access. For the fourth metric, we defined success in three ways:
  • Re-direct traffic away from full-service
  • Increase number of customers using self-service options (APCs and vending machines)
  • Increase awareness and usage of alternate access channels for purchasing stamps and other simple transactions

The shift to alternate access channels was the most successful result in the test. The Post Office Channel had a positive impact on redirecting customers to in-store self-service options. Customers who saw the Stop and Turn screen were more likely to use vending (8.7% vs. 6.5%) and the APC (7.4% vs. 3.4%). 

We also tracked revenue changes in the test sites as compared to alternate access locations within a five-mile radius. We measured customer awareness of the availability of alternate access locations before we installed the digital signage and again post-installation and found that awareness rose by 22 percent. Revenue from stamp sales declined at the test sites and increased at alternate access locations within the five-mile trade area, indicating that customers were getting the message that they did not have to come to the Post Office to complete a simple transaction such as buying stamps.
 
Similar findings were reported by the Platt Retail Institute in a February 2008 working paper entitled, “Test Results from a Bank Branch Digital Communications Network.” In this study, ATM use at test branches increased following introduction of digital signage. Customer visits to tellers decreased by 8.3 percent in the test sites as compared to a control group of bank branches without digital signage. Customers who viewed the digital signage messages were more aware of which forms needed to be completed and what type of identification was required, thus decreasing wait time in line and improving teller productivity.
 
Our research results are consistent with this bank-based study. Digital signage can have an impact on changing ingrained customer behavior. And the Postal Service will continue to innovate and make progress in the years to come.
 
Margot A. Myers is the manager of retail in-store programs for the U.S. Postal Service.
Posted by: Margot A. Myers AT 11:27 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 14 April 2008
As the owner of a company that publishes kiosk system software and develops custom self-service kiosk applications, it has been interesting to me to watch the convergence of the digital signage and self-service kiosk industries. Although kiosks are typically designed for interactivity and digital signage is not, it is apparent to me that the kiosk industry has a lot to offer to digital signage.
 James_Kruper.jpg
Digital signage gives the opportunity for signage to evolve from static to dynamic; static branding can become animated, a static advertisement can become a video commercial, maps can be instantly updated with latest information, and current news can be easily displayed. Perhaps most importantly, content can be readily modified.
 
With the convergence of digital signage and self-service kiosks, now dynamic digital signage can become interactive. Self-service kiosk applications exist to provide a seamless user interface, enabling a kiosk user to perform a task. Similarly, the digital ad that draws a user to the kiosk can now be extended to enable the user to find out more information about the product and ultimately place an order. Or, a user can drill into a ticker tape news item and read the complete story. The ability to make digital signage interactive enables more information to be transferred ultimately improving the ROI of the deployment.
 
The first inkling of things to come occurred several years ago when LCD display prices dropped to enable kiosks to economically have second monitors – typically a big, beautiful widescreen LCD mounted above the kiosk. This gave the kiosk deployer an interesting choice. The second monitor could be used to enhance and expand the functionality of the application running on the primary monitor - for example, by providing context sensitive help, displaying detailed product information, or providing additional dynamic branding for the kiosk. Or, the second monitor could be used as an independent revenue stream by selling advertising.
 
Whereas, advertising had long been sold for display on a kiosk’s primary screen especially for display during periods of inactivity, the second monitor enabled constant advertising exposure and most importantly during periods of kiosk activity, when a potential customer is at the kiosk and most ready to be influenced.
 
Interactive Pandora’s Box
 
While making digital signage interactive has many obvious benefits, it also opens up many self-service kiosk issues that need to be addressed. The most important include the need for the user to be kept away from the operating system and network, to clear the user’s confidential information, and to reset the application after the user leaves. These are significant requirements to add to a digital signage application but fortunately long ago solved by the kiosk industry, so there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
 
As with self-service kiosks, the only thing worse than having a digital signage installation broken down, is not knowing your digital signage installation is broken down. ROI is a key determinant of the success of a project and when a kiosk or digital signage unit is sitting with a dark screen, ROI plummets. Fortunately, the kiosk industry has a solution whereby the kiosk regularly pings a centralized server saying ‘Here I am alive and well’ and typically sends a statistical snapshot of its health for proof. When a kiosk stops pinging, the centralized server sends out the alarm. The technology is readily transferable to a digital signage installation.
 
Similarly, the nature of digital signage is one of dynamic content and the requirement for content to change regularly. Depending on the complexity and size of the digital content and the quality of the internet connection, content can be hosted either locally at the digital signage location or at a remote server. When content is hosted locally, there needs to be a robust method to update content. Once again, this dilemma has been resolved within the kiosk industry, and the technology is readily transferable to a digital signage installation.
 
Not just a one-way street
 
Lest one believe that only the kiosk industry has technology to share with digital signage, the digital signage industry has helped the kiosk industry in at least one way by popularizing the concept of a computer on a wall. The first digital signage implementations were generally a display unit hooked up to a DVD player or to a closed circuit media network, but especially with the advent of PCs small enough to be packaged onto the back of a display unit, digital signage displays are more commonly PC driven which receive content directly from the Internet. Similarly, self service kiosk applications are increasingly either wall mounted or desktop displays instead of being floor mounted, thus freeing up valuable floor space and increasing viable installation locations.
 
One source of instability that plagues both kiosk self-service and digital signage is the quality of digital media players. Whereas the typical industry standard media player was designed for a user sitting at their desk playing a video file over a relatively short period of time, the media player in a kiosk or digital signage application must play a video for an extended period of time, perhaps measured in months.
 
Many industry standard media players and/or codecs are not up to the task of extended play.  They tend to leak memory and resources in a manner that a user sitting at their desk would not notice, but can bring a kiosk or digital signage application to its knees over an extended period of time.  In the kiosk industry, sophisticated kiosk system software monitors these applications and when necessary restarts the application or reboots the computer; however, the user experience of having an application freeze due to depleted system resources, then get restarted by the kiosk system software is not ideal, and it would be far better for everyone involved if the industry’s media players/codecs were better written.
 
In summary, as digital signage applications move toward increasing interactivity, I believe the self-service kiosk industry has a lot to offer the digital signage industry and the convergence of solutions is a positive step forward for both industries.
Posted by: James Kruper AT 10:47 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 02 October 2007
At the In-Store Marketing Expo in Chicago last week, I attended a session called “Measuring and Continuously Improving Digital Sign Network ROI.” The presenters were Brian Brooks and Kelly Canavan of 3M.
 
Brooks, with PhDs in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, has taken his knowledge of how the brain works and applied it to measuring the effectiveness of digital signage. To make his case, Brooks laid the groundwork by reporting on experiments that were done to measure what is going on at the brain level as it relates to branding.
 
In a blind taste test, consumers were asked to describe the Coke or Pepsi they were given versus a “generic” brand. What they discovered is that the taste testers thought that the Coke or Pepsi tasted better than the generic brand even though in fact the “generic” was really Coke or Pepsi. “Branding doesn’t just change our emotional experience, but literally our physical reaction,” he said.
 
Brooks and 3M claim to have developed a method, using “vision science technologies,” to engineer a physical environment to achieve the desired results. In other words, 3M says they can take what they’ve learned in the lab – with humans wearing special goggles detecting eye movement – and apply it to real environments without humans and goggles.
 
As an example, Brooks showed a picture of a typical big box store and with numbers, showed the first four places the eyes would look. In this case, to a static sign on a table, then on to other static signage. The next picture showed the same scene, only this time a digital sign was added. Since the digital sign had a brown color on the page, the eye traveled to other places first and the digital sign last. But once the color on the digital sign was changed to yellow, the eye went to the sign first.
 
As Brooks would explain the science, Canavan would interject or interpret how it was relevant to the business world. When we walk into a store, “it’s not that we’re trying to decide what to look at, we’re trying to decide what to ignore,” explained Canavan.
 
Canavan went on to present case studies of hotel and foodservice environments which benefited from the implementation of digital signage. In the first pilot, a hotel was looking to increase sales at its restaurants. Sales increased 15-35% per day when digital signage content was used to promote the restaurants.
 
In the second pilot, the objective was to drive foot traffic to a specific station in a corporate cafeteria. When that station and a particular product were featured on digital signs, 27.8% more consumers went to the desired station and sales of the featured product increased five times.
 
With these vision science principles and tools, 3M asserts you can determine the best sign location and creative content for those screens. By conducting experiments in the field and analyzing the data, Canavan contends, you can determine the cause-and-effect relationships and make methodical adjustments for improvement.
 
We all know there’s an art to effective marketing, but now there’s a little more science to it.
Posted by: David Drain AT 11:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 17 September 2007
Bill Gerba, president of WireSpring Technologies, regularly blogs about digital signage at Wirespring.com. The following column first appeared on that site here.
 
By now, you've probably heard about last year's massive security breach at TJX (the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshalls and a few other), which resulted in the theft of millions of credit card numbers and other pieces of personally identifiable information. As the different versions of the story have come and gone, the culprits were either hackers sitting in a nearby parking lot who infiltrated an unsecured wireless network, fake kiosk repair men who installed phony keypads to steal credit card numbers and PIN codes, or ex-employees who had access to key records and resources. But a new twist covered by Information Week and StorefrontBacktalk suggests that problems with TJX's in-store security practices (or lack thereof) allowed the attackers to use job application kiosks as a vector into the corporate network. Regardless of what the actual method of attack turns out to be, you never want to leave those doors open. And since virtually every digital signage and kiosk network relies on having networked devices somewhere in the store, now seems like a good time to review some dos and dont's for in-store computer security.

Depending on which version of the TJX kiosk story that you believe, hackers either replaced an encrypted PIN pad, inserted hardware keystroke loggers, used USB key drives to inject malicious software, or some combination of the three. This brings to mind a couple of guidelines that should always be remembered when placing computers in places where unauthorized people can get to them:
 
Lock 'em down. If you're putting a self-service kiosk on the sales floor and expect your customers to interact with it, you'd better be sure that any cables are securely fastened, unused ports are closed off (both physically and in software), and any access doors or panels are secured with a key or combination lock. In one version of the TJX story, phony tech staff physically tinkered with the kiosks, but in every version it should not have been physically possible to even install the device (USB key drive, fake PIN pad or keystroke logger). To prevent this, secure and cover all cables and openings. Even better, use an all-in-one appliance like IBM's Anyplace Kiosk with an on-screen keyboard for data entry. This eliminates the need for most external peripherals, and the ports seal up nicely, too.
 
Out of sight, out of mind. Taking item #1 a step further, if you don't need to have your computers sitting out where anybody can get at them, lock them up somewhere else. For a kiosk application, that might mean putting the CPU in a locked cabinet or closet (though the IBM Anyplace Kiosk obviates the need for this, provided you've bolted the thing down, of course). For digital signage applications, make sure your players are either sitting in a locked enclosure if they're kept behind each screen, or even better, put all of the media players in a secure room or closet, and use video distribution equipment to carry the signal to screens elsewhere in the store. One quick anecdote here: not too long ago we won a digital signage deal away from a competitor who, in addition to not having the best product for the customer's needs, also used laptops as the media players driving each screen. Unsecured laptops. Laptops that were simply cable-tied to a mounting bracket behind each screen. Let's just say that after a month-long trial period, many of the customer's "media players" had mysteriously gone missing.
 
Batten down the hatches. Visa, MasterCard, and other payment groups started catching flack for a lot of the more serious retailer data breaches a few years ago, and they responded with a new program called the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). This applies to retailers as well as other parties, and outlines specific guidelines for handling cardholder data. For POS software and other payment-oriented applications, a special certification called PABP (Payment Application Best Practices) applies. Getting certified for PABP is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor. However, PABP certification is absolutely essential for kiosks that use credit cards for payment or identity verification, and it's also a very good idea for any computer-like device or service that comes within striking distance of a retailer's payment processing and data storage systems. Installing a spiffy new kiosk platform, or maybe a digital media network? Find out from your vendor if their software is up to snuff. Remember, even if your device doesn't actually accept credit cards, it could still be used as an attack vector to get to POS systems or other devices on the store's network that do house this data. Taking a point from the TJX story, it's also a good idea to disable any unused ports and peripherals in the computer's operating system and password-protect the BIOS, which further reduces the risk of tampering.
 
Don't forget to lock the gate! I think the most amazing and hard-to-believe version of the story came from Information Week, who suggested that USB key drives were used to install rogue programs on the kiosks. (What? The kiosk software allowed new programs to be installed?) This gave the attackers unfettered access to TJX's corporate network, as the kiosks were not separated from the rest of the network by a firewall! If this was 1991 and the Internet was still a cool toy for academics and scientists I might have let that slide. But seriously, this is 2007 and the attack in question happened quite recently. Whether you're using kiosks or not, anybody who doesn't believe that an extra Ethernet jack in the wall is a potential attack vector is deluding himself: important data should always be protected with a firewall. Forget about locking the gate. If this story is true, TJX's IT staff didn't even bother installing it.
 
This story just goes to show that no matter how many best practices guidelines and review meetings an organization has, it's all worthless without proper execution. While TJX only expects to take a modest financial hit from this breach (the $17 billion-a-year retailer is allocating less than $200M to cover all of the damages), a lot of customers and other businesses are upset over the exposure of their personal information. Worse, it stands to reason that there are other retailers out there with similar security practices, which are in desperate need of review and updating. And while security is certainly becoming an ever more important part of an IT staff's job, the proliferation of in-store computers for self-service kiosks, digital signage, Bluetooth/SMS beaconing, traffic monitoring, and security applications suggests that the problem will continue to grow.

There is some good news, though. All of the involved parties -- retailers, vendors and consumers -- have a vested interest in seeing things improve. Vendors must continue to improve their products, designing new systems and updating existing ones to make security features a high-priority. Likewise, retailers need to make sure that security plays a significant role in their policies and practices, taking advantage of new vendor-supplied solutions as they become practical and verifying that any new hardware and software purchases are compliant with the latest security mandates and standards (like PCI and PABP). And customers (that's all of us) have the most important job of all: telling retailers and vendors exactly how we feel when they slip up.
Posted by: Bill Gerba AT 11:56 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, 23 July 2007
On June 29, Apple released its iPhone to the public to much ballyhoo. A colleague of mine had to have this latest techno gadget and therefore paid someone to stand in line for him for a few hours so he could be among the first to own one.
 
When I saw him, I said, “Did you buy an iPhone?”
 
“Yes,” he beamed, and then produced the sleek device from its leather holster.
 
“Can I hold it?” I asked.
 
“Sure.”
 
“Can I touch a few buttons?”
 
“Of course,” he said.
 
I ogled its slimness, curved lines and weight in my hand. Since I’d seen the demo online and the commercials on TV, I knew exactly what to do. I wanted to see the album cover flow and use the flick motion of the touchscreen. I also wanted to use the pinching technique on a photo so I could see a photo expand and contract. I turned it sideways and watched with amazement how it switched from portrait to landscape. It did everything I expected.
 
Not wanting to be greedy and run down his battery (I’d heard about the battery life), I reluctantly handed him back the phone.
 
With all the excitement and buzz the iPhone has generated, it got me thinking: what if Apple made kiosks or digital signage?
 
I’m part of the majority of American businesspersons who use a PC. I’m happy to do so (or at least not unhappy) since ignorance is bliss. I also own an iPod so I do know a little about Apple’s interface.
 
In writing about Amazon.com’s new digital rights management free music offering, Time magazine author Lev Grossman recently put it this way, “There’s no way Amazon will match the silky-smooth user experience of the iTunes store – I mean, interface design and hardware integration are what Apple does.”
 
Apple hasn’t started making kiosks and digital signage for sale to the business market, but they have started using them in their own stores. A YouTube video posting shows two gentlemen assembling the in-store iPhone “interactive booths” for AT&T stores. The kiosk stands seven feet tall and features a vertical digital sign demonstrating the applications on the iPhone with a three-and-a-half minute video loop. In signature white, the display continues the clean look and feel we have come to know.
 
In Apple stores, a digital sign in a giant iPhone shell displays the video. There are also numerous postings on YouTube of mobs standing in line at stores around the country on June 29, the release date.
 
What can we learn from all this? If Apple consulted you on your self-service, kiosk or digital signage project here’s what I think they would say:
 
1.      Make a really good product that people want or that solves a problem. Do both and you’ll be in an even better position.
2.      If you can, create new categories of products to grab market share rather than competing against existing ones.
3.      Make your product so simple that your customers don’t need an instruction manual.
4.      Technology can be sexy. Use it to your advantage.
5.      Ensure that the user interface is as good (or better) than the shell it comes in.
6.      Make it fun to use. Create a positive emotional reaction.
7.      Generate buzz for your product.
8.      Most importantly, remember that it’s all about the experience.
Posted by: David Drain AT 12:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 13 July 2007
As a new contributor to this site, I thought it might be helpful to devote this first article to my foundational beliefs, prejudices, thoughts and hopes around what we in the business refer to as "the Digital Signage Industry." In this way, I feel I can position this contribution for you, the reader, as well as establish my pedigree, so to speak, on why you might spend any of your valuable time reading what I have to say. This could be a dangerous strategy for a first column, but I feel compelled to give you "fair warning."
 
The digital signage business is still very new, as everyone will tell you. But it’s been around at least 10 years; just ask John Kirkpatrick. His fledgling company, FRED Systems, may have been the first digital signage company. I met John (now at 3M) when I was starting ActiveLight back in 1998.
 
The concept behind ActiveLight was to build a value-added distributor of advanced display products (plasma displays and large-format LCDs) that specialized in applications like digital signage. We even used the words "digital signage" in our original business plan.
 
Jeff Porter and Scala will tell you this concept has been around much longer. I believe Scala just celebrated its 20th anniversary at Digital Signage Expo, in fact. Be that as it may, I would say that digital signage has only taken on the status of an "industry" over the last few years – since around 2003.
 
That year, several things happened that kick-started this business. ActiveLight published the first Dynamic Digital Signage Resource Directory — the veritable "Yellow Pages" of the industry. It listed every company who considered themselves to be involved in digital signage at that time — around 300 companies I think. Also that year, NSCA created the Digital Signage Pavilion at the NSCA Expo, followed shortly thereafter by ExpoNation and the inaugural Digital Retailing Expo (both events sponsored by ActiveLight).
 
Thirdly, POPAI agreed to be the administrative body for the first Digital Signage Industry Association. This Association came about due to the efforts of a group of digital signage industry veterans, including Jeff Porter and John Kirkpatrick, as well as such Sean Moran of PRN, Jeff Dowell of Clarity (now of 3M), Brian Dusho (now at Broadsign), Dan Slott (Convergent/Technicolor), Manny Almagro (MarketForward) and several others who came together for a series of meetings around 2001 which I organized and dubbed as the "Digital Signage Superfriends."
 
So what does that make me? I am clearly a party to the revolution; a believer and evangelist for digital signage; a "hardware-guy-turned-marketing-man" for the future of this fledgling industry. While I no longer run ActiveLight (sold it to Electrograph in 2006) and have no direct responsibility for digital signage in my new position as vice president of business development for Planar Systems Inc., I remain a fervent believer and evangelist for digital signage, which is why I am writing this column.
 
OK, interesting history lesson, but where does that leave us in 2007? I would say that the digital signage industry has clearly evolved into a more complex and capable being than ever before. Examples of this can be seen in the headlines of stories circulating throughout the industry:
  • Wal-Mart and PRN announce expansion of the Wal-mart TV network
  • 3M acquires Mercury Online
  • Thomson acquires PRN and Convergent
  • Cisco acquires Tivela
  • Planar acquires Clarity Visual Systems
  • Target, Bank of America, Chevron (insert major brand name here) launch digital signage networks
  • Both Arbitron and Neilsen have active measurement programs to gauge the effectiveness of digital signage
  • IBM and Google host Keynote Presentations at 2007 Digital Signage Expo
These are clearly signs that the "industry" is coming of age: when blue-chip companies make significant investments through deployments and acquisitions. But even this is not the big news, in my opinion. These companies, along with the major display manufacturers — all of whom have launched digital signage products or initiatives — are reacting to the current "buzz-factor" around digital signage. The more interesting news to me is the way the new and smaller companies are re-writing the rules about digital signage into business models that the companies above (with the possible exception of Google) haven’t even thought of yet. For example:
  • SeeSaw Networks emerges as central clearinghouse for digital signage advertising on non-homogenous networks
  • Wireless Ronin goes public and establishes $90 million market cap (on less than $3 million sales)
  • Ripple lands a full page article in USA Today for its Coffeeshop Network
  • No less than three companies are competing for the gas-station-pump-top digital signage market
  • DS-IQ provides analytics middleware to dynamically measure and improve the effectiveness of digital signage networks and content
There are also cautionary tales and warning signs that we must heed if we are counting on this industry for our long-term success. Along with every success above, we could find an equally spectacular failure. I haven’t done the analysis, but I am willing to bet that a large percentage of the companies who were listed in the inaugural Digital Signage Resource Directory in 2003 either don’t exist or have morphed themselves into something else in order to survive. Are we paying attention, and what can we learn from these false-starts?
 
As I walked the floor of the Digital Signage Expo in Chicago, I was struck by the professional presence of the large companies and brands as listed above, and also by the sheer number of interesting and creative smaller companies, many of which I’d never heard of, who were staking a claim to a piece of the digital signage industry pie. My goal has always been to focus on growing the pie, and thereby benefit as my piece of that pie also grows.
 
Clearly, there are an awful lot of people and companies who feel the same way, and are devoting themselves and their companies to transitioning digital signage into the kind of industry we can all be proud to be a part of "at the beginning." I hope to highlight many of these companies, and what makes them interesting and noteworthy, in my coming articles. Please help me by dropping me a note or a question on what you are surprised by, interested in or curious about concerning the digital signage market and industry.
 
Click here to access the SSKA Feedback Forum, where you can contact Brad in the "Ask Brad" section.
Posted by: Brad Gleeson AT 12:39 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 29 May 2007
 
I’m not one to split hairs. I often find myself surrounded by people who want to argue the finer points of the finer things in life (“So, James, do you prefer Beluga or Sevruga caviar?” “Which Beatle do you think was the real genius – Paul McCartney or John Lennon?”). People love to obsess over minutiae, and I’m usually happy to indulge. My answers to those questions, in case you’re interested, are “whatever kind is available to me” and “George Harrison.”
 
Lately, this question has come up more often than it probably should: “Is digital signage self-service?” Or some other iteration, like “What does digital signage have to do with self-service?” or “What?! No respect for Ringo?!”
 
I digress. People are interested in classifying things, and people seem to be conflicted about whether they should consider digital signage an offshoot of self-service, or vice-versa, or not at all. My answer is simple but unsatisfying: Sometimes yes, sometimes no.
 
One of my regular haunts is a bookstore that’s just a few minutes’ drive from my house. My whole family goes there about once a week, momma and I get a coffee and take turns looking at books that interest us while the other one shepherds the kids through the Spongebob and Dora aisles. After about fifteen minutes, we switch places. It works nicely.
 
About a year ago, this particular bookstore put in some digital screens throughout the store, three of them in a very cool tandem installation behind/above the checkout counter, the rest scattered throughout the store. Aside from the obvious cool factor, the screens have steered me toward the occasional purchase that I otherwise wouldn’t have made. They’ve also reminded me about store discounts.
 
What the screens have done, in this instance, is take the place of the store circular – those little four-color handouts that sit in a stack by the front door. We used to pick one of these up and scour them for deals of the week, coupons, or anything else we felt we’d be remiss if we missed.
 
So, on perhaps a micro-level, the screens are doing my research for me, pushing the information to me rather than counting on me to “pull” it from printed material. But this argument holds true if such information is printed with ink or shown with electroncs, whether it's on a poster or a screen. Self-service? Only if the ad for Target in the Sunday paper is self-service, too.
 
When is it self-service? When it allows for true interactivity. When it's part of a system that does what all good self-service does: allow users to do for themselves what otherwise would require the involvement of others. Digital signage and self-service, hand-in-hand, are about communicating with customers, making their lives better, making it easier for them to do business with you. They are about getting a message across, and that’s always been one of the toughest things for a business to do properly.
 
“Got a lot of work to do, try to get a message through.” George Harrison’s words, by the way, not mine.

Posted by: James Bickers AT 10:07 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 06 March 2007
A new trend in digital signage is emerging that combines the strength of digital signs with the interactivity of digital kiosks. For many areas, such as retail shops, the sum of the two holds greater potential for marketers than either of the individual parts.
 
Known in some circles as hybrid digital signs and by others as interactive digital signage, these combo systems can capture the attention of those nearby by playing back compelling linear content -for example an enticing commercial or news feed- and immediately switching to an interactive mode when triggered by an external input, such as the touch of a viewer, the mere presence of a passerby or even environmental conditions.
 
Like a standalone digital sign, a hybrid system allows communicators to playback a pre-built sequence of elements, including video files, graphics, text, animation and live television. Those staples of digital signage are the makings of an effective message that entices interaction with the very flat panel on which the content plays.
 
Once viewers touch the panel or step within its proximity, the hybrid sign automatically interrupts linear content playback and displays a digital kiosk-like interface that lets a shopper touch hot spots on the screen, launching a pre-built interactive branching presentation. Navigating through the presentation, shoppers can find the information they want like product recommendations, pricing and availability.
 
Depending upon the level of sophistication needed, such hybrid interactive presentations can link to a company’s servers, pulling information needed for the presentation and collecting information about the consumer that can be stored on the server.
 
For instance, a hybrid system at an automotive retailer could send an inquiry to the store’s server to access a database of recommended filters and oil viscosity specified by each car manufacturer. Matching information the customer entered about his car with the recommendations in the database, the system could check inventory for the right products, retrieve availability and pricing and present the information to the shopper standing at the hybrid sign.
 
Prior to offering that information, the system could ask the shopper to enter his name and address and to grant permission to be notified of future specials. With that data saved on the server, the retailer’s marketing department can automatically send out coupons for oil and filters when the next estimated time for an oil change rolls around.
 
What enticed the shopper to touch the screen in the first place? Perhaps it was a video playing back in linear digital signage mode of a favorite racecar driver discussing why it’s important to stay current on oil changes.
 
On the front end of customer interaction, the hybrid system cast a wide net, cycling through a playlist of content designed to sell oil, followed by tires, then batteries, air filters -the list goes on an on. Each linear segment is backed up by an interactive kiosk component that’s triggered when a shopper’s curiosity is piqued by one of these linear presentations to the point that he touches the screen. On the back end, the system uses data that’s collected to stay in touch with shoppers once they leave the store, offering special incentives to have them return. In essence, hybrid digital signage can help to extend the marketing reach of a retailer well beyond arm’s length from the display panel and into the homes of shoppers who are willing to interact.
 
One real-world example is at the Walnut Creek Garden Center in Andover, KS, where an interactive digital signage system makes it easy for customers to determine the specific lawn and landscaping products they need for their project. When the system is touched, playout switches from linear content playback to an interactive mode.
 
In interactive mode, customers sign in by providing their names and addresses, access an aerial view of their specific property from Google Maps, use their fingers to outline their project area on the map of their property, and receive specific lists of products and application recommendations for their projects from the Walnut Creek Garden Center’s vast database. Subsequently, customers are reminded with postcards and other promotional mailings of specials on products they need to apply to maintain their lawn or landscaping project.
 
Interactivity doesn’t haven’t to begin with a human touch either. Imagine a hybrid digital signage system in a ski shop at the base of mountain. Skiers donning their boots and gloves might see a digital sign in passing as it plays back linear content; however, their attention might be focused when temperature, wind and solar sensors at the top of the mountain report conditions and trigger specific presentations. Lots of sun could call up reminders about needing sun screen. Heavy snow might trigger another presentation that makes them think twice about leaving the store before having the right gloves or goggles.
 
Another practical application for interactive digital signage is in the real estate sector. Randy Dean Construction in Wichita, KS, is using a media server to market its model homes, designs and inventory more effectively to prospective home buyers.
 
The home builder is using the system in a model home to allow potential buyers to take full 360-degree virtual tours of homes, access and print floor plans, examine the company’s home inventory and access the builder’s Web site.
 
The system skillfully marries playlist management and video/audio playback of a digital signage system with the interactivity of a digital kiosk. When in linear mode, the system plays back promotional video about the home builder as well as paid video commercials from business with complementary endeavors, such as mortgage banking and home title insurance. Revenue generated from those advertisements paid for the interactive digital signage system in under a year.
 
The possibilities for interactive, hybrid digital signage are only as limited as the imagination of creative marketers. To be sure, this aspect of the digital signage market is in its infancy. However, with the recent availability of the hardware and software needed to bring together the separate worlds of kiosks and digital signage, hybrid systems will certainly play an important roll in the unfolding digital signage market.
Posted by: David Little AT 11:21 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 21 November 2006
Digital signage is weighing into the self-service and kiosk industry more deeply every day. Many semi-custom kiosk manufacturers are selling sleek new units with digital signs mounted on top. Meanwhile, companies like Nanonation brew flashy new iterations of digital signage that can respond to customers’ product browsing via RFID monitoring, or change content in response to text messages.
 
Last week, I received a crash course in digital signage, at the second “Building Your Successful Digital Signage Business” conference in Chicago. As conferences go, it’s not huge. It’s also not cheap, costing attendees about $1,500 for two days worth of in-depth of lectures. But it’s worth it, especially to someone in the kiosk industry wanting to learn about digital signage.
 
Lesson #1: It’s not the kiosk industry. I attended the conference with my kiosk industry perspective in tow, thinking “Retailers use digital signs to sell more stuff, as they use kiosks.” This is true, but it’s only a small part of the story. The missing link in my knowledge was that the sign content is often outsourced to third-party networks, who then sell space to advertisers, often the manufacturers whose goods reside on the shelves. And when it’s not outsourced, stores usually sell advertising on proprietary networks. Somewhere in this mix, co-op dollars may or may not fit, depending on the arrangement. These dynamics makes the digital sign industry a lot less like something a retailer does, and a lot more like something television executives do.
 
Lesson #2: Kiosks and digital signs communicate in two completely different ways. I’ve often thought of a touchscreen in its down time as functioning exactly like a digital sign. It runs an in-store marketing message which is normally either an advertisement or call to action for the kiosk. The first person I met at the conference was the first person to correct my notion. CAP Ventures digital signage analyst Norman McLeod told me that the difference between a kiosk and a digital sign is that a kiosk pulls in an individual, whereas a digital sign reaches out to a crowd. I thought about this for a few days and realized that I can’t recall the message on any Target kiosk, though I pass by their gift registries and photo kiosks frequently, but I can perfectly envision the Dell digital signs in my local mall.
 
Lesson #3: Concepts from Internet marketing are transferring directly to digital signage. For example, what pay-per-click advertising is to the Internet, pay-per-text advertising is becoming to digital signage. Correlating with this is the industry’s struggle for analytics, a familiar story to many in the kiosk or online marketing industries. Digital sign networks and manufacturers are struggling to prove the value of the signs’ audiences in a commonly understood measurement – the digital sign equivalent of unique visitors or impressions.
 
Lesson #4: Digital signs don’t just exist in stores. This doesn’t seem like the most profound observation, given the myriad digital signs seen in places like Times Square, but it makes a difference to those in the industry, particularly when content developed for one often needs to be developed for all. If stretching content from a 17-inch monitor to a 42-inch display seems like a jump, consider that some companies now need it blown up for a 12-foot wide billboard.
 
The best thing to observe at this conference had little to do with the industry and more to do with the people in it. Attendees were focused and energized. Presenters were very up-front with their company’s stories and methods. In all, it was an open exchange of information among people who believe strongly in a growing industry. It will be exciting to watch them succeed.
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 02:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 12 September 2006
The 2006 Self-Service World Market Survey creates an interesting portrait of the self-service landscape. The report details responses from companies that have deployed self-service devices. Some of its findings are surprising, given what we see every day.
 
HR kiosks. The survey (published by NetWorld Alliance, which owns SelfServiceWorld.com and SelfService.org) showed that self-service for human resources is underutilized. I believe that’s the case because they don’t have an obvious, up-front return. They’re not transactional; they don’t sell anything. One cannot say, “We’ll install X number of HR kiosks in our stores which will net Y number of transactions, creating Z number of dollars per day.” Without the obvious revenue case, they take a back seat in the industry to ATMs, ticketing kiosks, and sales-and marketing devices.

start quoteOne of the hardest things to find in our innovative industry is a good statistic, especially as companies exploit self-service technology to build custom-branded solutions.end quote

-- Bryan Harris,
Editor, SelfService.org

 
Also, the return on investment of an HR kiosk seems twice removed. For example, when confronting an operations executive with the case that HR kiosks reduce the required man hours to seek, train and organize employees, the time savings to managers who would otherwise be processing background checks and vacation days by hand doesn’t seem like such a direct benefit. After all, the company will still pay managers to be doing something during those hours. It’s a little short-sighted, but it’s how people think.
 
Yet, HR kiosks are valuable. Given their instant background-check capabilities, they make it easier to capture, evaluate and hire qualified employees. What’s more, they solve compliance issues for companies that require standardized skills testing for safety and equipment training. There are plants now with machinery that will not start for employees that aren’t properly trained and tested to use it. Also, they can slow turnover, expedite rehiring, and increase managers’ productivity time – three benefits valuable to any company. It is hard in contrast to quantify “increased manager’s productive time” as a figure in a quarterly report.
 
Internet kiosks. Reading further, I’m surprised “Internet access kiosks” rank as the No. 1 deployment, ahead of POS systems and ATMs, and I think the numbers come from a semantic misunderstanding. I (and many inside the industry) think of an Internet kiosk as one with which users can browse the Web. I’m skeptical those machines out-number ATMs. Very likely, individuals took that question to address that type but also those that merely access a deployer’s Web site or Web-based interface as part of their routine functionality.
 
Wayfinding. I’m also amazed that more respondents deployed wayfinding kiosks than did ticketing, price lookup, photo kiosks, airline self-check-in, gift registry and pay-at-the-pump, given the seemingly scant appearance of wayfinding kiosks and the ubiquity of the others. This is a purely anecdotal observation, but given that I’ve never seen a wayfinding kiosk in the field and I frequently use ATMs and pay-at-the pump, it seems strange to me that there are that many wayfinding kiosks in the field.
 
Digital signage. Digital signs, loyalty and interactive marketing machines are all high priorities in the next 12 months, and as much so in the next five years, according to deployers. As we increasingly see convergence with the digital sign industry, or digital signs used in conjunction with kiosks or conferencing equipment to make them interactive, this statistic reinforces the notion that kiosks and digital signs are at least marrying, if not becoming one.
 
Perhaps the best conclusion this report illustrates is that we need to do many more reports on the kiosk industry. One of the hardest things to find in our innovative industry is a good statistic, especially as companies exploit self-service technology to build custom-branded solutions. And that’s why this information is important, and these questions need to be asked.
Posted by: Bryan Harris AT 02:22 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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