The Perspective 
Monday, 17 November 2014

David Anzia
Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.



Once again this holiday season has only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, last year had 25 days. Shoppers and retailers are preparing for the biggest shopping season of the year. This less than 4 week window has retailers scrambling to grab and retain the consumer’s attention (and pocketbook). They are doing this in a variety of ways.

Macy’s was the first retailer to announce that they would again be open on Thanksgiving Day. The doors at Macy’s will open at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year’s opening time. The department store chain stated this move was “in response to the significant, sustained customer interest in last year’s opening day on Thanksgiving, both at Macy’s and other retailers.” The Walnut Room, the famous restaurant on the 7th floor of Macy’s State Street store in Chicago, will be open for the first time serving Thanksgiving dinner, also at 6 PM. Maybe this is a start of a new tradition, Thanksgiving dinner followed by shopping? Target, Kohl’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney, along with other retailers have since posted they will also be open on Thanksgiving.

Some consumers state that greed has taken over this holiday; however, others have pointed out that the crowds these stores are receiving justify them being open. Jerry O'Brien, director of the Kohl's Department Stores Center for Retailing Excellence, stated that for some people shopping on Thanksgiving Day is no different than others playing football or going to a movie. Conversely, some retailers have opted to remain closed and allow their employees to celebrate the holiday with their families. Costco, Barnes and Noble, and Nordstrom’s are among those retailers remaining closed on the holiday.

Despite the gain in popularity of shopping on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday still remains the king. According to the National Retail Federation, 2013 store traffic on Black Friday was 92 million people compared to 45 million shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. The high presence of loyalty programs, and the data collected when enrolled in these programs, allow for retailers to pinpoint certain Black Friday offers to a shopper. With offers made via direct mail, social media and email marketing, these campaigns allow the consumer to be well prepared when they arrive at the store.

Toy retailer Toys ‘R Us recently announced a revamped loyalty program for the 2014 holiday season. They have good reason to focus on their 18 million loyalty cardholders, they account for 70% of their US sales. Recently announced, in-store and online layaway programs are now available. As an added incentive to shop even earlier, Toys ‘R Us has offered cardholders 10% off their entire purchase every Saturday during the month of November. This is in addition to loyalty members earning $5 in “R” Us Rewards for every $125 spent. When the “R” Us credit card is used for these purchases, the earnings double to $10. For holiday shoppers with children on their lists these rewards will add up quickly.

Macy’s and Toys ‘R Us have also upgraded their omni-channel features prior to the upcoming holidays. Both retailers now offer Apple Pay. In select markets, Macy’s has implemented Smart Fitting Rooms, fitting rooms with wall-mounted tablets which allow associates and customers to scan merchandise items and see other sizes or colors available. Also, in select markets, Macy’s is offering same day delivery. Consumers can purchase merchandise on the company’s website to be delivered to the store the same day. Toys ‘R Us is offering a similar service. Toys and games ordered online can be picked up in store in less than an hour.open sign

Whether you are working off your second piece of pumpkin pie by racing to the stores Thanksgiving evening, or waking up at the crack of dawn the following morning, rest assured that the stores are ready for you and a few thousand of your friends.

Posted by: Admin AT 01:47 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Paul Flanigan
Executive Director
Digital Screenmedia Association


What do  Las Vegas, Orlando, Sydney, Taipei, Dallas, New York City (three times), San Diego, Denver, and about 95 airports in between have in common?

Me.

Those are the cities I visited this year. And next year is already gaining steam. At least six cities in the U.S., and two in Europe. I could be that guy in the United commercial that all the people body surf to the end.

I have been to conferences, summits, mixers, sessions, meetings, panels, workshops, breakouts, and just about every other kind of way to get people together in large and small groups. Every single trip had a purpose. I spent more trips in brand new settings and shows that I did in familiar places and convention centers.

And it has been a blast. I did a nice amount of talking and presenting, but I spent more time listening and learning, especially in those situations totally unfamiliar to me, places where people I don’t know had things to say I have never heard about the industry I manage. It was fantastic.

Based on the last 12 months, I guess that as an Executive Director I should come up with trends or predictions for next year. However, there are some very smart people who do this quite well. Ken Goldberg is one. Go read his. I do.

Instead of talking about what will happen next year, I’ll share two things I learned this year:

This is a human industry. We tend to get lost behind our computers and our networks. We communicate, consult, sell, and speak through iPads and mobile phones, email and excel sheets. In the past year, I have met more new faces than I can ever remember in a 12-month span. I love being an evangelist not only for this association but for the industry. I have talked about every organization and show anywhere near this space. And I have learned a ton.

One of the very first things a member asked me in January was to help him find all the other members near his home office. He wanted to visit them. Nice.

If there is a trend here, it’s that more business will get done in person. And that’s a good thing.

The second thing I have learned is that TSA PreCheck is the most amazing invention since the aeroplane. Anyone reading this right now who has TSA PreCheck should be shouting an “Amen!” You know what I’m talking about. 6:00 in the morning? Line going from the detector to the curb? And you breeze through with your shoes and belt on.

As we roll out of 2014 and put on our new diapers for 2015, let’s not forget that this is still a very human industry. Handshakes, eye-to-eye contact, and engaging conversation go a long way in getting things done.

And sign up for TSA Pre Check. Just do it. You’ll thank me.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

By David McCracken
President
Livewire Digital


I don’t know about you, but it seems every time I’ve been in a Starbucks over the last few weeks, it seems like everyone is scanning their smartphone instead of paying with cash. The retail world is moving so quickly towards convenient technology solutions like these, and it’s showing no sign of slowing down. Craig W. Smith, founder of the New Channels Department at London retail giant Marks & Spencer, gave his predictions for the five pretty incredible in-store retail technology trends we will see in the next year. (Original source: http://retail-innovation.com/)

 1. First payment by smart watch

Smart Watch

Smart watch payment…because reaching into your pocket or purse is too much effort (not!) Smith predicts we will move beyond paying with cash, credit cards, or even smartphones, to paying with your wrist wear. The smart watch will establish itself as a credible payment instrument.

2. First Google Glass in-store retail applications

Google Glass

Google Glass applications are popping up in the medical and hospitality industries, and retail will soon join them. Retailers will offer applications like customer recognition, personalized concierge services and pick, pack & dispatch.

3. Personalized targeting with beacon technology

Beacon technology

Smith says retailers will start to engage customers with location-based personalized targeting. When customers enter a certain geographic range, retailers can send targeted promotions straight to their mobile phones.

 4. Pay and go using your mobile

Pay as you go

Have you been in a grocery store that allows you to scan your items as you put them into your cart? Picture the same thing…but with your smartphone. In the next 12 months, retail stores will trial software that allows customers to scan items as they shop and pay on their phones before exiting the store.

 5. Payment on shop floor will move from trial to full-scale rollout

Shop Floor payment

Some retailers are currently taking payments on devices like iPads, but mobile payment is definitely not without its challenges. Over the next 12 months, Smith predicts that hardware and solution providers will fix these problems, which will lead to more and more retailers adopting them. Mobile payments will move from proof-of-concept ideas into fully-fledged rollouts.

In which of these trends do you see the most potential? What other tech predictions do you have for the next 12 months?

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Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Glen Young
Sr. Product Marketing Manager
Philips Signage Solutions


Can remote control apps damage your digital signage?

Smartphone technology continues to amaze with so many different features and functions. But the latest one is the one to be extremely wary of in certain situations. Among the most recent advancements coming from the smartphone is a TV remote changer app.  

This app can be downloaded into a smartphone, and all of a sudden, the person holding that smartphone has the power to remotely control a  TV just in case he or she misplaced the one usually found on the coffee table. Who knows? Maybe one of the kids may have picked it up for whatever reason.  

Not a bad app. Life is getting easier with apps like this one.  

However, there’s a downside to this TV remote control app, especially if a business has taken the low-cost route and is using a consumer TV and PC for its digital signage. There's lots of money saved there — but, boy oh boy, there are a multitude of pitfalls associated now with the smartphone remote control apps.  

Let's say it's a highly competitive business. Who's to say, anyone could stroll into a store, restaurant, fast food place, a small retail business or whatever business? With this new remote control app in their smartphone and a few quick strokes, a business's TV-based signage display could be turned off, switched to another channel, or the speaker volume, colors and contrast could be messed up.

It's one thing to take the low-cost route and incur a considerable number of potential problems associated with using consumer-grade TV screens and PCs for a commercial signage application. But it's another thing entirely to get sabotaged without knowing who or where the culprit is.  

Also, it could be that particular business or restaurant is one of the unlucky ones with a commercial signage that lacks a lock against others' remote control ability. But now, a business owner is placing himself in a position where almost anyone coming into the shop can sabotage all the sales efforts promoted on that signage, and the business owner wouldn't be not aware of it until after the damage is done. When I say damage, I’m talking about incurring glitches in the business operations by altering or jeopardizing your sales displays.

While it's a bit more expensive, it makes good business sense to not only upgrade to, or start out with, a commercial-grade digital signage display, installed professionally, as well as making sure to have the key feature of a remote control lock in that new signage or video wall installation.  

A business owner works long and hard to get the business to a healthy level. The last thing he or she wants is to be a candidate for competitive sabotage or a victim of a prankster who'll do damage to a place of business's signage just for kicks via that smartphone remote control app.

Posted by: AT 10:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 16 July 2014

David McCracken
President
Livewire Digital

 

Hi, my name is David, and I’m a Disney-holic.

My family and I have been going to Disney World almost every year since my kids were young. Now that my grown kids aren’t “kids” anymore, we experience the parks in different ways but still love it just as much. On our family Disney trip last month, we couldn’t stop talking about the newest technology advancement that was included in our experience.

Disney’s MagicBands are light, colorful bracelets that make the whole guest experience seamless and simple. They were developed as part of Disney’s billion-dollar MyMagic+ interactive technology system and take customer engagement to a new level.

Let me tell you, if anyone knows omni-channel engagement, it’s Disney.

Inside each MagicBand is a microchip that acts as your interactive key to the parks. Your bracelet grants admission when you wave it over a ticketing reader at the park gate. It saves your place in line for attractions — that’s Fast Pass to you Disney veterans — and your reservations at restaurants. It can let you into your Disney hotel room, keep track of your pictures taken by park photographers, and be used as a charge card to make purchases. It even activates the Sorcerers of Magic Kingdom, an interactive game played at the park.

As someone who can’t even count the number of times my kids lost a hotel room key or FastPass ticket, I see how valuable MagicBands are in easing the stresses and hassles of a family vacation!

The magic behind MagicBands is Radio Frequency, or RF, technology. This is the same tech used with keyless car entries, credit cards, and wireless video game controllers. MagicBands also connect with Disney’s existing interactive software (website, mobile apps, etc.), creating a true omni-channel network.

I couldn’t help but think of ways this technology could be used to bring the customer experience together in many different industries:

Retail:

    track preferred customer programs
    offer special discounts
    make restaurant reservations
    monitor pre-purchase or early-bird access

Healthcare:

    store patient identities/histories
    grant approval for services/privileges
    track process through the system
    schedule appointments

Hospitality:

    grant access to rooms
    book reservations at local attractions
    track loyalty programs
    interact with kiosk software to bring up previous search histories

The sky’s truly the limit with this technology. And would you expect anything less from Disney? What other uses can you see for RF technology like this?

Posted by: Admin AT 11:24 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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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Tuesday, 01 July 2014


Paul Flanigan
Executive Director
Digital Screenmedia Association



We need to get this together

Last week I had the opportunity to speak in Seattle at the Future Stores conference. It was an event focused around understanding the consumer through an analytic microscope. I spoke about the Connected Consumer, bringing the worlds of mobile and digital signage together to create better experiences. (I’ll be hosting a webinar in September about this. You can learn more here.)

I was also given the opportunity to host a roundtable discussion about digital signage. Four brands sat with me, all of them national brands. We talked about the in-store experience. I started by asking two questions. Following the questions are the answers.

Question: What does digital signage mean to you?

“Users, content that supports products and brands, helping the customer in the journey.”
“An environment of the right place at the right time, you know what you’re in for.”
“Enabling the sales associate, and promoting products.”

Question: What is the biggest challenge you have with building a digital signage network?

“The seamless offline to online journey.”
“Resources and IT.”
“The customer. How do we put worth to our network?”
“Customer value.”

Two things struck me about their answers 1) Each answer was, in effect, a challenge to the industry to help them solve a problem; 2) not once was technology mentioned as a challenge.

And there’s the problem. The conference was really insightful. I learned way more than I shared. But we are still talking about products. We are still talking about what products do.

We’re not talking about solutions, about putting the entire thing together for a client who doesn't see products but sees a need for results that can only come from a solution.

One of the brands at my table, a 10 billion dollar company, said this to me, “All I want is a screen. I don’t want a network. I just want it to work with mobile.”

I know. Easier said than done. But he presents the perfect opportunity: Instead of thinking about what products he needs for a network, think about what he needs for his customer. Then work back from there. Screen? That’s easy. Wi-fi connection? No problem.

Those do not constitute a solution. The customer experience is the solution.

Photo Credit: Scott Swigart

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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.

Posted by: Admin AT 03:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 16 June 2014

Kisha Wilson
Marketing Manager
Slabb, Inc.
 


“Today, the internet isn’t accessible for two thirds of the world. Imagine a world where it connects us all.” – Mark Zuckerberg

Internet.org is a global partnership dedicated to making internet access affordable and available to the two thirds of the world not yet connected. It’s an initiative that seems like a mammoth, almost unrealistic task. But is it doable? Only time will tell. Today, only 2.7 billion of the world’s 7 billion or so inhabitants currently have access to the internet with internet adoption at less than 9% annually. If this feat is achieved, the next step would be accessibility to enabling devices.

Internet.org believes that in order to make this a reality, “Potential projects [would] include collaborations to develop lower cost, higher quality smartphones and partnerships to more broadly deploy internet access in underserved communities.” They believe mobile operators can play a central role in this effort through initiatives that can benefit the entire ecosystem.

‘Helping businesses drive access,’ is one of the three challenges that the partnership would address, “Partners will support development of sustainable new business models and services that make it easier for people to access the internet. This includes testing new models that align incentives for mobile operators, device manufacturers, developers and other businesses to provide more affordable access than has previously been possible. Other efforts will focus on localizing services — working with operating system providers and other partners to enable more languages on mobile devices.”

But other options could also be considered, including the feasibility of public internet kiosks, especially for those that can’t afford or choose not to use other devices, even if they are competitively priced. Public internet kiosks are usually used by businesses and are capable of bringing cutting‐edge technology to customers while improving their purchase experience. Imagine if private companies or governments are able to make these accessible to users that otherwise could not access the internet.

Both the hardware and software for public internet kiosks can be customized or standard, and can be ruggedized in order to accommodate the demands of heavy usage. Advertising could also be used to offset the initial implementation costs as well as ongoing maintenance of the units.

Just recently, a project first announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg last year was put back into the spotlight. It is an effort that would see the transformation of aging payphone kiosks into WiFi hotspots or “communication points” bringing free WiFi throughout the city. It is hoped that the project, which will be funded by advertising and allow users to call 911 and 311 free of charge, will be launched by 2018, at the latest. Currently there are a few WiFi‐enabled booths in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn which launched in 2012, but it is hoped that the new project will vastly increase availability to parts of the five boroughs.

It’s a step in the right direction to providing widespread access, and certainly something that can be explored through the use of various hardware options, including public internet kiosks.

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Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Paul Flanigan
Executive Director
Digital Screenmedia Association


This week, the DSA announced a partnership with the DSMA - The Digital Signage Multimedia Alliance. The DSMA, based in Taiwan, is a group of 170 members from a variety of backgrounds.

The DSA and the DSMA have very common goals - to advocate, educate, and network.

I spent last week in Taipei with members of the DSMA spoke at the Digital Signage Forum as part of Computex, a technology trade show that takes place every year in Taipei.

I was able to wander the massive show and meet a ton of people, all of whom are very interested and invested in digital signage. On Friday morning, spoke at the Forum in front of over 200 people. Every one of them was eager to learn more about digital signage and interactive technology.

I spoke about the connected consumer, and how digital signage and interactive technology is creating a more connected relationship between the venue and the audience. Before the session, the DSA and DSMA held a short ceremony to recognize the agreement between the two organizations.

And while there, was able to meet with the U.S. Department of Commerce. They have offices in Taipei with the goal of fostering better business relationships between American and Taiwanese companies. They will also be playing a critical role in this as we continue to develop our relationship.

During my trip, I met with several companies, both vendors and end users, who not only want to learn more about successful digital engagement, but need to learn more. By combining the disciplines, expertise, and best practices, we will be bringing this education, advocacy, and networking.

What are we doing? We’re creating a global community.

When we step back and look at this industry, we need to always be aware of two major points. First, we need to have a global perspective on where technology is going. At Computex, there were hundreds of companies, all with different propositions, that in some form or another have value to digital signage. Whether it’s smaller processors that fit inside screens, or transparent screens, or interactive technologies, almost every company saw the potential and wants to be part of it.

Second, and most importantly, we need to see where the user takes us. Whether it’s a shopper, visitor, patron, or someone walking on a sidewalk where they can interact with the screen, they are showing us where they want to go with technology, and they are showing us what we can do to make the experience better.

It doesn’t matter if they are Asian, American, or any other culture. Everyone uses technology to connect and engage.

The DSA and DSMA will be there to lead the way.

Posted by: Admin AT 09:35 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 30 May 2014

Matt Schmitt
President & Founder
Reflect Systems


 

Today’s brands are more focused than ever on adapting to consumer lifestyles and delivering a branded experience that resonates with their audience. The importance of well-executed brand media increasingly puts all brands, including retailers, in the content game.

Reflect In-Store Digital SignageMarketing’s role in retail is shifting from advertising to brand storytelling. In the past, the driving force of many marketing strategies was to use print and broadcast to get customers out of the home and into the store. Customer segments were focused on demographics using age, gender and location. In this traditional “push” model, the idea was to reach a captive audience and deliver them a message, with the goal of influencing a transaction.

Today, marketing is about creating a brand media network that spans a variety of engagement channels. We’re not simply trying to get customers to a location. We want them to create a lasting connection with the brand and adopt it as part of their lifestyle. Moving beyond demographics, psychographics focuses on behaviors, interests and lifestyle. And rather than a push model, brands are pursuing an engagement model that creates a two-way dialogue between them and the customer.

Everywhere, All The Time

Reflect In-Store Digital Media

Brands are becoming more omni-focused, with content executed across a variety of channels, from the digital world to physical locations. The brand media should be consistent and adapted to suit the channel type.  

1. Broadcast is still a major platform for all brand media. Broadcast is still primarily about traditional television, but the landscape is shifting rapidly. YouTube is becoming a big player for brand media, with strong appeal for the brand. The ability to better target audiences and track engagement is key. And brands are able to tell more of their story with longer form content and media that moves beyond the 30-second spot. 

2. Social Media is a fast-moving target. It’s easier to think less in terms of the individual applications, and more in terms of a communications network with a shifting landscape of providers. Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and others provide new ways of engagement and require new methods of branding. 

3. Mobile is increasingly becoming synonymous with online, and commerce transactions are shifting away from the desktop pc and retail website to an untethered, app-centric world. Mobile apps are about personal empowerment and enabling relevance in time and place.

4. In-Store is where all of the engagement channels can be brought together to create an impactful brand experience that can create deep engagement with the customer. The physical location presents a powerful platform for telling the brand story in a contextually relevant way.

The Art Of The Happening

Going to a physical store to shop is an event. To use an analogy, it’s like going to a movie theater instead of watching at home. Sure, there’s the instant gratification that comes from going to the location to “get it now”. But there’s more to the theater than exclusivity. The venues, at least the better ones, provide an experience. It’s an event and a happening.

Shoppers who “check in” to a physical store via social media aren’t simply looking for a coupon or offer. Often they are saying “Hey, look…I’m doing something. I’m out there in the world, taking action.” But are they being treated to a feeling of excitement by the brand experience and given reinforcement that what they’re doing is interesting? In other words, did they arrive at a location, or at an event?

The Audience As Participants

In the age of the connected customer, the audience for brand media is not passive. Because of their affinity for empowerment and communications, they are able to be active participants in the new media.

For a compelling example of brand media engagement, take a look at the recent campaign by the fast fashion retailer Uniqlo. To promote their new line of t-shirts, a multi-channel experience was created to engage the customers as brand media participants.

uniqlo store 

A purpose-built mobile app was created for the campaign. The app allows customers to create two-second video clips showing them with their new Uniqlo t-shirt and “showing off their moves”. The app is promoted in the store, with a small stage area set up with lights and a backdrop. Customers can shoot their video (either in-store or elsewhere) and can post it to social media and to a special microsite set up by the brand at ut.uniqlo.com. The user-generated content is also showcased in the store as montages on digital signage video-walls.

In the post-advertising age, the most effective brand media content can go beyond storytelling, and into customer participation. Brands are now finding ways to move audiences to participate in the storytelling process.

The Store Is Still The Star

For most retailers, the store is the ultimate manifestation of the brand. It’s the place where customers are fully engaged with the brand. And while it’s still the moment of truth for creating transactions, it’s also the time and place for creating a deeper connection with the customer.

Many retail brands have great mobile apps, websites, YouTube channels and social media. But there is often a lack of awareness of these touchpoints. This awareness gap can be bridged by more effectively leveraging the store to tell the brand story, and to let the customer know all the ways they can engage the brand further after leaving the store.

Posted by: Admin AT 11:12 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Tuesday, 27 May 2014

By Tracy Robertson - ADFLOW Networks

It’s no surprise that interactive kiosks are popping up all over the retail landscape. Digital interactive kiosks offer innovative ways to interact with your customers, reach target audiences efficiently and thrive in today’s competitive marketplace.

Here are 5 ways interactive kiosks can work for your business:

#1 Help your customers find the right product

Interactive kiosks can help your customers zero in on the right product quickly and easily. Whether its selecting the right pillow, choosing a kids car seat, picking the right GPS system, kiosks can help customers to self-educate and select the right product for their needs without sales assistance. Many customers actually prefer to shop in this fashion without the need to interact with sales people.

#2 Facilitate customer sales efficiently

Interactive kiosks make an excellent sales assistant tool for your customer service representatives. For example, if a customer has a question about a specific product, such as a cell phone, a sales person can lead them over to the interactive kiosk and direct them to the product they are specifically interested in. Simply by touching the screen or scanning a product, the customer can learn about pricing, view different colour options, find buying guides and compare products on the spot. Interactive kiosks supplement the service from your sales person and provide customers with the information they need even when a sales assistant is not immediately available to help.

#3 Reduce "walk-outs"

By keeping your customers engaged, they are less likely to leave the store while waiting for a sales representative to become available. Traffic volumes vary greatly in retail. When customers flood the store, interactive kiosks can begin the education and sales process until sales personnel are free.

#4 Interact with customers in unique ways

As a two-way interaction, interactive kiosks offer a more engaging way to connect with your customers through edutainment or infotainment, such as interactive contests and quizzes. If a customer is looking for a particular product, such as the right pillow for sleeping, a quiz can be useful to help them narrow down the best choice according to their responses. When it comes to answering personal questions, some customers may also prefer the anonymity of the interactive kiosk to answering personal questions posed by a sale person.

#5 Learn about your customers

The data gathered through our interactive kiosks provides our clients with market intelligence on the success of their promotions. It’s possible to see what pages customers engage with and how long they spend on each screen, helping you measure the success of the user experience. You can also track the impact of content changes on the success of the kiosk. Even small changes to content can have a profound impact on user activity.

Simple customer surveys can provide powerful insights into what brought the customer into the store, demographics and product preferences. With customer information and kiosk interaction tracking, the opportunities for continuous learning and improvements are endless.

Provided by ADFLOW Networks

Posted by: Admin AT 01:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 13 May 2014


Joe Holley
VP New Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates

Mizuno Golf DisplayShoppers are bringing a set of expectations and a cache of knowledge gleaned from online research through the doors of stores like never before.  New consumer behaviors have impacted especially categories like electronics, books, clothing, household goods and sporting equipment. Numerous studies of multi-channel shoppers make it clear that online research doesn‘t lead just to online purchases. There are plenty of occasions when the store has the final influence on purchase decision.

Increasingly the in-store experience will incorporate tools like touchscreens, digital signage and mobility, but ask any retailer or brand and they will say that merchandising and point-of-purchase displays where the product is the hero are integral to conveying information and making an impression. Products that are prominently and expertly displayed can be a call to action, whether that action is immediate or takes some alternate path.

So what should retailers and brands focus on to create the maximum amount of impact from a display? Here are some of the tips from the pros that are encapsulated in our latest POP guide, Traditional Merchandising in the Age of Self-Service.

Linda Hofflander, director of vertical marketing with the enterprise business division of Samsung:

People get bombarded with signage, and sometimes it’s what is unique or a little bit of a surprise that can be most effective

David Anzia, vice president of sales at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.:

With customers already armed with so much pre-purchase information, retailers have the ability to utilize less copy on their displays. The marketer is able to simplify their message, content copy and photos to distract the customer.

Kevin Lyons, senior vice president of e-commerce with h.h.gregg:

A customer wants to know the most important ways the product will help them, not just everything it does or can do. For example a ‘super radiant heating element’ on a stovetop means nothing to the average consumer, but ‘boils water in 60 seconds’ does! Traditional signage takes on a new role in today’s retail environment as it relates to supporting the mobile customer, those that are researching as well as comparing/reinforcing their purchases.

Dean Cole, brand support manager Mizuno, USA:

If the display can help communicate the benefits of the product and help the consumer visualize how those benefits will improve their experience, the odds of that product being chosen are improved greatly.

Ryan Lepianka, creative director at Frank Mayer and Associates, Inc.:

Having the ability to touch a product and make a connection with it can beat nearly any other way of selling, and some of the most effective displays the company has designed are those that encourage physical contact.
 

Posted by: Admin AT 04:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Ben Johnston
Director of Product Marketing
RMG Networks



I've been reading a bit lately about gamification and thinking about its implications for our Supply Chain, Contact Center and Digital Signage customers. For anyone not familiar with the term, a definition is useful. Gamification guru Yu-kai Chou provides an elegant, no “bs” definition of gamification on his blog:

Gamification is the craft of deriving all the fun and addicting elements found in games and applying them to real-world or productive activities. This is what I call “Human- Focused Design” as opposed to the “Function-Focused Design.” It’s a design process that optimizes for the human in the system, as opposed to pure efficiency of the system.

Gartner predicts that by 2014, more than 70% of Global 2000 organizations would be using gamification in their businesses. “The potential is enormous… [and] gamification could become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon,” one Gartner research VP was quoted as saying.

Experts agree, the benefits of gamification in the workplace include increased employee motivation as a result of intrinsic (makes me feel good) or extrinsic (recognition) rewards for changes in behavior and thus increased engagement with work.

While maybe not every business has deployed gamification in their daily operations, look around closely and you will find many examples of gamification in the workplace and in B2C applications. In fact, entire companies (like Badgeville) exist just to help businesses implement game mechanics into their operations.

It's natural to think of digital signage as one medium for communicating and displaying elements of gamification to a workforce. But if the digital signage display is the end node, what's the starting point?

Yu-kai Chou advises that successful gamification design starts with asking the question, "how do I want my employees/players/users to feel?" instead of jumping straight into the game elements.

For supply chain businesses (or any business with internal audiences), managers and leaders should ask themselves the same question; how do I want my workers to feel in order to be most productive and what can I do to influence that?

Internal communications pros tell us that companies with higher employee engagement scores often outperform their competitors and that employees are more positively engaged. It seems obvious, right? Treat your employees right, give them a mission and vision they believe in and support, and they'll be more productive, happier and help the company succeed.  

Certainly a number of techniques exist for improving employee engagement from incentive-based pay to benefits and programs that support a healthy work/life balance. From installing internal social networks like Chatter and Yammer to the gamification of HR initiatives (e.g., handing out pedometers and posting a digital leaderboard to encourage exercise), business leaders are making use of technology to help them implement these techniques.

Digital signage systems will play a key role by publicly displaying the results – the scoreboards.  Digital signage content designers and solution architects who take into account their audience's motivations and goals (and feelings) when implementing game designs will succeed in helping realize the benefits of workplace gamification. And that’s a game we all want to win.

Posted by: Admin AT 01:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Paul Flanigan
Executive Director
Digital Screenmedia Association
 

“So what do you do?”

When I was with the San Diego Padres in the late 90’s, I told people “I run the big Jumbotron” when I was asked what I did for a living. Best Buy? “I manage the in-store network.”

But when I left Best Buy and I started doing consulting, answering “So what do you do?” got a little harder. “I consult companies on digital signage.”

“Digital signage?”

And then I would have to go into a lengthy discussion on what digital signage was.

Last weekend I attended the birthday party of a friend of one of my children. For the parents I had not met, out came the question, “What do you do?”

When I told them, one parent said, “Oh, like screens on the wall and the electronic billboards on the highway.”

Yesterday, I was on a plane heading to the International Sign Expo in Orlando and got to chatting with the gentleman sitting next to me. When I told him what I do, he said, “Oh. You mean like Raspberry Pi and programming TVs?”

Seriously. That’s what he said.

A couple of years ago, having to explain digital signage seemed to be a challenge. Today? People know what it is. The customer knows about it, knows what it is, and assumes it will perform the task for which it is intended.

Statistics have bounced around regarding digital engagement and whether or not venues are able to keep up. The continued evolution of technology has created different types of channels, like billboards, touch screens, mobile, kiosks, tablets, and large flat panel displays. And many venues are trying anything they can do make an impact.

But what also has changed as well is the knowledge of the customer, the expectation that it should be there, that it should work, and that it should deliver on the promised proposition.

And as many of us on this side of the solution say, you must always begin with the customer in mind. The customer is as smart as we are.

And my plane-mate? He works in the pharmaceutical industry. And I now know more about insulin.

Posted by: Admin AT 09:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 25 March 2014


Julie Rasco
Marketing
RMG Networks

Is your business a trendsetter or behind the trend? Digital internal communications is not a fad, but a new reality. Companies today recognize that employees and consumers alike rely on digital communications for their information.

A recent article by Russell Working at ragan.com outlined seven key trends in internal digital content --  

1.  Everyone Can Create Content. In this digital age of mobile devices, virtually anyone can be an amateur photographer or videographer and share content.

2.  Social Sharing = In; Email = Out.  Companies are turning toward internal social networking platforms over email for company messages.

3.  A Virtual Hub for Competitive Intelligence. Internal communications allows users to collect and share information, including keeping tabs on the competition.
    
4.  Using Analytics for Social Content Dissemination. Large companies are using analytics and data visualization software to identity relevant and interesting social media content for their employees and customers.

5.  Employee Education. Employees are being empowered through education so they can easily identify relevant information to share with their social network.

6.  Digital Signage for More Than Live TV. Digital signage in reception and other common corporate areas have moved beyond live TV and now include company messages, stock updates and current weather.

7.  Measuring Matters. Digital communications highlights the need for internal metrics and dashboards to measure company productivity and solicit feedback.

Recognizing these shifts in digital communication is key for companies to effectively communicate with employees and customers. To learn more about how your company can maximize these trends and be more effective with your internal communications, download the Visual Internal Communications market sheet from RMG Networks.

Posted by: Admin AT 03:28 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 03 March 2014

John Curran CEO of 5thScreen passed on in February 2014. Big loss to the industry.

Summary

I joined 5th Screen Digital in 2010 with CEO and founder Keith Kelsen. 5th Screen Digital Services designs, develops and deploys in-store digital destinations for retailers and brands. Clients include McCormick, Sprint, Mary Kay plus leading technology firms such as Intel, HP, AOpen & Sapient.

In early 2003, I founded mCosm with Michael Curran, CEO of Micro Industries Inc. mCosm became a leading provider of end-to-end interactive digital signage solutions for clients such as Whole Foods Market, Timberland, Channel and The Venetian Resort & Casino to name a few. I was CEO of the Amsterdam based, network security company, TrustWorks Systems from 2001 through 2002. In 1997, I joined Entegrity Solutions Corporation, an application security company, as the Vice President of European Operations and then became COO in 1999. I was Executive Vice President of NCR's EMEA, Customer Services and Support organization located in London, England. In 1991, I joined Granada Computer Services as CEO, the largest independent IT services company in Europe. I remained with Granada for five years. For two years prior to joining Granada, I acted as an independent management consultant. During 1988 and 1989, I was Vice President and General Manager of Control Data's operations in Europe, Australia and the Far East, responsible for 35 subsidiaries in 22 countries with 4,500 employees.

From 1977 to 1988, I moved through various management positions at NAS (subsequently Hitachi Data Systems) starting as the Sales Manager of the Italian affiliate and in 1986, I was promoted to President of NAS Europe. After graduating from The Ohio State University, I was a Systems Engineer with the Mobil Oil Corporation and Senior Consultant with Computer Usage Co. of San Francisco.

Specialties: A veteran international IT business executive with more than 40 years experience in enterprise software, information security and professional services organizations.

CEO & President
5th Screen Digital Services
October 2009 - Present (4 years 6 months)San Jose, CA

5th Screen Digital Services designs, develops and deploys 'Digital Destinations' for leading brands and retailers. We provide strategic consulting services, application development capability and life-cycle support services that simplifies the technology supply chain, reduces the on-going operational costs and content production. We also offer audience metrics to effectively measure campaign effectiveness for in-store Digital Destinations. Our services significantly lower operating and content production costs by as much as 35% plus provide the metrics that improves the solutions ROI or ROO. In addition, 5th Screen Digital Services solutions encompasses Mobile and Social engagement applications and methods.

Posted by: Admin AT 04:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What do you think these are? In this short 2 minute video, Paul talks about these and how we think about them.

Posted by: Admin AT 08:38 am   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 11 February 2014

At this time last year, I was telling the DSA that I would sponsor the Dallas Symposium. Now I’m the Executive Director of the DSA, and responsible for it.

What a difference a year makes.

How many shows have you been to in the past year? A lot? I would need both fingers and toes to count myself. And at the end of every trip, I would ask myself, “Was this worth it?” Coming from so many different sides of the table, my perspective is unique.

It would be easy for me to move from sponsorship to ownership and say, “This is the place you should be.”

This is the place you should be.

Why? Two very good reasons.

You attend because you want to get something out of it. Insight, knowledge, networking, and business. With the Symposium, we have moved in a new direction that focuses on two key components of any valuable conference: Education and Networking.

First, from the educational side, we bring some of the best minds in the digital space to the stage, and listen to them talk about how this all works together, to share their experience and real-world situations. We encourage a discussion among the entire group so that no digital stone is left unturned


Smart people with smart things to say? Smart.

Second, with networking, we have created large breaks and an evening event that allows you to carry on the discussion beyond trading business cards. At the end of the day, you want to go back to work with “to-do’s,” people to call, discussion, and hopefully business.


How about business cards and a handshake? That’s what this is about.

That’s what the Symposium is all about. And that’s what visiting any conference should be about. Education and Networking.

Click here to learn more about the Symposium.

If you’re wondering about the quality of the event, allow the survey we took last year after the Dallas event to explain it.

And here were some of the testimonials from the survey:

  •     “Best networking I've had in a long time between end users. Very open discussions. Even conversations with vendors were non selling, which I appreciated.”
  •     “A very effective use of my time and value for our money.”
  •     “We'll definitely invite and push for all of our clients to attend in the future”
  •     “Great exposure to people I normally would not get to meet or hear their perspective as a buyer. Very interesting conversations.”
  •     “I thought all speakers/panelists were high quality, value add. I could find parallels even with industries that were different than mine.”
  •     “Glad I discovered this meeting. Very worthwhile. Very little preaching to the choir. Real meat as opposed to the tiresome ‘content is king’ or ‘this is the breakout year for digital’ you usually hear.”
  •     “Do one every quarter. I will sign up every time”


A LOT of time to network, and discuss what it takes to create a terrific experience.

So should you come to the Dallas Symposium on April 8-9? Yes. You’ll walk away with some great insight from some fantastic people who have been there and are doing that. You’ll be able to have in-depth conversations with other attendees and vendors who can help you move from ideas to experiences for your customer.

Because your customer is always right. Right?

(And if you’re interested in sponsoring, let me know. We are locking down sponsors now, and I would love to see you as part of the lineup!)

Posted by: Admin AT 10:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 04 February 2014

 
Laura Miller
Director of Marketing
KioWare

Usability can make or break the success of any new website, application, or software. Also known as the UI (user interface) or UX (user experience), usability refers to the user's ability to successfully navigate a product in the manner intended to accomplish the desired tasks. There are entire industries built around better understanding these experiences, from optimizing a website checkout process to encouraging users to visit a particular page. These research industries use buzzwords like Voice of the Customer, Consumer Obsession, and User Experience Advocate and they staunchly advocate that nothing be deployed without an extensive cycle of research, testing, revision and testing.

Why usability testing?

Why is usability testing so necessary? While the layout, process, verbiage and navigation of a website, program or application may make sense to those involved in the design, they don't always seem so obvious to the user. Age, technical savvy, and education may play a role in how a user navigates, but so too may cultural differences, intended goal, and fresh eyes. Knowing your user, and their abilities, goals, and environment are key components to creating a successful product.

Why does UX matter?

Why should we care about User Experience? Self-service kiosks are responsible for setting up a user's experience with a brand. There are many moving parts in a kiosk deployment. Three that come to mind from the start include: hardware, application/program, and lockdown software. Watching how these things work together to make for a comprehensive user experience is an important component to a successful and enjoyable user experience.

Kiosk usability fail

Here's one example of how a kiosk deployment can fail (and yet, still "succeed") in a restaurant environment. The waiter, in this example, finds a workaround for a system that is not serving their needs. It's a must read for any naysayers of usability testing and observation as a means of testing and refining software. According to the author, "Computer systems are not always used as the developers suppose." As evident in this example, computer systems are not always used as the developers intended, nor as they would hope. More importantly, a complicated system is not always the answer.

The only way to know how users will interact with your kiosk is to observe them via lab controlled usability testing and in-field studies. In addition to traditional observation techniques, technologies such as heat mapping and eye tracking can also be used to better understand the user experience. Kiosk software with server capabilities can also assist in gathering usage statistics. In future posts, we'll identify common usability errors, solutions, and research methods.

Are you observing your kiosk in action? Does your client allow time for testing? What is your favorite example of something you discovered (and corrected) through usability testing?

Posted by: Admin AT 11:14 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 29 January 2014

In a recent article I wrote about creating great content templates and how that templates can be used effectively.  The biggest issue is determining how many templates that I may need for my network based on day parting and the potentially diverse demographics in front of my screens.

For any network, one needs to create a set of meta-templates that are refreshed at least once a quarter. This isn’t an exercise in re-branding the company or building an entirely new visual language for the network, but one should create variance that introduces new elements into the ones that have already enjoyed a 3-month run. For example, create a series of templates that have corporate branding elements for a specific purpose. You may have a series of compliance messages that you need to get out, so create a template that is designed for that type of message. The viewer will learn that when that particular template is up, the content pertains to workplace compliance. Creating templates with branding elements for other types of messages will also play well with viewers. If you use the same template for everything, the viewer will get tired of the same look all the time.

To better understand how many templates one will need to keep a network fresh and relevant to the demographic, a simple formula can assist in creating the right number of templates: D × V = T or (day parts) × (visits) = (demographic templates). This is based on each demographic one takes into consideration, then one can take all the demographics and add them up for the TT (total number of templates) required using a message template similar to the example (Figure 1). One can lay out in a spreadsheet the number of versions of the message one needs in a given month and understand what time of day the specific demographic is in the venue. This will tell one how many versions of the message one may need to keep it fresh and when to put the versions in the schedule. For this example the monthly visits (V) for demographic 1 is 3. So to create the right number of fresh templates for demographic 1, simply multiply the day parts (D) = 5 by visits (V) = 3, which totals 15 templates (T). One can do the same for demographic 2, where day parts (D) = 2 and visits (V) = 6, which totals 12 templates (T). And a grand total for all templates is 27 total templates (TT). One then knows that during the week between 8 and 10 o’clock in the morning, one needs to play demographic 1 on Monday and Wednesday, and between 10 o’clock and noon one needs to play the ad targeted toward demographic 2. The target demographic ad versions can be altered slightly based on the templates.

Posted by: Admin AT 09:18 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 21 January 2014

By Jon Stine
Director, Internet Business Solutions Group
Retail-Consumer Products
Cisco Systems


Trust. It’s a powerful human emotion that often drives our behavior. The level of trust, or lack thereof, between a retailer and its customers can literally make or break the business. Given the importance of trust, many retailers are asking: How much do customers trust retailers? What are the benefits of increasing trust? How do retailers gather the information needed to provide the  personalized experiences many customers want, while maintaining and even building trusted relationships?

These questions are especially important given the critical juncture at which we find ourselves—the convergence of people, process, data, and things called the Internet of Everything (IoE).

To help retailers build customer trust in an increasingly digitally connected world, Cisco Consulting Services surveyed 1,174 consumers in its fourth annual Digital Shopping Behavior survey.* From a behavior perspective, shoppers are becoming more digital. In fact, eighty percent of respondents are what we call Digital Mass shoppers—people who research, browse, and purchase digitally. Within this group, Über Digitals, who almost always use a smartphone to shop, increased from 11 percent last year to 18 percent this year. Clearly, your customers are digital.

Before we discuss “how,” it is important to understand “why.” Our research showed $100 billion of IoE value was available for retailers in the United States to capture in 2013 by offering more personalized shopping experiences. If you missed your share, don’t worry. This number is expected to increase slightly in 2014. Realizing this value, however, isn’t easy.

When it comes to trust, retailers are starting from a low base. When asked, “How much would you trust these companies/institutions to protect your personal data and use it to provide something you value?” respondents ranked retailers second to last, at 31 percent—behind government agencies (37 percent), and ahead of Internet companies (18 percent).

Even so, shoppers want personalized experiences. When asked, “Which personalized experiences do you prefer?” respondents ranked promotions via touch-screen or smartphone first (Digital Mass: 46 percent; Über Digitals: 53 percent). This was followed by personalized products, personalized shopping lists, and personalized service.

So, how do we solve this dilemma between a lack of trust and the desire for personalized shopping experiences, which require the collection of personal information? For answers, let’s look at a few of the research findings.

  •     Shoppers want personalized offers that are easy to use – Most people want to receive personalized offers via email at home. This suggests that shoppers — even Über Digitals — start the shopping process while they are in their home environment. The vision of in-store offers may simply not be in sync with the reality of shopper decision making and in-store behavior.
  •     Shoppers are willing to share information – Both Digital Mass and Über Digital shoppers are willing to share past purchase history and basic personal information (name, age, etc.) with retailers to receive a more personalized shopping experience. Topping the list of acceptable information for retailers to use are time spent in the store, location in the store, and products you try but don’t buy.
  •     Shoppers want something in return – To give personal information, however, shoppers must get something in return. By far, the top two factors that would lead shoppers to share more personal information are guaranteed percentage savings on their next purchase and specific dollar savings on their next purchase. Interestingly, a world-class privacy policy ranked third, 21 percent below the second choice for the Digital Mass, and 14 percent below the second response for Über Digitals.

Based on our experience working with many of the world’s leading retailers, there are three key takeaways and actions when it comes to building trust:

  •     Shopper trust must be earned. Retailers can do this by delivering a clear data policy and making the benefits of providing personal information transparent and easy to understand.
  •     IoE is already here. To capture your share of the $100 billion value at stake, develop a strategic plan that takes into account the information above.
  •     Über Digitals are too important to ignore. Selling to these shoppers requires an architecture and infrastructure that can support their increasing expectations for connected, digital shopping experiences.

To gain even more insights into developing trust in an IoE world, take a look at:

    http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/IoE/IoE-Retail-Key-Findings.pdf
    http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/IoE/Digital-Shopping-Behavior.pdf
    http://www.cisco.com/web/about/ac79/docs/IoE/Digital-Customer-Infographic.jpg

*  This year’s Cisco Consulting Digital Shopping Behavior survey includes responses from 1,174 consumers who are representative of the United States broadband population by age, income, and region. It is the fourth in a series of popular “Catch ‘Em and Keep ‘Em” studies by Cisco Consulting Services.

Posted by: Admin AT 08:57 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 07 January 2014

By Gail Chiasson
DailyDOOH
North American Editor


Paul Flanigan has been in the executive director’s chair at the Digital Screenmedia Association for about two months now, and while we haven’t seen any concrete moves by him yet, that’s not to say he hasn’t been working hard.

"I really prefer to listen as much as possible to as many people as possible before I act," says Flanigan.

And to that end, Flanigan has been talking to a wide selection from within the DSA’s approximately 700 membership, with a lot of emphasis on the vendors.

"I feel that it’s important to know what they offer,” he says. “People often just go back to the companies that they’ve used before or to companies that friends have recommended, without taking into account that other companies may offer a better solution to what is needed. I want to know what all our members offer, both large and small. I want to see a better liaison between the users, the network operators, the retailers, and the vendors."

"Everyone has similar goals: to make money and to grow the industry. The DSA is helping through three ways: networking, education and advocacy. Education is moving in the right direction. Advocacy continues to grow. But networking is something we really have to facilitate: to get the users, the buyers, the vendors, everybody talking, to explain their needs, the challenges. My discussions are to learn the value of each participant and what will meet their vision."

"Then we have to find tangible activities that will meet these, and try to put these in place in different geographical areas so as to attract and reach the greatest number of members of the industry."

So far, Flanigan has had discussions with at least 40-to-50 members and claims to have six or seven ideas where he’d like to take action, with a couple of these to happen by the end of January. In addition, he has been working on the details of an April 8-9 symposium in Texas, a continuation of twice-a-year symposiums successfully put in place under Flanigan’s predecessor, David Drain.

Flanigan says that the DSA Board of Directors was interested in having him as executive director because “I have lived inside this large and rapidly expanding industry for over 15 years, seeing the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I have spent time on just about every side of the table. My goal is to build a world-class association that delivers value to our members and makes them come back for more. How? Well, that’s the million-dollar question, but I am working on some tangible actions that I believe will generate more interaction among our buying and selling members, in turn generating more value for them as well as the DSA."

“This is not a sprint, but a marathon, and every day I need to do the little things that continue to move the DSA in the right direction.”

Flanagan also believes that education will help various municipal and state governments learn more about the industry and be more open to digital out-of-home installations. With some governments hesitant about allowing digital signage, he says that the association and its members should market and be proactive, rather waiting until negative arguments come up when installations are being considered.

"We must make sure that all parties – city councilors, advocates, everyone that might be involved have enough information, and our members must help at their local levels,” he says. “If there’s apathy, you’ll never know what people are thinking. It’s up to us to understand how the regulations affect certain areas of our industry and how we respond to them."

"That’s much easier said than done, but part of my work is to build a stronger advocacy group that addresses these concerns and helps both members and the industry understand what the future may hold. Of course, it’s a moving target because the industry (people, concepts, solutions, technology, etc.) continues to evolve and change."

Growth has been steady since the DSA was formed, which means it has a good foundation in place. There have been a lot of questions and comments as to whether the DSA and the Digital Signage Federation can or should ever get together.

"There are two parts to looking at this," says Flanigan. "It’s clear that the DSA and DSF have a lot of common goals. We must look at how we are each getting there. I’d like to understand why it could or should happen or not. I know the people on the DSF board and they are good people. On the DSA side, I feel there’s new energy. I think that it’s worth sitting down and at least having a conversation."

We asked Flanigan about the DSA’s choosing Customer Engagement Technology World as it’s ‘official show’.

"We have common philosophies on creating customer engagement," he says. "We see a lot of opportunities working with CETW. My impression is that it does a good job of addressing the different approaches, and has a good mix of digital signage, kiosks, software, and a huge section on mobile, which has become so important to our sector."

"Are we listening to the needs of visitors and are we addressing them? Yes, I think so. Both the DSA and CETW are trying to find the moving target of needs. Kiosks, eg., are critical because of the growing use of wireless and mobile."

"My impression of the 2013 event was that CETW was a damn good show and it’s unfair to see it as a rebound show. I feel that both CETW and DSA are moving in the right direction."

"The team at JD Events (the group behind the CETW) and Lawrence Dvorchik, CETW general manager, have been fantastic and have truly developed an event that focuses on customer engagement. The evolution of the show is a reflection on the evolution of customer expectations – it’s not just about technology, and it doesn’t live within just one screen or one computer. The DSA recognizes that mobile is so critical to our industry, and both CETW and DSA have embraced it. We are continuing to develop our relationship with CETW."

Organizations have not really taken action on patent trolls, so we asked Flanagan his thoughts on these.

"The DSA should take a bigger advocacy role,” he says. "But should DSA be the one to take on the legal fees and so forth to fight them as an industry? We would have to take the temperature of the membership on that. Even though a case may involve only, say, 20 companies, this really affects everybody in the long run."

In December, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Innovation Act, a bill to reform an American patent system to help solve the problem of a glut of low quality patents and by ‘trolls’ – shell companies that make a business of filing nuisance lawsuits against productive businesses. The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, will now go to the Senate, where it is expected to pass and to the White House, which is apparently also in favor. While the new law will, by far, not solve all of the problems, it specifically addresses certain abusive patent assertion activities, forces more transparency, and also makes the shakedown process more cumbersome for the trolls.

"It’s a preemptive measure and will have some impact," says Flanigan. "We need to pay much more attention to this and put a proactive step forward to work with our partners and members. The DSA should take a stronger role in terms of being a resource for companies. As a collective community, we should protect our own. I want to talk to companies that have been affected by patent trolls and see if there were gaps and where we could have helped."

"I’d rather be proactive and get people to talk about it, In fact, I need to educate myself more on this. I must do it."

The last topic we discussed with Flanagan was awards. The DSA itself has awards and, while we personally wonder whether there aren’t too many awards programs across the industry, Flanigan says that the value of an award comes from the ability of the recognition to be of benefit to the winner.

He says, "My belief is that winners get value because it generates more business for them. However, with the way that the industries are converging, perhaps we’ll see fewer award events but the awards being of greater value. But I feel that outstanding work should be recognized."

“As far as the industry itself goes, it seems that in the past couple of months, there seems to be some excitement. I think it’s partly because we’ve been coming out of the economic hangover. In 2013, the industry got a lot of attention, and I think that we can leverage that in 2014."

“As far as the DSA goes, we need to partner with everybody and become a trusted authority for the industry. The executive council has given me a lot of support and I’d like to look back in 12 months and see that we’ve been accomplishing our goals. Of course, we will always want to do more."

Reprinted from the DailyDooh 

Posted by: Admin AT 10:29 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Kisha Wilson
Marketing Manager at Slabb, Inc.


It seems that the word "interactive" is being used in various forums and mediums. But what makes interactivity so important, especially when it comes to kiosk design?

In the simplest terms, I think we can all agree that in this age of advanced technology, where everything is more accessible, faster, more responsive and ever changing that the "interactive element" is a must, in order to stay ahead or simply keep up with competitors. In addition to this, we live in a world of the informed consumer – they know what is available and what is possible and they demand it.

Just look at the technological advancements in our lifetime and the rate of change ... we have already seen five iterations of the iPad, six of the iPhone, there are over 100 tablet models – a number that continues to increase, laptops that are rivaling the thickness of paper and the technological evolution shows no signs of slowing down. This is our normal and the kiosk industry is no exception.

Kiosk interactivity gives a business one additional touch point (no pun intended) to their customers. This provides many unique opportunities for businesses, namely:

  • A kiosk that enables interactivity will allow the input of customer data, providing both quantitative and qualitative information that can track buying patterns and assist in driving sales.
  • Interactive kiosks reduce the amount of staff needed allowing a company to reduce training and staffing costs.
  • The increased presence of interactive kiosks has encouraged the creation of customized software that can facilitate several web‐based applications, thereby reducing implementation costs.
  • It is an ideal platform for a company to showcase their product while providing a modernized brand experience.
  • It allows a business to differentiate itself by creating a unique, quick and efficient self‐service option for customers.
  • An interactive kiosk is the perfect solution for brick and mortar retailers with an online presence to bridge any divide that may exist between the two channels. It is also an easy transition for customers who shop online to use the kiosk to purchase their products.
  • And we haven't even mentioned the benefits to customers yet...
  • An interactive kiosk can provide 24 hour access to products and services allowing customers to shop at their convenience.
  • It gives customers a self‐service option which reduces the time that could normally be spent doing a traditional transaction; not to mention, it eliminates the need to stand in line.
  • Customers get the opportunity to view products on an interactive platform that can simulate the physical attributes of the product, assisting with final purchase decisions.
  • It is a source for easily accessible, updated company and product information.

Posted by: Admin AT 01:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  3 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 20 November 2013

By Paul Flanigan, Executive Director
Digital Screenmedia Association



While we love to talk about technology, we must never forget the real reason we create these solutions.

I love to surf the web. I just love it. I cannot believe how much stuff there is out there. Tons of it. What I find particularly enjoyable is the randomness of discovery. There are even links that encourage you to do it. If you enjoy Reddit try this link.

It takes you to any number of subreddits on just about any topic you can possibly imagine. And what do you know? There are subreddits for Digital Signage and Digital out-of-home. Although I would gather that reddit is not the greatest forum for discussion on these.

Here is a link to find any random Wikipedia page. The other day I stumbled on to this one: List of Emerging Technologies.

The page contains emerging technologies in a number of fields, including Agriculture, Biomedical, IT/Communications, Transport, and bunch of other ones. It also contains a section on displays. If you’re keeping track at home, there are 16 different display technologies under the subject of Displays.

Of course, I had to ask myself, “What am I having for dinner tonight?” After that, I asked myself, “Are any of these what we think of as digital signage?” More questions: Where would these work? In kiosks? On walls? On billboards? Would these work in hospitals? Universities? Hotels? Libraries?

At that moment, I had to remind myself of something that I learned 15 years ago. Regardless of the technology, you need to begin with the end in mind. The end is the user, the audience. It’s the person who is trying to find the next point on the journey through the hotel using a touch screen kiosk. It’s the person trying to pay for his groceries at a self check-out. It’s the person who wants to download something onto her cell phone from the interactive screen in front of her.

I worked in professional sports for seven years. Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball, the NFL, and even minor league hockey. Every place I worked, I reminded myself to never forget that I’m a fan, a customer. I would often go into the seats and enjoy the game. I would look at the video screens in the suites, and at the giant jumbotrons, and I would watch these screens as a fan. Would I enjoy what I was seeing and hearing? At Best Buy, we did a lot of work on understanding the customer. We were encouraged to go into stores and be the customer, to try the solutions we were creating and see if they worked or not.

Now I’m in a position to help steer this organization, and this industry, in new directions. But these directions are not provided by the technology. We get direction from the user. We learn how people use technology. Then we work to build solutions that will create the ideal relationship between the user and the technology.

It’s impossible to prescribe a certain technology to a certain vertical. We can assume some fundamental best practices based on years of research, but the truth is that the user is evolving as quickly as the technology.

If we forget about the user, we’ll forget why we’re here. And that would be tragic, because I really want to see if any of these emerging technologies would help hospitals, and retail, and universities.

I think most of us do, too.

Posted by: Admin AT 07:47 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 29 October 2013

By: Kisha Wilson
Marketing Manager at Slabb, Inc.

 

A company should offer a good product, great customer service, exceptional after-sales service and options to attract customers. But even with all of this, is the deciding factor when purchasing a product all about convenience?

We may know what product we want, if not, we research and identify various options. It is also great when the salesperson we communicate with is knowledgeable and helpful. A warranty on the product and the assurance that having the product maintained and repaired when needed is also a plus. Let's suppose we get all of this at a store and have our much needed product in hand only to face the prospect of a long, meandering line or slow checkout service?

Just think of the angst you experience at Thanksgiving and Christmas when you're faced with long lines. It can also be like this if the store or product is popular. Would facing this, ultimately change your decision about getting the product? For some people, it wouldn't.

I think for me it would. I have three children, two under the age of four and my time is literally never my own. There are so many options and alternatives now that a long line is definitely a deterrent for me. It is even more infuriating when there are several check-out counters with only one or two being manned. I often wonder why businesses do this when they can choose the alternative of providing a self-service method such as an interactive kiosk. Think of how much easier flying is when you check-in beforehand or you avoid the lines by going straight to the check-in kiosk.

Some may argue that it may seem impersonal and limit a company's ability to create a lasting relationship with a customer. Could it also be a missed sales opportunity to promote the benefits of additional products at the check-out line? Maybe not. There have been so many times when things are just so busy the salesperson cannot dedicate their time to the customer in front of them or forgets to offer add-on purchases anyway.

Most customers would return to a store that considers their time, and makes their shopping experience easier. On that account, being less harassed by the sales experience, they might even take the time to answer a quick survey at the kiosk, or entertain add-ons to their purchase which, once programmed correctly, the kiosk will never forget to offer.

According to the Zendesk Benchmark Q2 2013, there has been an increase in customer satisfaction reflected in an average customer satisfaction score of 81 percent. One of the main factors contributing to this is the increase of self-service offerings such as kiosks.

Interactive kiosks are the machinery of choice when it comes to giving the public as many options as possible when conducting transactions. We used to be limited to ATMs, but now self-service kiosks are everywhere, from supermarkets to theatres, to every type of retail location where transactions take place. Depending on the industry, businesses can choose outdoor models, freestanding, desktop or wall-mounted self-service kiosks that offer superior convenience and serve a variety of needs.

This makes it important for companies to choose the right kiosk provider that can understand their needs and provide service and support for the unit. A company with experience, that will ensure that every element of programming and maintenance will be taken care of with the utmost care and precision, as well as ease-of-use for both customers and employees. A kiosk provider should offer custom solutions with both hardware and software to ensure smooth operation at all times.

Previously posted on www.KioskMarketplace.com

Posted by: Admin AT 01:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 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
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
It’s official. DSA will be reaching out to 41,000 attendees at the CTIA wireless and mobile conference in Orlando next week. It won’t be the grand booth, large video wall and hyper-engaging video that we originally envisioned, but it will be a coordinated effort, sponsored by Symon and Intel, to educate the mobile industry on the value of digital signage and kiosks.

What will DSA be doing? The association will be conducting two educational seminars in the CTIA Emerging Technology Pavilion. DSA will be introducing the mobile industry to digital signage, kiosks, the Digital Screenmedia Association and to the Customer Engagement Technology World show. DSA will be talking about how digital signage can create “context” in the mobile world and how wireless carriers, mobile app developers, advertisers, and others can use digital signage to expand their reach. For more information on this topic, see the article I recently published in Mobile Commerce Daily.

Why no digital signage pavilion, video wall and compelling video? The answer is simple: not enough time. By the time DSA received the agreement of all involved, there was simply not enough time to put together the big splash that we desired. Rather than do nothing and wait until next year, we decided to do the next best thing to capitalize on the momentum and CTIA relationship-building that we already had going.

DSA, Intel and Symon are pleased to be on the forefront of establishing linkages and relationships between the digital screenmedia and mobile industries. We fully expect that we will be able to identify and exploit new synergies that will be of benefit to all involved.
Posted by: Steve Gurley AT 08:40 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 09 March 2011

On average, 70 percent of all new business is gained through referrals or relationship marketing. It is also considered to be one of the most cost-effective ways to build your business.

I’m a believer that business relationships, companies and products are built by people, and the more you engage with, value, and leverage those people and their individuals skills and talents, the better your solutions and organizational performance will be.

If the DSA was to sponsor and build out a powerful industry networking program that outlined a referral marketing strategy for its networking members, and designed networking programs to develop individual, executive and company wide networking skills, what type of opportunities, mapping of online marketing, social media, and events do you feel would be most valuable?  

Should networking be regional? By vertical market? Or by solution set?

 

Posted by: Linda Hofflander AT 08:36 am   |  Permalink   |  1 Comment  |  Email
Tuesday, 04 May 2010
Kiosk and digital signage industry leaders discuss the new Digital Screenmedia Association, and the exciting times ahead for the digital signage, interactive kiosk and mobile technology industries.

Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 09:16 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 04 May 2010

Intel head of digital signage Jose Avalos was scheduled to talk about "Using an intelligent and innovative digital signage strategy to reduce total cost of ownership" at today's Digital Signage Strategies Forum in London. 

But after polling the audience he went off track a bit and dwelt more on Intel's view of the future of the digital signage industry - and on the company's inititatives to both grow the industry as a whole and to create a preference for Intel's technology in the sector.

Intel obviously sees digital signage as a growth industry and an opportunity to get into a less-than mature market early on, and it's already partnering with fellow big-boy Microsoft to leverage their way into the sector.

And now that Microsoft has announced its digital signage-friendly Windows Embedded 7, reps from both companies at the show today dropped a bombshell during Avalos' talk, the availability of what Avalos called "a reliable and standards-based media player platform for the digital signage industry."

The jointly developed Digital Signage Evaluation Kit is aimed at simplifying and speeding the time to market of signage deployments. Using Windows Embedded 7 and Intel's Core I.5 processor, the kit solves many of the technical issues deployers face, says Lorraine Bardeen, Windows Embedded EMEA marketing manager. 

According to a website link provided by Avalos, "the Digital Signage Evaluation Kit (DSEK-10) offers device manufacturers and software developers an open media player platform that is optimized for digital signage applications."

The DSEK is an integrated hardware and software platform that has been tested extensively by the companies' joint engineering team, Bardeen says, which will allow digital signage deployers to spendmore time on content and less on the technical issues.

"They can spend more time on 'wow'-factor," she said. "Their job is to meet the needs of their business...not spend time integrating the hardware and the software."

 

 

Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 07:27 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 23 April 2010

Digital signage continues to gain momentum as an effective marketing tool in today’s retail environment. Since digital signage is still a relatively new technology, there is not a general understanding of what it takes to run a successful campaign once the hardware has been purchased. Let’s talk about content.

Content is the media that will play on your display. Content can consist of imagery, footage or a combination of both. Think of content as mini-commercials featuring your product or message.

Creating content from scratch is an option, but not the most cost effective. The most cost effective option is repurposing your existing print marketing materials to create a digital campaign.

A major commercial retail chain recently approached my company for guidance regarding their digital signage content creation. They were spending a significant amount of money on national print advertisement campaigns and were now faced with the additional expense of content creation for their digital signage. The additional cost was daunting and not in their budget. We suggested repurposing.

Repurposing was suggested to not only save the retail chain money, but to reinforce their branding. The retailers’ current campaign was reaching their targeted audience every week via mailers. Our suggestion was to reinforce their pre-existing campaign by animating the print materials already in circulation and featuring them on displays in the retail stores. This created yet another touch-point for their marketing campaign and added to its recognition.

Utilizing pre-existing marketing material reinforces your company's branding by maintaining its consistency and integrity. Your brand can easily become less effective each time you recreate your marketing pieces through various design firms and content companies. To maintain and reinforce your company's brand, you must deliver a uniform and consistent experience to the customer, every time. Without consistency you are not reinforcing your brand and the success of your campaign will suffer. The most successful brands consistently reinforce their message over time.

A company interested in digital signage that is currently running a successful print media campaign is a step ahead of the game. We have found that repurposing our clients' print material to a digital format results in an instantly recognizable campaign at a fraction of the cost. We are able to offer quick turnaround times since the content is pre-existing.

I hope you can now breathe a little easier knowing there is an alternative to high priced content creation. Repurposing your companies pre-existing marketing materials is not only cost effective, but beneficial to your branding strategy. Before you start from scratch, consider the benefits of repurposing with the help of an experienced company.

Katy R. Dailey is a communications specialist with CE labs, an association member. 

Posted by: Katy R. Dailey AT 11:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
VIDEO: Janet Webster, president of the Self-Service & Kiosk Association, gives her thoughts on the merger of the SSKA with the Digital Signage Association to form the new Digital Screenmedia Association.

Posted by: Janet Webster AT 09:53 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 12 April 2010

Over the past five years, the evolution of wireless networks to 3G data speeds, alongside increasingly sophisticated yet cost-effective cellular routers and antennas, has allowed many kiosk and digital signage deployers to have either successfully deployed stable networks using cellular technologies or at least seriously consider it as a viable alternative to landline options.

Now that 4G is available via Sprint and Clearwire, what does that mean for kiosk and digital signage deployers interested in deploying a cellular network?

4G is especially compelling for those deployers with bandwidth-intense applications, such as content streaming or video. Consider that with more bandwidth, applications such as a live video call from the kiosk to a customer service agent to enhance the user experience are very possible and can be delivered with great quality.

First, though, let me offer a word of caution: I believe we are experiencing the dawn of a new world for cellular networks, meaning this is just the beginning. For self-service it’s promising, it’s real and it will allow for the support of applications that we could only dream of before. But in order to adopt 4G completely for the purposes of an un-manned, machine-to-machine, mission critical network, many factors need to be considered and vetted out before rolling full force ahead.

Now, let’s first take a look at the technology itself and what is available today in the United States.

What is 4G?

4G refers to the fourth generation of cellular wireless standards and is the successor to 3G and 2G standards. In the same manner that data-transmission speeds increased from 2G to 3G and allowed for the adoption of new applications utilizing cellular networks, the leap from 3G to 4G again promises higher data rates and lower latencies that could realistically support applications such as real-time streaming of multimedia voice, data and video.

The 4G spectrum services available through Clearwire and Sprint are based on a technology known as WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access). WiMAX is an international standard developed expressly for sending high-speed data signals to mobile users that blends the speeds of Wi-Fi with the portability of cellular. It broadcasts on the 2.5-GHz portion of the radio frequency spectrum and has a longer range. In the real world (not the lab), speed depends on variables such as how many subscribers are using the network at the same time, how far you are from a transmitting tower and how much data is being sent across the Internet. However, a realistic expectation can be up to 3 Megs or 5 Megs per second download, which to a user will feel more like a high-speed DSL or cable type of experience.

What markets are available to deployers today?

The Clearwire and Sprint 4G footprint currently serves 28 markets.*

For self-service deployers who are planning a nationwide reach, a more likely scenario is that 4G won’t be a realistic option until 2011 and beyond. If ubiquitous coverage is required, the best plan is still to deploy 3G equipment but to ensure the 3G equipment is future proofed as much as possible for a 4G upgrade when available.

What cellular equipment is required to properly support a kiosk or digital signage network?

Carrier Modem: Sprint’s 57 percent ownership stake in Clearwire allowed the two companies to launch a cellular USB device that is backward- and forward-compatible with both networks. It utilizes the Sprint 3G network wherever necessary and will automatically jump to a 4G network when available.

Cellular Router: TeraNova takes a more conservative approach to designing and building robust and reliable kiosk or digital signage wide area networks, and we recommend the use of a router with the carrier modem. We leverage 3G cellular routers to provide a consistent connection with the cell tower and to provide over-the-air (OTA) functionality to the equipment in the field. This is especially important in the self-service sector where the systems are unmanned, and every truck roll is a cost consideration. We want to see high network uptime and the ability to remotely manage the network as much as possible.

Don Bush, director of marketing at CradlePoint Technologies, a leading manufacturer of 3G/4G equipment, shared CradlePoint’s vision to allow the customer to "future-proof" their solutions:

"We believe it is in the customer’s best interest to provide them a product that allows them to take advantage of the best current technology without replacing hardware with every technological leapfrog."

CradlePoint’s cellular routers have firmware that has been successfully tested with 4G equipment. As well, CradlePoint offers the ability to "push out" new firmware as required OTA to the routers one by one or all at once so that it can accept new carrier modems (aircards) and limit the amount of truck rolls required to maintain and service the network. Routers start at $250 and virtually pay for themselves after the first dispatch.

Client Case Study:

Five hundred kiosks are rolled out in Q1 2010 on a Sprint network so that 3G can be utilized today with a clear roadmap to 4G. Note: ATT and VZW are pursuing LTE, which is their 4G strategy and technology of choice and is also very promising but has not rolled out yet in any markets.**

3G/4G Routers are deployed in the kiosks that are compatible with the carrier equipment. Once the 4G network is ubiquitously available and the 4G equipment is tested and proven, the deployer can then choose to exercise specific terms and conditions we negotiated in their carrier contract that allows them to switch out to 4G without incurring additional cost.

The next step is to utilize the remote management software to command the routers that are forward-compatible with 4G to accept the new firmware OTA. This deployer enjoys the best of both worlds: a current deployment utilizing proven technology and equipment, with a clear roadmap for the future that does not put the burden of technology obsolescence back on the deployer.

As a conclusion, despite an evolving arms race between WiMAX and LTE 4G technologies in the carrier world and trying to stay informed of the many acronyms that form the alphabet soup of our cellular space — our advice is to not get overwhelmed or overly optimistic about bleeding-edge technologies. The idea is to build a kiosk or digital signage network using proven technologies today yet future-proofed without significant re-investment required to capitalize on the brave new world.

* Currently the 28 markets are Atlanta and Milledgeville, Ga.; Baltimore; Boise; Chicago; Las Vegas; Philadelphia; Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro, N.C.; Honolulu and Maui, Hawaii; Seattle and Bellingham, Wash.; Portland and Salem Ore.; and Dallas/Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Austin, Abilene, Amarillo, Corpus Christi, Houston, Killeen/Temple, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, Waco and Wichita Falls, Texas.

This year Clearwire and Sprint plan to expand into at least the following markets: Los Angeles, Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City; New York City, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis and the San Francisco Bay Area.

** LTE, short for Long Term Evolution, is considered by many to be the obvious successor to the current generation of UMTS 3G technology, which is based upon WCDMA, HSDPA, HSUPA, and HSPA. It will enable significantly faster data rates for both uploading and downloading. Verizon Wireless, partly owned by Vodafone, has announced it will support LTE as its 4G technology of choice, abandoning its current CDMA based network. AT&T also previously announced plans to boost its mobile broadband capabilities by investing in next-generation broadband technology (LTE).

Natasha Royer Coons is the managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group Inc., the creators of the Kiosk Wide Area Network (K-WAN) kit. The kiosk connectivity specialists will be at KioskCom 2010 in Las Vegas at Booth #335.

Posted by: Natasha Royer Coons AT 11:28 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, 12 April 2010
Creating design guidelines for the network and the content is an import step in the process of setting up a digital out-of-home network. This process starts with discussions with key stakeholders, and it ends with a formal design guideline document for everyone in the process to follow.
 
The guidelines will include specifications on logotype and colors, logotype usage, fonts, ID design and usage, network design elements and identity system and creative briefs. This document is vital even for a small-scale network; consistency is mandatory to maintain the effectiveness of the network’s identity and messages, and much time will be lost establishing this consistency at the end of the process rather than in the beginning.
 
For example, some key design elements for the network may include photography, bright colors, endorsements and quotations. The content designs may include directions, like having a main photograph; clear headline; short copy; short, large, and legible words; bold colors; and high contrast to name a few.
 
Taking the time to create a network guideline will save on time and money in the future. These are the minimum basic areas one can consider while creating the network design guideline for one’s network:
 
1. Color usage
  • Identify the brand colors of the company, product, etc.
  • Colors are usually designed to work well together and live in harmony within compositions.
  • Use color bracketing, which is using the colors’ opacity to deliver gradient shades of each color.
  • Use gradients, which is using gradient backgrounds to create a sense of space around products.

2. Font usage

  • Utilize the brand’s font guidelines to ensure continuity among other marketing materials. There will typically be only one or two fonts used on the network.
  • Vary the usage of the font to create visual texture in contrasting ways that are appealing and balanced. Combining bold and light weights will help keep the viewers’ attention on the right words.
  • Select three or four font weights, such as light, regular, semi-bold, and bold.
 
3. Showcasing products
  • Ensure that one is consistent in how products are photographed or videotaped, so the look has continuity from one product to the next.
  • Maintain high quality and resolution of product shots to ensure high quality of all content on the network.
4. Icons
  • Create a shorthand language for the network with icons to help guide the viewer around specific themes. Depending on the network, these can fall into a number of categories. They can be seasonal, departmental, contextual or emotional.
  • Animate icons in specific ways to enhance network continuity.
  • Icons need to be consistent. For example, all icons may relate to a specific look and feel. They may be bold or soft, or bright or pastel, in nature.
5. Transitions
  • Transitions add movement to the screen and can direct the viewer’s attention to one place or another on the screen.
  • Transitions need to be seamless within a piece of content and among other pieces of content.
6. Screens
  • Determine which screens within an environment are designed to serve a specific purpose. For example, one may have screens on an aisle end (endcap) or at the cash register. Each type of screen may be treated differently to accomplish one’s goals.
  • Determine what onscreen zone layout may be appropriate for each type of screen to help serve the intended purpose.
7. Zones
  • Structure the zones on the screen. In some networks one may want to have an onscreen zone with main content, another zone with secondary content and potentially a third zone with informational content.
  • The main zone is usually the product or the main advertisement.
  • The secondary zone typically relates to the main zone in context and tells the viewer what to do next.
  • The informational zone could provide weather, news, the date, or the time.
8. Themed messages
  • Themed messaging can be useful according to the type of network. For example, in a corporate communications network one may want to have themes based on the department so viewers understand the type of message being presented.
 
9. Content specifications
  • Determine the content specifications. Setting the standards for acceptable deliverables will save a lot of headaches. Determine what formats, codecs and sizes are acceptable and whether the deliverables will be high definition, standard definition, or both.
Creating content is best achieved by following a process that begins at the highest level of your network’s identity and works down. Networks that are successful have a consistent set of guidelines that dictate the styles, tone and other characteristics that will make it instantly identifiable to viewers.
 
Keith Kelsen is the author of "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen." More information about the book and the book's companion Web site can be found at www.5thscreen.info.
Posted by: Keith Kelsen AT 11:26 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 08 April 2010
NEC Display Solutions of America has been busy in the week leading up to this year’s KioskCom and The Digital Signage Show in Las Vegas.

Over the last several days NEC has made three announcements about new additions to its lineup of commercial LCD display and projector solutions.

On Monday, April 5, the company announced the latest addition to its top line of digital signage LCD displays, the P Series, with the new 52-inch P521 joining the 40-inch P401, 46-inch P461 and 70-inch P701. The new industrial-strength display is ideal in rigorous 24/7 environments like airports, public information, rental and staging and healthcare, according to a release from the company.

Tuesday NEC unveiled its new S Series, featuring the addition of the 40-inch S401 and 46-inch S461 LCD display, which will replace its well-regarded M Series. NEC says the S Series is ideal for customers with digital signage and entertainment applications running for extended operation times, like deployments in airports and public areas.

And on Wednesday the company launched its new V Series with the debut of the 32-inch V321, which it calls “a value-driven LCD display ideal for those new to the digital signage market.” The V321 succeeds the MultiSync LCD3215 and offers new features to benefit deployments with robust runtimes, like in restaurants and corporate lobbies.

The P521 is set to replace the company’s MultiSync LCD5220 and offers new features and connectivity to NEC’s previous 52-inch customers. Additions to the new model include DisplayPort for maximum connectivity, Ethernet connection for ease in remote monitoring and more than 30 built-in features as part of its Enhanced Digital Signage Technology Suite. The Quick input change feature provides fast and easy switching between inputs for customers that require content to continuously run with near-uninterruptible flow.

“NEC’s new P521 display brings digital signage customers beneficial features that make deployments more effective and long-lasting,” said Luke Bruschuk, product manager for NEC Display Solutions. “The P Series battles harsh conditions with a premium-grade panel, including internal temperature sensors, a sturdy mechanical design and a sealed panel design to protect against damaging elements in less than optimal settings. The combination of these advanced features secures the P521 during use and aids in maximizing the display’s lifecycle.”

The new S Series of full high-definition displays offer a variety of new features compared to previous generation models, including DisplayPort and Ethernet connections for added flexibility, an ambient light sensor for optimum brightness based on existing lighting conditions and more than 30 built-in advanced features in its Enhanced Digital Signage Technology Suite. The displays boast a contrast ratio of 4000:1, an increase from its predecessors, while maintaining the same level of power consumption.

The S401 and S461 have the ability to be tiled in a video wall matrix up to 10x10 (100 displays), which is an improvement from the previous 5x5 capability of the M Series. Their NaViSetT technology offers an intuitive graphical interface to adjust the displays’ settings, and remote access is enabled for IT professionals with the Administrator version.

“Our new S Series displays offer a feature-rich solution to those customers looking for a strong presence with sufficient connectivity options that allow similar performance as our award-winning P Series products,” Bruschuk said. “The S401 and S461 bring incredible new benefits to projects involving extended use and satisfy a market that didn’t fit with the product offering in the past. Their standard bezel and business-grade panel benefit flagship stores and designer shops that require a sleek, sophisticated look without straining budgets.”

And finally, NEC says its new V Series was designed with small businesses in mind, for those applications that require commercial-grade technology on a limited budget. The high-definition V321 presents new, convenient features that simplify the customer experience, such as the built-in text ticker feature. This enhancement enables end-users to dedicate a portion of the screen to emergency warnings or breaking news. While the primary, scheduled content is displayed and fills the majority of the screen, the secondary ticker information can be displayed on the lower, remaining portion of the screen through a separate input.

Other improved features include quick input change for faster switching between sources, advanced terminal settings and monitoring and control over Ethernet, including e-mail notifications in the event the display encounters an error. Additionally, its SPVA panel contributes to the increase in contrast ratio from 800:1 to 3000:1 and to the reduced number of CCFLs, relating directly to the decrease in mercury content.

The V321 supports video walls of up to 25 displays in a 5x5 configuration using TileMatrixT, an improvement from the 4x4 capability in the MultiSync LCD3215. The display also allows individual or group identities with only one command, where users can address monitors individually, as an entire group or defined sub-groups. Certain settings can be customized within each group, providing further flexibility.

“NEC’s V Series allows any and all customers the ability to outfit their facility with advanced digital signage without straining their budget,” Bruschuk said. “The V321 supplies entry-level users with extended connectivity options, including Ethernet control for remote monitoring, RS-232 loopback and HDMI high-definition image quality. Pairing this invaluable control capability with a multitude of advanced features creates an incredible value-driven digital signage solution.”
Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 08:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 07 April 2010
A little more than a year ago, the Digital Signage Experts Group (DSEG) premiered its Digital Signage Certified Experts course as a broad overview of the digital signage industry — and since then "somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500" people have taken the course either online or in person, according to DSEG board member Jonathan Brawn, a principal at Brawn Consulting.

DSEG, which describes itself as an impartial and brand-agnostic organization that works hand-in-hand with the manufacturers, distributors, content creators and resellers in the digital signage industry, has announced the addition of three new certification programs to complement the group’s original certification offering.

The DSEG now will offer certification courses for Digital Signage Display Experts (DSDE), Digital Signage Network Experts (DSNE) and Digital Signage Sales Professional (DSSP) to its curriculum. Just like with the DSCE, the new courses will be offered at live events around the country and via live webinars and virtual online versions.

"We had additional courses in mind from the start…because you really can’t fit all of the bits and pieces people really need to know into one course," Brawn said.

The original DSCE (Digital Signage Certified Expert) course is an "immersion into the digital signage market for those wanting an impartial and agnostic approach to understanding the complexities of the industry. It covers the scale and scope of the industry and examines the disparate parts of complex digital signage solutions culminating in the 7 Key Elements of Digital Signage," according to a press release from the DSEG.

The new DSDE (Digital Signage Display Expert) course goes over the science of sight and how it relates to display specifications, selecting the appropriate type of display for deployments and display calibrations, among other topics.

The DSEG says the DSNE (Digital Signage Network Experts) course "is a fundamental approach to understanding network structure and operating principals, as well as security." The course has an introduction to networks, network design and topology, and gets into networking hardware and network protocols.

The DSSP (Digital Signage Sales Professional) course looks at the obstacles faced by digital signage salespeople in "conveying to the customers and end-users what digital signage entails as well as what it can really do for them," according to the press release. "The DSSP focuses on the information and skills necessary to translate value into the reality for the digital signage customer."

Brawn says the DSSP course is essentially "the Certified Expert-Lite" for people who don’t need some of the more technical aspects of the more intensive course.

"All the material that’s in Sales Professional is also contained within the Certified Expert program, but the Sales Prof program is aimed at people who want to take a half-day, real focused seminar purely on the sales elements of digital signage who don’t need or want any of the technical elements at all."

All of the courses culminate in an online test for participants, after which they’re awarded certification in the program.

Several players in the digital signage industry have started incorporating the original certification program into their training, and some are starting to explore adding one of the new courses, Brawn says.

Earlier this year, Ingram Micro Inc. started offering the DSCE course to its channel partners, and Kevin Schroll, Samsung Electronics America’s senior product marketing manager – large format displays, says that Samsung sales reps are encouraged to take the courses offered by Brawn’s company.

"The training courses provide pertinent information to better enable the Samsung sales representatives to properly assess the customer’s digital signage needs and match it to the solution Samsung can provide," Schroll said.

And late last year, Almo Professional A/V announced that it was the first distributor in the industry to have its entire sales force successfully complete the DSCE program.

"Digital signage is clearly one of the fastest-growing segments of the commercial audiovisual industry," Sam Taylor, executive vice president and COO of Almo Professional A/V, said in a release at the time. "The challenge is that most professionals don’t have a full understanding of how to take all the complex parts of a digital signage system to produce an effective image and create value in the network…This designation gives our partners an edge because not only can they get all the digital signage hardware and software from Almo Professional A/V, they also have an expert resource to guide them through the process and help them create a system that is the best solution for their customers."

The new courses augment the broad understanding of the industry the earlier course provided, Brawn says.

"They are really focused on a single element," he said. "We break everything down in the Cert Experts program into seven key elements of digital signage, and so now we’ve created technical courses that are just really in-depth in certain areas."

DSEG will continue offering the original course along with the new programs in-person at seminars and tradeshows, Brawn says, but the group has found that most professionals are opting to take the courses online.

"It’s more of an issue that people don’t want to make the time commitment of spending the entire day out of the office," he said. "So the self-guided, which is exactly the same course material…we’re finding that is really in demand."
Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 02:07 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 31 March 2010
by Bill Collins of DecisionPoint Media Insights

Last week’s decision by the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) to rebrand itself as the Digital Place-based Advertising Association (DPAA) probably should have come as little surprise to people in the digital signage and kiosk industries.

Now that it has come, though, the association will use it as a springboard to seize new market share opportunities and launch new initiatives, say DPAA officials.

According to longtime OVAB board chair (and CEO of Captivate Network) Mike DiFranza, the name change was approved by the OVAB/DPAA board after an extensive consulting process — and some of the most enthusiastic advocates for the rebranding were the advertising professionals who plan and buy out-of-home advertising time for their brand clients.

These ad-agency professionals recognized, DiFranza says, that the "out-of-home" moniker from the old OVAB name was not specific and clear enough to describe the different engaged audiences that brands can reach with "digital place-based" networks.

DiFranza said that these agency professionals view their buys of digital place-based networks as a separate and distinct complement to their other media buys of static roadside billboards, digital LED billboards, street furniture, transit advertising, airport advertising and other traditional out-of-home media.

Changing names equals seizing new market opportunities

This rebranding of the Madison Avenue-based DPAA is another example of how the leading U.S. organizations serving the digital signage, place-based digital media and kiosk sectors have successfully repositioned and renamed themselves for the last several years.

This repositioning and refinement (and sometimes rebranding) in our industry also has been done by tradeshow and event producers (the Digital Retailing Expo rebranding as the Digital Signage Expo and KioskCom’s announced rebranding as Customer Engagement Technology World) and industry publications (Captive Audience Network Briefing merging with Narrowcasting News to form AKA.TV back in 2004).

The bottom line here is that we’re all trying to keep pace with the market and seize new revenue opportunities.

New initiatives are coming at DPAA

DiFranza acknowledged the current U.S. economic slowdown has caused some networks to drop their memberships in DPAA. Also, some DPAA member networks have been acquired by other DPAA member networks. (Memberships run about $40,000 per year for operators of digital place-based networks.)

DiFranza said that, with this rebranding and DPAA’s new focus on selling the digital place-based networks into the digital and TV budgets, the DPAA hopes to woo back some of its lost members and gain new ones. He cited Gas Station TV and AccentHealth as example of networks focused on TV ad-buying budgets that DPAA hopes to recruit in the coming months.

To pursue ad buys from the digital and TV ad-buying buckets and win new members, DPAA president Suzanne La Forgia said the association plans to take several initiatives:

  • DPAA will expand its work with Mediamark Research (MRI), a prominent research house that publishes the annual Survey of the American Consumer. This annual survey collects information on adult consumers’ media choices, consumer product usage (tracking more than 6,000 product/service brands), demographics, lifestyle and attitudes. La Forgia explained that DPAA has persuaded Mediamark to incorporate more questions about consumer viewing of digital place-based media into the survey, so that the data will go into databases that define the media-planning and media-buying tools for many ad agencies.
  • La Forgia is working closely with both Nielsen and Arbitron to expand their work tracking the audiences of digital place-based media. La Forgia said that Nielsen and Arbitron are motivated to expand their research work here because of the rapid growth in the sector. She also hinted that both will soon be announcing major research results regarding place-based digital.
  • She is working with DPAA members to gather case studies and speak on seminars and panels at events sponsored by Mediapost and other influential organizers of events that media professionals attend.

"We felt that the old name was more exclusive"

"The new name clearly defines us as our own entity…Just like TV is different from cable, digital place-based media is different from digital signage," DiFranza said in a recent interview. "The name change opens up opportunity for this space. By engaging the multiple constituencies in the agency community (out-of-home buyers, digital-media/Internet/mobile media buyers and broadcast/TV buyers), that helps this industry grow. It’s a more inclusive strategy. We felt that the old name (OVAB) was more exclusive."
 
 

Bill Collins is principal of DecisionPoint Media Insights.

DecisionPoint produces custom audience research for Digital Signage networks and Digital Place-based Advertising. The company also provides B2B go-to-market strategy consulting for companies that market B2B products and services to those industries. Bill Collins can be reached at bill@decisionpointmedia.com.
Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 01:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 24 March 2010

by James Bickers, editor of RetailCustomerExperience.com

If an award were given for "most generous session content" at the recent GlobalShop event, it surely would have gone to Wirespring CEO Bill Gerba for his remarkable talk on "Seven Proven Strategies for Better Digital Signage Results."

The talk was just under 45 minutes, but Gerba packed in what was surely several weeks' worth of education. He broke his tips for digital signage content into seven broad categories; here are selected highlights from his talk.

Be sure to allw ample time at the end of a text message to enhance the recency effect. Don't wipe text off the screen too soon. Allow users the opportunity to read it, then read it again.  

Take advantage of "chunking and coding," which refers to the human tendency to better remember things that are prearranged into groups of like items — for instance, phone numbers printed in the XXX-XXX-XXXX pattern are much more memorable than 10 consecutive digits strung together.
 
Some practical uses of chunking and coding:
  • Pre-order: Group key phrases or concepts into distinct areas/times.
  • Repetition: Repeat key words, phrases or ideas two or three times in a row. 
  • Alliteration: Use words starting with the same letter or sound.
A call to action should be on-screen at all times. Actions that can be taken immediately work the best (e.g., "Ask a salesperson for details," "Get 15% off," etc.).
 
"If you only take one thing away from this talk today, your message must have a call to action," Gerba said. "It is the thing that is going to convert someone who might merely be glancing into someone who is going to look at your content ad maybe take an action later on."
 
When it comes to writing the message, turn to Google AdWords as a brainstorming tool. Search for your intended topic and see what kinds of messages competitors are using to try to draw people in via text ads. Chances are, you'll find a highly effective 5-6 word piece of information that is trying to compel someone to take an action, which is exactly what you need for digital signage content.
 
Visual elements: color, contract & fonts
There are some basic rules of thumb when choosing fonts and the visual layout of text:
  • Don't use multiple font types. Stick with serif for readability.
  • Don't use all caps.
  • Don't stack lines - try to keep each message to one line to reduce comprehension time.
When it comes to colors, the pressure is off a little bit. Gerba says there is no over-arching relationship between color and content performance.
 
"When push comes to shove and we tried to find colors that turned out to be more or less effective than others, we just couldn't do it," he said, noting that his company ran several hundred experiments with minor deviations in color. "You're probably not going to see any significant uptick or downtick because you've chosen a color."
 
But what does matter is contrast.
 
"Contrast is what everybody is actually messing with when they think they're messing with color," he said. Any combination of colors with similar color values, hue or brightness will reduce visibility, thereby reducing effectiveness.
 
Motion and timing
 
When it comes to making images move on the screen, the important element is the silhouette, the outline of the thing that's moving. Since the silhouette is the only thing that you can actually see/perceive in your peripheral vision, it's important to choose visual elements with distinct outlines. (For instance, a silhouette of a woman is instantly identifiable as such, but the silhouette of a baby sitting down might look like an amorphous blob.) Elements that don't have a strongly discernible silhouette are harder to see unless you're staring directly at them.

When it comes to timing, don't allow motion to interfere with readability or comprehension. Keep in mind that in most cases, you have between 1.5 and 3 seconds to convey your message before the person looks away. That's not much time, and anything that confuses the senses or muddles the message needs to be avoided.

Likewise, allow ample time for the viewer to read any text. For designers, make sure you can read your copy five times in the allotted time period. For other parties reviewing the design, make sure you can read the message three times before it is moved or wiped from the screen. 

Static elements should be the most important features of the ad
. Whatever is the primary focus, make sure it stands still. Subtle motion surrounding or behind it can enhance the scene without reducing recognition or comprehension.

Gerba cut right to the chase on tickers:

"I hate tickers," he said. "They are so terrible at what they do. If anybody started to do a little research, they'd start agreeing with me.

If you have any important information, it should not go in a ticker.


Tickers have a 10-22 percent lower recall rate than static text on a screen, Gerba says, and take anywhere from twice as long to 10 times as long to recognize/comprehend.

Scene composition

In Western countries, the eye moves from top-left to bottom-right in a zigzag pattern, as if reading a newspaper. Keep this in mind when placing visual elements and text relative to one another on the screen.

Visually separate, distinct elements of a shot speed up comprehension. Therefore, think like a filmmaker and split clips into scenes and shots: One 15-second clip becomes two 7.5-second scenes, which become four 3-second shots. Every frame or shot should function as a standalone "poster" — in other words, all information should make sense to the viewer if the screen were frozen at that moment.

Screen location and placement

The "decompression zone" is a "messaging no-man’s land" at the store entarnce, lasting for 15-20 feet inside the store. As a general rule of thumb, don't put digital signs near entryways.

Put your screens as close to head-height as possible, because that is where people look. And keep in mind the "angle of awareness," the 20-degree field of (vertical) view that is actively viewed by customers as they move through an environment.

Readability is crucial for onscreen text, and that leads to some general rules of thumb for the size of text relative to distance from the viewer:

Distance from viewer to screen

Minimum readable height of text
5'-50'
1"-2"
50'-100'
2"-4"

100'-200'

4"-8"

As they move through the store, consumers tend to look down on purchases; we "buy on our left" when pushing a cart down a walled aisle, otherwise we buy on the right.
 
Dominant flow is from the back of store to the front. The beginning of a trip favors new, less familiar items; end-of-trip (near checkout) favors "grab-and-go" and recognized brands. Likewise, front endcaps favor recognized brands, and rear endcaps are more suitable for less familiar brands.
 
Campaign integration
 
In-store multumedia campaigns marry digital and static media, but why bother? Because recall is significantly better when contents across various in-store channels (screens, printed ads, shelf ads, cart ads, audio, etc.) are consistent and reinforce one another.
 
The simplest form of integration marries the product being advcertised, complete in its packaging, with the digital media promoting it. Agencies are starting to get the hang of this, Gerba said.
 
Pitfalls to campaign integration include clean store policies, managers being selective with what they deploy and the fact that only 45-60 percent of POP materials sent to stores ever get used. Make sure the content on the digital screens will make sense to the viewer if other pieces of the campaign are left out or don't execute properly.

Sound

There are two approaches to using sound with digital signage: passive (which influences shopper behavior without their specific knowledge) and active (where the goal is to interrupt current behavior in order to introduce a new behavior).

Annoying soundscapes reduce dwell time. If your sounds compete with the host venue, screens might be shut off. And employee fatigue can lead to employees disconnecting or sabotaging the equipment.
 
On the other hand, a well-designed soundscape has been shown to lift sales as much as 5-10 percent.

Here are a few rules of thumb when considering/using sound:
  • Don't rely on sound alone for the message.
  • Use sound to augment an already compelling message.
  • Visual messages should always work without the sound.

This session was based on material published on the WireSpring blog. 

Posted by: Christopher Hall AT 02:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
 

Unbeknownst to the digital signage and digital out-of-home industry, there are groups of creative professionals out there truly excited by the opportunities of the space. These people are exactly what the industry has been waiting for to take it to the next level.

The key to identifying such leaders is to take a closer look at their backgrounds.

Those who have only worked in the traditional print/point-of-sale space jump on the chance to create digital content on signage and love it, says Peter Viento, a 15-year shopper-marketing veteran who has worked across media formats.

"They get really excited because now there’s the flexibility of going from a picture with words to telling a longer story — they can do more, come up with a bigger concept and really blow it out," says Viento, who is the executive creative director at Saatchi X in New York.

Viento also loves the ability to tailor the messaging depending on the location of the screens in store, plus the quick turnaround nature of digital.

His team recently put together a mini-spot for a client. "It had really beautiful footage which we created the messaging on," says Viento. "Now when we go into that retailer and we see it, my guys are pumped. They think it’s the greatest thing ever."

Similarly, over at Atlanta-based SapientNitro, the team is fascinated by the endless opportunities with different screens and surfaces, with the goal to be everywhere the customers are and give them the same brand experience.

"We want to make everything touchable. We have whiteboards filled with ideas," says John McHale, who has been with the agency for three years as the creative director.

Without a doubt, Sapient has a culture of embracing new media and innovation: It was the agency, in partnership with client Coca-Cola and Samsung, that rolled out interactive vending machines. The 46-inch LCD touchscreen combined with Flash technology, motion graphics, video and Bluetooth capabilities for mobile downloads generated much buzz and recognition. Specifically, it turned what was once a pure transactional experience into a true interaction.

The experience really pushed McHale’s team to explore ways to expand the footprint of a brand. He has no shortage of designers and staff with a passion for new technologies that can help create unique and immersive experiences. Granted, Sapient is a digital advertising and marketing agency.

For creatives with the traditional print and TV background, the uptake and enthusiasm for digital signage can be less. This is sometimes due to the fact that "in-store" isn’t considered as exciting or that the budgets are much smaller than they’re used to for TV.

Drivers for innovation

What one acclaimed creative finds most interesting about digital is the fact that it’s constantly evolving and the toolbars keep getting bigger as new technologies are invented. With over 14 years of experience in interactive marketing, Lars Bastholm has seen inventions that seem small and inconsequential at first, such as Google, YouTube and Facebook, turn out to have mass impact on marketing.

For the chief digital creative officer of Ogilvy in North America, digital media provides the playground for engagement, entertainment and involvement, but also utility. As an example, Bastholm cites the Charm Toilet paper "Sit or Squat" iPhone application. It’s not exactly a brand or category that goes for "fun" advertising, but the application where they crowd source information on all the public toilets in the world is brilliant, he says.

"It’s right for the brand. It’s incredibly helpful for the consumers looking for a restroom in a city they don’t know. It puts them top of mind."

To help encourage clients to try new spaces and channels, Bastholm typically asks clients to set aside 10 to 15 per cent of the budget to do things that have not been done before. The investment is used to test pilot different ideas to see how they work, see how consumers respond, then adapt accordingly.

In terms of digital OOH hitting that stride as a permanent buy, he suggests doing the PR and letting people know about the success stories in the space. The three constituencies to influence are:

1. Creatives – They can get inspired to try and play in the space if it’s "fun"

2. Business Units – They need to see it was effective, efficient and entertaining

3. Consumers – They should enjoy it enough to demand more of it

McHale, who started his career in book publishing and design before transitioning to digital, sees innovation being driven from a peer-to-peer perspective. He looks for what’s recognizable in other formats and explores how they can be applied to different mediums. Examples include applying elements from the Web to phone, or how to build on the idea of the Wii interface. The Sapient digital team, much like Viento’s retail team at Saatchi X, is actively exploring RFID, quick-response (QR) codes, e-couponing and more to enhance consumer brand interaction.

At the end of the day though, one of the key drivers for adoption of new spaces and innovation is effectiveness.

Measuring success

While advertising-based digital OOH networks often stress the number of views generated, a successful digital campaign is often seen through the lens of data capture or actual sales lift.

"Anything that motivates a consumer to act, to give you their information and to engage with your brand or product or services, that’s definitely the number one metric for success," says Sean Cunningham, VP, associate creative director at Hill Holiday, a multidiscipline communication company.

"Lead generation and acquisition is very important."

In the retail world, "moving the needle" is the best way to gauge success, says Viento. This often involves running a digital campaign, then tracking sales from the particular retailer and seeing if there is a lift.

The number of impressions still remains important since it translates to "softer" metrics such as brand recall, brand recognition and brand love.

However, executives from the creative world readily admit there are many ways to measure success and defer to the analytics team on the details.

At the end of the day, what makes it worth all the late nights and extra hours for a creative professional is the talk value.

"If the consumers are talking about it, if the press is talking about it, if the industry is talking about it as something that’s pushing the boundaries, as something new and fresh, I would say that’s a success from a creative standpoint," says Bastholm, who is no stranger to industry and peer recognition. He is one of the most awarded creatives in the digital marketing industry, having won a multitude of international awards, including three Cyber Lions Grand Prix.

The more retail, interactive and digital talents continue to embrace and drive innovation in digital signage content, the more the industry will grow to its full potential.

For more insights on how creatives feel about the space, join Peter Viento, John McHale and Sean Cunningham at the fifth annual Digital Signage Content Strategies Summit on April 12-13 in Las Vegas. Also be sure to catch Lars Bastholm’s keynote on the "State of the Digital Creative Nation."

Christie Liu is a conference producer at Strategy Institute, host of the Content Summit.

Posted by: Christie Liu, of the Strategy Institute AT 03:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 03 March 2010
I’ve been reading everyone’s reactions to the 2010 DSE show this week, and have scoured the blogoshere to compile what I believe to be the top posts. You will notice some common themes among the various posts.

Let's focus on what was in Las Vegas... 
By Chuck Gose, MediaTile

There have been a few mixed reviews on last week's Digital Signage Expo. The consensus seems to be that there was too much focus on digital signage hardware and software providers and not enough on content, strategy or integration. If that was the case, then don't fault those who were there - fault those who weren't…continue


Themes From DSE
By Ken Goldberg, Real Digital Media

Let's take a break from the drama surrounding the DSA and DSF, which received enough attention over the past week. I'll have some new thoughts on that later this week or next. The real news is that the Digital Signage Expo (DSE) was held last week in Las Vegas and continued its own growth and maturation, matching that of the industry it serves…continue


Where’s this thing going?
By Pat Hellberg, The Preset Group

DSE veterans (some of us have been around since DSE’s predecessor, the Digital Retailing Expo, barely filled a small hall in San Francisco in 2004) have never seen as much activity nor felt as much energy as we just experienced in Las Vegas.  Exhibitors entered DSE 2010 anticipating the norm:  that they would spend the majority of their time educating the “tire kickers.” But instead, we heard that buyers were qualified/legitimate and conversations were pointed/positive.  Some vendors were even writing business on the trade show floor.
So the future is bright, right? Maybe yes, maybe no…continue


Impressions from DSE 2010

by David Weinfeld, The Preset Group

The trip to Las Vegas for Digital Signage Expo 2010 was great. The entire Preset Group team was there, which made for a fun, busy week at the show. Our pre-show mixer went off like a rocket ship, seeing around 180 of the over 210 registered attendees make their way into Lavo for the event. The excitement from the mixer spilled over into our meetings throughout the whole week…continue


#dse2010. Whew.
By Paul Flanigan, The Preset Group

Another Digital Signage Exposition has come and gone. Last year I spent all my time in the sessions. This year, I spent all my time on the floor. Instead of giving you the top five things I learned (as was my habit with shows I attended last year), I will just drop some thoughts on you. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. (Or hold ‘em or fold ‘em, as Mr. Rogers would have you do if you’re the gambling sort.)…continue


More DSE 2010 Impressions
By Dave Haynes, The Preset Group

So the theory was that because I was not going to be chained to a booth, I for once could really have a good look around. Didn't work so hot. I did indeed see a lot more than usual, but there were a lot of vendors and I ran out of time to have more than a glance at about two-thirds of them. I never did get upstairs for any conference sessions.
Oh well. Here's what I did see...continue


#dse2010 – One Canuck Perspective
By Dmitry Sokolov, Ingram Micro Canada

DSE organizers recorded some 160+ individual Canadian registrations; accounting for the booth staffs of Canadian software companies Capital Networks, X2O Media, CognoVision, Intello, Harris and Scala’s Canadian contingent, the total Canuck ‘visitor’ traffic would have been close to 100 attendees…continue
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 11:55 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 02 March 2010
DSE was a whirlwind week, as it always is. The first day’s educations sessions were well attended and from what I could tell received good feedback. I attended the DOOH Advertising Summit for most of the day. Those who had not yet seen the keynote speaker, Shelly Palmer, were impressed by his insight into this industry from a media perspective. I heard him speak at an NEC event several years ago and have been keeping up with him ever since. You can follow his blog at www.mediabytes.com.

The Summit was an obvious success, and something I think Exponation will likely continue. All seats were full for most of the day, and during the morning sessions there were about 25 people standing in the back, including myself.

I went next door to steal a chair from Alan Brawn’s new training course, the Digital Signage Display Experts certification, which had about 20 people in it. Brawn said it was a good number for the first time the course was held, and that many people were upset that it coincided with Brawn’s Digital Signage Expert Certification because they couldn’t attend both. I myself am a certified expert and would highly recommend the course to industry newcomers.

Highlighting the DOOH Summit was Palmer’s keynote and a breakdown of the Walmart SMART Network, which I wrote up on DigitalSignageToday.com. The article can be viewed here.

Association undertones

Many of the conversations throughout the week were tinged with Association talk, reflecting the decision on the part of Exponation to launch the Digital Signage Federation a week before DSE. Expnation also announced its interim board for the Federation on Wednesday morning. Here are the initial board members:
•    Phil Cohen, President & CEO, Care Media Holdings
•    Rich Cooley, CEO & Founder, Visser Digital Media
•    Alan Brawn, Principal, Brawn Consulting, LLC
•    Laura Davis-Taylor, Vice President, Creative Realities, Inc.
•    Jack Sullivan, Senior Vice President, StarCom World Wide
•    Jennifer Bolt, Executive Director, TracyLocke Advertising
•    Bob Stowe, Director, Marketing Services, Wendy’s International
•    Carre Dawson, Director of Business Development, DS, Harris Corporation
•    Bil Trainor, President, Capital Networks Limited
•    Brian Dusho, President, BroadSign International
•    Ken Goldberg, CEO, Real Digital Media
•    Pierre Richer, President & COO, NEC Display Solutions Americas
New tech

The show floor was of course packed with new technology, so instead of breaking it all down here I’ve included links to some significant stories that came out of the show that I posted on DigitalSignageToday.com.

Also be sure to check out the photo gallery from DSE 2010 and if you are on Twitter, search the hashtag #dse2010 (or click on it here). The guys at DailyDOOH calculated that the number of Twitter impressions for #dse2010 was 534, 233, with my account @DigSignageToday accounting for 51, 729 of those. Not bad!

DSE: JANUS adds emergency messaging, visual paging

DSE: MediaTile demos new interactive HumanKiosk

DSE: 2010 Apex, Content award winners announced

DSE: LuxuryTec, N4D form partnership on 3D displays

DSE: LG announces new hires, messaging, products for digital signage unit

Digital Signage Association votes for independence, tradeshow
 

DSE: D.A.T and AmberAlert.com bring advanced alert tech to DOOH networks

DSE: Wireless Ronin reaches milestone in food service digital signage

DSA elects new officers

DSE: PlayNetwork debuts the C500 Media Player


DSE: Hiperwall teams with Ingram Micro to deliver video wall systems

DSE: Philips Public Signage introduces slim 65-inch display


DSE: Harris Corp. demonstrates latest DOOH advancements

Magnetic 3D unveils glasses-free 3D solutions at DSE 2010

DSE: Symon Communications launches a different approach to 3D digital signage 

DSE: Cisco focuses on content creation for digital signage


DSE: Hughes launches digital signage iPhone application for instant emergency response 

DSE: Seven principles of success for digital signage
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 11:58 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
In his presentation at DSE’s DOOH Advertising Summit on Tuesday, the Imperative Group’s Chris Heap presented the following real quotes from viewers, which he labels the “Seven principles of success for digital signage.”

1. Don’t make it hard for me to watch you.
2. When I do watch you, show me something relevant to me.
3. Save me money.
4. Save me time, don’t waste my time.
5. Help me make better decisions.
6. Tell me something new, innovative and interesting.
7. Give me ideas.
Posted by: BIll Yackey AT 12:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 18 February 2010

At my recommendation, EnQii committed its time and money to join the DSA shortly after the association was formed. At that time, I was skeptical about an association that was being supported by a for-profit business, NetWorld Alliance, and at my first DSA meeting I raised my hand and asked in my NYC blunt style to show me that although the organization was not a 501(c) that it was operating as one. 

Not only did I get a straightforward “no BS” answer but also a walkthrough of DSA finances. I was convinced. Also, along the way, I developed a great deal of respect and gratitude toward NetWorld, their leadership and the opportunity they were offering the industry by incubating a true association for the burgeoning digital signage industry. 

A few months later I raised my hand again, this time to be considered for the role of association president. Immediately in this capacity I started discussions, which soon turned into planning sessions, on how to get the DSA standing on its own two feet and be the true voice of the industry and its member companies, all constituencies and from all geographies. 

The first step was to ensure that we had a strong value proposition that resonated with the members and drew in membership. In two short years, we are now 420+ member companies strong. Second, but concurrently, we needed to move on a path to establish legal independence as a 501(c) not-for-profit organization. Inextricably linked to independence is the need to identify revenue sources so that (1) You can channel that money back to industry and member directed programs, and (2) You can maintain membership fees an affordable level so the association is accessible for all.

I am very proud to report that this goal is coming to a significant milestone this coming Tuesday, February 23rd, when the Advisory Board is voting on proceeding with the filing of our 501(c)(6) status, and send out a request for proposals from trade show management companies to partner with the DSA on management of an industry trade show.  

The NetWorld incubation era is coming to the close and the DSA, and I believe the industry, should be extremely grateful for their leadership and vision. The Digital Signage Association is something we should all be proud of and rally around to support the advancement of its pure mission, "To accelerate the growth and advance the excellence of digital signage deployments worldwide." 

If you are part of the DSA, continue to participate as you have and by helping to “raise the industry tide, your boat will rise as well.” If you are not part of the DSA, then do as EnQii and 400+ companies have done - get involved and become part of an exciting movement as we work to make it a healthy and sustainable industry. 

If you are going to DSE, please stop by the DSA Booth #1113. Also if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me.

Posted by: Stuart Armstrong AT 12:57 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Research shows that digital out-of-home is a growing medium, but when compared against total media spending, including TV, print and Internet, it still has a long way to go in order to become a bigger piece of the pie. However, several trends in this space are setting it up to be competitive in the years to come. Here are three things that will strengthen DOOH CPMs going forward.
 
1. Supply and demand. Unlike the Internet, digital out-of-home is a finite media model. There are only so many screens and so much time in the day to run ads on them. If the network is 100 percent sold out, then it’s not charging enough and should charge more.
 
While the total available screen space in the world is no where near being filled, there’s a chance it may be in the future as the medium catches on. Then, the power of “naming the price” will fall into the hands of the DOOH network owners, where it had traditionally been with the ad agencies and media buyers.

2. Ease of purchasing One of the reasons that demand doesn’t exist yet is because up until this point, planning, measuring and purchasing a DOOH campaign has been for media buyers. They want to buy audiences, not screens, and trying to place ads across multiple networks can be a planning and billing challenge.
 
In order to simplify the process, several aggregation companies have emerged to facilitate the sale of DOOH advertising based on audience demographics and location rather than individual networks. Adcentricity represents over 80 network partners with over 140,000 screens covering 16 main venue categories. SeeSaw Networks creates “life patterns” like “mobile millenials” and “alpha moms” and aggregates more than 50 networks to target them. And rVue acts as an advertising exchange platform for about 50 networks.
 
Even NEC Display Solutions, traditionally a screen manufacturer, got into the aggregation business last year when it released VUKUNET, a software platform designed to be a universal aggregator of all signage networks.  
 
These software tools allow advertisers to target specific demographics all the way down to the local level, thus raising the CPM for those networks.
 
3. Interactivity New technology in the DOOH space will allow users to interact with messages, not just be passively exposed to them. The change will create more meaningful contact, which can be leveraged for a higher CPM.
 
Consider what Rob Gorrie of Adcentricity calls this the CPM+ model. They work with Ecast, which has digital jukeboxes equipped with screens in entertainment venues. One has the ability to run a passive ad as part of the attractor loop, but can also run an interactive application that is designed to gather information like mobile phone numbers and email addresses.
 
Interactivity such as this allows networks to move from a cost per impression unit to a cost per acquisition (CPA) or cost per engagement (CPE) pricing model, where they can charge much more for ads that guarantee user interaction and information.

Buying Model
CPM
CPA
CPE
Definition   
Cost per thousand impressions
Cost per acquisition
Cost per engagement
Explanation
Agree to rate on guranteed impressions by size and placement
Agree to rate on desired transaction (sale, coupon download, cell phone number
Agree on rate to pay only when user interacts with ad unit.

This chart was developed by NEC Display Solutions and used in the webinar "The impact of digital out-of-home on digital signage."

Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:09 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Timeliness of messages and availability of your intended audience may be the most fundamental reasons digital signage is effective.

Two of the most basic reasons digital signage makes sense as a communications medium are its timeliness and availability.

In terms of timeliness, short of actually telling someone something face to face in a place of business, there may be no way to communicate more quickly with your co-workers, employees or customers than digital signage.

With digital signage, the time between actually conceiving a message and delivering it can be measured in seconds in many instances. When used properly, tapping into this extraordinary advantage means digital signage content will be fresh and relevant, both key factors in attracting and holding the attention of an audience.

When it comes to availability, digital signage may even have face-to-face communications in a business setting beat. Because the location of digital signs should be strategically chosen before a single message is ever created, they can be located where they are most available to their audience. For example, imagine a lunch room in a manufacturing plant, a break area in a mechanics shop, suspended from a ceiling above a production line. Each of these locations makes communicating some messages to employees much easier than finding an employee or group of workers and having face-to-face conversations.

Taken together, the timeliness of digital signage message and their availability to employees can be leveraged to improve productivity, enhance safety performance and even to boost sales.

I am familiar with one factory manager who regularly updates production figures on the company's digital signage network to inform his workforce about how well they are doing in meeting production targets. Given the ability of digital signage systems to tap into databases, it is possible for this manager to keep groups of workers apprised of their performance as data is updated in the database the company uses to track production.

Similarly, in some sales settings, digital signage is an effective way to encourage production, recognize performance and reward success in a public way that taps into the competitive nature of many sales people.

Customer service and support, too, can benefit from the addition of digital signs to help employees at a single glance keep track of wait times, percentage of problems resolved, open tickets and even customer satisfaction.

Businesses should also consider tapping into the timeliness and availability digital signage offers when it comes to safety. Not only can digital signage networks offer admonitions aimed at keeping the workplace safe, they also can be used to remind employees of their ongoing safety record.

Equally important in that regard is the ability of digital signs to offer timely emergency messaging to a workforce spread out through a factory or corporate campus. Potentially lifesaving warnings and emergency information can be communicated in seconds during severe storms and tornadoes and when other hazards may occur. Modern digital signage can even tap into public address systems to mirror an audible warning with visual emergency information. This can go a long way to meeting various disability requirements in work or public places.

There are many reasons digital signage makes sense as a communications medium, but none may be more fundamental than its ability to serve up timely information -be it production figures, customer service wait times or even warnings of a threatening storm- where that information is most available.
Posted by: David Little AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Last week, in a post titled “Getting The Message,” we discussed how three forces appear to be engaged in a battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of the digital signage marketplace. The unstated thesis of the post was that marketing dollars are likely to have a greater influence on buyer and investor perception of our still-young industry than unbiased analysis or hard-earned lessons from insiders. That was not a gripe: after all, you get what you pay for in this world. In any event, the post closed with a call for industry leadership and standards, without which we risk allowing the marketing machines of giant technology companies and advertorial publishers to define the industry and its priorities. In my mind, allowing that to happen would be a disaster.

The post, and in particular the call for leadership, opened a discussion regarding the Digital Signage Association (DSA), its work, organizational status and future. When writing the post, I had contacted David Drain, Executive Director of the DSA, and asked if DSA was a 501(c)(6) tax exempt, non-profit association. I knew that in fact it was not, which David confirmed. I chose not to open that can of worms in the post, because it deserves its own post, and a more detailed discussion with David out of courtesy. At this point, the discussion has been had, and this is the post.

Before entering the digital signage industry in 2004, I spent most of my professional career as a retail IT consultant, first with a Big 6 firm, then my own firm and subsequently with a public entity. In the course of those years, I was exposed to many industry associations: The National Retail Federation, the Direct Marketing Association, the Food Marketing Institute, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Association of Convenience Stores, and the International Mass Retail Association (renamed RILA in 2004). I was engaged on projects by both DMA and IMRA, have attended more conferences than I can remember, and presented at many. I came to appreciate that these associations are examples of effective voices and leaders of their industries. They have wide and deep support of suppliers, users and constituent companies. They provide advocacy, education, leadership on standards, and many member services. They have their own conferences, which provide a venue for all of their agendas and supplemental revenue to make them possible. Some have their own magazines that provide monthly or quarterly touch points with their members. Visit the links above and get a flavor for how those associations operate and serve their industry. Digital signage as an industry needs that kind of organization to take its next important steps forward. And to their credit, I think it is fair to say that DSA’s own leadership knows this. Getting there is the challenge.

DSA, established in 2007, is a part of NetWorld Alliance, a for-profit media company focused on B2B communications. To be fair, in 2007 and probably until now, a standalone non-profit association was probably not feasible in our young industry. NetWorld took the initiative to get the ball rolling and has underwritten (and presumably benefited from) the growth of the DSA. Under NetWorld’s auspices, DSA has accomplished many positive things. However, the call to separate DSA from its for-profit roots is out there, and it seems to be the correct call at this point in time. Here’s why: A true advocate must be independent. A true neutral advocate cannot have a web site plastered with advertising, or share resources with a sister industry web portal business (Digital Signage Today) that only allows external hyperlinks to paid advertisers in its content. To be clear, DST can and should have whatever editorial and advertising policies it wants (even bad ones like the link policy), but DSA’s relationship to it undercuts their desired position as a neutral advocate and leader.

There are over 400 members of DSA today, and room for aggressive recruitment of many more. Part of the recruitment drive should be fueled by a new vision of what the DSA is going to be. Until DSA is split from NetWorld legally and organizationally, it will not achieve the type of presence and leadership that other industry associations have achieved. If getting to that level is not their goal, it will open the door for another entity to step through and make it happen.

In 3 weeks, most of the people reading this post will converge upon Las Vegas for the largest trade show in our industry, the Digital Signage Expo. Six weeks later, back in Las Vegas, and again in November in New York, The Digital Signage Show will also offer great venues for education, selling and networking. DSE and TDDS are run by terrific companies with great people and both provide important services to the industry. That being said, if a non-profit association is to emerge as the linchpin of the industry, it will be absolutely vital for it be in the conference business. Its conference(s) would be a hub of association meetings, the key event from an educational perspective, and an important source of revenue to advance the goals of the association and the industry. Again, look at the other associations mentioned above. Doing so seems to make it clear that a precursor to an independent association would be development of a plan for owning and driving an industry conference schedule. This would not preclude the existence of non-association conferences, but like anything else, supply and demand will find their balance. In my opinion, an independent association (whether it is DSA or a new entity) would be a non-starter without this vital piece.

Digital signage is experiencing explosive growth, consolidation at many levels, the entry of very large corporations, and the scrutiny of people who don’t necessarily get it or share our enthusiasm for this emerging media channel. We need and deserve a neutral, non-profit industry association to drive education, advocacy, standards and industry presence. The DSA currently has the best shot of becoming that voice of digital signage. If they don’t seize the day, another entity will surely fill the void. Let the discussion begin.
Posted by: Ken Goldberg AT 09:42 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 08 February 2010
Much ado was made about NCR Corp.’s under-funded pensions by industry analysts. But NCR beat financial expectations, despite a $56 million net loss, negative 35 cents per share, from continuing operations for the fourth quarter of 2009. Income from operations came in at $39 million for Q4, and included a $41 million pension expense.
 
The loss — a significant drop from the $55 million net gain, 34 cents per share, reported a year earlier — was fueled by a $151 million ($97 million after-tax) net charge related to the Fox River environmental matter, a $24 million ($15 million after-tax ) impairment charge related to an equity investment and related assets, and $6 million in expenses ($4 million after-tax) related to the relocation of NCR headquarters.
 
That compares to $7 million of pension expenses and $25 million of costs related to organizational realignment and legal matters during Q4 2008.
 
Revenue for the quarter was down 5 percent from last year, coming in at $1.35 billion. As of Dec.31, 2009, NCR had a debt balance of $15 million.
 
Diebold Inc. came out in the black, reporting Q4 income from continuing operations of $7.9 million, 12 cents per share, and revenue of $724.9 million. But net income and revenue were down, 55 percent and 8 percent, respectively, from Q4 2008.
 
"The economic challenges that 2009 imposed on our business affected our results but did not slow the initiatives we’re putting in place to build NCR into an exciting growth company," said Bill Nuti, chairman and CEO of NCR. "This year we successfully launched our entertainment business, opened new manufacturing plants and greatly strengthened our operating infrastructure. Despite tough end-market conditions, we also finished 2009 on a solid note, exceeding expectations largely due to improvements in our core industries. Taken together, we believe these accomplishments and our ongoing commitment to investing in innovation put us firmly on the path to produce better results in 2010 and make continued progress toward our long term goals."
 
NCR during Q4 exceeded its goal to roll out the first 2,500 DVD-rental kiosks by year's end. In December, the company expanded its network of DVD-rental kiosks through the acquisition of DVDPlay, an operator of approximately 1,300 kiosks in the United States and Canada. The company now says it plans to convert the acquired kiosks to its BLOCKBUSTER Express brand and has plans to install its BLOCKBUSTER Express kiosks in more than 200 Duane Reade locations in New York. NCR also during Q4 expanded its BLOCKBUSTER Express brand to Tedeschi Food Shops, a 188-location convenience store chain across New England.
 
NCR also announced a digital download pilot with MOD Systems, which allows users to download movie titles to memory cards.
 
Like Wincor Nixdorf AG, which reported a 6 percent dip in net sales and a 13 percent dip in profit for the first quarter of fiscal year 2009/2010, NCR and Diebold say the global economic downturn continues to take a toll on ATM and related self-service sales.
 
"We delivered solid operational results during the fourth quarter, despite a number of challenges the financial industry continues to face," said Thomas W. Swidarski, Diebold’s president and CEO. "In addition to growth in orders and full-year cash flow, we generated improved service margins during the quarter — representing our 10th consecutive quarter of year-over-year improved service gross margin."
 
Swidarski said that while sales improved across most geographies, Diebold’s business related to bank branch construction in North America has taken a hit.
 
"To improve our ability to invest in key growth initiatives, we are realigning our organization and resources to better support our opportunities in the emerging growth markets," he said. "Unfortunately, these changes will result in the elimination of approximately 350 full-time jobs from our North America operations and corporate functions. These reductions will be largely completed by mid-February."
 
NCR’s reported overall revenue for the Americas was down 7 percent. In the Europe, the Middle East and Africa, revenue was down 12 percent, while revenue in Asia-Pacific was up 12 percent.
 
But the quarter brought with it some highlights. In the financial space, NCR announced plans to equip ING Belgium with at least 1,200 cash-recycling ATMs — the most extensive deployment of cash-recycling ATMs in Europe, according to NCR. NCR also made its two-sided thermal printing technology standard on all NCR SelfServ 20- and 30-series ATMs in North America.
 
In November, NCR opened its new manufacturing plant in Brazil, the world’s 3rd largest ATM market.
 
At Diebold, product and services orders for financial self-service and security were up more than 20 percent from 2008, and global financial self-service orders increased more than 40 percent year over year. The company also noted a 40 percent increase in financial self-service orders from Q3 to Q4 — positioning the company for a positive second half of the year, Diebold says.
 
Orders in Asia-Pacific were up more than 50 percent. In the Americas, financial self-service orders also increased more than 50 percent — orders in Brazil and Latin America offset the double digit decline in North American sales. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, financial self-service orders were up more than 20 percent, while security orders dropped year over year in the low double digit range. However, security orders were up for the second consecutive quarter.
 
Diebold’s lottery systems sales in Brazil, which analysts speculated would offset losses in other regions, remains strong, despite an 8 percent dip in total lottery systems revenue in the country when compared with Q4 2008.
Posted by: Tracy Kitten AT 09:29 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 02 February 2010
I have been invited to speak at this year’s KioskCom/Digital Signage Show in a brand new kind of session. The folks at JD Events have come up with kind of “Meet the Press” session at the show, where marketers and those involved with digital signage communications can meet and question the industry press.

The idea is to help improve communication between the two groups, especially at a time when media is rapidly changing. Internet news, Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets are changing the way that information is shared, as well as the pace that it comes and goes. News is instant now – therefore any slip ups can become big disasters really quick.

On the other hand, this new type of news reporting allows more information to be shared, and the companies that embrace that are going to reap the rewards. So instead of sending a news release in a word doc, you could send a social media release, complete with images, video and quotes that facilitate the creation of a news story for the digital age.

I’m really looking forward to hearing specific concerns from the marketers and seeing how we can improve communication in the industry. I think there is a lot we can learn from each other.

Here are the specifics on the session:

Say What?  Peeking Inside the Minds of Leading DOOH Electronic Media

In today’s media frenzied world, electronic journalism – columnists, articles and bloggers – often lead the way with industry news insights, analysis and awareness.  With thousands of opt-in followers, these journalists feel the pulse of the industry on a real-time basis – from buyers to sellers, and those who help ensure success along the supply chain.

In this session you will hear directly from leading electronic journalists/bloggers in the DOOH and digital signage space.  They will address a myriad of timely and relevant issues, and provide their unique insight into the good, the bad, the ugly and the exciting world of Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) Media industry.

 Attend this session and hear:

•    How digital media can improve customer engagement and increase sales lift
•    Examples of successful implementations and their impact on brands
•    Measurement methodology and ROI
•    Successful trends they are seeing
•    Who needs to be involved in the process for success?
•    What makes a project a winner? 
•    What brands and venues can do to succeed though the use of digital signage and DOOH
•    What does the future hold?

Session Chair: Adrian Cotterill, Editor-In-Chief – The Daily DOOH
Panel: Bill Yackey, Senior Editor, DigitalSignageToday.com

The session will take place on Wednesday, April 14, 2010, from 1:30 - 2:30 pm
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:11 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 01 February 2010
At the helm of the world’s second-largest ATM deployer, Eckard Heidloff is always thinking about ATMs. But he’s thinking about them from a higher perspective these days, understanding where they fit into the overall cash scheme.
 
For Heidloff, the chief executive of Wincor Nixdorf AG, the future of ATMs will depend on how well connected they are to other channels, how easy they are to use and how well they are managed from a 360-degree perspective. Where the ATM fits into the cash chain is key, he says, and could ultimately ensure a future for self-service as the world evolves toward more efficiency.
 
The evolution of cash handling in retail environments as well as banks has stagnated. Heidloff says most banks, regardless of how developed the markets in which they reside may be, have not for the last 50 years changed the way they deal with cash. Heidloff says Wincor Nixdorf expects to change that.
 
“One-third of a bank’s costs come from managing cash,” Heidloff told ATMmarketplace.com. “As the cash cycle is optimized and better managed, the use of self-service increases. The more transactions that are moved to the self-service channel, the more efficient the cash cycle becomes.”
 
Channel integration is the key, he says.
 
“An increased use of self-service can improve cash management and customer satisfaction,” Heidloff said. “So, as more self-service is incorporated into a branch or a retail environment, with cash coming in (automated deposits), the more opportunities we will see for cash recycling within the self-service channel, within the branch or store, and the more integration we will see. This all improves efficiency.”
 
Wincor Nixdorf’s new cassette technology also is improving this cycle, as cash cassettes can be taken from teller or cashier lines and then used elsewhere in the branch or store.
 
“Cash-cycle management. This is a revolution for banking and retail,” Heidloff said. “The retail and banking industries work closely together, and once we implement the same solutions for cash-cycle management to both retail and banking, we can see a convergence, a stronger integration, of the two industries. This leads to savings for the retailer and improves efficiency for the bank.”
 
Bringing cash solutions to retail and banking, and then working to integrate the back-offices for a streamlined cash process — one in which the cash taken in by the retailer at the ATM or checkout, for instance, can immediately be credited to the back-office and housed in a cassette that calculates and credits the cash with the bank, ultimately empowering the bank to take over the retailer’s back-office responsibilities — is technology that to date only Wincor Nixdorf is offering, Heidloff says. He suggests that Wincor Nixdorf aims to be a trendsetter in this cash-integration space.
 
“We believe this will change the industry over the next five years,” Heidloff says. “We see long-term growth and change in the way banks manage cash. Bankers are interested in integration and so are retailers. We are creating standards that we expect our competitors to follow. They will have to. We were ahead of our competitors with deposit automation and they followed. In this area of cash-cycle management and integration between banks and retail, we expect the same trend. They will follow.”
Posted by: Tracy Kitten AT 10:13 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, 29 January 2010
Digital Signage Expo announced the 22 finalists for the 2010 Apex Awards yesterday. I was a judge for the awards, along with several other industry journalists. This is my third year judging the awards, and I’m happy to say that each year it’s nice to see how the technology and application have progressed.

Of course, in each category, there is usually one stand-out installation. Generally I remember news of the installation catching my eye when the news story originally came out in the previous year. I am always interested to see who wins compared to who I thought should win, although I’m told by the awards organizers that all of us judges generally agreed in our ratings. This is a good thing!

When the awards are over, we’ll highlight a few of the significant installations on DigitalSignageToday.com and I may even compare my picks to the actual winners.
The awards are going to be presented at a special awards banquet slated for the opening night of DSE 2010 on Wed., Feb. 24, at Paris, Las Vegas.

Finalists for the DSE 2010 Apex Awards are:

Art Entertainment Recreation
Adler Planetarium — nominated by NEC Display Solutions
NYC & Company — nominated by GestureTek Inc.
The Olympic Experience Museum of the Olympic Committee of Israel — nominated by C-nario

Corporate & Government
Unisys Belgium NV — nominated by X2O Media

Education & Healthcare
BC Children's Hospital Foundation — nominated by Scala Inc.
Indiana University — nominated by Scala Inc.
Northern Virginia Community College — nominated by Cisco Systems

Public Spaces
Amsterdam RAI — nominated by Scala Inc.
Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. — nominated by Aerva Inc.
IDS Center - Inland American Office Management — nominated by AlivePromo

Hospitality
ARAMARK — nominated by Wireless Ronin Technologies
Portland Trail Blazers/Rose Garden Arena — nominated by Omnivex Corp.
Zoom Media & Marketing — nominated by LocaModa Inc.

Retail
Miele Inspirience Centre — nominated by Scala Inc.
Sprint Studio Store — nominated by Scala Inc.
Turk Telekom Group/TTGaleri — nominated by Dreambox

Stadium Arenas
Maple Leaf Sports + Entertainment — nominated by Digital Display & Communications/Omnivex Corp.
Miami Dolphins/Land Shark Stadium — nominated by Cisco Systems
Miami Heat/American Airlines Arena — nominated by Sony Electronics

Transportation
Monopoly Media/Zoom TV — nominated by Scala Inc.
The Port Authority of NY & NJ — nominated by Tightrope Media Systems
Underground of Barcelona — nominated by ADmira Digital Networks
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Without customers, businesses fail. As we ponder and project what 2010 has in store for us, I look back to my thoughts and predictions from this past year to see what the future could hold.

There are a number of questions that continue to stick out in my mind just as much today as they did last year. “What will happen when companies are finished with the layoffs, the cuts, and downsizing? How will companies rebound, engage their customers, and encourage them to spend again? What will they need to do to engage customers and win their business?” And finally, “what will be the most efficient and effective manner to accomplish this?”
 
Executives challenged by these questions have much to consider – so, where do they start? They start by considering the total cost of ownership. From strategy development to execution/deployment, operational and maintenance issues to scalability, the total cost of ownership is a critical number for organizations to understand and examine. Understanding what technologies are available to enable their customer engagement strategies, what is needed to justify and implement these solutions (especially in the tough economic climate we face), as well as how they impact the path to purchase is vital to determining a proper ROI.

The true challenges lie in what executives must consider next. How do companies re-engage (or in many cases, engage for the first time) with prospects and customers? And just as important: How can their everyday experiences be turned into exciting and pleasurable experiences, yet also demonstrate an understanding of the time constraints and other limitations people face?

And therein lies my big prediction. Customer engagement will be the name of the game in 2010. Customer engagement will be what provides answers for these important questions. While electronic communication often can be effective and improve both cost and operational efficiencies, communication alone does not address the dilemmas companies face, nor does it do more than suggest reasons for product purchase. It may be a piece of the puzzle, but it does not provide the solution.

What is needed is a focus on engagement and the development of a strategy that ties in not only informational communication, but more importantly, addresses how to engage customers and prospects in a manner that takes them down the path to purchase.
In the coming months, I’ll revisit this prediction and discuss if this prediction is in fact holding true. It should be interesting to see the path our industry takes this year and I think it’s safe to say we’ll have some amazing examples to discuss along the way.
Posted by: Lawrence Dvorchik AT 03:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
There are now several free PSAs available to digital signage and DOOH networks to help with Haiti disaster relief. Network operators can use the series of simple hi-res videos to help direct funds to Red Cross groups in the U.S. and internationally.
 
The files are available in hi-def, standard def and Flash in both landscape and portrait orientations. There is also a Final Cut Pro file available to save time for content editors.
 
Files are available for download here.
 
 
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 09:18 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 25 January 2010
In the financial services industry, our target audiences and their respective needs are so segmented that it makes customized messaging via traditional advertising and direct mail tactics expensive and difficult to justify. For a growing number of savvy financial institutions, however, an effective solution lies in a tool they’ve already deployed: their fleet of ATMs.
 
As convenience features on ATMs continue to evolve, financial institutions are taking advantage of new software applications for their own marketing and sales objectives. Through recent innovations in ATM software that work in concert with a financial institution’s customer relationship management database, banks and credit unions are realizing previously unheard of levels of return on investment for marketing campaigns that target the individual consumer through the ATM.
 
These “one-to-one marketing” campaigns enable flexibility in messaging, dynamic promotional offers, ease of customer (and non-customer) segmentation, speed-to-market, repurposed creative and the elimination of multiple print runs and call center support. Early adopters have realized response rates of 10 percent and higher for campaigns, far exceeding the 1 percent to 2 percent success rates of traditional direct mail campaigns, and at little to no incremental cost.
 
It’s all about the “long tail.” Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, first wrote about the long tail phenomenon in 2004 when he observed that our culture is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of high-demand products and markets at the head of the demand curve toward a vast number of niche markets in the tail.
 
The theory proved true in the example of online book retailer Amazon.com. Anderson noted that while competitor Barnes & Noble carried 130,000 titles in an average brick-and-mortar store, more than half of Amazon’s book sales came from outside its top 130,000 titles. Anderson’s argument then became — in this reference, at least — “the market for books that are not even sold in the average book store is larger than the market for those that are. In other words, the potential book market may be at least twice as big as it appears to be.”
 
Anderson’s conclusion was “you can’t treat markets as large groups anymore, pushing stuff out that may be relevant only to a few. The natural shape of the demand curve is more niche-oriented than we ever realized.”
 
The long-tail approach, applying economics to marketing, has proven to be a success in the banking industry. Niche marketing through the ATM channel enables a greater response rate to campaigns at little to no additional investment.
 
Targeting a specific message to a smaller number of customers can have a huge payoff for financial institutions. And in times of economic crisis when marketing budgets are tightly scrutinized, it’s critical to have immediate and measurable payback with any new initiatives.
 
Playing off the long tail theory, modern ATM software now enables niche, one-to-one marketing by allowing a financial institution to customize promotional offers and campaigns by very specific customer segments. Depending on the level of sophistication of a financial institution’s CRM system, applications can be executed that call attention to an expiring certificate of deposit, a happy birthday wish, a late mortgage payment notice, a checking account promotion to a non-customer and countless others.
 
With newer, higher quality screens and greater design functionality, financial institutions wanted to take advantage of the medium for marketing. Initial implementations were static, non-interactive brand messages on-screen. They were predominantly banner ads promoting online banking or a community event the financial institution was sponsoring.

It wasn’t truly one-to-one marketing, but rather a way to get accustomed to the channel and what was possible.
More recently, the focus shifted to getting new customers into the bank. Customer satisfaction enhancements, including the ability to personalize transaction screens for individual customers, such as language preference, receipt or no receipt and fast cash settings, came next. Financial institutions also used the ATM to improve consistency in brand look and messaging with its online presence and other marketing campaigns.
 
Successful efforts include:
 
Credit card promotions. A customer can accept a credit card offer right at the ATM screen and the legal verbiage can print directly on the receipt. For financial institutions this means tremendous cost savings in addition to a greater response rate. Eliminated is the time and expense of a direct mail campaign and its associated printing and postage costs. Financial institutions can also be faster to market with the campaign since it can be deployed to an entire ATM network at the push of a button. Improved, as well, is the time required to process forms when the customer responds to a mailing. Most impressive, response rates for marketing at the ATM have proven to be 10 percent and higher versus traditional direct mail at 1 percent to 2 percent.
 
Customized offers. Within the credit card campaign, parameters can be pre-set inside the financial institution’s customer database to present a specific, customized offer.
 
The technology can also:
 
• Detect customers whose CDs are about to come due to receive a message during their next ATM visit with renewal rates or an offer to move that money into a different product;
• Identify users who fall into a particular age demographic to be presented with an offer to apply for a student loan;
• Target ATMs located within a sports arena to show a promotional offer for sports tickets or an opportunity to apply for a credit card featuring the logo of the cardholder’s favorite team.
 
Dynamic promotional offers. With one-to-one marketing at the ATM, financial institutions can detect a need one day and deploy a campaign to address it the next. And campaigns can be measured and analyzed on a real-time basis. An example is a financial institution that wanted to determine the tipping point for the incentive needed to convince non-customers to accept a specific checking account offer before it rolled out the program en masse. The offer ran for three days rotating three different cash incentive offers, $100, $150 and $200. After the campaign ended, it was determined there was no discernable difference between the number of consumers who accepted the offer when it was $150 compared to when it was $200, so $150 became the offer for the broader campaign.
 
Marketing to small businesses. ATM cards tied to a business checking account can trigger cross-selling opportunities, such as mobile banking or remote deposit. Offers can be as simple as “click here to learn more about our mobile banking solution,” which, when clicked, would feed the contact information into a database for a call center to follow up at a later time to close the sale.
Generate advertising revenue. Financial institutions can co-brand the ATM screen with local restaurants or other small businesses and generate advertising revenue. Messages can be as timely as that day’s lunch or dinner special.
 
Community relations. Financial institutions can further embed themselves in the community by promoting their involvement with local charities, and they can post timely public service announcements, such as missing child notifications.
 
One-to-one marketing campaigns at the ATM are only limited by the robustness of the financial institution’s CRM system, and the ROI has proven to far exceed traditional marketing methods.

Lewis is the director of global marketing for North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold Inc.
Posted by: Keith Lewis, Diebold Inc. AT 09:04 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
A few months ago, I started reading a new blog called “Buzz, not Buzzwords.” And as I continued, I wondered if someone had magically tapped into my stream of consciousness and made a blog out of it.

After covering the digital signage industry for three years and coming from a PR background, I’ve painstaking sifted through many a bad press release and wondered what corporate communication department actually gave it their blessing. Apparently, there was someone else out there thinking the same thing.

That man is Dave Haynes, known to many as one of the veterans of the digital signage industry, having worked for EnQii, Broadsign and now with the Preset Group. But Haynes is also a former journalist, and like me, reads through all the digital signage press releases that hit the wire (both good and bad).

Seeing that a lot of the mar-com in this industry needed some refinement, he launched the Buzzwords blog along side a service called PressDOOH in 2009, which is geared specifically at improving public relations in the digital signage industry.

As an industry journalist, let me say that companies that have taken him up on this offer have reaped some rewards with the digital signage journalism community (as small as we may be). I know when I see an email coming from PressDOOH, I can expect an organized press release, images and quotes that actually have some meaning to them.

That’s because, from my point of view, Haynes writes for the modern multimedia journalist. Here are several examples:
1. Unlike traditional PR, he doesn’t walk the line between providing key information for journalists and making an executive board happy. This means that we don’t have to dodge terms like “best-in-class,” “leading provider” and “next-generation.” (or “bleeding-edge!” Grrrrr!)

2. He takes the most relevant and appealing information and puts it first. Bottom line: I have a reason to keep reading.

3. When possible, he adds images and video to any releases he sends out. This allows us as editors to create a more complete story, and these days, that kind of multimedia reporting is almost expected.
Let me say that not all press releases are bad, but the ones that are, I get the impression that they’re coming from a small company where someone untrained in public relations or professional writing was tasked with throwing something together at the last minute. Or, the release is so jargon-heavy that I can’t understand what the product even does (this usually occurs in release about media players or connectivity hardware).

Now, the Buzzwords blog hasn’t existed without any criticism. I’ve heard several mar-com people knock Haynes for being overly judgmental of their press. For those folks, I encourage them to just take a few minutes to take a look at the blog and be open to a few things that Haynes has written. The advice is coming straight from the source (several of us industry editors are quoted in posts) – and it will help us work better together in the future.

For those who do want to enlist Haynes services, especially with “tradeshow season” coming up, he’s started a new program for the spring called the “Message Tune-Up.” Basically, he’s relaxed his minimum engagement policy for the next few months so you don’t have to do a full-blown campaign, maybe just a few hours of copy editing.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:19 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Digital signage offers advertisers and marketers the chance to reach consumers at the point of purchase via a medium that's powerful and appealing.

The latest figures from The Nielsen Company, the outfit that's best known for tracking TV watching and compiling viewership statistics known as ratings, reveal the number of dollars spent on advertising in the United States during the first nine months of 2009 declined 11.5 percent, a drop of $10.9 billion to $83.4 billion, compared to the same period the previous year.

To help put the decline in perspective, consider that this total exceeds by nearly $2 billion the approximate cost of a pair of Nimitz-class super aircraft carriers, like the USS Carl Vinson and the USS John C. Stennis. If the decline proves to have continued on pace in the fourth quarter, throw in another Nimitz-class carrier to visualize the annual decline for 2009. By the way, that's nearly a third of entire U.S. fleet of Nimitz-class carriers.

Hardest hit was the local Sunday supplement advertising category -down 48.3 percent compared to the first three quarters in 2008, Nielsen reported. But many other categories, including spot TV, local and national newspapers, network television, radio and local, national and B-2-B magazines, all suffered double digit declines in advertising spending.

Without question, the precipitous fall reflects the ongoing economic struggles in this country. Looking a little more carefully at the findings also reveals advertisers are reassessing where to spend their dollars. That's nowhere more apparent than in the continuing migration of advertisers away from print. According to Nielsen senior VP for new business development Terrie Brennan, local newspapers saw 12,000 fewer advertisers in their pages last year, while nine of 10 top cable TV categories saw increased ad spending.

Why would so many fewer advertisers spend their precious ad budgets in newspapers, while other advertisers embrace cable TV? One important reason is declining newspaper circulation. In October 2009, The New York Times online reported U.S. newspaper circulation fell 10 percent since the end of 2008. People reading fewer print newspapers turn to new media like the Internet and other traditional sources, such as cable TV.

The uptick in cable advertising also likely can be traced to the ability of cable channels to serve special interests, i.e. cooking, home improvement, movies, news, weather, etc., as well as that of cable operators to allow advertisers to target specific geographic areas of the cable service area.

Beyond these specifics, there's a more basic reason: tough economic circumstances focus the mind, sharpen thinking and force reassessment of spending. It appears from the numbers, that reassessing media selections comes down in favor of the popularity of video in a form that can be targeted to reach desired consumers.

This sort of reasoning is easily transferable to digital signage. It too makes use of all the appealing elements of television. It too can be used to target specific, desirable demographics. But unlike cable TV, digital signage also offers the added benefit of reaching shoppers at the point of purchase -or more accurately at the point where a buying decision is being made. Advertisers forced by the recession to sharpen their thinking and reassess media choices should keep in mind that more than 70 percent of consumer buying decisions are made at retail, according to the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute.

Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Given today's economic climate, advertisers can no longer afford to make tried-and-true media choices. Declining budgets are forcing them to reassess their options in a bid to remain as effective as they have been in the past with fewer dollars to spend. Mindlessly remaking old media decisions would be insane, and ignoring how digital signage can help achieve desired goals would be downright crazy.
Posted by: David Little AT 11:30 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 18 January 2010

Editor’s Note: All posts from LinkedIn have been copied exactly as they appeared in the discussion forum.
 
Over the last several months, I’ve been leaning more on social-networking outlets for news. I’ve come across some interesting tweets on Twitter, and in-depth discussions on LinkedIn through the groups I’m involved with.
 
One group discussion, initiated several months ago within a group called “ATM Group” grabbed my attention. The topic: “What do you think is the greatest challenge facing the ATM industry over the next 2 years?”
 
Some of the responses might surprise you.
 
Mark Smith, business development manager for Long Beach, Miss.-based Triton Systems of Delaware Inc., pings security as the hottest issue. He also suggests that the United States needs to seriously consider making a move to EMV, the Europay, MasterCard, Visa standard that mandates chip and PIN use in Europe and other parts of the world.
 
Smith writes: “Security will begin to play a major role in deployment strategy. From physical devices that prevent ATMs from being removed from a location, to added surveillance to assure all who access the ATM are using the device legitimately. In bad economic times, we need to be concerned about increased attacks on ATMs and the individuals that load cash in to ATMs. We must remain vigilent and learn from the other parts of the world that are currently dealing with very sophisticated criminal operations.”
 
Jasbir Anand, fraud product manager at Actimize, agrees that fraud losses will be the most devastating realities facing the industry in the near future. But Anand does not see physical ATM security as being the primary concern, as Smith does; rather, Anand sees massive data-security breaches that compromise PINs and card numbers as posing the greatest threats.
 
Anand writes: “I believe the largest risk to ATM as a channel is fraud losses as a result of Mass data compromises. Mass data compromises involve the theft of millions of cards track data which and can also include PINs. We still have not seen the organized crime groups that perpetrate counterfeit card fraud work in conjunction with hackers that steal data. Hackers are still selling stolen card data in smaller batches. If these groups get together the potential fraud losses will be significant enough to bankrupt smaller issuers and also seriously erode consumer confidence in the ATM channel.
 
”Individual attacks on ATMs, although a serious problem, are well managed and limited to consumers that use a compromised device in the time period that it was compromised. Existing strategies to identify the common point of purchase and reissue high risk cards works well for individual points of compromise, but cannot be used for mass compromise scenarios where tens of millions of cards are compromised.”
 
Andrew French, ATM sales manager at TestLink Services, sees the advent of prepaid-card dispensing and contactless-card technology taking more center-stage positions.
 
French writes: “I do agree that data security is the largest risk. However, i think the expansion of prepaid technologies, contactless payment systems and the lack of international standards on compliance will also create challenges.”
 
Eddy Truitt, vice president at On Site Financial Inc., says processors are likely in the near future to put more demands on ATMs and the companies that deploy them to comply with higher security standards.
 
Truitt writes: “I think after another major security breach on the processors level — they will require better security on that side, then we are going to go thru another ridiculous des- encryption-equip upgrade, then 6 months later, Visa will decide it is not good enough for them, so there will be another 2 tier equipment upgrade — then we will probably be getting away from mag readers in the next 3 years too and moving towards the smartcard.
 
I will bet anyone a cheeseburger thats how it goes down.”
 
I agree that security, both physical and system-based, will be top-of-mind for ATM deployers. But I don’t know that I would consider security the greatest challenge. In my mind, the implementation of advanced technology poses the greatest challenge — not in that it will necessarily be difficult to launch advanced technology, but in that deploying advanced technology will no longer be an option, but a necessity.
 
While basic cash dispensers have their role to play, over the next two to five years, consumers will demand more functions. It’s that simple.

 

Posted by: Tracy Kitten AT 10:35 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
…won’t ever been seen in the marketplace. That’s because Intel’s “proof-of-concept” digital signage application, like a concept car, is designed to show the capabilities of “tomorrow’s digital signage,” using today’s processors and software.

For those who haven’t been paying attention to the computing giant’s foray into digital signage, Intel last week showed a multi-screen retail digital signage installation at CES. The nearly eight-foot-tall structure made an appearance again this week at Intel’s booth at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show in New York City.

I spoke with Intel digital signage director Jose Avalos yesterday while he was at the show, and he said that the proof-of-concept is the first step in a six-month push from Intel to make its digital signage efforts more apparent to the public. Based on the conversation, I understand the efforts consist of three main things at this point:

1. The retail proof of concept, which serves as a way to let the retail industry know what is possible through the use of digital signage. As Avalos said in the interview, the concept won’t be put into production, and the technology is still several years off, but the processing units and the software platform is in fact available on the market today. The concept essentially has three screens – two back-to-back LCDs and a clear holographic screen that is supposed to support augmented-reality-like shopping experiences. It’s also equipped with a CognoVision anonymous audience metrics system which gathers audience demographic data and relays it to advertisers. The applications can be left to the retailers, but Intel suggested it could be used to explore merchandise, find out about promotions, submit feedback on products, read customer reviews, view past purchasing histories and share information.

Here is a video of the concept to give you a better idea:



2. A partnership with Microsoft for a digital signage platform that supports both Intel processing chips and Microsoft software. Officially titled the “Windows 7-based Windows Embedded Standard 2011 operating system powered by 2010 Intel Core micro-architecture,” the platform is supposed to help “defragment” the industry by supplying a common platform that everyone could work off of. Essentially, the idea is that the users’ familiarity with Microsoft Windows Embedded and Intel Core processors will help drive adoption of the system. You can read details of the platform on Digital Signage Today. http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/article.php?id=23537&na=1&s=2

3. Intel’s architecture of processing chips to be used with digital signage was disclosed to me yesterday in a presentation by Avalos. Intel is going to be using three processors to power various levels of digital signage systems:

-    The Intel Atom processor will be used for basic digital signage apps: Single-player per screen, Single-source video advertisement content with limited content blending.
-    The Intel Core i5 will be used with what Intel calls “mainstream digital signage,” which are networked, remote-managed and can support interactivity and rich media.
-    The Intel Core i7 will be used with “high-end digital signage,” like the proof-of-concept, where content is extremely interactive or requires running multiple apps at once (like augmented reality, audience measurement and wayfinding as on the concept. This is also the suggested processor for video walls.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 09:52 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
We have a new member of our team at here NetWorld Alliance (my employer and the company that operates the Digital Signage Association), and honestly we are very excited. Andrew Davis has been with Condé Nast, Time Warner and the New Yorker. Below is the press release issued by NetWorld this morning:
NetWorld Alliance, a growing business-to-business publisher with properties including Web portals, executive summits, and associations, is pleased to announce that Andrew Davis, a former Regional Director for Condé Nast and Time Warner, is joining the company as Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. He will be based in the company’s Louisville office.

Andrew Davis has over 20 years of experience in sales and management with a number of well established publishing companies. A 13-year veteran of Time Warner’s Entertainment Weekly, Davis was also the founding Publisher of Modern Luxury’s The Atlantan and Atlantan Brides magazines, leading luxury lifestyle and bridal magazines in the greater Atlanta market.  Most recently, he opened the first Southeast office for The New Yorker, a Condé Nast Publication. In his new post, Mr. Davis will provide his knowledge to support the sales and marketing departments and all nine of NetWorld’s portals, four associations, and three executive summits.

“We’re extremely fortunate to have someone with Andrew’s expertise join our team,” said Dick Good, CEO of NetWorld Alliance. “He has the kind of experience with large accounts and agencies that our company needs. While we had a solid 2009, we’re looking forward to Andrew taking us to a new level of profitability in 2010 and beyond.”

The strategic addition of Mr. Davis replaces ten year veteran of NetWorld Alliance, Bob Fincher, who will be spearheading the company’s ambitious media launch into green residential construction later this year.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 06 January 2010
I’m making my prediction for the top disruptive technology for 2010, and that is 3D. Three dimensional movies are nothing new – they were around before I was even born. And admittedly they’ve made leaps and bounds in the digital era (many are claiming Avatar to be a defining moment in cinema technology), but on the advent of CES 2010, 3D is looking like its going to go somewhere its never gone before – into the home.

Several announcements over the last few months point to the fact that in-home 3D is about to become a reality, teetering on a cusp much like HDTV did a decade ago.

For one, screen manufacturers are developing high-definition 3D screens designed for consumer use. LG announced in early December a 23-inch model, and rumors are going around the blogs about models from other manufacturers shown at CES this week that will come in at about $1,300.

It also looks like we’ll have the content to support those screens. Just today we learned that ESPN is going to launch a full-3D channel this summer during the World Cup, which will broadcast 85 games through June 2011. The channel will go dark when a 3D event is not being broadcast.

Also, the Discovery Channel, Sony and Imax signed a letter of intent today to create a joint venture to create the US’s first full-time 3D cable channel. According to USA Today, “the channel initially will feature lots of shows about science and nature, much of it from Discovery's and Imax's libraries. But the partners plan to license TV rights to general entertainment 3D movies, music videos, and game-related content.”

This is a big step that will require a lot of investment from the networks, as 2D shows can’t be converted into 3D automatically. The show will have to be shot twice with two different kinds of cameras. For ESPN, this means that they will need two film crews at each game, and even two sets of announcers.

The success of 3D will also initially hang on the cable, phone and satellite providers, who have the option of carrying the channels and how much of a premium they will make consumers pay to watch them. My guess is that big companies like DirectTV and Comcast will jump on board right away but charge a high premium, while more local providers will hold out for awhile.

What’s also important here is to watch how this technology impacts our industry. Since we can’t wear 3D glasses everywhere we go, out-of-home 3D applications have to be autostereoscopic, also known as no-glasses 3D. This is achieved by placing several lens filters on an LCD over specially-designed content. If you’ve been paying attention over the past several years, you’ll have noticed that the technology is getting better, meaning that the images look a “lot more 3D” than they did several years ago.

As they say in the media business…watch this space!
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 10:54 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 05 January 2010
The digital signage has no shortage of leaders. If it did, the year-over-year expansion the industry has enjoyed wouldn’t have occurred. Already, especially as economic signs are trending better, 2010 is shaping up to be an action-packed year. As we head into it, here’s a quick look at five execs poised to make much of that action happen.

Keith Kelsen, CEO, The 5th Screen

Not only has the former chairman of MediaTile launched a new company, called The 5th Screen, he will release “Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage: Content Strategies for the 5th Screen,” a book to be published by Focal Press. I was able to preview a few chapters recently, and can say the book is unique in that it’s the first to focus strictly on digital signage content and usage strategies. An accompanying Web site allows users to see video examples of content discussed in the book. It will be interesting to see how the book is received and what Kelsen does with the 5th Screen company. Kelsen’s still not saying.

Pierre Richer, president, NEC Display Solutions

All eyes in the digital out-of-home world will be on NEC and company president Pierre Richer, at least for the first part of 2010. In November the company launched its VUKUNET video ad distribution platform, which was touted as a way to unify the 300-plus ad-based digital signage networks already in existence. This, of course, will require VUKUNET to “sign up” enough of those networks to gain critical mass sufficient to make the tool beneficial to its users. In other words, will it achieve the “universal” status it’s going for?

Lou Giacalone Jr., CoolSign

Giacalone might be one of the most passionate digital signage advocates around when it comes to the overall well-being of the industry. He has said boldly that the industry needs to make a lot of changes if it is going to “get out of the playground,” and says that 2010 is a “year for the industry to get back on track.” Giacalone said he is going to work through several organizations in order to bring more education and cohesion to the industry in 2010, including the POPAI Technical Standards Committee and the Digital Signage Association, in which he plans to submit his name for presidency.

Brad Gleeson, president and CEO, Vertigo Digital Displays

Brad Gleeson is a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. Like Giacalone, he’s a long-time industry veteran, having started the first digital signage-specific distributor, ActiveLight. Based on his previous successes, it will be interesting to see where he takes Vertigo Digital Displays, his newest endeavor. Gleeson and partner Scott Hix, along with help from Chilin Technology, purchased the outdoor digital signage company in October 2009. http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/article.php?id=23177 

Jason Cremins, CEO, signagelive

One of the bigger names in digital signage software in the U.K. is signagelive, a product of Essex–based Remote Media. There, CEO Jason Cremins has built the small company into an innovative and successful SaaS-based platform. Cremins has solidified all kinds of strategic partnerships for the company, as well as experimented and implemented emerging digital signage software technologies such as Twitter content feeds, mobile integration and triggered retailing. Look for Remote Media to land more content and distribution deals in the next year.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 04 January 2010


 

SEE INDUSTRY FEEDBACK AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS STORY ...
 
The last year has been eventful for the ATM industry. From the seemingly sudden decision from NCR Corp. to move its base of more than 100 years from Ohio to Georgia to the eventual collapse of the much-touted and anticipated acquisition of United States retail ATM manufacturer Triton Systems of Delaware Inc. by Korea-based Nautilus Hyosung, I look back on 2009 with a little relief. We've come a long way, and it appears that 2010 will be a year for the industry to use some of the progress it's made for improvement.
 
After reflection and a scan of the year's story archives, I've listed the top five best occurrences and the one greatest let-down. Even then, I have to acknowledge that some positive things have come from that so-called worst event. So, let's take a look.
 
No. 1 on my list of the top-five best things to happen in 2009 is NCR Corp.'s move to Atlanta. I admit that when the story broke in June, I was a bit skeptical. Who just picks up and moves the corporate headquarters of a multibillion dollar company from one state to another, especially after more than 100 years? There had to be something rotten or awry, I insisted to myself.
 
But I see the move as a positive, and here is why: The state of Georgia and the city of Columbus, Ga., where the company's 340,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for the SelfServ ATM line is located, gave NCR a number of financial incentives to relocate. And companies like NCR need to look for incentives.
 
The move also benefits Georgia, since the facility expects to employ more than 800 people, once it reaches capacity. And here's the other thing that makes the move cool and significant: It signifies NCR's commitment to bringing the manufacture of its ATM line back in-house, in the United States. It means an end to so much outsourcing, and that's a good thing for the industry and the end-user, i.e., NCR's financial-institution customers.
 
No. 2 on my list: The rebranding of TRM Corp. to Access to Money, following TRM's April 2008 acquisition of Access to Money. Each of these independent ATM deployers had a lot to offer the other · TRM's portfolio and locations, Access to Money's reputation and savvy to manage and operate high-transacting and profitable ATMs.
 
Let's face it. TRM was struggling, and had been for quite some time. Frankly, I don't know how the company was able to keep itself afloat for so long. To its credit, in 2008, TRM managed to trim some fat, make some executive shifts at the top and regain a focus that had been blurred after years of spreading its business far too thin. All those years of financial struggle really hurt the brand's reputation. By taking on the Access to Money name, the one-time ATM giant is able to take another shot at greatness.
 
Following the June 2009 announcement to rebrand, TRM president and CEO Richard Stern said:
 
"This is the final step in the long transition process associated with our acquisition of Access to Money. While the TRM name had been associated with leadership in the ATM industry in its early days, we believe that the name Access to Money not only describes our primary service, but is also readily identifiable with our business of distributing and servicing ATM machines. Our new name provides us with a great opportunity to rebrand the company with the name associated with our operational excellence and industry leadership."
 
No. 3: Diebold Inc.'s focus on integrated services. In April, Diebold invited a host of journalists and industry analysts to its headquarters in North Canton, Ohio. The purpose was to announce a shift in the company's focus from products to services. After 150 years, the move marked a significant shift and a trend that is being seen throughout the industry.
 
Germany-based Wincor Nixdorf AG also has spent the last few years focusing greater attention on outsourced services, especially in the United States, where the company's service coverage has been relatively weak (when compared with NCR and Diebold).
 
Diebold CEO Tom Swidarski told journalists and industry analysts in April that Diebold expects to evolve into a company that is more focused on services than hardware. For the last five years, the company has striven to reach the nearly 50-50 revenue mix it now has between products and services. Over the next five years, Diebold will push to hit a 75-25 revenue mix of services and products, respectively.
 
2010 will mark a year of continual ATM replacement and upgrade, as FIs the world over continue their migration to automated ATM deposits, cash recycling and mobile-device interaction with the ATM. Once those upgrades ramp up, over the next five years, the replacement cycle won't occur quite so frequently. These new, hyper ATMs are expensive, high-tech and easy to upgrade based on modular designs. Bankers aren't going to replace them in the future; rather, they're going to upgrade them.
 
What that means for ATM manufacturers such as Diebold is that solely relying on products for revenue, beyond sales in emerging/developing markets, is corporate suicide. An opportunity, however, lies in the complexity of this new hardware. Bankers can't afford to service these ATMs, nor do they want to. They'd much rather rely on the experts, and that's where outsourced, integrated services come in.
 
No. 4: Canada's nearly complete migration to EMV. Will the United States ever get the clue? Canada's completion of the migration to the Europay, MasterCard, Visa standard, which admittedly will take a few more years, is going to rock the United States card market. The advanced security of chip-and-PIN technology already is pushing more fraud to the United States, where the feeble and inferior magnetic stripe still reigns.
 
At the moment, U.S. FIs don't have a great deal of incentive to make the shift from mag stripe to EMV. Coupled with a perceived lack of fraud is the fact that EMV/chip technology also has not lived up to its full potential, where the storing of additional information such as biometric or additional account details is concerned.
 
Some experts in Canada, such as Wendy Macpherson of Interac, Canada's payments association, say U.S. FIs may have bigger worries than they think.
 
"I think that one reason the U.S. has not moved to EMV is that the financial institutions there might not have a good handle on exactly how much fraud there is," she said. "Because the country has so many small FIs, and so many FIs overall, it's hard to really have a handle on what's going on everywhere."
 
And No. 5 on my list of the best stories of 2009 is Global Axcess' (dba Nationwide Money Services') decision to break into the DVD-rental kiosk business. I know having a focus on a core competency is critical, but if anyone can pull off a shift toward a new, yet complementary, business market, it's George McQuain, GAXC's CEO. I've watched George turn GAXC around, pulling the once-struggling ISO from the depths of debt and imminent death to profitability and a company with vision.
 
McQuain in September told ATMmarketplace.com that the decision to move into the DVD space really isn't that much of a business leap. However, he argues that getting into the DVD-kiosk business has more nuances than most ATM deployers appreciate. Besides, self-service DVD rentals have been tried and proven. They work. Self-service financial services, such as check cashing and billpay, however, are still hit or miss in the market.
 
"The business model for DVD rental is very similar to today's ATM-placement model, McQuain said. "You've got the cost of the machine and the cost of getting that machine installed. You've got the cost of the inventory, which corresponds to cost of cash. And then you have maintenance and the cost to conduct the transaction."
 
The worst
 
So what made the worst story of 2009? The collapse of the acquisition deal between Nautilus Hyosung and Triton.
 
If these two companies had joined forces, they would have created a powerhouse in the retail ATM space. Triton, a dominant and well-respected brand in the United States, and Nautilus, which is pushing to make a stronghold in the U.S. retail and financial markets — the companies could have made some waves. But concerns about an industry monopoly by the Department of Justice led the two entities to sever their ties and call off the $63 million deal.
 
James Phillips, director of North American sales for Triton, said at the time that both companies had been going through the antitrust review with the DOJ and just decided to walk away.
 
"It looked like impediments with the DOJ were going to continue on, and it was better to just stop and go our separate ways," Phillips said.
 
Phillips said that had it gone through, the acquisition would have made an impact on a global scale.
 
"Nautilus and Triton are very strong in certain markets globally," he said. "I think there was some good synergy to be had on a worldwide basis in various markets overseas. Certainly in the U.S. there would have been some synergies on the financial equipment side and on the retail ATM side, also."
 
But all stories have two sides, and some positives did emerge from this let-down. First, had the acquisition gone through, it likely would have meant the end of Tranax Technologies Inc., which once distributed ATMs in the United States for Nautilus Hyosung. Tranax would not have been able to compete with the Triton-Nautilus powerhouse. And having diversity in the market keeps everybody honest.
 
Also, since the deal's collapse, Triton has opened a new servicing arm, ATMGurus, and reinstated its focus on the retail ATM market.  I see both decisions as positives, not only for Triton but for the industry overall.
 
INDUSTRY FEEDBACK
 
Looking back on the year 2009: It started with ...
  • Oil $41.58 a barrel — today it is $78.87
  • Gasoline $1.85 a gallon today it is $2.45
  • The won a year ago the won was 1,372 to the U.S. dollar today the Won is 1,164 to the dollar.
  • Dow Jones a year ago was 8,174 today it is 10,571
  • NASDAC a year ago was 1,504 today it is 2,291
2009 was a radical year for a lot of industries and a lot of companies. I look at 2009 as a year that experienced a lot of changes some good some not so good. For Tranax it was a defining year.  The year was shaped by a competitive market tight money for ATM investing; vault cash was tight; credit card rates were through the roof; and states attacked the industry trying to milk additional tax money.  
 
It was no secret that my competitors would have relished my death. (They sure tried hard enough.) It was definitely a recipe for doom. And the fact that Tranax not only "made it" but managed to have a banner year of more than 8,000 units sold far above expectation from both the competition and upper Tranax management speaks volumes.
 
So how did Tranax survive? It all started with the introduction of new products that fit the market at the right time. And it was boosted by a group of distributors that saw the need not only to keep Tranax in the market for their competitive edge, but also for the innovation that the "new" Tranax brought to the market. This survival is in no way linked to what NH and Triton did or how they could have combined in the market to "kill Tranax."
 
Tranax has the right products in the right place at the right time at the right price that is what allows Tranax to survive 2009 and beyond nothing to do with a merger or buyout. Yep. A lot of ups and downs in 2009.
 
I hope that your 2010 is great and that next year Tranax will be mentioned in the top 5 good things that happened in the ATM industry.
 
Bill Dunn, Tranax
Posted by: Tracy Kitten AT 10:32 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Matching messages to the interests and needs of audiences as they change throughout the day is a fundamental strength of digital signage.

Have you ever wondered why pickup trucks and beer commercials don't appear during TV cartoon programming? How about why there aren't hemorrhoid and antacid commercials during TV sports presentations, or toy and sugar-coated cereal ads during the evening news?

The answer is simple. Different types of TV shows attract different audiences. Cartoon viewers are likely to be interested in the coolest new toy and tastiest new breakfast cereal. Heavily male sports audiences are prone to having an affinity for beer and pickups. And who could argue with the notion that viewers of the evening news aren't perfect candidates for hemorrhoid remedies and antacids given the general state of affairs?

All kidding aside, recognizing that different programs -generally run at different times of the day- attract different audiences is a foundational principle of how TV organizes itself and the way ad agencies identify groups of viewers who share a common interest and can be targeted with appropriate ads.

Many uses of digital signage, as well, benefit from a similar recognition that audiences change throughout the day. Thus, those with important communications to convey to a digital signage audience can select which specific messages to serve up at the most appropriate time of the day.

Often referred to as "dayparting," segregating messages based on the time of day offers digital signage marketers and advertisers a way to target changing audiences in a manner similar to how TV advertisers reach desired audiences based on a schedule that puts cartoons on Saturday morning, college football on Saturday afternoon and local and national news on every evening. Both acknowledge the fact that audience demographics change throughout the day.

In digital signage, dayparting messages can be as simple as offering time-appropriate communications based on changing audience desires throughout the day, or it can be as complicated as identifying different demographic groups likely to see signs at different times of day and playing back messages targeted to those changing groups.

Consider a digital sign in a hotel lobby. In this example, the same group -specifically hotel guests- are likely to view the sign at different times throughout the day. Smart marketers would use this to their advantage by targeting their digital signage messages to the changing interests of the guest at different times of day. Thus, from 5 a.m. till 11 a.m. the message might promote the hotel's coffee shop as well the availability of tickets from the concierge desk to local tourist attractions. From 11 a.m. till 3 p.m., it could promote lunch specials, and transition to messages about fine dining on premise for dinner in the late afternoon and early evening. Finally, the sign could promote the lounge and entertainment from 7 p.m. till midnight.

Compare that type of dayparting to one based on different demographic groups visiting a mall throughout the day. Early in the morning before the retail shops open, a mall restaurant uses the facility's digital signage network to promote an early bird breakfast to health-conscious mall walkers out to get their mileage in. Later in the morning when moms with young children dominate the mall traffic, messaging on the same signs transitions to promote a visit from a state agency charged with early childhood health screening. As the day progresses towards the end of the school day, the digital signage messages focus on a skateboard clinic being put on outside the mall's sporting goods store and a special makeup clinic being held outside a department store. During the late afternoon and early evening when those who have been at work all day begin arriving at the mall, messaging transitions to promote free cholesterol and blood pressure screening outside a mall pharmacy and a job fair in the central part of the facility.

While different in how they go about it, both examples lay out effective use of dayparting digital signage messages to meet the changing needs of audiences throughout the day. Unlike other alternatives, digital signage possesses an inherent ability to respond to changing audience demographics and maximize the effectiveness of communications. That's just another reason digital signage is gaining popularity for a variety of communications applications.
Posted by: David Little AT 10:34 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 28 December 2009

 

Though 2009 was a year many would like to forget, the kiosk industry as a whole has escaped relatively unscathed. A testament to the industry's relevance and to the power of innovative, consumer-centric technology, kiosk deployments seem to have taken only a small hit, and consumers continue to flock to self-service stand-bys like grocery self-checkout and DVD-rental kiosks in droves.
 
Here, we take a look at the top five self-service stories this year, as well as one story we wish we didn't have to report.
 
Coinstar
 
This Bellevue, Wash.-based company was just getting the ball rolling when it acquired Redbox Automated Retail in February. Since then, Coinstar, which processed more than $3 billion in coins in 2008, has announced a 156-percent jump in redbox' revenue in the first quarter, a nationwide redbox-placement deal with the Albertson's grocery chain, a $460 million movie-distribution deal with Sony and an agreement with Kroger to increase its coin-counting kiosk footprint by more than 2,000.   
 
Coinstar also made a smart strategic move when it chose in September to offload its entertainment-services business line, which included gumball machines, children's rides and video games in an effort to concentrate on its self-service strategy.
 
"It's clear to us that our core strength is in the area of automated retail," Coinstar CEO Paul Davis said in the company's second-quarter earnings call in August. "The combination of retailer demand, consumer adoption, our core competencies and opportunities for innovation all point to this as being a sustainable platform for future growth."
 
KioskCom NYC
 
After what some thought was a disappointing turnout at May's Las Vegas event, KioskCom's Self Service Expo bounced back in November with its New York edition. Not only was attendance surprisingly high, given the economic backdrop and expense of traveling to New York City, but the show's organizers also put together a compelling programming schedule full of meaningful sessions and practical take-home information, too much of which is often lost in the tradeshow shuffle.
 
The event hit the ground running with a keynote presentation from Gregg Kaplan, president and COO of Coinstar Inc., which completely packed a session hall at 9 a.m. the first day. Kaplan shared valuable tips about expanding a kiosk network, and he also announced the winner of Coinstar and KioskCom's "Big Idea" contest, which awarded $10,000 to the best retail kiosk concept entered.
 
Though Coinstar was the sponsor of the contest and its $10,000 reward, hosting it was certainly a smart move for KioskCom. It garnered some excellent publicity for the show, Coinstar and the contest's winner, ecoATM, and it seemed to renew the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of the kiosk industry. 
 
Perhaps most importantly, at least for KioskCom's organizers, the show's exhibitors benefited from the organization's strict registration criteria and the increase in foot traffic.
 
"The feedback we received was very, very positive, both in terms of the quality and the quantity of leads that everybody met with and, more importantly, the quality and quantity of real, viable opportunities that they're going to be involved in based on conversations they had at the show," said Lawrence Dvorchik, KioskCom's general manager. "Exhibitors were just plain busy, and they were busy with real potential projects and prospects."
 
Biometrics
 
Much like digital-download capabilities, biometric technology has been the "next big thing" in the self-service space for some time. Although it's still not mainstream, the technology gained considerable ground this year, thanks in part to the United States government.
 
Following the meltdown of the Clear registered traveler program in June, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stepped in with its Global Entry kiosks, where international travelers can skip the customs line and in only a couple of minutes have their identities verified using iris- and fingerprint-scan biometric capabilities.
 
Also, because of the Obama administration's pledge to make all U.S. healthcare records electronic, more and more healthcare providers are turning to self-service kiosks that allow patients to do everything from make appointments to update their medical records and use biometric technology to identify patients, providers and office or hospital staff.
 
"Healthcare has always been thought of as being sort of behind on IT technology," said Josh Napua, who works closely Fujitsu's MedServ patient kiosk, which employs palm-vein-recognition biometrics. "But obviously with the infusion of the Obama initiative for electronic medical records, I think there's a growing interest, to say the least, in trying to figure out a lot of these solutions in healthcare."  
 
Tesco's all-self-checkout concept
 
The United Kingdom's biggest big-box retailer recently made headlines when it opened an all-self-checkout concept store in Northhampton, England. Though Tesco has operated all-self-checkout Fresh & Easy stores in the western U.S. for a few years, the new location in England is an even bigger step for the self-service industry, given the traditional European lag in kiosk deployment and adoption numbers.
 
Positive reactions to Tesco's new store recognize the inevitable draw of self-service at retail:
 
"Despite the sizeable initial investment, there has been a clear shift towards self-checkout since the turn of this century, especially by big-box chains," said Frost & Sullivan's Aravindh Vanchesan in a commentary about the concept. "Retailers are studying ways to attract new customers (in addition to retaining existing ones) and in this context, self-checkout has been positioned as a technology solution that can drive up customer satisfaction levels, leading to a more lasting relationship. Not to mention the cost savings."
 
Though Tesco has met with some resistance to the concept, both in the U.S. and abroad, its customers gravitate to the stores because, as consumers have shown time and again, many of them prefer self-checkout to a traditional lane. It gives them control and makes them feel as though they are receiving faster and more accurate service. Tesco is pushing the retail boundaries and helping the self-service industry make a stronger case for itself with these concept stores.  
 
The economy
 
Few industries can count 2009 as even a decent year, but the kiosk business is one of them. Of course deployments have been put on hold because of tight credit and companies have been forced to "trim the fat" as they struggled through the global recession, but kiosk developers with compelling value propositions have reaped the benefits of cost-conscious deployers and consumers alike.
 
At the risk of harping on 2009's obvious self-service superstars, Coinstar and redbox have never had a better year, all because they made consumers an offer they cannot refuse, especially when times are tight.
 
More importantly, however, more deployers are becoming convinced of self-service's lasting positive impact on their bottom lines. Self-checkout deployments continue to grow because retailers simply cannot ignore the rise in customer satisfaction and the dip in labor costs that follow deployment. Same goes for airline self-check-in, photo kiosks and patient self-service, to name a few. It's not often that an innovation that benefits a retailer so dramatically also pleases consumers and improves their experiences at retail. Thanks in part to a financial landscape that has forced some tough decisions, more and more retailers continue to realize that self-service does just that.
 
Worst of 2009
 
The honor of 2009's worst moment in self-service must go to the Hollywood movie studios · namely, Warner Bros., Universal and 20th Century Fox.
 
These studios have refused to distribute new release titles to redbox the day they come out because, they maintain, the $1-per-day pricing model puts DVD sales profits, and thus the entire film industry's business model, at risk. Never mind that redbox has deployed more than 22,000 DVD-rental kiosks to answer consumer demand for affordable, one-night rentals. The success of redbox' DVD kiosk network has other companies scrambling to compete because it's clearly a service consumers have proven they want.
 
Hollywood's greed and its self-serving argument should be considered an affront to the consumer population, whose dollars are, by the billions, responsible for the movie industry's existence. Kudos go to redbox for standing its ground and suing the studios and for figuring out a way to work around their mandates by purchasing the restricted new releases at retail, as costly and inefficient as it might be for the company.
 
A few studios (Paramount and Lionsgate among them) have agreed to work with redbox, and for that we applaud them. But those that refuse to answer the consumer's call for affordable new release rentals continue to tarnish the entire film industry's reputation.
Posted by: Caroline Cooper AT 10:29 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
2009 was an interesting year for the digital signage/DOOH industry. Despite the recession, new deals were won, new technology was released and the industry continued to grow as a whole.

Here are five moments that changed the digital signage and digital out-of-home industry for the better in 2009, and one that certainly didn’t.

1. The rise of DOOH aggregation platforms

With digital out-of-home spending on the rise, the industry is working to make it easier for media buyers to purchase DOOH ads. This has led to the proliferation of aggregation services that allow ad agencies to purchase screen space across multiple networks using one online platform. Existing services like SeeSaw Networks, Adcentricity, rVue and DOmedia all expanded their networks and services in 2009, while new platforms like VukuNet and BookingDOOH.com were launched.

Why it’s important

The chore of arranging agreements with multiple networks has turned agencies off to using DOOH in their media mixes. There also exists a disparity between software platforms, file formats and payment systems, which is why aggregation services, which unify these networks under a common platform, are so important to the continued growth of DOOH.

Rick Ducey, chief strategy officer, BIA/Kelsey, a research firm, shares these sentiments.

“DOOH must get easier to plan, buy and measure in order to reach scale,” he says in the “Digital Out-of-Home: Hyperlocal and Hyper Growth report. “With consolidation, partnerships and interoperable platforms, we see the buying process becoming more integrated, which will spur growth.”

2. Dallas Cowboys Stadium installs Cisco StadiumVision

The poster child for digital signage this year has been the new $1.2 billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium. In addition to housing the largest HD screen to date, Cisco has installed nearly 3,000 digital signage screens throughout the complex as part of its StadiumVision offering. StadiumVision consists of screens in the concourses, luxury boxes, restaurants (as digital menu boards) and retail areas, all connected to the internal IP infrastructure.

Why it’s important

Pardon the pun, but StadiumVision is a “game-changer” for the sports entertainment industry. Fans are delivered entertainment pre-event, in-event and post-event, using video and content, such as out-of-town games and scores, team trivia, weather, traffic and news, in addition to the action on the field.

On the back end, the stadium staff is able to centrally manage the delivery of all of the venue's available video assets, including broadcast, cable, satellite and in-house feeds, to displays over a single IP infrastructure. And it’s catching on – in 2009 StadiumVision was installed in the new Yankee Stadium, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Land Shark Stadium in Miami, Fla. and many European stadiums. 

3. Samsung and NEC release ultra-thin bezel screens

This spring, Samsung and NEC both released new screens that changed the video wall landscape. Designed specifically to be tiled in video wall matrices, the screens feature a screen-to-screen bezel width of 7.3 mm, creating a near-seamless look when placed together.

Why it’s important

Digital signage users are always in search of, literally, the next big thing. For several years, large format screens, like the 103-inch plasma from Panasonic, have been eye-catching but expensive. Also, traditional video walls appeared clunky because of large bezels that chopped up the image. Building a video wall with these thin-bezel screens is not only more cost effective, but allows the user to be more creative by arranging screens in non-traditional arrays.

(Honorable mention for video walls: The release of Christie Microtiles)

4. USA Today features digital signage supplement

On March 20, 2009, USA Today featured a pull-out section specifically focused on the digital signage and digital out-of-home (DOOH) industry. http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/article.php?id=21939 The 16-page section was distributed in the New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles markets. Readership of two million was recorded based on distribution of 750,000 copies with an estimated four readers per supplement copy.

Why it’s important

Although most of the content was advertorial in nature, the section went a long way in bringing this industry to attention of readers in major DMAs. You could call it an “awareness campaign.” This year at tradeshows many of the exhibitors said they were seeing more educated attendees and fewer “tire kickers,” and projects like the USA Today supplement have a lot to do with that. Another supplement is planned for Jan. 29, 2010.

5. Capital Area Transit enables mobile digital signage

In April, Harris Corp. along with WRAL in Raleigh, N.C. and Microspace Communications, announced they had launched the nation's first free, over-the-air broadcast of mobile digital television to the public. The CBC New Media Group and the City of Raleigh, N.C., were also part of a project that delivers live WRAL-DT broadcasts to Capital Area Transit (CAT) buses traveling around the capital city.

Why it’s important

The CAT project epitomizes many of the best practices of DOOH advertising. Screens are placed on buses, where there is an extensive amount of dwell time. Viewers can be exposed to hyper-local, highly relevant content as they are taken through the city and have the ability to interact via mobile phone. And because the screens are still connected to a network, ads have the ability to be geo-targeted based on where bus is at that moment. It serves as a great example of content relevancy and contextual advertising.

..and one not-so-great one

If there was one story we wish we didn’t have to write this year, it would be that of Reactrix. Many of those in the industry remember the slow demise of Reactrix around this time last year. A victim of the recession, the Redwood City, Calif.-based interactive media company first went into receivership in Oct. 2008, called it quits early this year and had its IP bought in May.

What it’s not-so-great

Digital signage is a young and nascent industry, and it doesn’t image well to have any company go under, particularly one with the kind of innovative and forward-thinking technology that will help propel it. Reactrix had several good network deals, especially in malls. But I believe it was outrageous spending that eventually brought the company down (They burned through an alleged $85 million!) Even Wall Street Journal used Reactrix as an example of a tech start-up bubble burst.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
In my first post, I briefly outlined the seven convergent implementations of digital signage and mobile technologies. In my second post, I discussed the first, and most basic, convergent implementation: DTMF. In this post, I’ll briefly discuss the second, but most commonly used, form of signage/mobile convergence: SMS/Text Messaging. 

A SMS/Text Messaging implementation is basically defined as the processes for interacting with digital signage using the text messaging feature of a cell phone. Before we delve into the workings of this particular convergent implementation, it may be helpful to briefly review the history of text messaging.

In 1995, the Federal Communications Commission awarded select companies licenses to provide a new form of “digital” cellular service. This new service enabled cell phones to support features such as call waiting, three-way calling, in-bound number display, data communications and Short Messaging Services (SMS). SMS was deemed to be the feature that would allow cellular users with SMS-equipped, digital cell phones to send “text messages” of up to 160 characters to other SMS equipped cell phones.

The SMS feature was not however measurably used until about the year 2000. It was only then that there were enough SMS-capable cell phones and networks in use to support mass adoption of the technology. But even then, it was not until about 2005 that SMS became widely and actively used by cellular subscribers. Since ’05 however, SMS usage has been skyrocketing. Today, in the U.S. alone, approximately four billion text messages are sent each day. 

As SMS usage began to grow, it soon became the primary form of communications for many -- especially those in their teens and 20’s. This growing affinity for text messaging was not lost on digital signage software companies, digital signage network operators, content providers and advertisers. Soon each was trying to find ways to integrate SMS into their digital signage networks.

Today there are four ways in which SMS is commonly used in conjunction with digital signage.  However, before we review these four, it is important that we become familiar with the concept of Common Short Codes. Common Short Codes are an essential element to each of the four convergent implementations. Common Short Codes are five digit numbers that serve as a substitute for phone numbers. The purpose of Short Codes is to provide companies or organizations a carrier-independent way to engage with the general public via text messaging and then track those interactions.

The four SMS-based convergent applications are as follows:

1.       Signage as Recipient:  In this implementation, signage viewers send text messages via a Short Code to a digital sign for the other viewers to see. Viewers of the messages can then send SMS-generated responses to the message, thereby creating a group dialog.  This feature is frequently used in places where people congregate and is typically instituted as a way to stimulate conversation.

This implementation generally requires that messages be relayed through the signage operator so that an administrator can filter out objectionable content. Some of the more intelligent content management software packages perform this filtering function automatically. But as a leading outdoor signage vendor recently found, sometimes even the best filtering techniques have their weak points. In that situation, a picture of three local news anchors was shown on the screen accompanied by a message that said, “Three Accused of Gang Rape.” Obviously the three were not the newscasters pictured, but an embarrassment for the signage operator none-the-less.

2.       Content Selection: This implementation allows the viewers of digital signage to control the content that appears on the screen. For example, the viewer is informed that if they text a particular keyword (e.g. number, word, code, etc.) to an SMS Short Code, the content on the screen will be changed commensurate with that code. For example, a user could text the keyword “11111” to Short Code 55555 to see a movie trailer, or text the keyword “22222” to the same Short Code to see a music video. The content management software would receive the code and changes the displayed content accordingly.  It also tracks and reports on the viewer’s content preferences.

3.       Content Control: This implementation allows viewers to use their phone's SMS feature to control elements on a screen. For example, the viewer can move game pieces on a game board by texting a keyword to an SMS Short Code. The signage software uses these keywords to manipulate the game pieces and control the action of play. Like the "Signage as Recipient" implementation, this convergent model is designed to get large crowds engaged with the content. 

4.       Promotional/Marketing: This implementation uses the digital signage to promote an interaction between the viewer and a marketing promotion. For example, the digital signage may display a message that says "Text the keyword COUPON to 55555 to receive a coupon for 20 percent off of your next oil change." In this example, the user executes the transaction and receives a text message back that includes a coupon code for subsequent presentation to the sponsor. In another example, the digital signage could encourage viewers to text a keyword that will initiate the delivery of promotional content back to the viewer’s handset.

SMS-based convergent applications have been growing along with the adoption of SMS.  But which of the four have been growing the fastest, what are the pros and cons of each, what is the future prospects of each? These questions will be addressed in a soon to be released white paper called “SMS and Digital Signage: What Is It and Where’s It Going?”
Posted by: Steve Gurley AT 09:57 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
…to create another innovative social media/digital signage ad campaign. Yesterday Vans, the shoe company, and LocaModa launched a digital billboard campaign called Be Here Times Square using the Viacom digital billboard in Times Square.

Here’s the deal – users can log onto the Vans Web site or text a shortcode to send pictures and/or messages to the screen. All “appropriate” messages are automatically posted on the Vans Web site, and every hour several of them are selected to run on the actual Times Square billboard itself.

Not in NYC? No worries – the site sends you an email if your message gets up on the digital billboard, and also takes a live picture of the message on the screen and posts it to this site: http://beheretimessquare.com/display/

I decided to have a little fun with it and post the pic below of me writing the news story about the Be Here campaign to the Be Here site. It appeared on the site within a few minutes, then later this morning appeared on the Times Square billboard.



I know this because the www.vans.com/behere site has a live feed every hour of the submissions that run on the billboard. See the image below its a screenshot of the live feed from Times Square taken this morning. And yes, it is my birthday today.

Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
…at least for Delta Airlines it did. Last week I was tipped off to a story about a recent DOOH campaign that proved quite successful for Delta Airlines. If you have read my writing on DigitalSignageToday.com, you know that one of my main goals when covering this industry is working to make DOOH and digital place-based media a more viable medium in the eyes of ad agencies.

I decided to focus on this piece because I think it goes a long way in proving the worth of DOOH in an ad campaign setting.

Here’s the shortened version – the whole story can be read here:

Earlier in the year, Delta its ad agency, Digitas, ran a brand-awareness campaign for Delta’s international travel services using digital out-of home screens combined with traditional media. After the campaign was over this past summer, Edison Research surveyed consumers prior to the launch of the DOOH campaign and again during the campaign to measure how effectively the messages reached Delta’s target audience and whether awareness was increased. The results indicate that Delta’s goals of reaching the target audience and increasing awareness of Delta as a preferred international carrier were accomplished.
 
Specifically:
• Awareness of Delta as an international carrier increased more than 28 percent.
• Among business travelers, the perception that Delta “flies to the international destinations you want to go to” increased 26 percent.
• The percentage of people “very likely” to recommend Delta to friends, family or colleagues increased 61 percent.
• Of those who noticed the screens, 32 percent fit Delta’s income demographic.
• Those who noticed the screens were frequent travelers who had an average of 5.2 business trips a year.
• Overall awareness of Delta increased by 15 percent.
Note that these results are just for the DOOH portion of the campaign, and don’t reflect on the traditional media part.

I spoke with Pat Connolly, vice president and group director of Digitas, and although he never cited the initial goals of Delta, he did note that these numbers exceeded those goals.

The screen space was bought through SeeSaw Networks’ aggregation platform, and although we’ve talked about their Life Pattern Marketing approach many times on the site, its worth discussing it again as it pertains to this a campaign.

The idea behind Life Patterns is that ads are bought based on certain target demographics, then the same message is shown to that demo at different times throughout the day. In this case, Delta wanted to target affluent business travelers. So ads were placed on screens rotated over five digital networks including on RMG Networks screens at cafes, the WHEN network at health clubs, cardio machines on the NetPulse network in health clubs, ferry terminals through the Affinity Network and PumpTop TV at gas stations.

The idea is that they see a Delta ad while getting their morning coffee, then see the same ad on the way to work, after work at the gym, and on the way home at the gas station.

All in all, I think the industry would benefit from more stories like this that show statistical success for DOOH campaigns. My hope is that this example will reach those decision makers with the brands and ad agencies and potentially effect future buying decisions.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 11:33 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 14 December 2009
Technology’s impact on business operations continues to transform managerial controls and measurement while providing for profitability enhancement opportunities.  Technology in the retail environment has predominantly focused on point of sale systems that integrate everything from transaction accounting to inventory management.  Recently, retailers and POS system companies are focusing on the integration of cash handling with the POS system.
 
More progressive retail operators have already replaced traditional drop safes with cash management system — which incorporates the traditional benefits of a safe, such as robbery prevention and time-delay-change funds, but also employs bill-and-coin-handling technology, as well as its own operating system. Today’s cash-management systems connect to corporate networks to facilitate data exchange and remote management.
 
Profitability enhancement
 
The cost of a CMS is very quickly recovered through the recurring savings garnered by the system itself.  What initially may appear to be a “cost” quickly becomes a “profit generator” that produces annualized cash and non-cash savings. Typical systems pay for themselves within six to nine months, yet continue to produce savings indefinitely.
 
Retailers have found recurring cash savings in many areas. Specifically, internal theft is dramatically reduced; detection and rejection of counterfeit currency is improved; and armored car requirements are reduced. The latest and most exciting area of cash savings is now being gained through the retailer receiving “provisional credit” for funds in the CMS that have not yet been deposited at the bank. 
 
Non-cash savings include a reduction of management time previously required to reconcile the transaction log with cash and preparation of bank deposits, as well as instant accounting and deposit preparation.
 
Deployment
  
Deploying a cash management system involves support and coordination among multiple departments, including finance, operations, information technology, security and loss prevention. And choosing the right CMS provider who can coordinate the physical and technological installation of the system can significantly expedite and smooth the process. 
 
Each department should carefully consider features and functionality that will be required for a successful deployment and utilization of a CMS. 
 
Below is a list, by corporate function, of features and functionality that should be considered or required.
 
Finance:
  • Instant access to all information pertaining to cash in the safe
  • Tools to access one or more stores and data, and place it in a spreadsheet
  • Guaranteed deposit by CIT
  • Provisional credit by the bank, with money deposited to the account, regardless of whether it’s picked up or still in the safe at the store
  • Cut down on armored pickups, since credit is given by the bank
  • Automated cash reconciliation – no manual counting
  • Eliminate cash shrinkage by linking the safe and the POS
  • Lower the cost of buying coins and notes by recycling both
  • Lower the cost of coins by not buying coin rolls; use bulk bags
  • Elimination of cash counting at the beginning of the shift
  • Where cash rooms exist, eliminate 90 percent of the labor
  • Cost of annual software maintenance (get a five-year quote)
  • Cost of annual hardware maintenance (get a five-year quote)
  • ROI for any investment should be less than 1 year
Operations:
  • Eliminate cash shrinkage by linking the safe and POS
  • Balance each transaction between the safe and the POS
  • Simple computer-based training provided
  • Operate in the native language of each cashier to eliminate errors and make the system easier to learn and use
  • Dispense flat notes that are easy to handle instead of rolled up notes
  • Auto dispense each till (no cash-room counting) at start-of-shift
  • Auto bank-out of each till (no cash-room counting) to end shift
  • Speed time for cashiers to clock in and be on the lane
  • Quick access to cash to replenish tills with coins and notes
  • Eliminate counterfeit notes while customer is present
  • New notes are validated the day they come out by updating the note validators over the network — no delay waiting for updates
  • Totally eliminate cash counting and get deposit guarantees from CIT
  • On-site service call by next business day at a minimum
  • Help-desk diagnostic tools to help solve technical issues
  • Highly qualified service organization capable of analyzing the network
IT:
  • Must run an industry standard operating system, such as Windows, and use XML
  • Must have the ability to plug and play over the store’s Ethernet network
  • Tools included for data collection over the network
  • Report-writer tool for creating and changing reports
  • Modern hardware architecture, easily told by integration (one power cord)
  • Must interface with POS at transaction level to stay in balance
  • No programming required to create a total CMS environment
  • Update CMS application over the network for new releases
  • Up-to-date note validators over the network when new notes are released
  • System diagnostics for help desk to support store personnel
  • Supplier has 24/7 help desk to support customer help desk or store directly
  • Hassle-free system that will not take IT resources to manage
Security:
  • Must interface with store’s alarm systems
  • Must interface with store’s camera systems
  • Must support a transaction log for up to 90 days so events can be analyzed and then used to search camera videos
  • Eliminates chance of an entire safe getting stolen
Loss prevention:
  • Balance every transaction with POS
  • Automated cash reconciliation (no cash counting)
  • Cashiers check in/out tills with no management assistance
  • Time-delayed access to all vaults
  • Additional vault for storage of change or high dollar items
  • Instant access to note validators for CIT guards
  • Audit trail to balance every penny of every cashier
  • Audit trail for all transactions for past 90 days
  • Eliminate counterfeit notes
  • Updated note validators over network when new notes are released by local government
  • Guaranteed deposit by CIT company
  • On-site repair service by next business day
Implementing a CMS solution is a decision that will impact your company from top to bottom. Each department’s needs must be considered early in the process. When evaluating potential CMS suppliers and their systems, you should prepare a checklist that addresses all of their unique needs and use this checklist during your information gathering and quote processes.
Posted by: Ed Grondahl AT 01:42 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 14 December 2009
Digital out-of-home is a growing medium – a significant statement in a time when media outlets are struggling to sell ads and subscriptions. TV still dominates the media market landscape and newspapers and magazines have a declining presence. Although DOOH represents less than one percent of that landscape, over the past several years it has shown an increase in awareness, revenue and presence.

Recent research reinforces this. Arbitron reports that approximately 155 million (67 percent of) U.S. residents aged 18 or older have seen a digital out-of-home (OOH) video display in the past month. PQ Media expects the U.S. DOOH spending to reach $2.47 billion in 2009. And DisplaySearch, which monitors flat panel shipments, says that shipments of large-format displays (26-inches+) is set to grow 44 percent in 2009, indicating that there is a growing demand for screens used for public-facing applications.

Agencies are recognizing the growth as well. In the agency world, digital out-of-home has traditionally fallen into the realm of out-of-home (OOH), which comprises mainly on billboards and the like. OVAB and other organizations are working to separate the two and help agencies establish a separate “media bucket” for DOOH, so that it gets its own budget. Several forward-thinking agencies have already made this move.

The future of this medium and its success relies heavily on the participation and backing of advertising agencies. In the past, one of the key reasons that agencies have shied away from DOOH has been because there have not been proven metrics for the medium, like exist with traditional advertising, and that the buying process has been too difficult.

Knowing this, the DOOH industry has begun work to make the buying process easier for ad agencies. In addition to OVAB releasing Audience Metrics Guidelines for the measurement of DOOH advertising networks, the networks themselves are enlisting companies like Arbitron, Nielsen and Edison Research to perform network audits. The results help give both the networks and ad agencies accurate traffic counts, dwell time and other pertinent information in the ad buying process.

For agencies and their media buyers, the DOOH ad buying process is becoming easier, thanks to the work of those within the industry. Not too long ago buyers would have to go to individual networks in order to place ads on screens – a process that was tedious and often dreaded. Network aggregation services, such as NEC’s Vukunet, SeeSaw Networks’ SeeSaw Ads and Adcentricity have emerged in the past several years and are now gaining a critical mass of nationwide networks. This means that media buyers can now go to one place and place ads to targeted demographics down to the screen level.

As the industry streamlines processes and improves technology for DOOH ad placement, agencies are catching on to its effectiveness and beginning to invest more in digital campaigns.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 10:03 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 10 December 2009
In the world of sports franchises that use digital signage, the Miami Heat is emerging as a champion of the technology.

The 2006 NBA Champion franchise announced this week two new areas of its American Airlines arena that have been outfitted with custom-designed video walls, created in partnership with Magenta Research. 

One of the video wall installations went into the Bacardi Grand Entrance, one of the main arena entrances. Twelve Sony displays are programmed with Sony’s proprietary ZIRIS software system and include signal extension provided by Magenta’s high-definition MultiView XRTx transmitters and AK600 receivers. The screens are tiled together diagonally at 45-degree angles.



Another area to receive a video wall installation was the Dewar’s Suite Level. The Dewar’s wall is made up of six Sony screens arranged in both portrait and landscape orientations. Content for the video wall is focused on Dewar’s branding.

Both installations represent a trend in the industry toward custom-shaped video walls. Sony actually showed a diagonally-mounted video wall very similar to the Bacardi installation earlier this year at Screen Media Expo Europe. Most recently, Christie entered this space with the launch of their MicroTiles product, which are small, configurable, square screens designed to be stacked into various shapes.

This is not the first time that the Heat and American Airlines Arena have embraced non-traditional digital signage. Early in 2009, a2aMedia announced the installation of MediaMesh, a three-story high LED screen mounted to the side of American Airlines Arena. Mediamesh is a high-grade architectural woven stainless steel mesh interlaced with LEDs. When the screen is off, it blends with the building’s architecture.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:37 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 09 December 2009
On Thursday, December 3, we reached a milestone in the young life of the Digital Signage Association. We celebrated our two-year anniversary just last month and we now we have over 400 members. Member #400, The University of Illinois and #401, individual member David Carbert, joined that day.

I remember how we got started.

Some of you may know that I also serve as the executive director for the Self-Service & Kiosk Association (SSKA). In 2007, we decided to start a Digital Signage Council due to the fact that we had a number of members in the digital signage space. We held our first (and only) meeting in Chicago at the Digital Signage Expo.

At the time, we talked about whether it made sense to change the name of SSKA to include digital signage. “You’ll have to get new shirts,” one of the participants joked, since we were wearing SSKA-logoed oxfords at the time.

In the months that ensued, it became apparent that the digital signage industry deserved its own association. We talked to several members of the Council as well as others in the industry and received support for the idea, though admittedly there may have been a few skeptics wondering if we could pull it off. After all, some associations were involved in digital signage even if there wasn’t a dedicated association to it serving all market segments.

We “soft launched” the association in October at KioskCom in New York City, but really didn’t sign anyone up officially until November. By the end of 2007, we had 22 members. By Digital Signage Expo in February 2008, we had 62 members and a 24-person Advisory Board. The board met for the first time at that show. Stu Armstrong was elected as the first president of the Association in the summer of 2008.

So here we are two years later, with 401 members, a 41-person Advisory Board, eight committees and task forces and whole host of activity going on.

One industry blogger wrote to me recently: “As you know I poked at you guys a little in your early days to question the motives and value of the DSA, but to your absolute credit (and I am being sincere) you have made it the real deal.”

Of course we couldn’t do it without all the support of our board, committees and members.

Onward and upward!
Posted by: David Drain AT 10:04 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 08 December 2009
Following The Digital Signage Show in New York last month, I decided to write a company profile on Monster Media, a company that I have been closely following since I first started covering digital signage.

But why Monster Media? Well, in my opinion Monster Media has always been on the proverbial “leading edge” of interactive digital signage, at least in the three years that I have been covering the industry. Granted, most of their installations are in single locations and for limited-run campaigns, but they sure do get attention, and keep getting better at it. As Monster president John Payne said in the article, “With each campaign, clients want to top what others have done. Every 90 days to six months we have to keep evolving everything we do.”

I would say my interest first started in 2007 when I attended a tradeshow at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, which houses one of Monster’s longest running installations, a gesture-based projection for Shark Reef. (Viewers can move water around on the wall by swooshing their hands in front of the projector – movements are detected using infrared cameras.)


(Photo: from sixteen:nine blog)

Even now, that wall stops people in their tracks, although Monster’s installations have become much more advanced. Payne said they’ve scrapped floor projection, cut back on wall projection and started rolling out LCD video walls for their interactive campaigns. Payne said they’re more functional, versatile and brighter.

They’ve also become more advanced as far as interactivity goes. With the Monday Night Football installation from this year, users can interact with video versions of their favorite NFL quarterbacks, then play virtual catch with them.

Payne also said that the company is making mobile integration a priority and using some kind of mobile functionality in every new installation. At first, this was just offering shortcodes for viewers to text to, now they can even control on-screen content using their phones. And while this interaction is cool in the eyes of viewers, it’s even better for the advertisers or sponsors of the installation, who can gather valuable audience data.

To read more about how the company came to be and awards for recent installations, check out the article on DigitalSignageToday.com.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:34 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 03 December 2009
A story went out today from Aeris Solutions about a 750-screen install going into 160 Bunnings stores in Australia and New Zealand. But most interesting is the fact is that Bunnings doesn’t want this network, well, networked. Here is the paragraph from the story, run earlier on DigitalSignageToday.com:

Bunnings goal was to implement a solution that would offer all the features of a networked system, including multiple playlists, scheduled playback and automatic content updating, without having to install the network infrastructure typically required for a project of this size.

Bunnings marketing department, located in Hawthorne, Victoria, will create all the content management files required, then upload these files along with the new content to their main server. These files are then downloaded to each store via Bunnings current FTP network infrastructure. Once the information is delivered to each store it is a simple case of copying the content folder to a USB memory stick. A Bunnings team member simply plugs this USB memory drive into each media player and waits while all new files are automatically updated.

So this huge network, spread over 160 stores in two countries, doesn’t want to network? I’m not going to crunch the numbers, but consider the man-hours and the USB stick mess caused by hundreds of employees scurrying around manually loading the content onto the 750 media players (Based on the release I assume each screen will have its own player).

Actually the fact that this installation is not networked doesn’t come as that big of a surprise to me. This fall, the Digital Signage Association did a survey as part of its Digital Signage Future Trends Report and found that 45.6 percent of respondents said none of their screens are networked. Furthermore, 18 percent said “some are, some aren’t.”

I know Bunnings doesn’t want to make the infrastructure investment, but it seems almost foolish not to in this case. In the end, they are the ones missing out by not being able to take advantage of the flexibility and economy of the medium. Customers and staff will be the first to react when content becomes quickly stale. No doubt they will find this our sooner than later.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 01 December 2009
In today’s challenging economic climate when workers are stressed to the max, strengthening existing relationships through effective communications with employees and can help your enterprise succeed.

The government’s latest unemployment number of 10.2 percent acknowledges the human toll the nation’s economic contraction is having on people and brings into sharp focus why anxiety among workers is running high.

Without minimizing the “green shoots” economic commentators detected earlier in the year and the third quarter’s tick into positive territory for gross domestic product, it’s safe to say that apprehension among workers and employers alike continues to grow as each new day seems to bring announcements of shutdowns, layoffs, bank failures and a so-called “jobless recovery.”

Consider these findings from a Rutgers University survey released in April when the nation’s unemployment rate was reported to be 8.9 percent. The university’s Heldrich Center for Workforce Development found in its most recent “Work Trends” study that:

    * 67 percent of workers said they were very concerned with the unemployment rate, compared to 46 percent one year prior

    * 49 percent said they were concerned with job security for those currently working, compared to 32 percent in spring 2008

    * 68 percent said they were very concerned about the job market for those who are looking for work, compared to 48 percent the year before.

Into this environment of worker apprehension and doubt, businesses must maintain productivity –even with fewer employees- and carry on operations with an eye towards future revenue growth and a return to normal. While some managers may see this worker fear as a chance to raise expectations in the hopes of boosting productivity –i.e. more stick and less carrot, many will tread carefully recognizing the potential for prolonged job anxiety to chip away at the mental health of their employees.

While I am certainly no psychologist or psychiatrist, it seems pretty apparent that constant apprehension about job loss coupled with the reality of meeting one’s financial obligations is a recipe for depression. A depressed workforce is likely to be less productive and lose focus --potentially exposing themselves to more injuries, fewer sales closes and more missed opportunities, depending on the type of business involved. Further, once the economy rebounds and job growth resumes, some of these overwrought workers will look for the first chance to flee the pressure cooker, taking with them the job experience and performance that made them valuable to the enterprise to begin with.

While it’s probably impossible to eliminate these apprehensions, mitigating and managing the fear can be done through effective communications. Certainly, many of these fears grow out of seeing friends and family dismissed from employment, but what makes them worse is the not knowing –not knowing how the company is doing, how they are performing and what, if anything, can be done to make a difference.

Outside of one-on-one conversations, digital signage may be the most effective communications medium employers can use to boost flagging morale and keep workers motivated and focused. Why? First, it’s public by its very nature. This makes it effective in acknowledging individuals and groups of workers for superior performance. Second, it’s easy to update with relevant, current information workers may need to be more productive. Third, digital signage can help to strengthen esprit de corps by promoting and acknowledging the efforts of workers when they are off the clock, such as walk-a-thons to raise funds for charity and involvement in youth programs.

In today’s economic climate, when companies need to ensure their workers are as efficient as possible, digital signage should be a key component of any corporate communications effort. Those managers looking to maintain productivity, build morale and contribute to their workers’ safety and peace of mind would do well to consider how digital signage can help them attain those goals.

David Little is a charter member of the Digital Signage Association with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to effectively communicate their unique marketing messages.
Posted by: David Little AT 10:06 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 30 November 2009

As the days of 2009 dwindle, I find myself crisscrossing the country, talking to retailers of every stripe. These conversations have revealed a few consistent themes, which are likely to drive customer-facing retail technologies in the coming year.

To my relief and that of probably everyone in the industry, there’s a sense the economy is coming back. Earlier this month I was at the Kioskcom Self Service Expo in New York, and I would describe the mood as "unexpected optimism." Retailers and technology buyers of all sorts were on the floor in surprising numbers with specific projects they needed to execute. One exhibitor even exclaimed, "We’re on the way up!" while making a swooping airplane motion towards the sky. Now that’s what I call a return to confidence. It is a safe bet that retailers who have been waiting on the sidelines will resume investments in their store experiences in the coming year.

The dominant theme I have heard from retailers is the need to inspire shoppers. Retailers are seeking technologies that do for any product category what mannequins do for apparel—show the customer how to bring many items together into a compelling, personalized solution. An expectant mother furnishing a baby’s room, a couple designing a home theatre, a parent building a fish tank for their child—shoppers need to be inspired and guided to a final solution. Retailers understand that addressing a consumer’s end goal is the key to driving more sales, yet doing this with human interactions is expensive. So, I expect to see increasingly sophisticated shopper assistance tools emerge from the simple product selectors of today. Retailers are keenly focused on the problem, and a few are ready to test solutions.

Closely related to inspiration is the idea of cross-selling. Retailers are interested in technology that helps them add items to a shopper’s basket by reaching across the store to cross-sell many product categories. I get the sense from retailers that this is an area in need of improvement. Customer-facing technologies that draw upon in-store and online inventories to automatically suggest the best complementary goods will likely be tested in the coming year.

Another recurring theme is a desire to provide quality customer service where today’s economics simply do not allow it. Many complex products do not sell in enough volume or at high enough prices to justify having human experts in the store. Several retailers see technology as the way forward. Expert systems can give customers the additional product education they need to make an informed choice, while sparing the cost of additional store labor. Expect to see customer-facing technologies deployed most commonly around these so-called "marginal" product categories.

Finally, with recessionary pressures on staffing levels, retailers want to make the most out of their store staff through sales process automation. They want humans doing what humans do best—guiding customers through complex, personalized, real-world product problems and decisions. For the 80 percent of any selling process that is the same for every customer, retailers are looking for technological solutions that do this work, letting store associates handle more customers in a given period of time. In a sense, self-checkout was only the beginning. The phrase I have heard is "moving customers from questions to the counter" as quickly as possible. I personally view this as challenging to execute in practice and anticipate some failed trials, given the need for seamless integration between store personnel and in-store technology. However, the first retailer to do it will reap significant rewards and set the stage for the future of retail.

The year ahead is shaping up to be an exciting one for in-store technologies. Recession-induced paralysis seems to be over and retailers seem to have a clear view of how they want to move forward. If they succeed in deploying the right solutions, it will be a winning year for everyone—shoppers, retailers, and even technology suppliers.
 
The writer is CEO of Intava.
Posted by: Troy Carroll AT 01:40 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Government Video ran a story this morning about a new digital signage installation for the Colorado National Guard. In addition to improving communication among armories, the network is also being touted as a way to improve solider retention by promoting career opportunities within the Guard.

The project was a joint effort between Tightrope and members of the National Guard’s IT and recruiting departments. One screen was placed in each armory and runs content promoting job openings, as well as news, videos and motivational information.

The government vertical has been a long sought after area of the digital signage user market. It has been typically a bit difficult to penetrate as there are many layers of bureaucracy in order to get to the decision makers. Also, connectivity becomes an issue because of the sometimes confidential info running on the existing networks. Such was the case here with the Colorado National Guard. The team instead used the Verizon Express Network wireless data services, making the installation a cellular digital signage network.

The Guard used the Tightrope Carousel Pro server and 14 Carousel Solo 220 players, which are connected to the network via a Verizon Air Card. It is also using 42-inch Sharp 42SB45U LCD screens.

OC Edward Tuholske, Marketing NCO, told Government Video:
The response to the digital signage system has been 100 percent positive. We are getting more and more requests from our commanding officers to add extra information to the digital signs because they see that more effective communication is improving the morale of our soldiers. Everything we have heard so far indicates that the signage system is improving soldier re-enlistment.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
Panasonic has come up with cool new application for its giant 103-inch plasma screen, this time as a part of a promotion for its compact Lumix DMC-ZX1 digital camera in London.

A team of six artists created a giant version of the camera, where the 103-inch plasma serves as the camera’s screen. The camera is one of a series of objects which have been “magnified” by Panasonic to illustrate the 8x optical zoom lens of the Lumix camera.

The giant camera is presently located in London’s Waterloo station, but will move to London Victoria from Nov. 26-28 finally to London’s Liverpool Street Station from Dec. 3-5.

Users are encouraged to upload photos of themselves and the oversized camera to Panasonic’s Facebook page for a change to win a trip to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Mark Robinson, head of Lumix Marketing at Panasonic, said:
We’ve received some fun and imaginative photos on our Facebook page showcasing perspective resulting from our larger than life sculptures. We’re sure our giant sized camera will prove a popular past time for commuters and help to raise the profile of our 8x life campaign.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
The recent KioskCom/Digital Signage Show served as a metaphor for the discussion of the future convergence of interactive applications and digital signage. The interactive apps were on red carpet, with the digital signage crowd on blue carpet in a smaller area. Only two vendors made a convergent statement by literally straddling the two sides. Ironically, one (Netkey) had been sold days earlier to NCR, a major player in kiosks with their own booth squarely on the interactive carpet. Is there a market imperative for the full convergence of digital signage and interactive apps? Or is the future simply a matter of coexistence of related, yet distinct technologies?

Understanding the fundamental differences between interactive applications and digital signage provides some insight into where convergence might occur. This table summarizes the high level comparisons:

Digital Signage
Interactive apps
One-to-many
One-to-one
Mostly dispensing information
Collecting and dispensing information
Synchronus operation, driven centrally
Asynchronus operation, driven by user
A call to action
A transaction
Impressions and results difficult to measure
Engagement and often results collected on the fly
Fundamentally, a presentation
Fundamentally, an application

At a high level, digital signage is a one-to-many form of communication, usually executed with large format screens. Conversely, interactive applications are generally one-to-one in nature, and as such are more often found on smaller format displays. The objective of digital signage tends to be to inform, sell and reinforce brand, while interactive apps generally have a transaction as the end game. Digital signage tends to be a scheduled, synchronus presentation, managed centrally. Kiosks are asynchronus applications, operated by the user.

While there are distinct differences between the two technologies, there have been some hints of convergence, or perhaps adaptation. We have seen digital signage software co-exist on kiosk devices, driving the screen with dynamic, centrally-controlled content when the device is idle. Back end tools can manage digital content that might be used in either environment. On-demand capabilities have appeared in digital signage, whereby a content loop can be suspended and a menu of stored videos can be accessed with a remote control.
User generated content (UGC), generally in the form of SMS messages or Twitter tweets displayed on a digital sign, have been hailed as a sign of convergence. But while it has its uses and some sizzle, UGC does not make digital signage one-to-one or truly interactive, and does not take it out of the presentation realm into the application realm.

Key non-technical reasons that the technologies are unlikely to evolve into one application stream are these: First, kiosks tend to be internally owned by operational functions, while digital signage is usually marketing-centric. As such, the budgets, buying cycles and objectives are quite different. Second, kiosks tend to be owned by the venue owners, where we still see a large number of digital signage networks owned by third parties. Again, this drives decision making into different hands. Additionally, it makes integration with corporate systems more likely for kiosks, as companies are loathe to integrate strategic internal systems with third party-controlled applications. Finally, privacy concerns, especially in health care and corporate environments, makes it less likely that interactive applications will be deployed in a one-to-many, digital signage type environment.

Mobile tools that leverage the smartphones carried by so many consumers have the potential to bridge the chasm between digital signage and kiosk applications from a content-centric angle. Digital signage content with calls to an SMS campaign or related URL can result in opt-in interactivity where the user is identified and receives additional information and offers. The emergence of 2D barcodes may be the best use of the often-controversial sidebar. Imagine the barcode displayed alongside a playing advertisement, allowing users to capture the code with their cell cams, and then receive coupons or other offers. These tools, perhaps along with Bluetooth (usage of which has lagged in the USA) will make digital signage active, but not fully interactive.

There are many reasons why digital signage and interactive applications are unlikely to fully converge. By their fundamental natures they strive to meet different objectives, require different development skills, and are generally implemented by different functional owners within organizations. Despite their differences, there are clear opportunities for each technology to learn lessons from the other. The market (defined as technology buyers) has not demanded that they converge, and the technical, organizational and functional obstacles to true convergence make such a requirement unlikely for the foreseeable future. Digital signage and kiosks will continue to coexist. Buyers who “force” or assume convergence may very well sub-optimize both their interactive and digital signage capabilities.
Posted by: Ken Goldberg AT 10:07 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 23 November 2009

Arrow Electronics and Seiko Instruments recently announced a partnership that makes Arrow an authorized distributor for Seiko’s line of receipt and ticket printers. The agreement is meant to bolster Arrow’s solution offering for kiosk designers.
 
From a distribution standpoint, Arrow carries a menu of kiosk components from leading manufacturers, such as displays, printers, power supplies and computing engines. Arrow OEM Computing Solutions (OCS) also provides kiosk vendors with an array of value-added services, addressing each of the phases required to bring a kiosk to market. The company says these outsourcing capabilities include design assistance and prototype development, integration and manufacturing, logistics, installation and post-sales support.
 
We sat down with George Papajohn, director of marketing for Arrow OCS, to discuss the need for outsourcing in the kiosk industry and to explore the potential impact these services can have on a kiosk vendor’s business.    
 
What outsourcing services are kiosk vendors asking for?
 
Kiosk designers’ requirements tend to be fairly broad in scope. Fundamentally, the need is for a reliable distributor with technical competency and strong manufacturer relationships. The distributor has to be able to recommend and deliver proven components that perform reliably in the field and don’t add integration complexity. The ability to offer the right financing programs is another imperative. Cash flow requirements cannot be overlooked. I would also say that scalability is a recurring theme.

For example, a smaller kiosk designer can develop a fantastic concept and prove it with a successful pilot program. And when it does go well, they might be faced with the enviable but perhaps daunting prospect of supporting a giant retailer. Not every kiosk designer can afford to maintain the capacity, logistics and support capabilities needed for a hiccup-free deployment on such a large scale. And we all know how difficult it can be when the end-customer introduces late design changes. The level of complexity and need for scale can spike fairly rapidly in this industry. With a robust outsourcing partner, the designer has a single supply source to rely on, and has access to integration facilities that can immediately scale to meet individual project needs.  

How does outsourcing impact a kiosk vendor’s business?

The right outsourcing partner can align themselves with a kiosk designer’s business and deliver a program that meets each project’s needs, in terms of components, value-added services and financing. It boils down to augmenting the designer’s internal capabilities on-demand, reducing overhead costs and eliminating headaches. This frees up the kiosk entrepreneur to focus on their true talents: product innovation and bringing in new business.

How do end-customers perceive a third party’s involvement in the project? 

I think the majority of customers are aware of the important contributions made by third parties in the supply chain. Distributors, contract manufacturers and logistics providers all play critical roles. A comprehensive outsourcing solution basically consolidates these elements. Some customers refer to this as having “one throat to choke” if an issue comes up. Regardless of the players involved, my perception is that customers want seamless execution, without unnecessary costs.   
 
Have outsourcing requirements been evolving?

With the recession, obviously most solutions providers have been feeling added pressure when it comes to cost and financing issues. Beyond that, there is no question that the breadth of self-service applications has continued to expand. This makes it even more important to align with the most capable suppliers, so that the right products are available to support these increasingly innovative solutions. 
 
How do you see this business in 2010?

The analyst reports we’ve looked at tend to predict growth for self-service in 2010. And there is no question that self-service technology provides a tangible bottom-line impact for end users. We anticipate this will certainly continue fueling new projects, and we are working hard to be able to anticipate and respond to customers’ continuing needs for value-added capabilities on a global scale

Posted by: George Papajohn AT 01:38 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Digital signage expert Keith Kelsen, founder of MediaTile, today launched a new initiative entitled “The 5th Screen Project,” an endeavor geared toward driving digital signage deployments and moving the industry forward.
 
As part of the initiative, Kelsen also will publish a book focused on content for digital signage. “Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage — Content Strategies for the 5th Screen,” is the first comprehensive book on digital signage content and will be published by Focal Press.
 
Kelsen describes digital signage as the fifth screen, with the other four being TV, computer, cinema and mobile.
 
The 5th Screen Project is comprised of three parts:

  • Leveraging the forthcoming book to educate the market on achieving content optimization
  • Continued development of content best practices through Kelsen’s chair position with the Digital Signage Association
  • Heading a stealth project related to a massive shift in media development and delivery

The 5th Screen Project began over a year ago as Kelsen began writing the book based on extensive interviews with industry leaders who research new media methodologies. Kelsen also took over as chair of the Digital Signage Association’s Content Best Practices committee in 2008 and was named the 2008 Digital Signage Man of the Year.
 
As part of the 5th Screen Project launch, Kelsen also stepped away from day-to-day operations of the MediaTile Company and handed control to newly appointed CEO Simon Wilson.
 
With the announcement of the project, Kelsen also has stepped down from his chairman of the board position at MediaTile and is now chairman and CEO of the newly formed 5thScreen Corp.
 
Kelsen announced the 5th Screen Project today at the Strategy Institute’s “Building Your Digital Signage Business” conference in Chicago, where he serves as chairperson for the two-day event.
 
“The fullest potential for digital signage has gone mostly untapped, and my vision is that this project will deliver a substantial uplift to deployments by concentrating on the critical elements for success,” said Kelsen. “Taking on this challenge to further drive the industry forward, and at greater pace, comes at a time in our industry that I consider to be the tipping point.”
 
  

Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:44 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Sunday, 15 November 2009

Supermarket giant Tesco recently created a buzz in the industry by opening a concept store (in Kingsley, Northampton) with just self-checkout lanes and no cashiers. Understandably, the reaction to this initiative from various quarters has been mixed. While Tesco claims that customers have reacted positively to the idea, workers’ unions have predictably expressed serious concerns over the implications of completely eliminating cashiers at the checkout point.

This move shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone tracking the evolution of self-service in the retail sector. In fact, it was entirely along expected lines. Despite the sizeable initial investment, there has been a clear shift towards self-checkout since the turn of this century, especially by big-box chains. Retailers are studying ways to attract new customers (in addition to retaining existing ones) and in this context, self-checkout has been positioned as a technology solution that can drive up customer satisfaction levels, leading to a more lasting relationship. Not to mention the cost savings.

And therein lies the rub.

Studies reveal that 20 percent to 30 percent of the payroll in retail is typically directed toward cashiers. With self-checkout, this figure can be brought down considerably. The key is to get a commitment to the cause at all levels, from top management to store managers and cashiers. While it’s true that self-service lanes would create some redundancies, the primary aim is to redeploy resources to service-oriented areas in the store. The redistribution of cost savings to other productive areas needs to be clearly articulated to store-level staff for this to work.

And there are the operational realities, of course. Retailers often tend to understaff self-checkout lanes, which can cause considerable delays if inexperienced users create a bottleneck. More often than not, consumers who become confused or embarrassed about their inability to complete a transaction tend to avoid self-checkout in the future. This makes the initial few transactions crucial from the retailer’s perspective. Studies also indicate that self-checkout systems lead to a marked decrease in impulse purchases — low-priced products such as candy, mints, chocolates, soda, water, chips and gum are placed around the cash counters. This can be attributed to the fact that customers have to focus on the checkout process completely. Inevitably, there are nagging security issues that need to be addressed as well.

None of this detracts from the obvious value proposition of self-checkout — when designed and implemented correctly, it can enhance the customer experience at the store and drive top-line growth. Most importantly, it leads to an increase in labor productivity and resource utilization. Labor productivity essentially refers to two aspects: The first is to remove the labor element itself, as an obvious cost-cutting measure. The second is to redirect the labor or resource into other departments where it can be better utilized, such as restocking shelves, bagging groceries or helping customers as they make purchases. Counter-intuitively, self-checkout can end up enhancing personalized service at the store, although it might appear to be leading to impersonalization. The consumer experience, always driven by speed, is made more efficient as customers can get out of the store faster. The privacy and convenience provided by these systems doesn’t hurt either.

The bottom line

Customers like choice. Studies show they are growing increasingly comfortable with self-service systems, such as ATMs and kiosks at airport terminals. Self-checkout, if offered alongside an optimal number of staff cashiers, is a definite positive. With time, the number of cashiers needed to supervise checkout lanes will decrease. In fact, the future might be even more radically different once RFID/mobile-POS/smartphone-enabled checkouts gain prevalence. Although the industry is not ready for a widespread rollout of self-service-only stores, this is the right time to experiment. Besides, the marginal cost-savings offered by self-checkout might be too good to pass up on during these tough economic times.

Aravindh Vanchesan is a program manager with the Frost & Sullivan North American ICT practice. He focuses on monitoring and analyzing emerging trends, technologies and dynamics in retail markets worldwide.

Posted by: Aravindh Vanchesan AT 01:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Last week I was sent an article from the Consumerist entitled “Bumblebee Tuna Tricks You Into Watching Commercials At The Grocery Store.” The article, which was filed under the Consumerists’ “Badvertising” section, is a commentary from a reader that encountered some in-store digital media from Bumblebee Tuna at his local Safeway store.

The display was a small shelf-edge screen with a silver button above, which upon pushing, caused the screen to play a 30-second Bumblebee Tuna TV commercial.

The writer’s reaction? “No coupons. No cooking ideas. No direct engagement with the shopper. Just the same, unimaginative advertising penetrating deeper into our everyday experiences - as if the market isn't saturated enough. I don't know how this could possibly be effective, but apparently they think it will be.”

Its no wonder the writer was upset – this is a BAD in-store digital signage installation! If you read this site or any other industry portal, you will see that we spend countless hours try to send the message to deployers to create compelling content, don’t repurpose 30-second TV ads and to give the shopper a reason to watch the screen.

The Consumerist digs this kind of stuff, but these kinds of articles don’t reflect well on the digital signage industry, especially when it is trying to battle its way into media budgets.

This article does serve as a great focus group, however. At this time of writing this, there were 38 comments to the post, and not too many of them were positive. For example:

“[In-store screens] were slightly annoying at Wal-Mart, but I expected as much from them. When they started showing up in Kroger and Publix a few months later they became downright absurd. The problem with the second wave is that some of them are not button-activated, but start blazing away whenever you walk by.”

“What a waste of store resources. And how annoying would it be to try to get past someone in the aisle watching that?”

“Hopefully these things test out to be a failed ad concept and in 6 months we'll forget all about them.”

Here’s the thing – it seems the writer would actually be open to the media if it were useful in some way. Take his quote above. He is looking for coupons, cooking ideas and direct engagement.

Here is another commenter’s response: “The bizarre part, in my opinion, is that they could do something cool with this…For example, what if there was a short puzzle you had to solve to get a coupon code or something?”

Bingo – in order for in-store digital media to work, there has to be a compelling reason for the shopper to engage with it. Thirty-second commercials and cheap ad spots don’t cut it with today’s modern shopper. And for those directly involved with retail digital signage, take some time to go through the 38 comments. Chances are these are the opinions of some of your customers.

*Note: When I read this article, I immediately contacted Paul Flanigan and Laura Davis-Taylor, two retail experts I work with often, to get their commentary. Their opinions on this subject are published below:

Paul Flanigan, Preset Group:

“Being an industry insider, I consider this a wonderful little focus group. Reading the article and the comments shows that customers do care very much about how they are treated with digital signs in a retail environment, and shows the vitriol when it goes wrong.

Overall, this is about as bad an example of digital signage or customer engagement at retail as I have ever seen, and I agree with several of the comments. This does nothing good for the industry as a whole. Instead, it puts many of us on the defensive to explain or justify why this is in the store.

There are several negative issues with this experience, from the fact that the reader pushed the button out of curiosity (instead of a desire) to the end result of complete disengagement (and ultimately sharing online with others). I’m willing to bet the reader did not purchase any Bumblebee Tuna. Seeing the photo of the display and seeing not only his reaction to the sign but the comments, it’s pretty easy to see that there was very little, if any, strategy or thought put into this. And that’s bad.

The single biggest reason the shoppers find this annoying is because it doesn’t offer anything to enhance the store experience, anything different from what the shoppers are already experiencing with other media. The reader and comments suggest exactly what it should be doing, providing something deeper than advertisement, something that would move a customer closer to a purchase decision in favor of the tuna. HogwartsAlum sums it up best: “If I were to watch a video of a recipe that looked kind of good and the product were right in front of me, I would probably reach out and take one.”

Worst of all is the fact that the manager would consider removing it because it does nothing but anger his shoppers, meaning it most certainly does not move product.

But, this is a great way to start the conversation of how ad agencies, brands, and retailers must work together to understand the environment and craft messaging much more appropriate. This is a world that agencies of all kinds must embrace to be competitive and valued in the eyes of their client, the brand, and the retailer.

I imagine that this will be used by several industry educators to explain what not to do when putting signage in the store.”

Laura Davis-Taylor, Retail Media Consulting, Inc.:

“My one key takeaway: “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean that you should”.

I will bet my bottom dollar that an ad agency that has no in-store experience came up with this utterly useless and contextually irrelevant promotion and it’s projects like these that are a black eye to our industry.

The author hit the nail on the head when he said that he hopes that someone figures out a way to deliver useful, informative or somewhat interesting information with these types of emerging digital media tools. People are busy, they are overwhelmed and they are under served. The last thing that they want to encounter is more “visual spam” in a world in which they encounter 3 – 4,000 media messages a day—most of which are not helpful or useful in any way.

One of the commentaries aptly stated that “the bizarre part is that they could easily do something cool with this” and “they could easily use this tech to engage people instead of just piss them off.”

It’s truly that simple. No retailer should EVER let a CPG put something like this into their aisles unless they have dug deep to understand what might help or delight their shopper and put some real-world testing into play to ensure that it’s readily accepted.

If shoppers love the experience, it becomes a fun or rewarding part of their shopping visit. If they hate it, they do things like write about how awful it was and spread the word to whomever will listen.

Let’s hope articles like these make brands wake up before we jeopardize what can be a really wonderful shopper help tool. (And ad agencies, get out of the store!!!)

Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP Group CEO, made several key points that relate to Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) while delivering the opening keynote to a packed house at Ad-Tech in New York this week. WPP employs 145,000 marketing agency professional in 2,400 offices in 107 countries.

“The good news about new media is that it is one-to-one, but the bad news is that it is one-to-one,” making it harder to reach the “audience of many," Sorrell said.
 
Digital out-of-home does indeed offer high reach to an “audience-of-many” while providing the precision of demographic and location-based, day-part, out-of-home targeting. The combination of a large installed base of displays at points of purchase, wait, transit and gathering along with concise message targeting is an inherent strength of digital signage and DOOH. The network operators comprising the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) deliver an estimated 3 billion-plus venue traffic impressions per month in more than 59,000 venues across all major markets and network rrepresentation agencies such as Adcentricity, SeeSaw Networks and rVue make media planning and placement easy.

Agencies can “have their cake and eat it too” by using DOOH. A brand can be positioned using placement and content strategy at both specific and multiple points along a communications continuum of “one-to-one” versus “one-to-many.”

Sorrell noted that “agencies are going to become much more involved in the development of 'content' and all of its implications.” This points to a refocusing of brand messaging by agencies, which are, after all, both guardian and builder of brand equity.

Bill Ratcliffe, formerly of the WPP analytics provider Millward Brown is credited with noting that “the power of digital signage is to both brand and merchandise at the same time”.   

“The lines between advertising and editorial are going to become much more blurred,” Sorrell added.

DOOH can readily accommodate “sponsored content” which can provide advertiser profiles with value to the viewer and the display location provider at the same time. For example, while credit card advertising is often restricted on campuses, messaging aimed at improving financial-management skills could be sponsored by a particular card service provider.

As the pressure on all media to deliver more value increases, Digital Out-of-Home is already positioned where leaders of the agency “puck” want it to go. Win-win-win on the part of brands, agencies and media companies is offered by DOOH.

Posted by: Lyle Bunn AT 10:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 09 November 2009
The current crisis has further enhanced the focus that business organizations have always placed on cutting costs and raising efficiency. This naturally also applies to banks, which are increasingly opting to automate their processes and, in their search for additional savings potential, need support from professional IT providers.
 
Optimized management of cash streams based on end-to-end cash cycle management makes it possible for financial institutions to reduce costs and improve transparency and security over the long term — especially if cash cycles are analyzed across banking and retail sectors.
 
This assumption is based on detailed reviews and process cost analyses, which have been updated continuously over recent years. Parallel to the increase in cashless payments with credit and bank cards, the trend for consumers to use cash continues unabated: In Europe, eight out of 10 transactions are handled in cash. The annual increase in euro banknotes, according to the European Central Bank, is 9 percent — EUR 677 billion now in circulation. Set against this, the volume of USD notes in circulation rose 42 percent from 2000 to 2007, and GBP notes rose by 50 percent.
 
The current global economic crisis has led to forecasts that actually anticipate a progressive short-term rise in the use of cash. This is indicated by the rising volume of cash in circulation and the increase in cash withdrawals from ATMs.
 
In absolute terms, the use of cash goes hand in hand with a high cost base. A study published by the European Payment Council quotes the cost of cash transactions in Europe at EUR 50 billion. According to Wincor's research, cash transactions showed a rate of EUR 11.9 billion for Germany — breaking down into EUR 4.2 billion in the banking sector and EUR 7.7 billion in the retail segment.
 
Against this backdrop, the ECB published the European Recycling Framework in 2007 to give banks more scope and flexibility in banknote processing. It allows the cash cycle to be shortened if certain requirements are met — banknotes that are accepted in banking and retail scenarios can be paid out again, provided they pass forgery and fitness tests. This framework agreement is likely to prompt other central banks to follow the example set by the central banks in the United Kingdom and Spain and to phase themselves out of the central cash provisioning process.
 
Whereas around 80 percent of the cash in circulation today is still managed at a central point, the plan is to reduce this figure to 50 percent in the future. This reorganization will involve a steep rise in charges for retail banks that choose to let the central bank process their cash. In Germany, the vastly diminished net of Bundesbank branches means that banks will have to expect longer journeys and considerably higher costs for transport, cash processing and interest. The European Recycling Framework disposes that FIs may now outsource their cash handling activities to a certified cash center or handle them themselves with their own staff.
 
But the personnel costs incurred when internal bank staff handle cash already account for the largest chunk — more than 60 percent — on the cost side, so that automating cash transactions is by far the most effective lever for cutting costs in cash cycle management.
 
Focus on the entire cash cycle
 
The cash cycle is a special part of the supply chain, in which the product, cash, has to be made available at the right time, in the right amount using a minimum of resources. On this basis, rationalization measures should start at the point where most of the costs are incurred in the cash handling process: in the branches. The object should be to relieve staff in retail stores and bank branches of routine manual cash handling work. This must focus first and foremost on manual processes, in which cash is counted, sorted and packaged according to the four-eyes rule.
 
A first and relatively simple step toward reducing costs is to shift personnel-intensive services away from the counter onto self-service machines. ATMs and automated teller safes with a cash recycling functionality that meet legal requirements already implement the core aspect of the European Recycling Framework. They shorten the cash cycle right at the start, a step that guarantees major cost savings. Systems that check deposited notes for authenticity and fitness before dispensing them again to customers allow banks to achieve savings of between EUR 40,000 and EUR 100,000 per branch.
 
In a project that Wincor Nixdorf handled with a big international bank, deploying systems with a recycling function successfully reduced the number of cash-in-transit journeys by one-third and the cost of cash procurement by 30 percent. Optimization of replenishment volumes and intervals represents another cost lever.
 
Comprehensive cash cycle management actually goes further than this. It analyzes the entire process chain, including cash provisioning processes across the banking and retail sectors and reductions in the cash cycle between banks and retail stores.
 
In a project with Shell Germany, cash taken at up to 1,300 service stations was used to pay out money to bank customers at Postbank.
 
Further cross-sector models and scenarios are conceivable. Cash that is accepted in a retail outlet could be used to replenish nearby ATMs, provided that cash handling is based on intelligent systems that process the cash automatically, generate an audit trail and dispense with the need to re-sort cash holdings manually.
 
The prime objective of a cash cycle management solution must always be to guarantee transparency, quality, security and reduced costs across the entire cash cycle. Analysis represents the first step in an end-to-end process evaluation in the development of individually optimized solutions. This is the basis for designing individual optimization concepts that, with the aid of appropriate hardware and software and a standardized portfolio of services, manage the cash cycle.
Posted by: Uwe Krause AT 01:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 04 November 2009
I often get requests for digital signage case studies that show sales lift – of any kind (A recent conversation: "One percent! I don’t care if it’s even one percent!") Most of these folks are digital signage companies or marketers looking to sell systems and need hard evidence that digital signage works when selling products.

Here I am going to feature two case studies that do just that. One is a case study from YCD Multimedia that I have been pointing people to for awhile now, and the other is a recently released study from the Wall Street Journal Network and Starcom for its 2008 Blackberry campaign.

Aroma Espresso sales boosted through YCD digital merchandising (2008)

Since Aroma Espresso Bar began using YCD Multimedia’s cash display screen, the chain has experienced a 25-35 percent overall sales increase. In this case, customer-facing screens were placed in front of the POS systems in order to influence customer decisions. Furthermore, Aroma has experienced a sales increase in the following categories:
 
• 70 percent increase on promoted desserts
• 30 percent increase on promoted flavored mineral water
• 50 percent increase on coffee and cake promotions
 
Aroma is an international espresso chain with over 80 locations in Israel, New York City, and Toronto, Canada. Aroma uses YCD’s digital media solution to increase revenue with point of sale, deliver a coherent brand experience, and provide customers with on-site entertainment. The cash display screens provide Aroma with a direct promotional channel that can be easily measured.

Wall Street Journal DOOH network creates 16% sales boost for Blackberry

The Wall Street Journal Network released a case study about its 2008 DOOH/place-based media campaign with Blackberry that resulted in a 16 percent sales lift from those who engaged in the program.

Last year, Starcom, while working for Blackberry, bought a program of media on the WSJ Network and also coordinated 15 place-based events in three cities: Atlanta, Philadelphia and San Francisco. The events that reached 90,000 customers and resulted in 7,000 direct interactions with customers. The events resulted in 3,000 gathered leads.

WSJ saw that average purchase intent grew 51 percent and brand engagement went up 61 percent. Nearly three months later, attendees were surveyed about their purchases and it was found that there was a 16 percent sell-through for Blackberrys from those that attended the place-based events. This case study was profiled last week at the OVAB Digital Media Summit in New York City by Erin Simino of Starcom Worldwide and Robert Passikoff, Ph.D., of Brand Keys Inc.

Compared to a control group who had not seen ads or attended the event, sales from attendees were about eight times higher.

Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 02 November 2009

The global economic crisis — coupled with increasing competition and rising customer expectation — has compelled the aviation industry to devise innovative and cost-saving solutions. As such, airlines all over the world are looking to technology to generate more demand and drive down costs.

Self-check-in services are helping airlines cut costs and improve customer experience. Moreover, according to IATA’s 2009 Corporate Air Travel Survey, more than 50 percent of passengers worldwide want more self-service options. Customers feel more empowered while using self-check-in services and save time at the airports. Online check-in, kiosks and mobile technology are ushering in a new era of customer self-service, while self-service kiosks are increasingly becoming more and more popular, as proven by their increased usage. Kiosks are also working well in tandem with online and mobile technologies.

According to the SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self Service Study, kiosk check-in usage is set to rise over the years and interactive kiosks will increasingly shift to the forefront of self-service. Kiosks not only benefit people who do not check-in online, but can also be used to provide multiple functionalities at the airport — like car rental or hotel check-in. Moreover, in the near future kiosks may become excellent avenues through which ancillary services might be purchased.

Another area where kiosks will play a huge role is in the process of self-tagging baggage. IATA, with its Fast Travel Program, will immensely improve and enhance passenger self-service through kiosks performing the functions such as printing bag tags, scanning documents, automating boarding gates and reporting missing baggage. Furthermore, the advent of CUPPS (Common Use Passenger Processing System) architecture — technology that enables airlines and handling agents to access their own applications from multiple workstations and peripherals throughout the airport that are shared by all users — will help continue to bring about increased efficiencies and cost savings.

In addition to kiosks, mobile technology will continue to take the world by storm. Mobile technology has a distinct advantage over kiosks — our mobile phone is always with us. It is thus very convenient to use one’s phone for various services. Mobile phones can be used not just for checking in but also to complete the entire booking process. They can also be used for the sale of ancillary services like hotels, cars and also for timetables, notifications, alerts, social networking and much more.

According to a 2009 SITA IT Trends survey, 80 percent of the airlines surveyed are planning to offer mobile check-in capabilities by 2012. What’s more, IATA has targeted 100 percent Bar Coded Boarding Passes (BCBP) by 2010. These facts alone guarantee the future of self-service technologies at the airport.

As network access speeds become ever faster and smart phones become increasingly powerful, the future of mobile services is poised to become even more popular than kiosk and Web check-in. Now, mobile check-in users consist of business and frequent travelers and smart phone users. However, this trend is sure to change as more and more leisure travelers are also purchasing smart phones.

The writer is senior business associate with NIIT Technologies.

Posted by: Kanishka Sharma AT 01:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Digital out-of-home (DOOH) is the result of media evolution over the years. First came outdoor, before TV and PC. For hundreds of years, bill posting signs to advertise has been in our out of home experience. Think about the Barnum and Bailey or the Wild Bill Hickok show posters in the late 1800’s. Even before that, in Egypt, papyrus was used to create wall posters for sales messages thousands of years ago. In a sense, out-of-home is the oldest form of advertising.

In the 1920’s came the automobile, as did the roadside signs and the barn-side painted ads (Think “Mail Pouch Tobacco” and “Burma Shave”). This truly launched the out-of-home nomenclature among the industry.

Fast forward to the mid 1960s.Out-of-home advertising again became part of the advertising world’s nomenclature simply to differentiate it from TV which was becoming more influential. OOH was used to describe everything from magazines at the dentist office to billboards.

In the 1970s, out-of-home media was used quite extensively by advertising agencies for billboards. In the late 70’s the first Light Emitting Diode Television Screen was invented, which was the predecessor to LED Billboards. By the mid 1990s we entered the digital age of media and digital out-of-home was developed as a term used by agencies again to describe digital billboards and other screens such as those in point of transit (not necessarily networked).

Meanwhile, from 1995 through 2005, other types of advertising networks were being launched, like NGN and LED screens in Times Square and were sometimes called “animated and digital signs.” This is where the technologists and entrepreneurs were building networks and calling it “digital signage,” taking the technology approach to naming this new industry.
Another phase that needs to be thrown into the mix was narrowcasting. This was also used by many at the time to describe a new industry. And who could forget the launch of FRED, or Foto Realistic Electronic Displays in 1997?

Then the first Digital Signage Expo in San Francisco was launched in spring of 2004, cementing the name for the industry. Later in the fall of 2004 at a meeting in NYC, the name “digital signage” was still being discussed among leaders in the industry. Everyone was still looking to hang their hat on a name for the industry and many did not want digital signage. At the time, the industry was referring to itself as “digital signage” so the majority had made the decision to stick with the name digital signage simply because of technology companies that had marketing money invested in the name.

In the time frame from 2005-2008 most agencies were referring to it as digital out-of-home simply because it fit their historic nomenclature out-of-home advertising. Today most agencies think of it as DOOH and many in the industry are referring to it as digital out-of-home when it refers to ad-based networks. The agencies are driving this. More of the industry itself is referring to in-store placements and internal communications as digital signage. There is a distinct difference between ad based networks (DOOH) and non-ad based networks (digital signage).

In 2009 we are seeing the name DOOH starting to incorporate mobile or any DOOH strategy that ends up on a display. Today digital signage is commonly replaced with DOOH referring to it in context of the digital signage medium.
In summary, digital out-of-home is anything that is digitally shown on any display. Mobile falls into this category as does digital signage, but all related to ad-based networks.

I predict that over time digital signage will be replaced by DOOH in relationship to ad-based networks, where as corporate communication and in-store networks will continue to refer to the industry as digital signage.
Posted by: Keith Kelsen AT 10:10 am   |  Permalink   |  0 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
Thursday, 22 October 2009
It seems that the number of digital signage press releases on the wire is constantly increasing. So why is so much of it so bad?

The industry executives I speak with almost uniformly admit they know they could and should do better, but don’t have the time or resources. Coming from technology, ad sales and retail backgrounds, they also haven’t the insight or experience to recognize the good from the bad.

In the interest of helping better shape the message, here are a few tips:  

Figure out what makes your company unique, and go hard with it

For whatever reason this is a “me, too” business, with most vendors marketing themselves on the same general range of features and capabilities that their competitors are also trumpeting.  It’s hard to stand out from the pack if all you have to half-heartedly report is the written equivalent of, “Yeah, ummm, we do that stuff, too.”

There will be something your firm has developed, or work your team has done with a client, that is at least uncommon and worthy of a little marketing noise. Maybe your company had to figure out a solution that involved GPS and mass transit? That experience and capability is far more intriguing than telling the world your platform does all that stuff everybody else does, too.

Get to the point

Anyone who has been involved in this sector for a while knows how important it is to have good programming that quickly captures the attention of viewers. The same thing applies with a company’s written communications. Between emails, RSS feeds, tweets and texts, people are carpet-bombed all day with marketing messages. That means your message better make its point quickly, or it will be passed by.

Empty phrases that clutter the opening lines of announcements need to be dropped.  The point of your communication can’t be buried somewhere in the third paragraph of your e-mailer. You can’t write something that people need to read twice just to figure out, because they won’t .

Put your key messages in context

When you are banging out your key features and benefits messages, and announcements about new gadgets and gizmos, make sure you do the extra work to explain what that means for your prospective customers.

When your company celebrates the release of a new energy efficient combination of PC and display panel in an all-in-one package, don’t stop there. It’s better described as a technology combination capable of dropping energy consumption for a signage deployment by as much as 25%.

Adding 250 more screens and locations doesn’t mean your ad network is now in 600 locations in five states.  The message for prospective advertisers, the ones you’re after, is that the addition of 250 sites means your highly-targeted digital out of home media network is now reaching 200,000 affluent consumers every week.

Think through the whole communications chain

How many times have you read a press release, or the news story that spilled out of it, that was effective enough to send you to the company Website to find out more, only to find there was no “more” to be found?

Marketing and media communications have to be carried through the whole chain. If there’s an announcement, it needs to already be up on the Website and easy to find. The sales people need to be briefed on what it is about so that they can respond knowledgeably and not feel like doofuses. They also need material, ready to go, they can send out as follow-ups to calls, and it shouldn’t be just the same thing the prospects just read.

Meanwhile, existing clients need and expect to get early word of new goodies from their vendor, and to first learn of it on some blog.
   
Choose your words with care

There are powerful phrases, and there are empty phrases. Good writers choose their words carefully, and think about things like the rhythm and emotion of the message. Most of the people writing copy for Websites, email updates and press releases are doing so not because they like writing, but because they have to ... so even if takes forever to prepare, those people spend little time actually thinking about the message.

That’s how the industry has ended up with a vast sea of empty phrases and buzzwords about leading, turnkey solutions and revolutionary, state of the art development.  If someone only has to write copy every now and then, there’s a natural tendency to look around and borrow on what other companies are doing. They read three press releases starting off with “leading provider” and figure they better get that in there, too. They see Websites that talk “turnkey” and figure that needs to get in there. The result, every day and everywhere, is yet more of the same blabber.

Whether it’s Website copy, email blasts or press releases, whoever gets charged with doing the writing should ignore what else is out there, forget they ever read phrases like “best of breed” and “taken to the next level”, and think through the messages that would actually resonate with prospective customers and partners.

It’s an after-thought for a lot of companies, but developing the right message that helps drive product awareness, build credibility and boost sales needs the same attention to detail as product and market development. You can have a kickass product, a fabulous network footprint, or do amazing creative, but if you do a bad job of getting the word out, few people will know.
Posted by: David Haynes AT 11:54 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Several years ago, there was not a term for LCD and plasma screens that provided information in public spaces. But as time passed, the term “digital signage” rose to the top of industry nomenclature and became the standard.

We seem to be faced a similar situation again. The rise of installations and interest in advertising on digital signage networks has spawned a new term: digital out-of-home, also known as DOOH. But is this really what the industry wants it to be called? Ad agencies can confuse DOOH with traditional out-of-home (OOH). Others think it sounds too “Homer Simpson.”

DigitalSignageToday.com gathered experts in the digital signage and digital out-of-home industries to discuss their opinions on the definition of DOOH.

Keith Kelsen, MediaTile:

Today digital signage is commonly replaced with digital out-of-home, referring to it in the context of the digital signage medium. Digital out-of-home is anything that is digitally shown on any display. Mobile falls into this category, as does digital signage, but all are related to ad-based networks. I predict that over time digital signage will be replaced by DOOH in relationship to ad-based networks, whereas corporate communication and in-store networks will continue to refer to the industry as digital signage.

Mike DiFranza, Captivate Network:

Digital out-of-home (DOOH) is a very broad term that I believe is often misunderstood. DOOH is really made up of at least two distinct categories: Digital signage (which includes electronic billboards) and digital place-based content networks.

The first category is found on roadsides,and we think of them as “glance media” opportunities for advertisers targeting mass audiences.

The second category, of which we consider Captivate Network to be a part, targets niche audiences in a particular venue and provides customized content and promotions for that channel. For example, Captivate Network might run ads on local weekend getaways because our research shows that the vast majority of office professionals do their vacation planning while at work.

DOOH content is “digital," in that it is typically distributed through a digital infrastructure and is therefore more targetable and interactive than more traditional media. We believe this explains the comparatively higher viewer engagement and ad effectiveness scores of DOOH versus other media channels.

Doug Scott, Reach Media Group:

From my standpoint, I would draw a distinction between the “umbrella” category: Digital out-of-home and sub-categories such as digital billboards, digital location-based media, etc.
So, I would define digital out-of-home as “digital signage displaying content and/or advertising in places away from the home.”

I would define digital location-based media as “digital networks of screens displaying contextually relevant content and/or advertising in locations away from home with extended dwell times.”

I would define digital billboards as “digital screens away from home displaying generally static advertising to consumers in environments with limited or no dwell time.”

Stephen Randall, LocaModa:

Digital out-of-home refers to dynamic media distributed across placed-based networks in venues including but not limited to cafes, bars, restaurants, health clubs, colleges, arenas and public spaces. DOOH networks typically feature independently addressable screens, kiosks, jukeboxes and/or jumbotrons. DOOH media benefits location owners and advertisers alike in being able to engage customers and/or audiences and extend the reach and effectiveness of marketing messages.

Ashley Flaska, NEC Display Solutions:

DOOH is any signage that is running content and/or advertising in a public space. This could be four-inch shelf talkers in a grocery store all the way to massive LED billboards on the side of the road and everything digital in between. The differentiation is the word “digital.” Regular “outdoor” equals static signage — static billboards, static signage on the sides of buses or buildings, static signs at bus stops or in airports, static taxi toppers, just to name a few. Displays in the DOOH space have to be powered by a media player or PC in order to accept “digital assets.”

Lyle Bunn, BUNN Co.:

A myriad of descriptors are still being used, though the term digital out-of-home (DOOH) has gained broad acceptance in use to describe networks that are primarily supported by advertising revenues, since advertising has typically been assigned from the “out-of-home” budget. Such networks operate on a for-profit basis and are typically owned by the location provider or investors. The Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) membership accounts for more than 400,000 dynamic, location-based video displays, which are available to present messages paid for by advertisers. The term “in-store TV” has been used to help tap into TV budget allocations and “the outernet” also has been used to help DOOH networks access online ad spending. The term digital signage serves as an umbrella term or is applied to networks that are typically funded by internal communications or operational budgets for patron, visitor, staff, student or community communications.

Janice L. Litvinoff, Cisco:

The DOOH market consists of any digital display outside of the home, used for the sale of advertising “spots” or “impressions.” DOOH is a unique intersection between advertising, digital signage and traditional out-of-home. For the advertising market, DOOH is just another digital-advertising medium and is more targeted than television and print. For digital signage, DOOH is an ad-based business model, different from other models such as sales/marketing, corporate communications, and sports/entertainment, to name a few. For the traditional out-of-home market, DOOH is simply the digital form of media used on billboards or other street furniture.

Bill Collins, DecisionPoint Media Insights:

For the purpose of this definition, the terms “digital signage” networks and “digital out-of-home” networks can be used interchangeably, but with one exception. The exception: when screen networks are deployed inside corporate buildings largely for human-resource and corporate-communication purposes, this is digital signage, but it cannot be accurately referred to as digital out-of-home.

Digital signage is comprised of networked electronic displays (such as LCD, LED, plasma or projection technology) that show information, advertising and other messages that are relevant to the specific venue or geographic location where the displays are visible to viewers. Digital signage can be found in public and private environments — both indoors and outdoors — alongside roadsides and at other venues such as retail stores, hotels, hospitals, shopping malls, motion-picture theaters and inside corporate buildings. Messages on digital signage networks always include visual images (sometimes moving images, sometimes a succession of static images). These messages may also include audio. Although most digital signage networks are connected across distances via the Internet or satellite communication and are controlled technically from one central network operations center, for the purposes of this definition of digital signage, we also will include the so-called “sneaker-net” networks. For these “sneaker nets,” the operator of the digital signage network drives the content to the screens from DVDs, memory chips or other memory devices that are physically connected to the electronic displays on-site.

Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 10:11 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 19 October 2009
The average credit union member is 49 years old and is likely to be a very loyal customer. But credit unions need to do a better job of attracting new, younger members, says Karen Morgan, executive vice president of San Francisco-based oFlows Inc. OFlows works with credit unions to help promote paperless transactions — pushing more “green” operations.
 
“The credit union industry needs to do a better job of explaining to members what the difference between a credit union and a bank is,” Morgan said during her opening presentation at the Credit Union Services & Products Forum in San Diego. “They need to develop campaigns that get the word out about what they have to offer, and they need to do a better job of appealing to a younger audience.”
 
Are credit unions actively driving traffic to their Web sites, and is the user experience on those sites enjoyable? And what about mobile banking? Are credit unions exploiting the mobile channel?
 
Those were some of the questions Morgan asked of the 80 or so credit unions represented Monday during the forum’s opening day. Unfortunately, a lot of credit unions have not been able to successfully appeal to a diverse membership and attract the 18- to 35-year-old age group, while not turning the 45- to 54-year-old age group away.
 
One misconception younger consumers have, Morgan says, is that credit unions have too few ATMs and branches. In reality, because of cooperative alliances, such as shared branching and on-us ATM transactions through co-op arrangements, credit unions actually offer more convenience than some of the nation’s largest banks. But credit unions are not getting the word out.
 
“Credit unions actually have the largest ATM networks in the United States,” Morgan said.
 
Leading credit union ATM networks, such as Co-Op Financial Services’ Co-Op Network and Credit Union 24, have large ATM networks. The Co-Op Network includes surcharge-free member access at 28,000 ATMs in the United States, and Credit Union 24’s network includes more than 100,000 ATMs nationally and internationally.
 
“We need to promote the fact that we have a far-reaching network,” Morgan said.
 
Marketing will be key for credit unions going forward, she says, as will enhanced technology.
 
I, too, gave a presentation yesterday about the need for credit unions to enhance their self-service channels and optimize their branches with more assisted self-service. Many conference attendees seemed reluctant to see the need for the leap.
 
But attracting younger members, or even unbanked consumers, will require a different approach — whether it is through stronger collaboration with retailers and ISOs for more off-premises deployments that offer advanced functions or through more mobile marketing.
 
Morgan says catchy marketing campaigns, such as the slogan oFlows helped one of its credit unions in Colorado develop, “ATM Fees Really Suck,” are going to garner attention among younger age groups. She also suggested that mobile campaigns, such as the ATM-locator SMS/texting campaign that some of her credit union customers promoted last year, can make a big difference.
 
After launching the “ATMATM” texting campaign, participating credit unions, Morgan said, immediately noticed an uptick in ATM transactions. The texting feature was quickly adopted by younger members.
 
Also, credit unions that launched campaigns that appealed to younger users, such as the “ATM Fees Really Suck” campaign, did notice an increase in new members between the ages of 18 and 35.
 
“We were able to increase assets for our credit unions as a result of these campaigns,” Morgan said.
 
Delivery channels need to be interactive and consistent, and technology will play an ever-increasing role — whether through self-service or the mobile channel. Morgan and I agree on that front.
 
More users, regardless of age and gender, prefer online banking. Making the leap to mobile banking won't be so difficult, since smart phones allow mobile browsing — the online and mobile experiences are similar if not the same.
 
And on the self-service front, basic transactions, such as cash deposits and cash withdrawals, can be moved to a self-service device very easily. I suggested during my presentation that even more complex transactions, such as funds transfers and bill payments also could be moved to the self-service channel — freeing tellers for more complex transactions and up-sell interactions with members.
 
Deposit-automation technology is the gateway to a whole host of new transactions. And the green element cannot be ignored. By removing envelopes from the transaction, credit unions improve efficiency and reduce paper. It’s something members, especially younger members, will appreciate.
 
No one wants to bank in an environment perceived to be outdated or boring. To stay ahead of the curve, credit unions will have to be savvy and show their members that they can be cutting edge.
Posted by: Tracy Kitten AT 01:27 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
Digital signage is more than cool — it’s smart. Companies around the world are realizing that digital signage is a good investment, not only because it adds a high-tech edge to a venue, but because it addresses the specific business needs of increasing revenue and decreasing costs.

When talking about digital signage, the conversation usually turns quickly to advertising-based networks. Digital signage is an advertiser’s dream. It targets an ad displayed based on the audience who will view it by using an endless number of variables, including time of day, location of the ad, weather, sales system data and even the characteristics of the person standing in front of the screen.

As any good marketer knows, the more targeted the message, the better chance of compelling the desired response. But with traditional media, it has been too expensive to be that targeted.  Digital signage changes the game with a level of targeting that is unmatched by any other medium. Plus, it can be used to increase revenue in other ways than advertising. It can lengthen customer visits, improve customer experiences and increase brand awareness, all of which can increase revenue.

Despite the costs associated with hardware, software and services for digital signage, it can actually save customers money. Traditional signage incurs a large expense for printing and shipping to various locations. And, unfortunately, a lot of that printed signage is never displayed or is displayed improperly. Digital signage eliminates the need for any action by anyone at the location of the signage, giving companies 100-percent compliance with provided signage.

Here is an example. Rikstoto, a horse race betting agency in Norway, was printing thousands of flyers daily and shipping them to convenience stores throughout Norway. Once Riksoto implemented a digital signage network, it decreased its costs dramatically and increased its revenue far more than expected.

Other companies have saved money by using digital signage to communicate with employees not typically connected to e-mail, provide remote training, provide self-service kiosks and more.

So, the question isn’t if digital signage will go mainstream, it’s when. Companies ranging in size from the very tiny such as the diner where you eat breakfast on the weekends to multi-billion dollar international giants like IKEA, Burger King and Rabobank are running digital signage networks today. They are the smart ones. They get to make money with digital signage and save money with digital signage. Plus they get the added benefit of being on the cutting edge of this technology, whereas companies who wait five to ten years to start digital signage networks will be playing catch-up with these forward-thinking enterprises.
Posted by: Andrea Waldin AT 10:12 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 12 October 2009
Mobile banking is the next major, logical step in retail banking. And the exponentially increasing adoption rates prove its growing popularity. But how ready are financial institutions to choose a mobile-banking solution? Are they evaluating the options based on short-term knowledge of the technology, or do they truly understand the power this channel has to build and solidify customer relationships in the next two to five years? And have they truly considered what these new relationships can mean, not only to the customer experience but also to bottom-line profitability?

To truly understand, let’s take a look at a very real mobile-banking scenario: A consumer approaches an ATM to withdraw $200 from his checking account. His balance following this transaction will be $300. Because he has an auto loan from the same FI and also uses online bill payment, the FI determines that his balance will not cover his $325 car payment that is due in two days. A text alert is immediately sends a text message to his mobile phone to confirm he wants to proceed with the transaction, potentially saving him an unnecessary overdraft fee.

Never have financial institutions — or any other organizations for that matter — had a better opportunity to relate so intimately and relevantly with customers or members.

To fully grasp the impact, consider the long-term benefits of such an intimate customer relationship. Also consider the efficiency with which this relationship is delivered, when compared with other marketing efforts that can cost thousands of dollars with returns of less than 2 percent.
 
Today’s mobile-banking functionality represents merely a sliver of what the channel ultimately can do. For the FI, the mobile phone as a channel is really a proxy for the consumer. Wherever the phone is, the consumer also is. These days, half the world’s population is carrying a mobile phone. 

So how can an FI best utilize this channel? The ones that will succeed with their mobile-banking deployment are those that use the channel for the purposes of timely, contextual and relevant messages to consumers.

How FIs capitalize on the mobile revolution
 
The real value in mobile banking goes far beyond simple account balance inquiries, transfers and alerts. Sure, there’s immediate payback to the FI in migrating these basic transactions away from costlier teller or call center alternatives, but the most important role mobile plays for FIs is in relationship building. It’s in integrating other delivery channels to give consumers new, value-added services and unprecedented convenience and control. It’s in providing a consumer a greater sense of security during an ATM transaction by authenticating the user. And it’s in facilitating payments as a means of avoiding a late fee or as an alternative to more expensive, less convenient options.

Channel collaboration
 
By leveraging existing ATM technology, FIs can capture consumer preferences and integrate that data with back-end customer relationship-management systems. Marketing offers, for example, can be timely, in context and immediate — all of which is enabled by the nature of the mobile channel. For that reason, it is possible to achieve double-digit response rates that dwarf those of traditional direct-marketing tactics.

With marketing via mobile phones, there are many more data points that can be collected, which helps FIs customize their communications. These increasingly customized communications yield more intimate relationships. And this integrated, immediate approach helps FIs bolster service and promote cross-selling opportunities to consumers who rely on mobile devices and those who are underbanked or don’t have convenient access to brick-and-mortar establishments.
  
Facilitating payments

Mobile banking as a channel strategy allows FIs to provide value-added services in helping consumers manage their money. Consider the wallet-management philosophy that some FIs have applied as an extension to online banking. It provides consumers with seamless access to their finances, along with intuitive, tangible and direct control of their money through tools, graphs and interactive features that help track spending and other activity. Expanding this concept to mobile banking and the ATM enables a new service once only intended for the Web that can benefit consumers in how they use other delivery channels. Adding mobile banking to wallet management enables the immediacy factor and two-way text alerts to dramatically improve the service FIs provide to their most committed customers and members.

Offering new services
 
Person-to-person, or P2P, payments, which enable consumers to make and receive payments with one another electronically, is just one of the new opportunities FIs can offer to strengthen the consumer relationship. In the United States alone, account-to-account transactions are a $320 billion industry. Mobile banking allows FIs to provide this service more conveniently and less expensively than existing wire-transfer methods by sending money to an individual’s phone number. By leveraging existing technology, P2P transactions are conducted on a mobile phone and a code is sent to the intended party’s phone. The person is then able to go to an ATM, enter the code and receive the cash. The phone becomes the information conduit to make this transaction happen seamlessly, while the ATM allows the cash transfer to take place in real-time.

Enhancing security
 
An added security layer that mobile banking offers FIs and consumers addresses a high-profile area of vulnerability: skimming. For example, the end-user approaches an ATM to take out cash; he enters his PIN and instantly receives a text message requiring him to enter a one-time six-digit code at the terminal to complete the transaction. This consumer card-control solution utilizes one channel to protect what is happening in another. Other mobile banking security tactics include proximity-based alerts, which further mitigate fraud due to skimming. This innovative security software can validate the card being used at an ATM, as well as the location or proximity of the accountholder’s mobile phone in relation to that specific ATM. If the software can’t detect this relationship, the transaction is terminated.
 
Developing loyalty and profitability
 
Mobile banking provides unprecedented opportunities to build relationships with customers. It does this by delivering timely, contextual and meaningful messages in a very personal way. Mobile banking is a catalyst for developing a new level of loyalty and intimacy for FIs with their customers and members, and for building a new level of profitability. To achieve this, however, FIs need a partner that understands, shares and drives the same vision. An FI’s mobile-banking partner must have the expertise to implement and sustain a complete mobile-banking channel strategy and support its technology. But more importantly, it must understand the full potential this offering brings to FIs and consumers alike. Mobile banking truly is the next generation in banking.
  
Robert Usner is senior director for global market strategy and planning for Diebold Inc.
Posted by: Bob Usner AT 01:24 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 07 October 2009
Those who closely follow the digital signage industry and run the tradeshow circuit know that the expo floor is just one of the eventful places at a tradeshow. Most of the real value in these tradeshows is found outside of the expo hall in the breakout conferences.

For the most part, digital signage tradeshows over the past several years have realized this and expanded their conference sessions greatly. There are even conferences that focus exclusively on only sessions and panel discussions.

Over the past several years, I have spoken at several of these conferences and tradeshows and attended many more. Recently I was asked to speak during both days of a digital signage event, followed by presentations from a number of vendors exhibiting there.

I’m not saying that my presentation was better than anyone else’s, but what I can tell you is that during my presentation, I spent about 20 seconds talking about my company and another 20 minutes talking about the state of the DOOH industry. This is one reason I think my session was better attended than most others during the event.

(View the presentation on SlideShare here.)

Many of the presenters who followed gave some information about their area of expertise, but spent a majority of the time basically giving us masked sales pitches on their products or services. I will not use any specific names in this column, but I can say I have seen this at every major conference.

This is not an isolated incident – I have seen this at just about every conference I have attended since I started covering this industry in 2007.

These presentations are intended to give industry experts a platform to share their expertise and provide thought leadership in the industry. They are designed to be an incredible value-add to the tradeshow, and people are paying premium prices to attend them. I believe that value is being diminished each time we are “bait and switched” into listening to five minutes of “insight” and then 15 minutes of the company’s sales presentation.
 
To the speakers: Understand that your message will go much further if you provide attendees interesting, relevant and insightful information from your field of expertise. In the end, it will position you as an expert and provide more value than trying to get the audience to buy your product. Sell on the tradeshow floor, tell in the conference room.

To the show organizers: The pre-show screening process for PowerPoints needs to be more rigorous. In the end, it is up to the conference organizers to ensure attendees are getting the most bang for their buck when it comes to these sessions. Especially now, as travel budgets are being cut, this is more important than ever.

I think many of the shows realize this, and are doing a good job of enhancing the conference portions of their tradeshows going into 2010. I’m encouraged by some of the speakers and session titles being announced in news releases. Let’s just make sure we get what we came for.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 10:13 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 05 October 2009
Though a recent state-of-the-industry study from Summit Research Associates reports languishing global kiosk installations, Summit founder Francie Mendelsohn believes the industry will see growth again starting in 2010. So why not use this fresh beginning to go one step further and embrace the growing demand for digital delivery and mobile self-service?
 
We all know kiosk adoption isn't a matter of getting apprehensive users to understand the technology anymore. They've proven that they comprehend and even prefer self-service. But for consumers to remain confident that anything a clerk can do they can do better, solutions providers and application developers must expand their ideas about what self-service means and give users more — and different — options.
 
In her analysis of the DVD kiosk segment, Mendelsohn warns that the application will be eclipsed by the digital delivery of films in upcoming years. In other words, while DVD kiosk brands are either suing Hollywood studios or wheeling and dealing with them, shoppers are wondering when digital distribution will be a reality. Not a day goes by that I don't see a Tweet from a redbox customer asking when she'll be able to download the movies she wants to watch instead of traveling to a kiosk, waiting in line and hoping the disc is in stock.
 
According to Video Business, Sony Home Entertainment and Universal Studios both already offer video on-demand service in the home through cable pay-per-view provider iN Demand, and both studios are working with others in Hollywood to provide a Web-based VOD service soon. To get a piece of the pie, self-service providers must find a viable way to deliver films digitally to consumers as well.
 
MOD Systems has gotten a foot in the door on the digital download front with an upcoming pilot deployment of kiosks that allow users to download movies to an SD card, which they then plug into their televisions. While the MOD pilot is a step in the right direction for the industry, I would guess that a small percentage of consumers own TVs with SD card slots and built-in media players, potentially making the solution impractical on a large scale.
 
These kinds of ideas are a start, but self-service providers have to figure out a way to offer digital distribution of films in a manner that makes sense for users and comes naturally to the consumer experience. And that may mean we need to let the definition of self-service evolve beyond the kiosk to accommodate the experience the technologically discerning consumer has come to expect.
 
Also in the Summit report, Mendelsohn says airline self-service will continue to move toward offering mobile capabilities — some carriers in Canada and Asia already offer the technology, and one U.S. carrier is testing it.
 
According to recent data from SITA, a provider of communications and I.T. solutions for the air-transport industry, 44 percent of passengers indicated positive feelings toward mobile self-check-in, and 66 percent of self-service check-in users said they would prefer an electronic boarding pass over a paper version. So while airlines are trying to figure out what else they can charge a fee for, travelers are wondering when they'll finally be able to head straight for security with their boarding passes on their smart phones.
 
But the beauty is that, although savvy movie lovers and travelers may be clamoring for the next big thing in self-service technology, the movement won't cannibalize current kiosk offerings. Kiosk developers have hit on something special, and self-service as we know it now isn't going anywhere.
 
For instance, SITA's survey also found that at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport — which the company says is the world's busiest — a record 83.8 percent of passengers used self-service check-in. And, compared to the nearly half of travelers surveyed who said they felt positive about mobile check-in, an impressive two-thirds said the same about kiosk check-in.
 
Perhaps Dominique El Bez, SITA's director of portfolio marketing, said it best when I asked how kiosks are to stay relevant as technology and consumer demand change around them.  
 
"It is not about doing the same thing from a different channel," he said. "It is about doing things differently. Kiosk providers have to adapt rapidly and must consider the kiosk as a component of a holistic self-service transformation."
 
Caroline Cooper is editor of KioskMarketplace.com and SelfServiceWorld.com. To submit a comment, please e-mail her at carolinec@networldalliance.com.
Posted by: Caroline Cooper AT 01:21 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 28 September 2009

It isn’t often that we truly can compare apples to apples when it comes to kiosks. There are many reasons: The applications on the kiosks are different (retail versus financial services, for example). The hardware and software manufacturers are not the same. The placements within the businesses are so different that a real comparison would be unfair.

Recently, however, we did have the rare opportunity to compare two kiosks in two deployments that presented a level playing field. Both kiosks belong to the retail self-checkout vertical market, and both use the same hardware and software from NCR. Furthermore, they are located in the checkout lanes in large big box retailers—Ikea and Lowe’s—and both use the kiosks as an integral part of their customer experience strategy. The difference is that one provides a positive experience while the other leaves the customer frustrated.

Although the exterior appearance of the kiosks is slightly different to allow each retailer to leverage its brand—logos, colors, fonts—the kiosks essentially look the same and operate in the same manner. The usage process is identical: Customers scan the barcode on their items, or key them in, and move the product down to the end for bagging. When all the items have been successfully scanned, customers pay for their purchases, collect their receipt and proceed to the exit.

The kiosk at Ikea was frustrating to use. The built-in scanner did not work, despite repeated attempts, so I tried to use the hand held scanner. That attempt was not initially successful, either, until an employee came by and said I needed to hold the scanner about six inches from the barcode. I asked her "How was I supposed to know that? There is nothing on the screen to indicate that this is how the thing works." She shot me an angry look and walked away. I was serious. The secret to self-service—any kind of self service, including candy vending machines—is don’t make me think. As I looked around at other customers at nearby kiosks, I saw that several were equally thwarted in their attempts to check out. They were looking for another kiosk to use. But once I learned how to use the scanner, I was able to complete the check-out process without incident.

Later that day, I used the kiosk at Lowe’s with no problem. The built-in scanner worked perfectly, and I was able to check myself out quickly and easily. Admittedly, now that I was proficient at using the NCR checkout kiosks from my visit to Ikea, the process was easier to complete.
 
One problem with the kiosks at both stores was that the numeric keypad was not laid out in the format we all understand, the layout used worldwide on phones. This one is laid out more like the keypad on a computer keyboard. It is not the worst fault one could imagine, but the unusual configuration does slow down a user.

Why was one experience so much better than the other, given that the hardware and user interface were the same? We believe it is because the kiosks at Lowe’s are better maintained and all seemed to work without any difficulty or hiccup. Statistics from our recently published flagship report, the seventh edition of "Kiosks and Interactive Technology," show that the overwhelming majority of kiosk deployers say they maintain their kiosks either directly (using store personnel) or through third-party providers. But having a maintenance contract and actually having preventive or routine maintenance performed on a regular basis are two entirely different things.

What can we conclude? Lowe’s seems to apply more resources to keeping its kiosks fully operational. As far as I could tell, the kiosks all worked flawlessly. The Ikea units were problematic; several customers (in addition to myself) began looking for another kiosk the moment we encountered repeated difficulties. The store, even on a Tuesday morning, was quite busy, and all the other kiosks were in use, so we had to make do. Customers are not given the luxury of finding a human to check them out—it is use the kiosk or leave empty-handed. In a number of cases over the years, we have seen people give up and leave the store, or find a human-assisted checkout line.

Negative experiences can have a significant impact on the likelihood a customer will return to shop another day. But while Lowe’s customers always have the choice of visiting a Home Depot or smaller hardware stores, Ikea customers are less fortunate. The chain simply has no real competition. The choices are too vast, the designs are too appealing and, most importantly, the prices are too low, for their customers to take their business elsewhere. They will return, grumbling about their less-than-happy experience at the checkout counter, but they will be back. It would be nice to know that in the future, they will find kiosks that are as easy to use as those at Lowe’s.

Francie Mendelsohn is president of Summit Research Associates

Posted by: Francie Mendelsohn AT 01:19 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 28 September 2009

An estimated 1,080,000 unique advertising spots play on Digital Out-of-Home displays across North America during 2009, based on calculations using conservative parameters.

The Digital Signage /Digital Out-of-Home (DS/DOOH) industry in North America has emerging rapidly (25-50 percent CAGR) over the past six years in particular and despite reductions of an estimated three percent in overall ad spending, ad spending on DOOH continues to grow from its 2008 level of $1.4 billion (according to PQ Media) by nine percent annually. DOOH has found itself in the “communications continuum” with other credible advertising medium such as TV, radio, Internet, print, billboard, etc. and is positioning as a “trigger device” to motivate engagement through a handheld and mobile interactivity.

The Digital Out-of-Home area of the industry, which is based on third party advertising revenues is comprised of almost 200 networks, which allow advertisers to reach targeted audiences based on demographic profile, Designated Market Area (DMA), geography and even the activity in which they are involved (shopping, transit, café, workout, attending a game, etc.) in presenting messages at points of purchase, transit and gathering.

The following provides sample characteristics of networks while indicating total industry ad volume. The estimates used are generally conservative.



DOOH advertising is sold by a wide range of organizations including:
  • Most Digital Out-of-Home networks have an internal ad sales capability.
  • Many network operators are members of the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (www.OVAB.org) or the Canadian Out-of-Home Digital Association (CODACAN www.oohdigital.ca). These associations increase the profile of DOOH to accelerate overall ad sales success.
  • Adcentricity (per www.Adcentricity.com) represents over 80 network partners with over 140,000 place-based and retail screens covering 16 main venue categories and over 70 sub-categories.
  • SeeSaw Networks, (per www.SeeSawNetworks.com) “reaches more people in more places than any other digital video network. Combining over 50 digital signage networks across 30 different types of locations, SeeSaw is the most extensive national digital video network currently in 26,000 venues nationally and growing. SeeSaw delivers over 50 million weekly gross impressions – more than primetime TV spots at a fraction of the cost”.
  • rVue (www.rVue.com) acts as a sales agent for about 20 networks.
  • Ad display on DOOH are often included in campaign proposals blended with TV, cable, radio or static billboard ads by ABC, CBS, NBC, ClearChannel and others.
  • As existing media providers (i.e. cable, print, etc) deploy DOOH networks, ad display opportunities will be bundled with “core business” ad proposals.
  • Personnel responsible for sponsorship, patron programs, merchandising and co-op programs typically add Digital Signage to their proposals when display capability is added to their facilities.
  • Other ad sales capability could be expected as media organizations seek to leverage their ad sales capabilities and infrastructure.
Given the proven results in sales lift, message recall and awareness, reduced perceived waiting times and improvement to the location experience that result from the proper use of Digital Out-of-Home, as well as the continuing growth in the number of displays, advertisers and ad sales representation, the future continues to be positive for Digital Signage/Digital Out-of-Home – “the sharpest instrument in an advertiser’s tool chest.”

Lyle Bunn is a consultant, commentator and educator in North America’s Digital Signage / Digital Out-of-Home industry. Lyle@LyleBunn.com
Posted by: Lyle Bunn AT 10:34 am   |  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
Monday, 14 September 2009
Oct.1, 2009, marks the 10th anniversary of the first talking ATM installed in the United States. From that first accessible ATM’s release in 1999, there are now tens of thousands of talking ATMs around the world.
 
Here I highlight the advocacy efforts, technology developments and corporate commitments that have contributed to the proliferation of talking ATMs in the United States and around the world over the past 10 years. Please check my Web site over the next two months for more updates.
 
Blind community advocates laid the groundwork for talking ATMs in the 1980s and early 1990s, with important policy work on federal legislation and regulations. These advocates made strides with the banking industry, as well as by serving on standard-setting committees. Banks were first contacted using structured negotiations in the mid-1990s; by 1999, all of these efforts resulted in the first installed talking ATMs in the United States.
 
CCB advocacy leads to Wells Fargo’s 1999 state-wide commitment
 
Three months before the first talking ATM was installed in the United States, Wells Fargo and the California Council of the Blind announced a historic plan to install talking ATMs throughout the state. 
 
When the first 20 talking ATMs were installed at Wells in April 2000, Wells became the U.S. bank with the most talking ATMs in the country. 
 
In 2002, Wells Fargo announced state-wide plans for Talking ATMs in Iowa. In 2003, the bank announced that its talking ATMs also would provide spoken instruction in Spanish. By 2009, all of Wells’ more than 7,000 ATMs are talking ATMs.
 
1999: First U.S. talking ATM installed in San Francisco City Hall
 
The first talking ATM in the United States was built by Canadian accessibility company T-Base Communications Inc. for the San Francisco Federal Credit Union. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the ATM's installation at San Francisco City Hall, part of San Francisco’s plan to make City Hall fully accessible.
 
Len Fowler, then a T-Base employee, flew to San Francisco with the parts and assembled the audio aspects of the Diebold Inc. machine on-site.
 
T-Base got the bid, because the only 12 talking ATMs in the world at that time were owned by the Royal Bank of Canada.
California Council of the Blind’s 1999 Citibank announcement
 
One month after San Francisco’s talking ATM was up and running, the California Council of the Blind on Nov. 9, 1999, announced that Citibank had installed five talking ATMs in California. The announcement was the result of an agreement that CCB and individual CCB members had reached with the bank. Eighteen months later, Citibank announced that it had installed the first talking ATMs in New York
 
The early Citibank talking ATMs were touchscreen-only, with unique tactile input devices along the bottom of the screen. That input method, while innovative and effective at the time, proved cumbersome, and today all talking ATMs, including Citibank ATMs, have tactile keypads.
 
Bank of America’s 2000 multistate talking ATM commitment
 
Bank of America was the first bank in the country to agree to install talking ATMs in more than one state. In March 2000, B of A announced a deal with CCB to develop a plan to install talking ATMs in California and Florida and said it would work out a plan for the rest of the country the following year.
 
B of A, the California Council of the Blind and several blind individuals eventually signed three different settlement agreements, ultimately calling for the installation of talking ATMs at every U.S. B of A location. The bank is now very close to meeting that goal, with more than 12,000 talking ATMs installed across the country.
 
Lainey Feingold is managing partner with the Law Office of Lainey Ford.
Posted by: Lainey Feingold AT 01:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 09 September 2009
Digital signage and digital out-of-home is not in itself a technological breakthrough, but rather the ongoing incremental improvement of technology integration that exploits "digital" in a supply chain that includes digital content creation, management, connectivity, playout, display and measurement.

This incrementalism, which continues its rapid acceleration, means that neither ad revenue achievement or "infrastructure" come first, but are concomitant — both effected by, and effecting each other simultaneously. The presence of either of these elements supports and triggers the other.



It was never an option for a single DOOH firm to "cross the chasm" with others rapidly following as is characteristic in technology breakthroughs. Instead, a critical mass and momentum by a larger number of firms has had to be achieved almost simultaneously over the past several years, which in itself has fueled growth.
Digital signage is a vortex, accelerated by the internal forces of enabling technologies, better technology integration and scalable operations along with the external forces of the increasing pressure for communications and marketing cost effectiveness.
 
The growing numbers of networks and displays reflect the broadening at the top of the vortex, while the vortex seeks to gather up and integrate technology elements and processes with integration into other systems for better message targeting, impact measurement and other points of operational optimization and cost savings.

The growth in the number and locations of displays motivates increased advertising which enables greater infrastructure investment, resulting in an upward spiral, rather than a "chasm crossing."

The great benefit is that all end users, location providers, technology providers, system integrators and operators, and content providers "win" through participating in this upward spiral.

The genesis of DOOH has not triggered an exodus from TV or other advertising devices, but enabled the revelation that media more optimally applied means more effective communications spending. Digital signage has found its place, incrementally, into the communications continuum and is on its path in wealth creation, in the same way that every other high-value application of managing light has found its economic success since the beginning of time. DOOH allows demographic targeting at points of purchase, long dwell times and high traffic.

The expanding infrastructure of digital displays proliferates message presentation in the "digisphere," the global environment of digital addressability and connectivity where media and messaging serve people, organizations and society.

People live on the lithosphere of earth, as part of its biosphere in its atmosphere while looking up into its troposphere, stratosphere and mesosphere. The digisphere enables human success through connectivity in all these areas.

Within the digisphere, communications can be increasingly granular — in the case of digital signage and digital out-of-home, improving the message targeting to audiences and individuals by location, interest, demographic and intended action to improve the level of relevance and engagement leading to the outcome intended by the communicator.

Lyle Bunn is a highly regarded independent advisor and educator in North America’s digital signage/digital out-of-home sector.
Posted by: Lyle Bunn AT 10:35 am   |  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, 31 August 2009

It's been more than a week since federal authorities captured the man behind the United States' largest financial data-security hack, the Heartland Payments breach. As the week unfolded, more details emerged.

The breach has been a slap in the face for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, since Heartland had been given the seal of PCI certification before the cyber attack. The breach has also marred the reputations of Visa and MasterCard, and left consumers once again questioning the security of retail ATMs.

Court records revealed a direct link between the cyber breach and the Citi ATM compromise at 7-Eleven, which came to light several months ago.

More than 130 million debit and credit cards were reportedly compromised, and the 28-year-old mastermind, Albert Gonzales, behind the scheme is accused of also playing roles in the TJX Cos. and Hannaford Brothers Co. compromises.

The former Secret Service informant allegedly was able to break into networks at retailers and major financial institutions to steal card numbers and PINs.

Mainstream news reports hit with force last week, with financial advice coming from all angles and directions. Among the top precautions consumers were advised to take: Avoid retail ATMs all together, since they are incorrectly labeled as being less secure than bank-owned ATMs; don't use debit; and avoid online purchases.

In reality, the payments industry is actually very safe, and consumers are often given poor advice. But the ATM industry has done little to put itself out in front in a way that gets the truth out to the public.

The ATM Industry Association has spearheaded a few initiatives through its best practices, but much of the onus falls on the banks and credit unions, since they have direct relationships with their customers and members. ISOs also could do more positive PR.

ISOs should educate the merchants they place ATMs with, telling them to talk with their customers about the safety of retail ATMs. And getting the word out to the mainstream media is critical. It can be challenging, but the industry needs to do a better job of putting itself out in front of the cameras and having its voice heard.

ATMIA could be a great organization to lead the PR pack.

"The ATM industry as a whole is very secure," says Mike Lee, chief executive of ATMIA. "Following the mass migration to Windows XP ATMs, we have been working on new ATM software security best practices due out in mid-September. Crime will migrate increasingly to cyber space because the prize — breaking into data storage systems containing sensitive customer data — brings a big pay-off and the risks of detection may be lower than in other crimes and in other operating environments."

But most consumers don't know or care about XP ATMs and the difference between an ATM-skimming attack and a cyber hack. Most also don't understand that retail ATMs, in many ways, are more secure than their FI counterparts, since FI ATMs are unattended after-hours and get higher transaction volumes — thus making them prime targets for skimmers.

"The percentage of transactions at ATMs that are fraudulent is miniscule relative to fraudulent transactions to credit cards," says Sam Ditzion, chief executive of Tremont Capital Group, a strategic planning and acquisition advisory firm that specializes in the ATM industry.

And what about the notions that debit is less secure than credit and online transactions are bad? Neither claim is founded.

Yes. Debit is vulnerable, but the consumer never pays the price, unless the suspicious charge or withdrawal is not reported to the FI. Even then, the vast majority of suspicious transactions and breaches are captured by the bank or credit union before the customer or member even notices. And the FI always absorbs the cost.

The same is true of online transactions. Advising consumers to stop buying goods online is ridiculous. More, not fewer, transactions will occur online over the coming months and years. Online purchases are convenient and secure. And if a card is compromised, again, the FI bears the loss.

"I have never heard of an example in which a victim of skimming fraud did not get a complete refund from their bank very quickly," Ditzion said. "So sure, consumers need to be vigilant and review their statements, but if you see that your account got compromised, your bank will credit your account."

Lee told me last week that this breach may be the nudge the United States needs to make a move toward EMV (the Europay, MasterCard, Visa standard) — which could be a good thing.

"We have seen a fraud migration toward non-EMV compliant markets," Lee said. "There is no bullet-proof vest that prevents all attacks by criminals on our things of value, whether cash, cards or online payments."

Posted by: Tracy Kitten AT 01:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 26 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 10:37 am   |  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
Monday, 17 August 2009

Although the credit card processing industry is extremely complicated, most people believe that they are experts in credit card use. After all, we all use credit cards to buy presents for our spouse and to pay for dinner at restaurants. Additionally, we all use ATM debit cards to withdraw money from our bank accounts. However, the credit card processing industry is far more complicated than it seems and in order to maximize self-service equipment profitability, it is necessary to understand how the credit card industry actually works.

The credit card processing industry consists of two primary aspects. One aspect is credit card issuance, which consists of providing credit cards, and the resulting credit, to card users. The other aspect is merchant acquisition. Merchant acquisition consists of signing up merchants to process their credit card transactions through a specific member bank.

Prior to suggesting methods to increase credit card revenue for self-service equipment operators, I should explain the manner in which credit card processing activity is compensated. In order to process credit card transactions, the Card Associations (Visa, MasterCard, and the like) contract with various banks (known as member banks) to provide processing services to merchants. Each member bank contracts with various Independent Sales Organizations ("ISO") to solicit merchants to contract with that member bank. Each ISO contracts with smaller ISOs and has its own agents for such solicitation. In turn, the smaller ISOs have their own agents and may also have their own ISOs. Larger ISOs are often sponsored by the member bank to also become Card Association members. The rights of the various merchant solicitation entities differ based upon their contractual arrangements and their position in the merchant acquisition hierarchy.

When a merchant agrees to process through a member bank and during the life of the resulting processing relationship, the contracting merchant may be charged various fees. Additionally, each time the merchant processes a credit card transaction, the merchant is charged a fee for the transaction. Finally, when a new merchant is enrolled, the merchant may be sold or given a POS terminal and other equipment to enable processing. These charges to the merchant constitute the revenue which is divided among the various players in the merchant acquisition process.

However, each payment stream is divided differently. Generally, the various fees are divided among the various ISOs and agents involved in enrolling the merchant and sometimes the member bank also shares in such revenue. Such fees are generally implemented by the ISO or agent and may be waived at their discretion. The credit card processing fees (transaction charges) are divided among the relevant Card Association, the member bank, and each ISO and agent in the acquisition chain of the individual merchant. The amount received by each participant is determined by the contractual relationship between the parties. For example, assume that a merchant processes a transaction which generates processing fees and that the merchant was enrolled by an agent of a second tier ISO. A portion of the fee is paid to the Card Association. The remainder of the fee is retained by the member bank.

The member bank retains its portion of the fee and transfers the balance of the fee to the primary ISO on a monthly basis. The primary ISO retains its portion of the fee and transfers the balance to the secondary ISO which solicited the merchant on a monthly basis. The secondary ISO retains its portion of the fee and pays the balance to the agent who actually enrolled the merchant. Although each fee consists of only pennies, the volume of transactions can make the business very profitable.

Furthermore, once a merchant is enrolled, the payment of processing fees (known as residuals) continues through the life of the merchant-member bank relationship. During this period, except for the member bank and sometimes the primary ISO, very little is required to be done by the other entities in the merchant acquisition chain to receive their residual payment.

Finally, since most self-service equipment has the credit card processing capabilities built in, the issue of the sale or distribution of processing equipment rarely comes into play. However, where the ISO provides free equipment to obtain the account, the absence of the need for such equipment is a saving to the ISO.

The foregoing is an extremely simplified version of the manner in which the merchant acquisition process is compensated. However, an understanding of the process suggests various methods to maximize a self-service equipment operator's or provider's profitability from the use of credit cards. Some of the available methods are as follows:

1. Negotiate. Processing rates and fees vary substantially throughout the industry. There are many different ISOs and agents who are attempting to obtain your credit card processing business. After all, signing up a merchant can generate a long term profit stream with little additional work. Therefore, you should be aware of competitive rates in the industry and the type of fees being charged. Although every salesperson you meet will tell you that his rates and fees are the best available, only one of them can be telling you the truth. For example, some programs charge set-up fees and annual fees and some do not. It is important to obtain a full understanding of what you will be expected to pay in writing. If there are fees being requested, there are alternate processors that may not charge such fees. Just because you are contacted directly by a salesperson does not mean that he will offer you the best terms. Also, you should be careful to limit your contractual commitment to the location for which you are requesting processing services. However, please understand that you are entering into a contractual commitment for a fixed amount of time. If you breach your commitment and the processing volume is significant enough, the processor will file suit to enforce the agreement. Washor and Associates has filed such suits on behalf of various ISOs.

2. Understand. Often there are provisions in the merchant agreement which may have an unexpected adverse effect upon your business. Therefore, you need to read and understand the merchant agreement before you sign it. If the term is too long, you may be stuck with an unsatisfactory processing arrangement for a long time. If the terms relating to chargeback are unreasonable, you may have your ability to perform credit card processing severely restricted.

We recently had a small incubator client who had been quite successful with various platform based businesses. The client opened up a new business which was less successful. It stopped soliciting new customers and continued to service existing customers only. However, the percentage of chargebacks increased because no new clients were being signed up to offset the number of chargeback transactions. Its ISO refused to process for his new business and ceased processing for his old businesses despite their generating close to $500,000 in monthly business with minimal chargebacks. Furthermore, the ISO TMF'd (put on industry list of merchants who were terminated by their processors) the client which made it virtually impossible for him to obtain an American processing for his businesses. In order to obtain an American processing relationship for his businesses, Washor and Associates had to contact the individual in charge of merchant acquisition for a large member bank. The client obtained the processing relationship but at increased rates. This could have been avoided if the client had understood the terms of his merchant agreement and he had spoken to the ISO before launching his new product .

Likewise, many ISOs charge merchants for permitting the merchants to monitor their own account activity. This should be discussed with the salesperson and the liabilities and cost imposed from such activity fully understood.

Finally, almost every member bank and many large ISOs have their own merchant agreements. Each agreement is different and although they appear to be boilerplate, they should be carefully reviewed before being executed and any problem provision should be discussed.

3. Join the Party. Assuming that your processing volume is large enough, there is no reason that you can not become an ISO or an agent.

If you are an operator of sufficient self-service equipment, many ISOs would be willing to enroll you as a secondary ISO or an agent. If your volume is large enough, there are some member banks that would do so as well. As an ISO or agent, you would be reimbursed the portion of your processing fees which would go to the ISO or agent which enrolls you. Since it is generally the ISO or agent which sets the various fees charged to merchants, you should be able to avoid the bulk of these fees and obtain a lower processing rate by enrolling yourself. In this regard, you should be aware that there is no special knowledge, education, training, or license required. Although if you desire to become an ISO, you will need to satisfy the Association requirements for being designated as an ISO. Of course, the value of this tactic will depend upon your actual processing volume and the type of business in which you engage.

If you are a seller or a lessor of self-service equipment, it might prove profitable for you to become an ISO and contractually to require the merchants purchasing or leasing your equipment to process credit card transactions through you. Of course, the profitability of this tactic would depend upon the number of units which you sell or lease and the type of business for which the equipment is used. This strategy is more complicated than the other strategies suggested in this article and requires marketing skill in addition to legal documentation. However, this strategy should enable you to give the purchasers or lessors of your equipment better processing rates than they would be able to obtain on their own and if properly structured, could be extremely profitable for you.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that I have presented a complicated industry in a very simplistic fashion and that implementing the foregoing strategies requires time, effort, and a thorough understanding of the process. In other words, some of the foregoing strategies are easier to suggest than they are to carry out. Nonetheless, every self-service equipment operator using credit card processing can engage in comparative shopping and negotiate to obtain better transaction pricing and fewer fees. There is no reason to pay more than necessary for credit card processing.

Lawrence Washor is an attorney at Washor and Associates, a firm that specializes in the self-service, ATM, and credit card-processing industries.

Posted by: Lawrence I. Washor AT 01:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
We live in incredibly complex times – and that’s a good thing.

Complexity suffers from bad press. A New York Times story on restructuring General Motors observes that GM “is a very, very complicated company,” and it’s not meant as a compliment. Advocates for tax reform pin an encyclopedia of ills on today’s “unbelievably complicated” code. An IT firm selling “autonomic policy management” software regards “complex business systems” as something to be “cured.”

Simplicity, on the other hand, is overrated – and sometimes unattainable, as digital signage system strategists well know. There is a big difference between helping users navigate complex spaces or buying decisions via a simple, no-learning-curve interface – and oversimplifying a complex challenge. The first is a design triumph, the second dishonest. People in our business like to tell each other, “keep it simple,” but simplicity is often just a code word for narrower choice.

And consumers like choice. They vote in favor of more diverse options all the time. Highly complex systems and processes, from Amazon.com to airline yield management to, yes, the build-to-order methodology at GM, evolve in response to consumer demand. They deliver vast customer and shareholder value: diversity of choice, degrees of customization and fulfillment speed unimaginable until recently. Very few consumers campaign for Baskin-Robbins to knock its 31 flavors down to vanilla and chocolate, or for Cover Girl to reduce its lipstick catalog to a straightforward red or pink. The virtues of business complexity far outweigh the drawbacks.

As product specifications, consumer buying decisions, financial transactions, and personalized, profile-based pricing offers grow more complex, chaos is a natural risk. Chaos is complexity’s evil twin, and it repels customers as surely as the products of complex systems lure them.

There is too much chaos in business environments today – customization processes run amok. But gross simplification is usually the wrong impulse. An oversimplified screen-based buying process may omit lucrative up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, for example. An oversimplified content management solution may not permit addressable, real-time pricing changes, leaving store screens out of sync with direct mail campaigns or online offers.

Besides, customers gravitate to providers that deliver personalized, responsive results on express timetables. Taking refuge in simplistic solutions is not only unrealistic, it’s bad business. (Credit Amazon and FedEx for conditioning us all to expect we can order nearly any product under the sun for delivery tomorrow morning; in that case, as in so many others, complex systems – albeit mostly masked from public view – are the consumer’s best friend.) In this marketplace, paring back customization options is not a winning strategy.

Excellence lies with masking complexity, not murdering it. The key competency that sets experience designers apart in this complex era is the degree to which they can identify, assess and mitigate chaos without compromising the desirable complexities of a business that satisfies customers and makes money.

This happens partly through elegant interface design. But even more important is a strategic sense of the client’s business; it’s difficult, we feel, for a solution provider to excel without complementing design and technology expertise with strategy.

This is a fantastic time to be working in this sector of the communications business. The best self-service process designers and visual information architects are developing new forms of literacy – entirely new languages to inform, entertain and sell to consumers. The words “complex” and “complicated” aren’t slights; when describing productive businesses with satisfied customers, they’re high compliments. Self-service and signage solutions that harness digital systems to deliver complex products and services via apparently simple and rapidly gratifying processes – that’s what best-in-class means today.

Tom Farmer and partner Jodi Swanson run Solid State Information Design (www.solidstateid.com), a research and consulting firm that helps connect digital signage providers with clients and end users. Erik Knutson is president of Design Laboratory, Inc., a leading professional services firm and Solid State client.
Posted by: Tom Farmer & Erik Knutson AT 10:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 03 August 2009

When it comes to sales, tried and true rules have been tested and proven. Below is a list of the top five mistakes I see salespeople across industries and professions commonly make. By addressing these issues with your sales force, you can dramatically improve your sales, in ATMs and anything else.

No. 1: Not listening

Salespeople often talk themselves right out of a sale because they are talking and not listening. Salespeople should spend a short amount of time talking about themselves, your company and the solution that your product provides. In fact, a salesperson should talk no more than 40 percent of the time when working with a prospect. The prospect, on the other hand, should talk more than 60 percent of the time about his business, his customers and his challenges.

The salesperson must ask questions that demonstrate she really cares about the potential client's specific needs. If your salesperson is actively engaged in listening, she will have a much higher understanding of the prospect and the prospect's needs.

To be actively listening, your salesperson has to listen to the words, as well as the physical gestures, the voice tone and context. Salespeople with excellent listening skills are able to easily identify a client's real needs and the solutions to fill those needs. The best salespeople are great listeners. When we think of a terrible salesperson, we often think of the stereotypical used-car salesman, who just can't stop talking. So, suggest to your salespeople that they stop talking and start listening.

No. 2: Failing to prospect for new customers

Many salespeople underestimate the importance of prospecting. They need to know that constant prospecting will produce a consistent flow of customers to your business. Even when business is great, salespeople need to prospect for new customers. Inconsistent prospecting is one of the most common mistakes salespeople make. Salespeople must devote a certain percentage of their work week to prospecting for new, qualified customers.

The best way to find new customers is by scheduling a specific portion of your calendar to prospecting only. If done right, the pipeline will be full of new prospects, and thus reduce the common peaks and valleys that occur in sales.

No. 3: Not asking for the order

People want to work with people (and businesses) who genuinely want their business. The easiest way to demonstrate that your company wants the prospect's business is to just ask for it.

A salesperson's presentation should be designed to get a commitment from the client. After investing time, qualifying the customer, explaining and demonstrating how your company's product or service will solve the prospect's problem, it's time to ask the prospect to make a purchase. The salesperson's job is not done until he has confidently asked for, and earned, the order.

I'm surprised at how often a salesperson will do everything well in her presentation and then sheepishly ask for the order. And some salespeople never ask for the order at all.

An "ask" can be the nudge your customer or potential customer needs to make the final positive buying decision. Your salesperson has an obligation to ask for business. The salesperson does not have to be pushy, but should respectfully and with great confidence ask for an order.

Not asking for a buy shows some lack of confidence. The customer won't know if the salesperson is apprehensive about the price, the product, the service or her company. Your salesperson has to ask for the order at the end of his presentation to earn the client's confidence.

No. 4: Failing to follow up

Just because a prospect decides not to buy today does not mean he won't be a buyer in the future. If the prospect is an interested, qualified, potential customer, then someone will sell that prospect, eventually. Your salesperson has done the work, so it should be your salesperson that earns the business, when it comes.

Your company and salesperson have to be the supplier this customer thinks of when he's ready to invest. The way you earn this business is to have a consistent and persistent follow-up program. Most salespeople don't consistently follow up. But following up is a critical step in the selling process.

Your salesperson already has a relationship with this potential customer; build on that relationship. Only the salesperson can convert this missed opportunity into a future sale. Following up should be an integral part of all of our corporate-sales strategies. Customers and prospects are already interested, why would we let them go? The chances of closing a warmed-up lead is much higher than chasing down a new or cold lead. Timely follow up will lead to more sales with fewer leads.

No. 5: Wasting time

Salespeople often waste time in three ways. First, they often chase down non-producing prospects. Some prospects will never buy or invest. To earn any money, some prospects will dissect every one of your profit centers and drain whatever profit you deserve and keep the profit as their own. These "profit parasites," as I call them, need to be encouraged to take their business to your competitor. These non-productive prospects will be happy to take your profit and waste your time.

The second time waster: Not walking away from the "wrong" client. Some potential clients are the extremely high maintenance with very low profit potential. Sales professionals know the "wrong clients" will add a lot of stress on support staff and co-workers. This added stress from these clients can have a negative effect on future sales. The "wrong clients" tie up phone lines, fill up mailboxes and slow down progress.

The third time waster is ineffective time management. A salesperson's main asset is time. When salespeople measure every minute as a profit or a loss, they will see new opportunities. We need to stop spending our time on non-profit-producing activities. The wildly successful and the poorest salespeople have exactly the same amount of time; obviously only one is using her time effectively.

Have your salespeople invest in one of the many time-management programs and use it properly. When salespeople really see how much of their work time is needlessly spent on non-profit-driven activities, they can adjust their schedules and sell much more.

In conclusion, we can teach our salespeople time management and listening skills. Our sales team members also can learn to look out for and steer clear of "profit parasites" and the "wrong customers." Salespeople who can't or won't confidently ask for the order may need to be retrained, remotivated or removed.

Profitable customers think they buy logically, but most of them actually buy emotionally, and a sale is a transfer of emotion. Your salespeople need confidence to seamlessly transfer that emotion to customers so customers can confidently buy products.

Damien Fitzgerald owns DTD Marketing, a marketing and consulting firm that focuses on the ATM field.

Posted by: Damien Fitzgerald AT 01:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
Our industry has been showing some serious signs of maturity lately. Breathless press releases touting 20 location deals have been supplanted by news of consolidations on the network side, thinning of the ranks on the vendor side, and even initial attacks from privacy advocates that signal acceptance of the technology just as much as fear of its reach. Business activity during a deep global recession has been surprisingly brisk. If there is one missing piece from the puzzle that would transform the industry in a permanent and significant way, it would be the meaningful acceptance of digital signage by media planners and buyers.

To be sure, there have been signs of movement and nice tests from very big brands, perhaps most notably Schering-Plough. And make no mistake, some networks are consistently selling advertising, although there is no doubt each would benefit from higher CPMs that increased demand might lead to for them. But one does not get the sense (yet) that digital signage as a media is a part of the plan for most media buyers and brands. Anyone who navigates through the web will intuitively know that the major automobile companies have internet advertising as a budgeted part of their media plan. There are certain sites that are more or less permanent parts of their Internet buy, probably signaling measurable ROI. And it is clear that buyers will test new and ostensibly attractive sites in hope of finding a winner. In any case, there is little doubt that Chevrolet, for example, has a certain number of millions earmarked for web-based advertising. That same clear evidence of an earmarked budget for digital signage has just not become obvious. It is fair to say that certain networks have developed relationships with some brands that are mutually beneficial, but there is a long way to go. When we get there, the better networks will realize higher rates, and the developing networks will get more chances to prove their value.

There are many signs that it is not just wishful thinking to imagine digital signage having a visible slice of the pie chart at the quarterly budget meetings. Inside our industry, more and more ad-selling businesses are popping up to compete with the leading DS aggregators, Adcentricity and SeeSaw. While their models and value propositions may differ, the emergence of offerings like rVue and Entourage certainly indicate that investors and entrepreneurs see opportunity, and there will be others. Alliances of networks in related businesses have also cropped up, in an effort to cross sell advertising and to gain expanded reach. These will work, where the quality of the networks working together is uniformly high. We have already seen alliances of the nearly dead that will not fool anyone.

Externally, there also appear to be signs that there is more than hope. In an excellent, must-read blog post, MediaPost editor-at-large Diane Mermigas examines the apparent movement from traditional TV upfront buying to a strategy of “scatter” buying. Indeed TV ad buying seems to be moving to a just-in-time mentality, even if spot costs in the scatter market are higher than upfront costs. The logic would appear to be that buying the right spots as needed (with the luxury of determining need dynamically) is worth a premium. The fragmentation of TV audiences, universally referenced in digital signage pitches, is finally resonating as well. Mermigas observes:

“The ever-dwindling ratings and audience shares continue to be a drag on advertiser enthusiasm. More advertisers are feeling comfortable with more targeted, quantifiable ad placement online and a collective multimedia strategy that includes TV.”

Hmmmm. That sure is music to my ears, coming from someone who lives in traditional media. Ms. Mermigas quotes OMD’s CEO Alan Cohen from an interview in AdAge this week, "This situation has made us look at some alternatives that will give clients the ability to reach broad audiences in a different way." Somebody buy that man a drink! This is a tidal movement. While digital signage may be hidden behind words like “alternatives” and “multimedia”, we appear to be on the radar where it matters.

TV advertising has absorbed billions of dollars annually for decades. That industry is clearly undergoing fundamental changes, driven by advertisers’ desire and ability to target ever more efficiently. You can bet the TV networks will respond with better deals upfront, and probably punitive rates for high demand scatter spots. But the die seems to be cast, and advertisers and their media buyers are looking our way. Mermigas ends her post by saying, “…advertisers, agencies and media companies are embracing alternatives that will hold long after the recovery is underway.”

As digital signage networks position themselves to receive that embrace with quality offerings, standard metrics and tangible results, the last piece of the maturity puzzle will fall into place. When it does, things just won’t be the same, in a very good way.
Posted by: Ken Goldberg AT 10:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 27 July 2009
Much was revealed from a survey of European banks with digital signage performed this spring by digital marketing agency John Ryan. The company compiled the findings and presented them in a webinar last month entitled "Digital Signage in Retail Financial Services: What John Ryan’s European Survey Means for Your Bank.”
 
The panel for the presentation consisted of Paco Underhill, Envirosell founder and CEO, Mike Hiatt, former director of Wal-Mart's "SMART" digital media network, and Bob Steele, vice chairman of John Ryan.
 
Although many good points were made in the hour-long presentation and Q&A, there were three key points that emerged from the research and conversation:
 
3_TellerChannel.jpg
A John Ryan digital signage installation at Caja Mediterráneo.
Insight #1: Early adopters are facing real challenges in creating, localizing, and managing content.
 
It seems that the enthusiasm for digital signage for European bank branches is there – the survey said that 90 percent have deployed digital signage or are planning to deploy soon – but the real challenge comes after the fact. Keeping content fresh, or “feeding the monster,” as it is sometimes called, seems to be causing the most grief for deployers.
 
“The very promise of this medium – the ability to narrowly target fresh and relevant messaging – is far more laborious than expected,” Steele said. “Even more banks would be using digital signage for in-branch messaging if they could find an easy way to do it.”
 
The reasons cited for not keeping content fresh were many: lack of tools, management systems not being Web-accessible, a lack of internal workflow systems and a lack of awareness about how to manage the medium.
 
Few bank branches are going to have staff whose sole task is to update the digital signage content. But there are other ways of keeping it fresh without extra personnel.
 
Steele talked about the Japanese bank Toyota Financial Services, where kiosks were put in place that encouraged female patrons to share their views on family finances. Responses are dynamically posted on the media wall behind the kiosks. Thus, the content is always fresh and completely user-generated.
 
Steele also mentioned some other ways to easily update content: link to the Web so that updates automatically update screens; Use weekly sales results to determine what promotions appear in the content; Provide portals for segment managers to update templates specific to their branch or segment; Use content from external news sources, but be sure to visually render them in your brand format.
 
Insight #2: Relevance is the new king.
 
The word “relevance” seems to be taking over “content” in the digital signage cliché “Content is king,” and rightfully so.
 
“At Wal-Mart, when we tested more relevant content, customers responded favorably,” Mike Hiatt said. “Even the most simple use of context helps patrons understand that the content is specifically for them, and it’s not broadcast TV. Content is something they can act on.”
 
So what is relevance? According to Steele, it’s the result of putting marketing analytics to work in the branch for the first time. In other words, banks can now take action on improving in-branch communication based on what their customers want.
 
4_InformationPoint.jpg
Signage over ATMs at Caja Mediterráneo.
He cited the example of Caja Mediterráneo,
which offers its Channel CAM network in 500 European branches. However, no two branches play the same content and each branch can control what is shown locally. Messages are displayed in any one of eight different languages, depending on the location. About 70 percent of the content is public service information, such as local employment and real-estate listings. The rest is bank promotions and brand messages, and most of that is based on individual branch sales performance from the previous week.
 
Relevance isn’t just about the content, either. It can also come in the form of screen placement within the branch.
 
“When we consider relevance we also have to think about where and when content will seem most relevant to the bank customer,” Paco Underhill said. “We have recognized customers are actually more receptive to messages after they have accomplished their mission at the branch. One of the classic issues with marketing messages is to recognize that the journey from the back of the branch to the front is often one of the most important places to communicate.”
 
Insight #3: Digital signage represents strategy from the top down, but the tactics have to come from the floor up.
 
This is a two way street for the bank executives who pull the trigger on a digital signage network and the managers and employees who have to run them. Branch employees have to embrace the technology when it is installed.
 
“One of the issues with digital signage is getting the branches themselves to buy into the larger concept,” Underhill said. “They need to see that the screen isn’t something that is given to them from on high, but is a fundamental, essential part of their business.”
 
On the floor level, Underhill says that branches need to work to be a place where the bank and the customer can touch, and digital signage can help facilitate that. He says that especially in this economic climate, banks need to “Recognize the role of the branch in the financial education of its customer base. We need our customers to be more sophisticated and in tune with what the idea of money is and what the management of money is.”
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 01:03 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 20 July 2009

Deployment agreements define the legal relationship between a supplier of self-service equipment and the owner of the site where the equipment is deployed. Deployment agreements are deceptively simple. After all, most people believe that it cannot be difficult to prepare an agreement to place a machine in a specific location. Furthermore, every equipment supplier uses some version of a deployment agreement and most suppliers have never had a problem with their agreement. However, on those occasions where a problem arises, the terms of the deployment agreement will define the legal responsibilities of the participants and problems arise more frequently than most people would believe.

Every deployment agreement should cover four basic areas. They are: (1) the business relationship between the parties; (2) the obligations, if any, of the supplier subsequent to deployment; (3) the presence of electronic transaction processing; and (4) the allocation of risk between the supplier and the owner of the site.

Initially, the deployment agreement should detail the business relationship between the parties. The agreement must spell out whether the equipment is being purchased, leased, or merely deployed at the site and the payment arrangements. Obviously, it is the financial terms that make the arrangement profitable for the parties. Of course, in cash purchase situations, the payment terms are fairly straight forward. However, in installment purchase, lease, and simple deployment situations, the financial terms are not always as carefully spelled out. Furthermore, in the case of small entity site owners, the identity of the entity's principals is determined and if possible, the principals provide suitable guarantees. There is nothing worse than trying to collect monies from an insolvent deployment site owner. If there is to be a division of revenue between the supplier and the site owner, the terms of such division must be carefully spelled out. This is especially true where the deployed equipment is owned by a third party who is paying the site owner to deploy the equipment at the site.

In a non-purchase situation, the term of the agreement must also be clearly thought out. I recently saw an agreement in which the term was "forever." Apparently, millions of years from now, the ATM machine will still be deployed at the site. The type of merchandise being dispensed, the nature of the area in which the machine is to be located, and the ownership of the site should contribute to the determination of the deployment term. There also should be consideration to circumstances under which deployed equipment can be moved before the end of the term. Occasionally, disputes arise when a site is closed for remodeling or the business being run at the site is changed (such as a drug store to a pool hall). This also is important where the neighborhood changes such as when the Lakers stopped playing at the forum in Inglewood.

Furthermore, many deployment agreements do not contain certain "boilerplate" provisions which are contained in most contracts. These include: (1) a choice of law provision which sets forth the state whose law will govern the interpretation of the agreement. The law of every state is not the same and many states have specific provisions applicable to deployment agreements. Also, in certain circumstances, the Uniform Commercial Code may apply and as adopted, the Code varies from state to state; (2) an entirety provision which states that the entire agreement between the parties is contained in the written agreement. This provision is designed to prevent one party from claiming that oral promises were made which are not contained in the agreement. Several years ago, a dispute arose relating to a CAT Scan Machine where the entirety provision was not included in the agreement. Its absence led to six years of litigation over claims that oral commitments had been made relating to the payment of the lease; (3) a choice of venue provision which sets forth the state in which any dispute between the parties under the agreement is to be resolved. An equipment supplier should pick a convenient state and county forum in order to avoid having potentially to defend suits in many different forums, including small forums where the supplier may be home-towned. Several years ago, I served as an expert in a dispute where a large merchant filed suit in his hometown in rural Colorado. At the trial, the judge admittedly ignored Colorado law in order to help the local resident merchant. Likewise, a decision should be made as to whether the prevailing party should be allowed to recover its attorney's fees in any such dispute. This should be determined based upon the relative economic strengths of the parties and who is likely to commence suit; and (4) a provision stating that the waiver of one breach shall not constitute a waiver of subsequent breaches.

Likewise, the agreement should set forth any specific requirements for the deployed equipment such as telephone or electrical requirements, any exclusivity requirement in connection with the deployed equipment, the times and hours that the access to the equipment should be available (in non-purchase situations), and the like.

Second, any post-deployment obligations of the supplier should be carefully spelled out. This relates to maintenance and repair of the equipment, stocking machine with cash or merchandise, and removing cash or merchandise. If such obligations exist, the responsibility of the site owner to cooperate with the supplier should also be spelled out. Finally, if the site owner is to pay for such services, the site owner's payment obligation must also be carefully spelled out.

Third, many self-service machines (including ATM machines) provide electronic transaction processing (credit card) services. Unfortunately, the deployment agreements generally do not deal with this issue. Electronic transaction processing is big business which generates substantial revenue in residuals to those involved. Generally, deployment agreements fail to spell out who is entitled to receive residual revenue, responsibility for chargebacks, processing rates, and the like. Processing is done by many different banks and different independent sales organizations. The level of customer service, processing rates, add-on fees, and the like varies from processor to processor. Many sites already have credit card processing relationships and they continue with that relationship for the site. Significant revenue can be earned by specifying an appropriate processing relationship in those situations where the deployed equipment is not owned directly by the merchant. Furthermore, if the obligations of the supplier to the site include maintenance or risk management, it is especially important that the processing relationship contains online monitoring capabilities. Also, the owner of the site must make certain that the processing relationship proceeds smoothly since any significant failure or chargeback history could cause the owner of the site to lose its own ability to process credit cards.

Fourth, risk allocation should be a significant issue in any deployment agreement, as follows:

1. Limitations on liability. Most agreements contain a disclaimer limiting the types of damages that can be collected in the event the equipment malfunctions or the equipment is not properly maintained. Such disclaimers normally limit damages to direct losses incurred and exclude lost profits, indirect damages, consequential damages, and the like. Such clauses also normally state that there are no warranties which are not included in the actual agreement. Such provisions can also operate to prevent litigation by limiting the amount and type of imaginative damages that a lawyer can concoct.

2. Damage to equipment and operating losses. The agreement should spell out who is responsible for damage to the equipment. This is especially relevant where the equipment is damaged by a site customer, by a fire or similar natural disaster, or abuse. Likewise, responsibility for operating losses due to vandals or other causes should be defined. Some years ago, an armored car company lost in excess of $70,000 collected on its rounds, including funds for stocking ATM machines. The agreement did not specify responsibility for the loss between the site which owned the machine and the supplier which performed maintenance services. When the funds could not be recovered from the armored car company, the machine supplier had to absorb the loss.

3. Products liability and injury claims. The ingenuity of the human race knows no bounds. No matter how carefully designed equipment, users will manage to catch their hand in the machine, cut themselves on the machine, have the item dispensed drop on them causing injury, or suffer some other misfortune. The deployment agreement should allocate responsibility for such claimed injuries. (See insurance below.)

Also, depending upon the item being dispensed, such items may cause injury to a purchaser. Such injuries run the gamut of a child cutting himself on a plush toy to a adult eating a bad piece of beef jerky. Under most state laws, both the site owner and the equipment supplier are deemed to be in the chain of distribution except in an outright purchase agreement. This means that both may be held responsible under the theory of strict liability. Depending on the products being dispensed, the agreement should specify who has primary responsibility for any such injury and make arrangements for appropriate insurance coverage.

4. Insurance. Relatively inexpensive insurance can be obtained to cover personal injury and products liability. Generally, personal injury claims are covered by existing insurance carried by the site owner. Adding the supplier to the insurance as an additional insured should be relatively simple. Likewise, where the equipment supplier provides post-deployment services, the supplier should have insurance covering same. Obviously, it is in the suppliers interest to makes its own coverage secondary to that of the site owner. As to products claims, the costs of such insurance will vary depending upon the product being dispensed. As with the insurance for personal injury, existing insurance may cover any such claims. This should be explored and resolved as part of the deployment agreement.

Finally, many of the issues involving the structure of deployment agreements can be resolved through the use of common sense. In any instance where a key term appears to be missing, the parties should attempt to reach an agreement as to that term. Likewise, although the use of form agreements is common, not all form agreements apply to every situation. The item being dispensed should make sense for the location where the equipment is to be deployed and the financial terms of the agreement should make economic sense. Unfortunately, common sense is not that common.
 
Lawrence Washor is an attorney at Washor and Associates, a firm that specializes in the self-service, ATM and credit card-processing industries.
Posted by: Lawrence I. Washor AT 12:00 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Danoo announced last week that it acquired IdeaCast, a provider of advertising in the rapidly expanding captive television category. As part of the deal, National CineMedia, LLC (NCM), operator of the largest digital cinema network in North America for cinema advertising, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), a venture capital firm, will each hold a minority interest in the new company.

This deal breaks new ground because, to date, National CineMedia has been the most profitable large-scale innovator in the U.S. Digital out-of-home (Digital OOH) sector. With this deal, NCM has found in Danoo a smaller, well-funded and innovative partner that can help the cinema-advertising giant expand outside of its very strong base inside movie multiplexes.

NCM has scale, growing revenues, a big market cap, and a strong sales force with six to seven years of experience successfully selling Digital OOH advertising in the U.S. market. According to the terms of the sale, both NCM and Danoo’s leading investor, the Silicon Valley-based venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), will hold minority interests in the new combined company. Both the venture capital (VC) firm and Denver-based NCM will have seats on the merged company’s board of directors.  Mediaweek’s Katy Bachman reports that  “Conveniently, Danoo’s new New York City office will be across the hall from NCM.”  Danoo’s corporate office is located in San Francisco. IdeaCast is based in Chicago.

National CineMedia: Bringing cinema ads into mainstream advertising

During the last 6-7 years, NCM has leveraged digital-projection technology, satellite communications and the Internet to completely transform and rationalize the cinema advertising business in the USA. Prior to this digital transformation, cinema advertising was a stepchild in the U.S. advertising family. Now cinema advertising is growing rapidly, delivering a highly desirable leisure-time demographic to advertisers much more easily than was done with old-style movie-house advertising which was comprised of slide advertising and 60-second Coca-Cola ads on scratchy, 35mm reel-to-reel prints.
 
By leveraging these new digital technologies, NCM created a Digital out-of-home network that counts annual advertising revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

For example, in its most recent quarter, NCM reported quarterly advertising revenue of $60.1 million, compared to $53.7 million in revenue for the comparable 1st quarter of 2008. NCM's national theater network includes approximately 16,800 screens in more than 1,325 theatres in 46 of the 50 states, reaching more than 660 million moviegoers in 2008. A publicly held company (NASDAQ), NCM has a market capitalization of $543 million. This market heft dwarfs the size of any other U.S. Digital OOH network.

For the overall U.S. digital-cinema industry (which includes NCM’s chief competitor, Screenvision) total advertising revenue reached more than $571 million during 2008, according to the Cinema Advertising Council (CAC). The CAC reported last month that total revenues from U.S. cinema advertising has grown an average of 21.5 percent per year since 2002, with 2008 revenues reaching a level that is almost triple that of 2002.

This means that in 2008, this $571 million in U.S. cinema-based advertising revenue was greater than the total ad revenue generated by all of the other U.S. screen-media networks at retail and out-of-home which operate outside the multiplexes.

Although for many years NCM has been seen by many industry observers as part of the emerging Digital OOH sector, up to now it has largely defined itself as a cinema-advertising firm. For example, although NCM was a founding member of the CAC in 2003, it has thus far declined to join the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB), the leading U.S. industry body which promotes Digital OOH as an advertising medium.  [Danoo is a member of OVAB.]
With NCM’s minority investment in the Danoo/IdeaCast merger, and its green light to cross-sell ads on both its network and the Danoo/IdeaCast networks, NCM is clearly stepping up its involvement with the larger Digital out-of-home or advertising-based “Digital Signage” media sector. This shift started two years ago, in June 2007 when NCM invested a few million dollars in IdeaCast. In May of this year, NCM announced in its Q1 2009 conference call that it had acquired 100 percent of IdeaCast’s secured debt.
 
During that May 12 call with investors and analyst, NCM’s chairman and president, CEO Kurt C. Hall, explained how the company hopes to leverage the larger Digital out-of-home industry into what he called a “new growth engine for NCM in the future.” In an interview with Mediaweek’s Katy Bachman published July 6, Hall added, “Cinema is ahead in the Digital OOH space, but clearly two to four years down the road, we’ll be looking to add growth. We see [NCM’s interest in merged Danoo/IdeaCast enterprise] as an incubation platform for NCM.”
 
National CineMedia grew out of Regal CineMedia, which was founded in 2002 as a subsidiary of Regal Entertainment Group, part of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz’s vast holdings. Anschutz, with an estimated net worth of $8 billion, ranked 36th on Fortune Magazine’s 2008 list of the richest people in the USA.
 
Danoo CEO: “We’re getting to real scale.”

In the Mediaweek article cited above, it reports, “Aileen Lee, a partner with Kleiner Perkins [Danoo’s VC investor] who has served as CEO of Danoo for two years, will head up the combined company until a new CEO is named. Jason Brown, president of sales and marketing for IdeaCast, will manage sales for the combined company. ‘It’s an amazingly complementary fit,’” Mediaweek quotes Lee as saying. 
The article says that Danoo began discussions with NCM about one year ago. ‘We’re getting to real scale,’ Lee said.
 
That “scale,” as the Danoo CEO describes it, would include the following:

    * IdeaCast’s Health Club TV network which is installed in approximately1,000 health clubs across more than 100 local markets, 
    * IdeaCast’s Airline TV network, which in-flight airline passengers travelling on JetBlue, Frontier and Continental airlines can view on 7,800 seatbacks,
    * Danoo’s City Network, which is currently located in about 850 coffeehouses in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, and
    * Danoo’s new Traveler network, which it is currently rolling out to newsstands and gift shops at about 25 major U.S. airports such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
    * Danoo will have what the company calls “synergies with NCM’s network in terms of technical infrastructure, operational support and sales staff.

NCM scale + Danoo innovation + VC cash + smartphone interactivity = a game changer

To understand how and why this deal is a watershed, it first must be pointed out that Danoo, with less than 1,000 screens prior to this deal, still is not a particularly large network. Currently many Digital OOH networks in the USA and around the world beam content to audiences that are much bigger than Danoo’s reach.

However, when one takes a closer look at Danoo – its innovative use of user-contributed and interactive content, its 30-person team (both technical and creative) based in China, along with its very deep pockets and management expertise from its Silicon Valley-based VC firm – it’s clear that the Danoo/NCM collaboration is an emerging game-changer for the U.S. Digital out-of-home media sector. Consider the following about National CineMedia and Danoo:

Last year National CineMedia (NCM) created a new consumer website, www.ncm.com, which engages movie-goers about the movies shown in theaters where NCM offers its “First Look” content block of programming and advertising that is shown before the start of the feature films.  This new website includes a list of movie show times, a chance to view special interviews and features about current movie releases, and a social-media component a la Facebook.com that allows movie fans to interact and socialize.

On July 3, NCM launched an interactive polling promotion called “r8 it” where movie-goers are invited to use their mobile phones to rate some aspect of the movie that they just viewed. This invitation to “r8 it” is issued during NCM’s First Look pre-feature programming, on digital screens in the lobbies and also via print handouts which movie-goers receive at the box office when they buy their movie tickets. The results of the “r8 it” ratings are posted on the new NCM website and on a new “r8 it” smart-phone application. Winners receive free movie tickets for one year.

More than any other Digital out-of-home network operator, NCM has developed significant expertise in simulcasting concerts and entertainment events, as well as in event management and sampling. As Digital OOH networks start to take more seriously the notion of “enhancing the customer experience,” these extra competencies that NCM brings to the table should play a more important role in the Digital OOH medium.
 
Although many Digital out-of-home media companies talk a good game about creating localized content, Danoo actually employs local editors who are based in the cities where the network is deployed (San Francisco/Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, NYC and Boston). According to Danoo CEO Aileen Lee, these editors “curate” local news, events and culture, harvesting local information to publish on the Danoo screens. Lee said that these local editors compile this information from user-generated content and via direct data feeds from local published sources which are cited on the Danoo screens.
 
Danoo leads the Digital OOH sector in attracting user-generated content.  This content, which Lee calls “user-contributed content,” is now ubiquitous on the web but still rare in Digital OOH. Danoo recruits these contributions by inviting its local audiences to post photos, videos and information about local events via the www.danoo.com/participate tab on the Danoo home page. According to the Danoo web site, contributions to its “Photo Gallery” are published in five-photo sets. User-contributed videos which “work without sound” are limited to no more than two minutes in length. Danoo says that up to 25 percent of its on-screen content in what it calls “relevant categories” is user-contributed.

Danoo – perhaps more than any other Digital OOH network serving U.S. audiences – is leveraging talent outside the USA. This talent based in Beijing, China – both technical and creative – is helping Danoo control costs and produce quality content with the localization and in the volume that the medium requires. Danoo employs 30 staff people in Beijing. According to Aileen Lee, five of those people are full-time creative people, working largely with 2D, FLASH and motion graphics. Three people in Beijing are program managers, with the remaining staff doing software development work (Danoo’s network is controlled by its own home-grown software). In order to facilitate communication between the Beijing-based staff and the San Francisco-based staff, the Danoo CEO said that at least three people from Danoo’s technical/creative team on both sides of the Pacific are bilingual and have experience living in both cultures. Lee herself is an Asian American who spent time at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Danoo’s venture-capital backer, Kleiner Perkins, has a very strong track record in bankrolling successful companies going back more than 35 years. According to Lee, the VC firm vetted many investment proposals submitted by advertising-based Digital out-of-home networks before it decided to give its imprimatur to Danoo. Since its founding in 1972, Kleiner Perkins has provided early-stage financing and management assistance for well-known firms such as Amazon.com, AOL, Compaq, Drugstore.com, Genentech, Google, Lotus Development, Macromedia, Sun Microsystems Verifone and Zagat. 

Today, Kleiner Perkins (KPCB) is leading the financial sector in the funding of Apple iPhone-related technologies which potentially could speed the development of interactive features to enhance Digital out-of-home networks.  This year Danoo announced some significant initiatives -- which Aileen Lee said are producing “great results” – to encourage Danoo viewers to use their smartphones to interact with and download content from the Danoo screens. Recently KCPB created the “KPCB iFund,” which the VC firm calls “a $100M investment initiative that will fund market-changing ideas and products that extend the revolutionary new iPhone and iPod touch platform.” According to the venture-capital firm, the new $100M investment fund will target “location-based services, social networking, mCommerce (including advertising and payments), communication, and entertainment,” which sounds like a snug fit for Danoo.

Danoo does not express much interest in developing networks where the viewing experience is more ambient (for example inside clothing stores). According to Aileen Lee, Danoo likes venues such as airports, coffee shops, movie theaters, and other places because viewers are clearly captive, and thus “have the ability to engage” with screen networks. Danoo, Lee said, prefers to serve what it calls a “consistent and high-quality audience” which targets “hard-to-reach mobile, urban professionals and frequent fliers.”

For any corporate merger, the devil often emerges in the difficult details of corporate governance, geography and cultural differences. This new merger, too, will struggle with those issues. It could fail like many other mergers that we’ve seen in the media business (think AOL and Time Warner). However, because of the money, talent and experience that Danoo and National CineMedia bring to the table, this deal among Danoo, IdeaCast and NCM should be one of the best seen to date in the U.S. Digital out-of-home media sector. This new collaboration may spur the entire Digital OOH sector to innovate and serve its audiences and advertisers in some very exciting new ways.
 

Bill Collins is principal of DecisionPoint Media Insights (www.decisionpointmedia.com). DecisionPoint produces custom audience research for Digital Signage networks. It also provides B2B go-to-market strategy consulting for companies that market B2B products and  services to the Digital Signage industry. Bill Collins can be reached at Bill@decisionpointmedia.com.
Posted by: Bill Collins AT 10:41 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 13 July 2009

Danoo announced last week that it acquired IdeaCast, a provider of advertising in the rapidly expanding captive television category. As part of the deal, National CineMedia, LLC (NCM), operator of the largest digital cinema network in North America for cinema advertising, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), a venture capital firm, will each hold a minority interest in the new company.

This deal breaks new ground because, to date, National CineMedia has been the most profitable large-scale innovator in the U.S. Digital out-of-home (Digital OOH) sector. With this deal, NCM has found in Danoo a smaller, well-funded and innovative partner that can help the cinema-advertising giant expand outside of its very strong base inside movie multiplexes.

NCM has scale, growing revenues, a big market cap, and a strong sales force with six to seven years of experience successfully selling Digital OOH advertising in the U.S. market. According to the terms of the sale, both NCM and Danoo’s leading investor, the Silicon Valley-based venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), will hold minority interests in the new combined company. Both the venture capital (VC) firm and Denver-based NCM will have seats on the merged company’s board of directors.  Mediaweek’s Katy Bachman reports that  “Conveniently, Danoo’s new New York City office will be across the hall from NCM.”  Danoo’s corporate office is located in San Francisco. IdeaCast is based in Chicago.

National CineMedia: Bringing cinema ads into mainstream advertising

During the last 6-7 years, NCM has leveraged digital-projection technology, satellite communications and the Internet to completely transform and rationalize the cinema advertising business in the USA. Prior to this digital transformation, cinema advertising was a stepchild in the U.S. advertising family. Now cinema advertising is growing rapidly, delivering a highly desirable leisure-time demographic to advertisers much more easily than was done with old-style movie-house advertising which was comprised of slide advertising and 60-second Coca-Cola ads on scratchy, 35mm reel-to-reel prints.
 
By leveraging these new digital technologies, NCM created a Digital out-of-home network that counts annual advertising revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars. 

For example, in its most recent quarter, NCM reported quarterly advertising revenue of $60.1 million, compared to $53.7 million in revenue for the comparable 1st quarter of 2008. NCM's national theater network includes approximately 16,800 screens in more than 1,325 theatres in 46 of the 50 states, reaching more than 660 million moviegoers in 2008. A publicly held company (NASDAQ), NCM has a market capitalization of $543 million. This market heft dwarfs the size of any other U.S. Digital OOH network.

For the overall U.S. digital-cinema industry (which includes NCM’s chief competitor, Screenvision) total advertising revenue reached more than $571 million during 2008, according to the Cinema Advertising Council (CAC). The CAC reported last month that total revenues from U.S. cinema advertising has grown an average of 21.5 percent per year since 2002, with 2008 revenues reaching a level that is almost triple that of 2002.

This means that in 2008, this $571 million in U.S. cinema-based advertising revenue was greater than the total ad revenue generated by all of the other U.S. screen-media networks at retail and out-of-home which operate outside the multiplexes.

Although for many years NCM has been seen by many industry observers as part of the emerging Digital OOH sector, up to now it has largely defined itself as a cinema-advertising firm. For example, although NCM was a founding member of the CAC in 2003, it has thus far declined to join the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB), the leading U.S. industry body which promotes Digital OOH as an advertising medium.  [Danoo is a member of OVAB.]

With NCM’s minority investment in the Danoo/IdeaCast merger, and its green light to cross-sell ads on both its network and the Danoo/IdeaCast networks, NCM is clearly stepping up its involvement with the larger Digital out-of-home or advertising-based “Digital Signage” media sector. This shift started two years ago, in June 2007 when NCM invested a few million dollars in IdeaCast. In May of this year, NCM announced in its Q1 2009 conference call that it had acquired 100 percent of IdeaCast’s secured debt.
 
During that May 12 call with investors and analyst, NCM’s chairman and president, CEO Kurt C. Hall, explained how the company hopes to leverage the larger Digital out-of-home industry into what he called a “new growth engine for NCM in the future.” In an interview with Mediaweek’s Katy Bachman published July 6, Hall added, “Cinema is ahead in the Digital OOH space, but clearly two to four years down the road, we’ll be looking to add growth. We see [NCM’s interest in merged Danoo/IdeaCast enterprise] as an incubation platform for NCM.”
 
National CineMedia grew out of Regal CineMedia, which was founded in 2002 as a subsidiary of Regal Entertainment Group, part of Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz’s vast holdings. Anschutz, with an estimated net worth of $8 billion, ranked 36th on Fortune Magazine’s 2008 list of the richest people in the USA.
 
Danoo CEO: “We’re getting to real scale.”

In the Mediaweek article cited above, it reports, “Aileen Lee, a partner with Kleiner Perkins [Danoo’s VC investor] who has served as CEO of Danoo for two years, will head up the combined company until a new CEO is named. Jason Brown, president of sales and marketing for IdeaCast, will manage sales for the combined company. ‘It’s an amazingly complementary fit,’” Mediaweek quotes Lee as saying.  

The article says that Danoo began discussions with NCM about one year ago. ‘We’re getting to real scale,’ Lee said.
 
That “scale,” as the Danoo CEO describes it, would include the following:
  • IdeaCast’s Health Club TV network which is installed in approximately1,000 health clubs across more than 100 local markets,  
  • IdeaCast’s Airline TV network, which in-flight airline passengers travelling on JetBlue, Frontier and Continental airlines can view on 7,800 seatbacks,
  • Danoo’s City Network, which is currently located in about 850 coffeehouses in Boston, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area, and
  • Danoo’s new Traveler network, which it is currently rolling out to newsstands and gift shops at about 25 major U.S. airports such as Atlanta, Los Angeles and San Francisco. 
  • Danoo will have what the company calls “synergies with NCM’s network in terms of technical infrastructure, operational support and sales staff.
NCM scale + Danoo innovation + VC cash + smartphone interactivity = a game changer

To understand how and why this deal is a watershed, it first must be pointed out that Danoo, with less than 1,000 screens prior to this deal, still is not a particularly large network. Currently many Digital OOH networks in the USA and around the world beam content to audiences that are much bigger than Danoo’s reach.

However, when one takes a closer look at Danoo – its innovative use of user-contributed and interactive content, its 30-person team (both technical and creative) based in China, along with its very deep pockets and management expertise from its Silicon Valley-based VC firm – it’s clear that the Danoo/NCM collaboration is an emerging game-changer for the U.S. Digital out-of-home media sector. Consider the following about National CineMedia and Danoo:

Last year National CineMedia (NCM) created a new consumer website, www.ncm.com, which engages movie-goers about the movies shown in theaters where NCM offers its “First Look” content block of programming and advertising that is shown before the start of the feature films.  This new website includes a list of movie show times, a chance to view special interviews and features about current movie releases, and a social-media component a la Facebook.com that allows movie fans to interact and socialize.

On July 3, NCM launched an interactive polling promotion called “r8 it” where movie-goers are invited to use their mobile phones to rate some aspect of the movie that they just viewed. This invitation to “r8 it” is issued during NCM’s First Look pre-feature programming, on digital screens in the lobbies and also via print handouts which movie-goers receive at the box office when they buy their movie tickets. The results of the “r8 it” ratings are posted on the new NCM website and on a new “r8 it” smart-phone application. Winners receive free movie tickets for one year.

More than any other Digital out-of-home network operator, NCM has developed significant expertise in simulcasting concerts and entertainment events, as well as in event management and sampling. As Digital OOH networks start to take more seriously the notion of “enhancing the customer experience,” these extra competencies that NCM brings to the table should play a more important role in the Digital OOH medium.

Although many Digital out-of-home media companies talk a good game about creating localized content, Danoo actually employs local editors who are based in the cities where the network is deployed (San Francisco/Oakland, Los Angeles, Chicago, NYC and Boston). According to Danoo CEO Aileen Lee, these editors “curate” local news, events and culture, harvesting local information to publish on the Danoo screens. Lee said that these local editors compile this information from user-generated content and via direct data feeds from local published sources which are cited on the Danoo screens.

Danoo leads the Digital OOH sector in attracting user-generated content.  This content, which Lee calls “user-contributed content,” is now ubiquitous on the web but still rare in Digital OOH. Danoo recruits these contributions by inviting its local audiences to post photos, videos and information about local events via the www.danoo.com/participate tab on the Danoo home page. According to the Danoo web site, contributions to its “Photo Gallery” are published in five-photo sets. User-contributed videos which “work without sound” are limited to no more than two minutes in length. Danoo says that up to 25 percent of its on-screen content in what it calls “relevant categories” is user-contributed.

Danoo – perhaps more than any other Digital OOH network serving U.S. audiences – is leveraging talent outside the USA. This talent based in Beijing, China – both technical and creative – is helping Danoo control costs and produce quality content with the localization and in the volume that the medium requires. Danoo employs 30 staff people in Beijing. According to Aileen Lee, five of those people are full-time creative people, working largely with 2D, FLASH and motion graphics. Three people in Beijing are program managers, with the remaining staff doing software development work (Danoo’s network is controlled by its own home-grown software). In order to facilitate communication between the Beijing-based staff and the San Francisco-based staff, the Danoo CEO said that at least three people from Danoo’s technical/creative team on both sides of the Pacific are bilingual and have experience living in both cultures. Lee herself is an Asian American who spent time at Fudan University in Shanghai.

Danoo’s venture-capital backer, Kleiner Perkins, has a very strong track record in bankrolling successful companies going back more than 35 years. According to Lee, the VC firm vetted many investment proposals submitted by advertising-based Digital out-of-home networks before it decided to give its imprimatur to Danoo. Since its founding in 1972, Kleiner Perkins has provided early-stage financing and management assistance for well-known firms such as Amazon.com, AOL, Compaq, Drugstore.com, Genentech, Google, Lotus Development, Macromedia, Sun Microsystems Verifone and Zagat.  

Today, Kleiner Perkins (KPCB) is leading the financial sector in the funding of Apple iPhone-related technologies which potentially could speed the development of interactive features to enhance Digital out-of-home networks.  This year Danoo announced some significant initiatives -- which Aileen Lee said are producing “great results” – to encourage Danoo viewers to use their smartphones to interact with and download content from the Danoo screens. Recently KCPB created the “KPCB iFund,” which the VC firm calls “a $100M investment initiative that will fund market-changing ideas and products that extend the revolutionary new iPhone and iPod touch platform.” According to the venture-capital firm, the new $100M investment fund will target “location-based services, social networking, mCommerce (including advertising and payments), communication, and entertainment,” which sounds like a snug fit for Danoo.

Danoo does not express much interest in developing networks where the viewing experience is more ambient (for example inside clothing stores). According to Aileen Lee, Danoo likes venues such as airports, coffee shops, movie theaters, and other places because viewers are clearly captive, and thus “have the ability to engage” with screen networks. Danoo, Lee said, prefers to serve what it calls a “consistent and high-quality audience” which targets “hard-to-reach mobile, urban professionals and frequent fliers.”

For any corporate merger, the devil often emerges in the difficult details of corporate governance, geography and cultural differences. This new merger, too, will struggle with those issues. It could fail like many other mergers that we’ve seen in the media business (think AOL and Time Warner). However, because of the money, talent and experience that Danoo and National CineMedia bring to the table, this deal among Danoo, IdeaCast and NCM should be one of the best seen to date in the U.S. Digital out-of-home media sector. This new collaboration may spur the entire Digital OOH sector to innovate and serve its audiences and advertisers in some very exciting new ways.

Bill Collins is principal of DecisionPoint Media Insights of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. The company produces custom research and consulting on digital media networks that are deployed at retail and out of home.

Posted by: Bill Collins AT 12:56 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 06 July 2009
Banking machine applications that involve paper transport include check processing, billing and currency handling. All this equipment, particularly ATMs, requires precise movement and paper capture at high speeds and volumes, and the machines must retain these capabilities under hostile climatic conditions. Extreme heat and humidity, as well as extreme cold and dry conditions, create changes in electrostatic levels and friction in paper-transport equipment, which can cause jams and double-feeds. For the engineers who select rollers, belts, and pads for ATMs, consistent conductivity and levels of friction are vital considerations in both original and replacement parts.
 
Dr_Albert_Chiang_edited-1.jpg
Albert C. Chiang
High-performance urethane is ideal for these applications. It has clear advantages over traditional materials like rubber or silicone for rollers, wheels, belts, and pads. Urethane provides excellent shock and vibration dampening, abrasion and wear resistance, great durability and high mechanical strength.
 
More important to ATM manufacturers and replacement-part suppliers, it offers customizable levels of conductivity and of coefficient of friction, both of which greatly increase equipment reliability and performance and eliminate the need for overly tight tolerances in design. 
 
 
Controlling conductivity
 
The most commonly practiced method of making urethanes semi-conductive is by “doping”: adding select amounts of conductive materials to the mix during part manufacture. While this does adjust the electrostatic properties of the part, each additive comes with its own drawbacks.
 
Adding carbon controls conductivity, but late in the life of the part, the carbon can stain the paper it is transferring. High-voltage vacuum coating fiber offers a limited two-dimensional (surface) conductivity control, but it is expensive. Conductive metal dispersion using powdered metal in blends from 10 percent to 80 percent controls electrostatic properties fairly well, but it is difficult to achieve uniform distribution of the powder during parts manufacture, since the metal tends to settle.
 
Mearthane_belt.jpg
Urethane belt manufactured by MPC. The urethane can be customized for electrostatic properties, coefficient of friction, and hardness to suit all paper-handling tasks.
Ammonium salt additives address static, but their conductive properties vary considerably with humidity — and at high humidity, they make the surface of the part sticky.
 
The molecular method
 
The best way to customize conductivity is to modify the urethane structure at the molecular level, making the material itself semiconductive instead of relying on additives.
 
Urethane parts customized in this way have a volume resistivity of 5E5 to 5E10 at a hardness of 5 Shore A -80 Shore D for solid urethanes, and 20 Shore 00 to 90 Shore A for foam. The same method can be used to create parts that are completely antistatic. Combined with a customized and constant coefficient of friction, the electrostatic properties of these parts ensure precise movement of paper at high speeds, eliminating double-feeds, feed failures, or jamming, which errors in conveying checks or currency and require costly machine service.
 
Getting a grip on paper transport
 
Mearthane_gear.jpg
Urethane gear manufactured by MPC. The urethane can be customized for electrostatic properties, coefficient of friction, and hardness to suit all paper-handling tasks.
Customization of urethane can be useful above the molecular level, where controlling the grip of a belt or a roller is critical — especially for high-speed paper transport systems such as ATMs. Chemically modifying the urethane molecules during manufacture can increase the part’s coefficient of friction, making it greater than rubber or silicone parts of similar hardness.
 
The proper coefficient of friction enables a part to grab one piece of paper at a time, move it a precise distance, and let go at the exact right moment, throughout the long life of the part. Such chemically based performance is achieved through decades of experience and fine-tuning of the formulations and manufacturing processes.
 
Semiconductive urethane parts for paper-transport tasks create the best balance of precision static control, coefficient of friction, abrasion resistance and toughness to ensure long-lasting, jam-free performance in ATM equipment. The result for the ATM manufacturer and service supplier is increased equipment accuracy and precision, reduced downtime and need for service calls and replacement parts and greater customer satisfaction.
Posted by: Albert C. Chiang AT 12:53 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 30 June 2009
A major strength of place-based digital networks has always been their highly localized footprint. However, this strength is also a challenge when it comes to creating high-impact national advertising campaigns. With new networks springing up across the country in dozens of different categories, what has been missing is a way to tie these different networks together and create a single national media platform.

At SeeSaw Networks, we aggregate these disparate place-based digital networks to create a single, viable, national advertising platform. In 2009, we have grown to over 50 networks, reaching a scale that has changed the way advertisers view place-based digital video advertising. We also added new technology to facilitate very efficient and effective campaign targeting, planning and execution. Today, when companies plan their national media campaigns, it’s not uncommon for broadcast-oriented media planners and advertisers to look at what SeeSaw has to offer and say, “I can plan and buy this media like television.” Similarly, digital media planners and buyers say, “This fits perfectly with my web and mobile strategies.”

The three keys to the evolution of the SeeSaw place-based digital video advertising solution – national scale, precision targeting tools, and technology and processes for planning and execution – also reveal key benefits of this media for advertisers.

How big is big enough?

Using third-party data from sources such as Nielsen and Arbitron, and OVAB’s recently released guidelines, SeeSaw’s aggregated network delivers more than 50 million weekly gross impressions across 200+ DMAs in over 30 different types of places like gas stations, coffee shops, grocery stores, health clubs, transit centers and hair salons, to name a few. This puts place-based digital advertising spots on a scale that is equivalent to a couple of TV spots on a blockbuster primetime show such as American Idol and well on our way toward reaching Super Bowl scale with 100 million gross impressions in 2010.
With this kind of national scale at their disposal, advertisers and media planners understand they can extend their reach by incorporating place-based digital video advertising into their advertising campaign. This allows advertisers to connect with on-the-go consumers in a new and more effective way while they are out and about in places where they work, shop, socialize and play.

Target practice makes perfect

But clearly, scale is not enough today. In this economic environment, advertisers and their agencies are under pressure to make their marketing spend as efficient and effective as possible. And agencies are obliged to make the most of available resources and work as efficiently as possible on their client’s behalf. SeeSaw’s Life Pattern Marketing methodology combined with the precision marketing capabilities of SeeSawAds.com enables advertisers to reach audiences far more effectively and streamlines the process for agencies to build truly national place-based digital advertising campaigns.

What’s exciting about the combination of a large-scale national platform and precision targeting is the way it enables brands to think strategically about their national campaigns while delivering a far more relevant message to individual consumers. For advertisers, it’s the ability to think nationally and locally at the same time, eliminating the inefficiencies and waste of ‘shotgun style’ national advertising campaigns.

For consumers it’s about personal relevance. A typical knock on advertising is that too much of it is disruptive. But it’s only disruptive when it isn’t relevant to the target audience. Consumers actually like to learn about the products and services that can improve the quality of their lives, especially if they encounter ads at the right time and place. With precisely targeted place-based digital advertising campaigns, advertisers can reach more of their target audience in contextually relevant settings, so the audience is more likely to be aware of and be receptive to the messages. Consider an agency developing a campaign to promote a manufacturer’s protein bar. After developing the core messaging and creative concept, the team is able to use copy splitting to refine the message for the different types of venues: “Stay Energized!” in health clubs, “Fuel Up!” in gas stations or “Energy On the Go!” for convenience stores, for example.

A plan for success

Another important step in the evolution of the place-based digital video advertising platform is the development of new SeeSaw planning and execution services, that provides one plan, one proof-of-delivery, and one invoice that until now would have required consolidating information from potentially over 30 different networks. The SeeSaw campaign process helps agencies easily and quickly work through the following steps:

Ideation – Because place-based digital video advertising helps advertisers reach a specific audience segment in many types of places, it is critical for media planners to have the greatest flexibility in how they solve their clients’ communication challenges. SeeSaw’s Life Pattern Marketing methodology reveals where target consumers go and what they do throughout their busy week, allowing media planners to target only the most appropriate networks and venues. SeeSaw’s technology then lets media planners easily review detailed information on every affiliate network and create different scenarios for achieving their objectives. Based on this knowledge, companies can be very precise in setting priorities and establishing budgets based on geographic area, demographic profile and venue targets. This level of detailed planning has never before been possible with place-based digital media on a national scale.

Optimization – Each plan on SeeSawAds.com is optimized to meet the specific media objective for a particular campaign. Once an initial campaign plan is complete, SeeSaw’s technology also lets planners optimize it by creating “what-if” scenarios that show the impact various changes (in venues, campaign length, creative specs, frequency, etc.) will have on the cost, number of impressions, and reach. Planning can also include developing a campaign flighting schedule based on individual life patterns and an effective frequency for optimal message impact.

Buy – Once the optimal media plan is finalized, it can be purchased with a single insertion order across multiple networks. This single order can eliminate days or even weeks of calling each network and issuing separate insertion orders. It is also possible to set up schedule reminders and notifications for delivery of creative, creative quality management, format conversions, final content delivery, campaign launch and campaign end.

Go Live – Over the course of the campaign, the SeeSaw operations team works with the our affiliate networks to assure the campaign is executing to spec. Agencies can relax knowing everything from creative format conversions for the different networks, to pre-campaign checks, to ownership of ad-flighting and rotation is being managed on a day to day basis to assure a quality customer experience.

Completion – SeeSaw delivers a single, comprehensive proof-of-performance report, eliminating the need for the agency to rationalize thousands of plays across thousands of venues over several weeks or months. Instead, SeeSaw lets agencies focus on analyzing campaign results and creating the next opportunity for their clients.

For national advertisers that have challenged their media planning teams with finding new ways to more effectively and efficiently reach their consumers, place-based digital video advertising offers an effective way to grab the attention of people where they work, play and socialize. By using SeeSaw’s national network, Life Pattern Marketing methodology and precision targeting capabilities to create cost effective digital video campaigns with national reach, agencies can deliver one of the most powerful ways to connect with people in today’s media landscape.
Posted by: Rocky Gunderson AT 10:46 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 29 June 2009
Consumers could be forgiven for thinking that the ATM is the most archaic and least-invested in banking channel, particularly as financial institutions worldwide increasingly appear to be focusing on more modern points of customer interaction, such as Internet and mobile banking.
 
However, those within the ATM industry are only too aware of the costly renewal that the ATM channel has undergone due to the migration to the Windows-based operating system. The forced migration from IBM's OS/2 has resulted in Windows becoming the global ATM operating system of choice, almost by default. When the Windows migration was first implemented, a raft of services were highly anticipated. But banks, for the most part, have chosen to focus on upgrading the operating system and communications infrastructure rather than the software driving the functionality at the ATM.
 
Far from the stagnant channel that customers perceive the ATM to be, banks' IT departments have been working overtime in recent years to bring significant changes to back-office technology. In many countries, the cessation of support of IBM's OS/2 platform for ATMs was just one catalyst for the required investment. The mandated introduction of EMV smart cards in many countries also has resulted in widespread systems updates and expenditure on new software and hardware capable of the necessary encryption processing.
 
While implementing these required updates, there has been an obvious business case for banks to review their strategies, and most institutions have made moves toward adopting a multivendor approach to their ATM networks. In this regard, the migration towards a modern, open standards-based infrastructure has given ATM deployers more control over their networks and provides a good canvas to rethink their software strategies to unlock the value from their recent infrastructure investment.
 
The popularity of accessing cash at the ATM seems to have only increased due to the current economic climate. With consumers tightening their purse strings and the increased focus on budgeting, a U.K. survey conducted by Level Four in December 2008 found that the majority of consumers feel most in control of their budgets when relying on cash from ATMs.
 
With the popularity of the ATM showing few signs of waning and the investment to update legacy systems and modernize the ATM operating system in place, the question remains, isn't it time for banks to consider the benefits of new software architectures to reduce the functionality gap at the ATM?
 
The business case
 
In the current economic environment and with consumer confidence in the banking sector still shaky, banks are looking to increase customer service, ensure customer retention and maximize ROI. The ATM is a key platform through which banks can support these objectives.
 
Research suggests that by 2008, more than 60 percent of banks in the United States and Western Europe had migrated to the Windows operating system and this number is steadily increasing. Through the move to Windows and open standards, ATM deployers have already made the foundation investment required to support advanced ATM functionality. While technology investment is being reviewed across the financial sector, banks should capitalize on the previous investment in ATM infrastructures to bring the benefits of sophisticated high-bandwidth networks and high-specification hardware and software to the end-user through more advanced functionality.
 
Coupled with the technology drivers supporting the development of more advanced ATM services, banks across the world are currently facing a growing pressure to deliver faster, cheaper and more secure banking channels to their ever-demanding customers. Facing procurement pressure to adopt an open standards-based Windows operating system to reduce costs and increase vendor choice, as well as customer pressure to improve services, banks are rightly beginning to view software as the key differentiator in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With the challenge of customer retention a big focus for 2009 and beyond, ATM deployers are now considering the customer services benefits that a modern ATM network can bring — effectively a retrospective business case for the "forced" investment in hardware and communications infrastructure.
 
What are banks already developing?
 
As the number of channels a bank offers its customers continues to increase and diversify, ATM deployers are seeking ways to ensure the ATM doesn't lose its foothold in the market. One key way to do this is by supplementing the vital cash dispensing capabilities with additional value-added services. In order to recoup their recent investment in hardware and infrastructure, ATM deployers must harness the revenue potential of their upgraded ATM networks as an important route towards a multichannel banking strategy, fulfilling present and future consumer requirements.
 
A new technology that is being integrated into the functionality of the ATM in some countries is contactless payment top-up. As contactless technology gathers momentum, particularly in the transportation sector, there is an opportunity for ATM deployers to enhance the ATM to support this new functionality.
 
Cash machines are a natural choice for contactless card top-up and balance services, particularly in the countries where contactless adoption is becoming more widespread. Mass transit top-up functionality at the ATM is live in France and Spain, for example, and provides a revenue generating opportunity for the banks, as well as increased customer convenience through a wider range of terminals to top-up the cards. The ATM is an obvious channel to exploit owing to the established network of terminals already in place, which offer customers convenient, familiar and secure transactions.
 
ATM deployers worldwide that take advantage of contactless functionality will benefit by driving increased traffic to those cash machines that are fitted with contactless readers, making this a potential competitive differentiator for banks who wish to increase interchange revenues.
 
Cell phone top-up in the U.K. is another example of advanced ATM functionality already in practice that illustrates the value of improving ATM services to banks and customers. Making use of the national VocaLink network, a great majority of U.K. ATMs provide the facility to top-up cell phones that are on a pay-as-you-go model, directly debiting customers' accounts as they pay at the ATM terminal.
 
These examples reveal the potential of the ATM to become an enhanced self-service device, supporting the wider lifestyle needs of customers such as travel payment and cell phone billing.
 
Using the ATM beyond its central role as a cash machine leverages much of the core functionality already built in to the terminal. Indeed, the growing sophistication of deposit automation technology is close to making the "bank branch in a box" a reality. Enabling the movement of money between accounts, bill payments and person-to-person money transfers are all future opportunities for the ATM to better support the wider bank branch activities. Providing such services at the ATM would not only be cost effective to the bank, by reducing customer reliance on the branch, but also be beneficial to customers, enabling them to access services from multiple locations on a 24/7 basis.
 
The benefits that can be achieved through maximizing the increasingly sophisticated software platforms on the ATM are regionally diverse. While there are many examples of innovation at the ATM in North America and Western Europe, there is also a strong incentive for countries with less advanced economic infrastructures to utilize the ATM as an opportunity to better serve unbanked populations or enable international money transfers for migrant workers. In remote regions where access to branch banking is limited, the ATM becomes an even more powerful tool through which financial services can be delivered. Beyond the convenience and customer retention advantages sought by economically developed markets, in less advanced regions the ATM can be a financial lifeline.
 
Crystal ball gazing
 
Banks are currently deploying some of the aforementioned innovations in different locations around the world, made possible by the upgrades to ATM infrastructures that have already taken place largely due to the Windows migration and subsequent back-office renovations. As ATM software technology continues to develop and hardware manufacturers continue to innovate in deposit automation and contactless functionality, there is potential to integrate even more sophisticated additional services into the ATM.
 
The ATM of the future will focus on personalization. Using a modern software platform, banks will be able to offer a dynamic experience to cardholders based on who they are as individuals — for example, targeting promotional material at specific age ranges or offering loan agreements based on personal credit ratings. ATM deployers will benefit from the ability to exercise greater control over the services that are available to customers. For example, services will be tailored to customers depending on their location, the time of day that they are visiting the ATM and even their past ATM habits such as a certain cash withdrawal amount.
 
Banks will inevitably start to consider the ATM as a vital delivery channel to allow cardholders to download additional applications on their smart cards.  Banks' ATM networks provide a trusted and secure point of customer interaction through which multiple payment types, identity and loyalty applications can be downloaded onto smart cards as more banks roll out multi-application cards.  Banks have been trying for several years, through the introduction of such services as mobile phone top-up, to showcase the ATM as more than a simple "cash and dash" machine.  Providing a platform on which new applications can be quickly and conveniently added to existing smart cards will reinforce this message and help position the ATM as the cornerstone of a multi-channel banking strategy.
 
Cash is (still) king
 
Now that much infrastructure investment has been made in the ATM channel, banks need to consider how they can maximize ROI by implementing new and innovative services in order to bring revenue and customer benefits. Moving away from the legacy software applications in favor of software based on modern architectures and open standards provides banks with significant cost advantages and ATM deployers with a path to recoup the investment in infrastructure made over the last few years.
 
Despite the obvious benefits that modern ATM architecture brings to functionality, it is vital that banks do not neglect the main focus of the channel — dispensing cash. Banks must ensure that any additional services provided at the ATM are not rolled out to the detriment of efficient and reliable cash delivery. ATM deployers must consider the strategic placement of additional ATM services, for example, avoiding peak periods in busy trains stations, or particularly well-visited terminals. Consumers also should expect to see more kiosk-type devices, which offer a wide range of banking services, but potentially without the ability to dispense cash.
 
However, while the need to maintain the core cash capabilities of the ATM is clear, deployers must focus on exploiting existing investment in this channel. Few banks are currently taking advantage of the increasingly sophisticated infrastructure behind the ATM. With an increased need to provide exceptional customer service while maximizing ROI, banks should look to advanced ATM functionality as a key differentiator. Advanced ATM software can help unlock the value and potential of the network and provide an additional revenue stream through the banks most frequent customer touchpoint.
 
Martin Macmillan is the business development director of Level Four Software in the United Kingdom.
Posted by: Martin Macmillan AT 12:51 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
This column is excerpted from the 2009 Self-Service Consumer Survey, sponsored by Self-Service & Kiosk Association.
 
From using ATMs to scanning groceries in self-service lines, we consumers are clearly comfortable with do-it-yourself options that save us money and time. Computer literate and technologically savvy, many of us also scour the Internet for information and services — often about medical concerns.
 
These trends are playing a pivotal role in the transformation of the healthcare system in the United States. Already devotees of blood pressure checks in drugstores, consumers are moving from "passive patient" to "engaged participant," with growing numbers eager to explore the next generation of convenient self-screening and monitoring options in the retail environment.
 
Some may question whether this new direction is good for the physical health of the consumer and the fiscal health of the market. But as industry leaders recognize the opportunities and the lead generation created by the change from a patient-oriented to a consumer-driven market, a win-win situation is emerging.
 
The development and availability of self-service health screenings can encourage consumers to catch problems early, when they are usually most treatable. It may also help consumers identify risk factors to prevent future health disorders, saving them money in the long run.
 
Providing consumers with health information and initial self-service screenings does not eliminate the need for thorough exams and testing by professionals. Rather, the opposite is true. If marketed correctly, these self-service screenings can generate leads by educating consumers about which healthcare services they need and move them onto the appropriate healthcare track for professional care.
 
The healthcare industry’s business-as-usual strategies of the past are simply not meeting current needs. One example: vision care. Regular eye exams can help detect problems early by assessing and treating vision problems and spotting eye diseases at a more treatable stage. The problem is that most Americans are uninformed about the need for regular eye examinations. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association, most people seek professional eye care only every 36 to 48 months — about half as often as recommended. Recent self-screening vision tests of 6,000 people in Georgia showed that 30 percent of them had never had an eye exam — and 80 percent of those using the free kiosk screening device were directed to see an eye care professional.
 
According to Prevent Blindness of America, the economic impact of vision problems in the U.S. is estimated at $51.4 billion. Dr. Kevin Lavery, a leading ophthalmologist and former FDA investigator who has taught eye surgery around the world, said that up to 50 percent of glaucoma cases go undiagnosed — and yet when left untreated, this disease can cause blindness.
 
It is crucial to educate consumers on how regular eye exams can help them preserve eye health and reduce expenses for future medical care, because disorders can be diagnosed and treated at earlier stages. Furthermore, if consumers understood and acted upon the need for regular eye exams, the U.S. vision care market, currently valued at more than $25 billion, would benefit substantially.
 
In the current healthcare climate, we need to use technological innovations to engage consumers in new ways. To do this, we must understand what they want and need. For example, data shows that nearly 38 percent of Baby Boomers would use a retail health clinic. And a new survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions concludes that many consumers desire wider access to healthcare in retail settings. While expressing anxiety about future healthcare costs, people are searching for services that save them money and offer convenience.
 
We need to close the gap between what consumers want and what they are currently getting by partnering with the healthcare professional community. Offering self-service screenings and monitoring at convenient business and retail locations makes sense, especially if we incorporate user-friendly technology to make the experience satisfying and informative. The sponsorship of these technologies will actually encourage consumers to schedule more office visits with a healthcare professional.
 
This will lead to better preventive healthcare for consumers and a stronger economic marketplace for those of us in the healthcare industry.
 
Bart Foster is CEO and founder of SoloHealth, an emerging company in Atlanta that is positioned to capitalize on the growing consumer preference for self-directed healthcare services. SoloHealth's inaugural product is EyeSite, an interactive kiosk that provides vision health information, as well as a customized vision report. Click here to see a video about the kiosk. In 2008, EyeSite won three Self-Service Excellence Awards, including Best in Show, at KioskCom Self Service Expo.
Posted by: Bart Foster AT 12:49 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Keith Kelsen is executive chairman of the board of The MediaTile Company and chair of the Content Committee for the Digital Signage Association.

In January of 2009, I wrote the year’s "Top 10 Digital Signage Trends." I thought I would revisit my predictions to see what I had missed; what had I predicted correctly and what incorrectly?

As it turns out, I scored an 8 out of 10, having missed two trends that are now apparent. Following is a revised Top 10 (plus one additional) Trends for 2009:

Trend #1: Content is the next main talking point for the industry

As an industry, we now have great, proven technology to deliver messages across DOOH networks, so now what? Dare I say it? I have to! "Content is king." Why? Since prehistoric times, as evidenced in cave paintings, people have used images, placed where others would encounter them, to communicate important information. For more than 120 years, rapid advances in technology have transformed human communication, delivering information faster and to a greater degree of relevance. The technology that has led us to a new medium, digital signage, has become commonplace. Now, more than ever before, "the message is the medium." The content running across screens provides digital signage its moment to shine. As a new medium, digital signage needs to define its own creative approach to content. This will be a pivotal year for great content.

I am still very bullish on this prediction, and given the amount of attention focused on content in trade events, discussions and shows, content is THE No. 1 issue of the year (and I believe for decades to come). Quoting my industry colleague, Lyle Bunn, at the Digital Signage Expo (DSE), "Content was of primary education and exhibit focus for the first time at an industry-wide event." In a Web survey conducted by my staff, of 227 companies claiming to create digital signage content, only 47 actually could provide samples demonstrating a basic understanding of content for digital signage.

Trend #2 Traditional broadcasters are getting into the digital signage marketplace

With the television industry facing an unprecedented downturn, manufacturers and producers of content are looking to expand and capitalize on the DOOH/digital signage industry. It is the natural evolution as a new media develops that many companies put resources into testing the market. Some jump in with both feet as they have no other alternative. Production houses employ expert creative teams that can bring top-quality content into the world of digital signage. Some will have to play catch-up; some will leverage Web and Flash skills to optimize great content for this new medium, for maximum impact and to achieve unprecedented returns. We will likely see acquisitions coming from the TV broadcasting industry, with companies essentially buying their way into the market to make up for lost time in the DOOH industry, around technology and production.

This trend is becoming increasingly apparent. At the National Association of Broadcasters, Harris, a traditional TV hardware manufacturer, announced the advent of Punctuate for digital signage, to provide digital signage solutions for a McDonald's pilot. Wegener Corporation, a leading provider of equipment for television, audio and data distribution networks worldwide, announced at DSE this year that it will provide a technology preview of the WEGENER iPump 525 IP Media Player and WEGENER Compel Connect. We see CNN Health News and ABC Health News transmitted in digital signage deployments across hospitals and doctors' offices. NBC also creates content for college campus networks. A number of production companies have also entered the creative side of the equation to do what they do best: create content.

Trend #3 Agencies are awaking to the power of digital signage

Many agencies are realizing that DOOH is a valuable area to explore. It is a difficult transition from traditional media to DOOH. Some agencies are prompting brands to buy into this burgeoning market. Open software platforms for the DOOH market will excel as they allow cross network placement, helping agencies drive more comfort and scale widely across the digital signage landscape. Agencies are also realizing that DOOH includes more than digital billboards; that it extends beyond this early digital signage incarnation. DOOH is being used to build brand networks at the shelf and in-store, to capture the consumer at the best possible time: at the point of decision. In-store media is the new frontier for agencies looking to expand product presence and increase sales at the shelf. The good news is that the media is measurable with real sales-lift as proof. In-store media is more than just capturing "eyeballs" and branding, it is about the merchandising and selling of product — not to mention the resultant tremendous in-store associate training benefits gained at the same time.

A number of agencies are being turned upside down given current economic volatility, and need to rethink strategies for achieving the best ROI for their ad dollars. Jack Sullivan of StarCom Worldwide (one such agency) had this to say about the Digital Signage Expo: "DSE was relevant, provocative, a harbinger of new digital media choices and reflective of the emerging array of new and exciting media." Other well known agencies attended DSE and KioskCom Self Service Expo and The Digital Sigange Show to help them further understand the opportunities of this new medium. Also quoted from the DSE was Gwen Morrison, WPP (The Store), "Digital Signage Expo had a great mix of industry, agency and brand advertiser representatives, and provided the latest news on technology and communications applications."

At the recent Strategy Institute "Content Summit" on digital signage, there were more than a dozen agencies presenting or in attendance. And, last week, we saw EnQii declare itself in the "agency business" along with MediaTile's announcement of its agency content training program and the Ad Council's new clearing house for public service announcements (PSAs) for digital signage at PSAcasting.org. Companies such as SeeSaw Networks and Adcentricity continue to capture large gains on the agency side by capturing budgets for aggregated networks.

The real proof point? TV upfronts are down. Barclays Capital predicted in April that upfront spending would decline 15 percent from 2008 to $7.4 billion. In the UK, advertising revenues to the television companies are forecast to be 14 percent lower this year than in 2008. Newspapers are off 28 percent in the United States and digital signage network ad sales are up as much as 40 percent for a number of networks, and some are folding.

Trend #4 Brands are shifting money to this market from traditional TV

Major brands are moving into the market, right now. Once traditional TV viewership declined, they began looking for more effective messaging. This trend began last year when a few brands bypassed their agencies and began experimenting directly with DOOH. Building brand networks in-store at the shelf is a critical part of this strategy. For brands to survive and retain customers, they must spend money at the point of sale, or risk losing customers to generic brands. Once lost, a customer is tough to win back — and expensive. This trend will grow geometrically as sales become hotly contested.

For brands, the real proof points are scattered around the world, in retail outlets, stores, chains and other locations. More and more we see brand displays incorporating digital signage networks and their own brand TV-like channels at the shelf. Samsung is an example of a brand sold on DOOH, and their recent new product launch campaign was 95 percent comprised of DOOH media. The results were "fantastic," according to Rob Gorrie of Adcentricity. These are real proof points that will drive brands and their agencies to digital signage buys. The trend of reallocating budgets from TV to the shelf and DOOH networks is progressing. (Budgets are also coming from traditional POP.) Major players are spending aggressively now to maximize their ad dollars and protect their brands.

Trend #5 Cross-platform and interaction with cell phones is critical

In the past year, blue tooth and text message integration passed its experimental and pilot phases. The connection and symbiotic relationship between display and cell phone will continue to grow with more deployments in 2009. Consumers are ready to utilize this technology today. Personalizing features by offering coupons and other media on handsets will further drive sales at the shelf. Tracking these interactions to measure the success of a network will also play a part in the overall success of the campaign. Digital signage will take a front seat in this area, adding value to the entire digital communications grid.

So far this year we have seen a few outdoor applications involving mobile SMS and digital signage, including OutCast (formerly FuelCast). There are signs of change, however. Danoo is rolling out to 100 locations. "Download rates tend to be below 1 percent online, but we're seeing 3 percent," said Doug Scott, vice president of marketing for Danoo. For those users that set their mobile phones to "discoverable mode," making it easy for them to receive messages, download rates soared to 30 percent. Twitter and tweets are increasingly popular and pervasive, and digital signage vendors are moving quickly to integrate this and other social mediums. At a recent auto show, Volvo used Twitter and brought the results to digital signage. This trend is inclusive of mobile, but with a new Twitter-twist.

Trend #6 Interactivity and measurement

Along with interaction with cell phones, interactive engaging technologies will propel the industry to enhance new consumer experiences, from touchscreens to floor screens, to window touchscreens to gesture-enabled interaction. The engagement of the consumer adds tactile experiences to visual experiences, and helps to create an emotional connection with the brand and product. As was the case with cell phones, 2009 will see more than simple small pilot projects; it will boast large-scale rollouts vying for consumer attention, ramped up to unprecedented levels. Measurement proves the maturity of the industry and is key in 2009. Data collected from interactive solutions and delivered upstream will give DOOH another powerful asset in the form of market intelligence and direct consumer feedback, for marketers and agencies to measure the success of their campaigns.

Here, we have seen impressive rollouts (over 300 in some cases) involving touchscreens across retail with brands. Touchscreen interactivity is being used for Touch Tune's and Ecast's networks in bars using jukeboxes. We have seen some very cool gesture-enabled interactions. However, this has not reached scale as of mid-year. I expect more to come from this very exciting area for digital signage in the remainder of 2009 and 2010.

Trend #7 Data-driven content or ad search for DOOH

As an increasing number of large networks emerge online, and the number of displays grows geometrically, creation of individual playlists that are relevant to a specific display and associated audience will become a thing of the past. Just as with Internet search engines, metadata for content and screens will ultimately be matched for the right time, place, target and behavioral attitudes. This will allow access to databases that have ad content and remove the complexities from decision-making focused upon when, where and why. This will establish the industry as leading edge, not trailing edge.

Technology is definitely starting to conquer this opportunity and there are a few companies doing something about it. The real question is when the software is in place, how will content be created, tagged and placed on the network? I expect to see content created in a more layered fashion, and digital assets locally assembled in more automated ways.

Trend #8 Cost of LCD and players is entering next phase of cost down

LCD's are declining in price and have been for the past six years. This is a trend which will continue. Innovations on the media player side will also bring pricing down. Quality is still a significant factor, and will be critical in keeping networks up and operational 24/7. Declining cost is not a substitute for reliable and scalable technology. Total investment and ROI still require a quality platform.

Clearly, overall costs are coming down…but right now, LCD pricing is slightly on the rise.

Trend #9 Consolidation and failures will continue

In these unprecedented economic conditions there will be failures and consolidations in 2009. This is both good for the industry and bad. Though we may see failures undermining the integrity of the industry, the pieces will be picked up and business models changed to improve the industry overall in 2009; the prevailing economic situation will simply accelerate this evolutionary process. There will be success for companies that are established, have good business models and have the cash flow to endure. 2010 will be the year of winners in the end game, where a few companies dominate the market.

The industry is in a state of contradiction, enduring some layoffs and failures, while at the same time supporting large-scale rolls-out and awarded contracts. The industry is defying economic gravity in terms of growth, but there are simply too many companies competing for business, with even more entering the space from outside. I am still of the mind that the industry is headed for increasing consolidation.

Trend #10 Growth for the industry is positive

Notwithstanding my previous comments, industry growth will be moderate. Digital signage networks have the opportunity to reduce costs, save resources and communicate powerful messages. These are attributes that will spur continued growth as companies worldwide re-evaluate every element of their communication plans. Looking closely at the models and businesses that benefit by taking advantage of digital signage technology will be the key. Making the case to use digital signage is our job as an industry, and this will be yet another year of growth.

Sales are up compared to 2008. I continue to see the growth despite the contrast of failures. This is a common theme in an industry that is on its way.

Trend #11 The print industry seeks digital

This is a new prediction, and one of importance. I have seen several news items that indicate this as a viable trend. The first example: a deal between Fast Signs and Scala. Here, a traditional sign company is looking to capitalize on the overall success of digital signage. As with all acquisitions, this will require a fair amount of training for internal employees to overcome a significant learning curve. Another interesting and recently announced "print-related" deal comes out of Canada: ICON Print's (a large-format printer for environmental graphics, retail POP, grand format outdoor banners, vehicle graphics and fabric printing) acquisition of GridCast, a digital signage integrator.
Posted by: Keith Kelsen AT 10:48 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 15 June 2009

Multitouch interfaces, as well as immersive experiences, are revolutionizing the self-service industry, and full-body tracking by 3D cameras will soon be added to the mix. These technologies draw customers into the action, first by sheer fascination and then through the satisfaction of being able to control, personalize and improve the quality of their interactive experience.
 
Cutting-edge 3D trackers have just begun to be introduced in motion-controlled self-service systems for high-traffic retail and public spaces. They help cut above the clutter that competes for consumers' attention. With 3D technology, customers are enticed to navigate advertising and entertainment content with full 3D gestures.
 
This refreshingly natural and intuitive ability to access information by gesturing in the air has created a more ergonomic, hygienic and, ultimately, more engaging consumer experience. Using just their hands, consumers can move items back and forth and sideways or even grab at virtual objects in mid-air. This kind of interactive user experience is far more exciting than a traditional touchscreen interface. And immersive technology, such as when the user actually sees his video image onscreen as he interacts with the display, creates an even more personal and exciting customer experience.
 
Even better, multitouch interactivity is adding a whole new dimension to a world where 'single user/single point' display control was once the norm. With a multitouch interface, multiple users can access information on an interactive display simultaneously, and each user can use two hands to do several things at once on a display. Because people generally use two hands in the everyday world, multitouch is a very natural, intuitive and comfortable interface.
 
By making simple rotating and dragging gestures, the user can control dynamic multimedia content, access product information, view advertising, play games, create special effects or manipulate images. Without a doubt, multitouch technology creates a world of possibilities for innovative and highly engaging multiplayer, multiuser and collaborative interactive experiences.
 
All these technologies are based on cameras, which offer the added benefit of being able to deliver user metrics for reporting and analytics purposes. 

But how can multitouch, immersive technologies and 3D technologies go beyond mere novelty, so they actually build brand awareness and loyalty and even convert passersby to customers? Here are just a few scenarios that are made possible with these technologies:

  • As shoppers approach a retail window, they are beckoned to enter a virtual store, complete with an authentic 3D replica of the store's interior, aisles and merchandise. With a tilt of their hand, customers fly through the aisles, grabbing in mid-air to see the image of their own hand actually reach for and pick up products, which they are free to shake, twist, open or turn upside down. Each motion the user makes is rendered instantly onscreen for a real-time experience that entices customers to enter the store and make their purchase.   
  • Tourists can enjoy a real-life virtual tour with the implementation of 3D depth-sensing, wayfinding systems. Visitors experience the thrill of a fly-by with an overhead view of a life-like 3D representation of their destination, complete with the ability to navigate key attractions. With a flick of the wrist or slight hand gesture, visitors can go, stop, change directions, fly through the cityscape or duck inside hotels, restaurants or other points of interest for an up-close and personal view of amenities and offerings before heading off to experience the real thing.
  • Customers can test drive new products with a 3D, interactive in-store display to gain a virtual user experience before they buy. Brand marketers can dramatically dial up the "cool" factor, kick start new product launches and create an experiential shopping environment that generates buzz and enhances viral and word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Entertainment venues can provide immersive, interactive experiences that help educate and entertain guests: Little sluggers can take a swing at a Major League-caliber fastball and then order tickets to an upcoming game. Aspiring explorers can navigate craters on the moon or traverse the jungles of Malaysia. Restaurant patrons can enjoy virtual games while relaxing with their favorite beverage and order refills right from their seat. With user-guided 3D environments that can be integrated into surfaces like tabletops, bars, walls and floors, the possibilities are endless.

Clearly, 3D and multitouch technologies provide loads of interactive and memorable fun for the consumer. But more than that, they also provide substantial economic benefits to the business that deploys them. Inventory costs can be reduced as real-world product displays are replaced with virtual ones. Sales-conversion costs can be cut as consumers conduct product research virtually, leaving associates free to close and cash out sales. Revenues can increase substantially as robust self-service kiosks allow stores to sell products and serve customers 24/7 through storefront windows, even when doors are closed. Printing expenses can be reduced, as consumers no longer require brochures to view offerings or explore options.
 
The list of economic benefits is long and grows over time, but there's no question that the fuller, richer experiences offered by these technologies entice more customers to browse longer and make them more inclined to purchase.

Posted by: Vincent John Vincent AT 12:48 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 08 June 2009
Awareness of environmental issues is at an all-time high, and it is fueling a dramatic market shift. Venture capitalists are pouring huge investments into early-stage clean technology providers, and I.T. industry titans, such as HP, IBM, Dell and Apple, are actively marketing energy-efficient green technologies. Environmental initiatives are also being championed at multiple levels of government, most notably through federal economic stimulus funding. A similar phenomenon is happening at the local level. In 2008, for example, Dallas received national attention for becoming the first U.S. city to achieve ISO 14000 certification for "broad scale" operations.

As a self-service technology manufacturer or solution provider looking to benefit from the momentum toward greater environmental awareness, you face important questions. Will going green benefit your business? How do you convey a credible environmental message to customers and business partners? Which green initiative is the right one to pursue? For answers, look to the globally recognized ISO 14000 family of standards for implementing an environmental management system, or EMS.

A global standard

ISO 14000 is published by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, the same group responsible for the ubiquitous ISO 9000 quality-management family of standards. The first two standards, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004, deal with EMS. ISO 14001:2004 provides the specifications for an EMS, and ISO 14004:2004 gives general EMS guidelines.

Since its inception in the 1990s, tens of thousands of organizations around the world have achieved ISO 14001:2004 certification. But until recently, this initiative has been less visible in North America. According to the most recent ISO Survey of Certifications, this region has contributed less than 5 percent of the total worldwide ISO 14001:2004 certifications.     

The premise of ISO 14001:2004 is straightforward. It aims to "provide a framework for a holistic, strategic approach to the organization's environmental policy, plans and actions." Because it is based on a generic framework for implementing an EMS, without dictating business-specific environmental performance levels, certification is available to virtually any organization, including start-up companies, multinational corporations, government entities and nonprofit organizations.

Initially, an EMS provides an organization with a baseline measurement of the impact of business operations on the environment. Programs can then be put in place to improve on this baseline starting with internally defined goals. The intent of the standard is to give an organization a way to measure progress against these targets. It also provides a common reference when communicating with customers, stakeholders and employees about progress made in reducing environmental impact.

Benefits of compliance

Adopting an ISO-compliant EMS can have a measurable bottom-line impact on your business. Implementation will result in a substantive, actionable framework for continually improving environmental performance and optimizing variable costs for waste management, energy usage, raw materials and distribution. This message resonates particularly well with larger manufacturers. In fact, for those companies with highly optimized production and supply-chain processes, reducing variable operating costs can be viewed as the next logical step to ensuring continued competition in the global economy.

For VARs and other self-service technology solution providers, the opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs may be less compelling based on the nature or scale of your operation. For you, the key financial consideration is the potential for incremental revenue. With increased market awareness of environmental issues and growing demand for a greener approach to business, cultivating an eco-friendly brand can boost top-line results.

Achieving this goal, however, requires that your organization's green credentials be perceived as credible in the marketplace. ISO 14001:2004 addresses this by providing a globally accepted designation that clearly demonstrates your company's commitment to reducing its environmental impact. When competing for business with environmentally conscious buyers, ISO 14001:2004-certified manufacturers — and solution providers that partner with certified suppliers — have a clear advantage over competitors that lack this green authenticity.

Market momentum is building for eco-friendly business solutions, and ISO 14001:2004 represents a globally accepted designation for your eco-friendly organization. It gives manufacturers a framework for continually reducing variable costs, and it helps all organizations elevate their standing with environmentally conscious buyers. If you are looking for a competitive edge, consider ISO 14001:2004 certification, and be sure to partner with certified suppliers.

Adam Ortlieb is associate director of marketing for Seiko Instruments' Thermal Printer division. He can be reached at adam.ortlieb@siu-la.com.
Posted by: Adam Ortlieb AT 12:46 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 01 June 2009

As more and more technology is introduced to the marketplace, consumers have become increasingly fickle about technology adoption. Gone are the times when a company could develop a widget with all the bells and whistles that could still be profitable, even though it took an end user three weeks to figure out how to change any of the settings. Think of the old VHS players, and how most people couldn’t even set the clocks. It has become more and more important to develop a product that is usable and intuitive to the end user; in fact, I would argue that entire companies have failed because their products have lacked these characteristics.

Usability and the user experience are critical to the success of any new consumer technology. These are even more critical in a kiosk program, which directly interacts with a consumer and is meant to be successful in a self-service manner, without human assistance. If someone tries to use a kiosk, whether it is an airline check-in kiosk, rental car kiosk, hotel kiosk or health screening kiosks and the experience isn’t nailed down, they won’t become a repeat user, or worse, they will discourage others from using it.

The understanding of technology companies around the user experience is becoming ever more obvious. Look at the leaps in improvement seen in cell phone navigation or GPS use. Only a handful of years ago, these devices had owners’ manuals that were thicker than most college engineering text books, and it took an end user every page to figure out how to use them. Now, one can typically pick up the device and intuitively navigate through the most basic and heavily used functions without much effort.

While I would argue that this is more art than science, there is an element of human factor analysis and determining someone’s mental model that aids designers in determining how to create a great user experience. There are a handful of firms that really understand how technology and human interaction can be done seamlessly to create a rich experience.

SoloHealth’s Experience

At SoloHealth we are developing a novel, new-to-the-world device. EyeSite is a self-service vision screening kiosk meant to educate consumers on the importance of eye health and motivate them to get comprehensive eye exams. The service is free for consumers and typically placed in high-traffic retail environments. We have discovered, first hand, the importance of the user experience.

We are asking consumers to interact with technology in a way that they have never done before. While most people have taken a traditional eye exam or screening, either at their eye care practitioner or early in school, they have always had instructions and continuous feedback about the process, usually from live people. So when we automate the process and leave the pace, process, inputs and interpretation to the end user, it leaves room for frustration, misunderstanding and worst of all, abandonment.

One of the best things that we at SoloHealth have done is to spend a good amount of time developing the user experience through quick and dirty testing, before spending one minute writing software code. This is the single biggest piece of advice I can give to another kiosk, or product, developer. Test your product as easily and efficiently as you can. In our case we created a paper mockup of various screen designs and ran a host of novice users through the paper mockup. We could quickly iterate our designs, message, application flow and communication tools in a matter of minutes. This helped us get 80 percent of the experience nailed down before investing any time or dollars in to the software. As most people know, iterating a product through multiple prototypes is very timely and costly.

Once we had a product that worked and a user experience with which we were comfortable, we tested just one kiosk. This way we could gauge real consumer experiences and refine the product further, before getting too many units produced and having to manage a network. Our motto was 80 percent and go, and churn, baby, churn!

We are continuously measuring completion rate and where in the program a user drops out of the application, as well as conducting intercept tests to understand consumer reaction and overall consumer satisfaction of the user experience. We constantly test new ways to communicate information, including different button styles, locations on the screen, simpler screen layouts, etc. The continuous improvement process is never-ending, and the minute you take your eye off of your product and the consumer behavior, you leave the door open for your competition.

As technology gets more sophisticated, consumers do as well, but their innate human behavior still influences how they use products. If you can find the mental model through which the majority of consumers look at life and the lens through which they filter things, you can harness this to your advantage.

The writer is vice president of operations and development for SoloHealth.

Posted by: Stephen Kendig AT 12:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Since the inception of Check 21 in October 2004, adoption of remote deposit capture has been steady among financial institutions that cater to business customers.
 
According to Celent, 75 percent of all U.S. FIs are expected to be remote capture-enabled by the end of 2008. With the rapid and widespread embrace of commercial RDC, many financial institutions are interested in exploring the new frontier of this capability: consumer remote deposit capture.
 
Technologies are now available that enable FIs to securely process checks sent via ordinary scanners, thus opening the doors to RDC for consumers and small business owners. On this front, Celent says that 7 percent of FIs report already having either a complete solution or a pilot program up and running; meanwhile, 15 percent report plans for a consumer RDC solution and 22 percent say they would consider such a solution.
 
RobMacMahon_NEW.jpg
Rob MacMahon
For many FIs contemplating this offering, questions still abound. To determine whether a consumer RDC program is right for your institution, and to ensure a smooth execution, a few key steps should be followed.
 
Identify your customer base
 
To assess the potential for success with a consumer RDC program, it is important to first evaluate your existing customer base, as well as potential new customers. For customers acclimated to off-hour banking solutions such as online banking, or for those who live far from a branch, consumer RDC could be a welcome offering. Evaluating your customers can also help you analyze overall risk and define the ideal customer to target in your marketing efforts.
 
Qualify your customer base
 
Diligent "know your customer" policies are extremely important in consumer RDC programs. While advanced safeguards are incorporated in the software developed for these programs, mitigating risk lies largely in the hands of the FI. Take inventory of the risk management controls that are currently in place at your institution, and consider a risk strategy designed specifically for a consumer RDC program. First and foremost, you'll need to set criteria to determine a customer's eligibility for this offering. For example, prerequisites for access to a consumer RDC application could include good credit and a long and positive history with your institution.
 
Take inventory of your security and monitoring capabilities
 
As previously mentioned, consumer RDC software solutions should include security features that allow your FI to control the flow of remote deposits in real time and customize the security criteria. This ensures that any deposits submitted for processing that do not meet the set standards are flagged and held until cleared by an authorized employee.
 
The crucial element then becomes identifying designated and qualified staff to monitor and control the software. Smooth deployment depends on your employees' understanding of and adherence to all protocol related to your RDC program.
 
Deploy your consumer RDC program
 
The final element of a successful consumer RDC program is smooth integration of the application into your FI's existing system. The key to a seamless inclusion of a consumer RDC program is that the software is easily installed and integrated into other back-end processes. Furthermore, the application should be easy and straightforward for the end user to encourage adoption among your target customers.
 
As the most rapidly adopted technology in the history of the financial services industry, the potential is there for remote deposit capture to become a successful consumer application. As with any new technology, before considering a consumer RDC program for your institution, several factors must be taken into consideration. With a firm understanding of your institution's customer base, risk controls, employees and, last but certainly not least, the technologies and processes through which you plan to execute the program, a successful consumer RDC program launch is within reach.
 
Robert MacMahon is senior business development manager of payments and imaging solutions for Diebold ImageWay, the deposit automation and imaging division of Diebold Inc.
Posted by: Robert MacMahon AT 12:41 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Okay, so I'm not as clever as David Letterman, but on the other hand, I am hoping that my list will be more useful, at least for those looking at the design of a digital in-store media network, aka, in-store TV.  
 
Since the advent of the first in-store TV network earlier in this decade, much time and talk has been given to finding the right model for digital signage at retail.  Early designs have brought about mixed results. Much of the criticism came from shoppers who either resented more ads being pushed at them or, at the very least, felt it was a nuisance.  
 
Many of these early in-store TV models weighed heavily on funneling some above-the-line brand advertising dollars into retailer coffers. And to avoid conflicts with co-op and trade dollars already tapped from supplier brands, many of the ads were from brands not even sold by the retailer and therefore out of sync with the shopper's mind-set.  Do I really want to see a car advertisement when I am buying my groceries? I think not.  
 
While advertising revenue remains a viable consideration when retailers design their in-store TV network, programming it should not be the dominant reason for its existence. And when it's done, brands should be selected that are relevant or entertaining to the shopper. For example, if a major pet-supply retailer ran a trailer for the Disney release of "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," I am confident shoppers would see that as an enhancer to the shopping experience.
 
Before I get into my top eleven reasons for a retailer to implement a digital in-store media network, let's look at what has contributed to this trend: Wal-Mart & Tesco TV.
 
Both retailers deserve a lot of credit for being early movers in this area.  The experiences gained, with a few bumps along the way, have made the path smoother for future implementations. Over the last year both retailers have launched next-generation designs that have incorporated several key modifications.  

-    Lower the screens to get viewing down to shopper sight-lines.
-    Evaluate the shopper journey and place screens in locations where they can easily be seen.
-    Place merchandise in close proximity of the screens so shoppers make the connection and it can better influence the purchase decision.
-    Manage the audio so that the soundtrack is shopper and store employee-friendly.
-    Align length of media spots to complement shopping traffic, emphasizing brevity with 5-second spots in traffic areas.
-    Present content that focuses on the shoppers' mindset, needs and demographic.    
-    Invite shoppers to purchase promoted products with strong call-to-actions.
  
Now with the road ahead having been traveled by several major implementations that have helped define best practices, retailers can now approach this shopper marketing and communications medium with greater confidence.  
 
So whether you are taking the plunge with a full rollout or designing a pilot to test the performance within your environment, I encourage you to consider the following benefits.  Then design the implementation and content programming to generate the results you want to emphasize.
      
#1. Enhance the shopping experience

Shoppers vote with their feet, a positive and enjoyable shopping experience helps to develop a loyal patron.  When digital in-store media is properly executed, the shopper reaction is very positive.  

- According to OXT's (Online Testing Exchange) July '07 Study, digital signage catches the attention of more people than any other comparable advertising medium and was found to be more entertaining than any other except TV.

- According to Arbitron Research (9/04 Study), more than three-quarters (+75%) of retail video viewers find the screens helpful, 42 percent of retail-video viewers would prefer to shop at a store that has video displays versus one without.

#2. Increase in-store conversion and product sales

Retailers are in the business of selling goods, plain and simple.  Digital in-store media networks are now proven to move the sales needle.  Many studies from researchers such as OXT, The Platt Retail Institute, Forrester, Nielsen and Arbitron now empirically show the influence on sales.

- According to Nielsen Research (9/06 Supermarket/Grocery Consumer Behavior Study), "68 percent of those surveyed said in-store messages would help sway their product purchasing decisions. Further, 44 percent said they would switch a product they previously intended to buy for one being featured."

- According to Arbitron Research (9/04 Study), "Nearly a third (29 percent) of retail-video viewers have made an unplanned purchase after seeing a product featured on the in-store video display."

#3. Build your store brand

To counter the "sea of sameness" between competing retailers, many are putting increased emphasis on their own store brands. In-store TV can be a powerful communication and promotional medium to convey the in-store brand essence and value.   

#4. Reduce perceived wait-time for customers

Whether it is in a check-out, pharmacy, or service desk queue, or simply waiting for your wife to try on another blouse to go with a new skirt, no one is a big fan of waiting.  If you can reduce "perceived" wait time you win. According to a study done by BTV+ "Virtually every use of digital signage display generates . a 40-60 percent reduction in perceived wait time."   

#5. Drive traffic to your Web site  

Leveraging both the in-store and web-based shopper touch-points, "Clicks and Mortar", to drive sales and loyalty is now an essential part of many retailers strategies.  In-store TV is a digital on-ramp, an opportunity to introduce to your shoppers your on-line presence and promote cross-channel engagement.   

#6. Strengthen relationships with your community

"Narrowcasting" capabilities of this medium enables you to pinpoint unique messages down to the location (even more granular day-part by screen).  Take advantage of that by serving up content that connects at a local level.  This can be as simple as local news, weather, collage and high-school sports, and community sponsorships.  Put some teeth into your "we are a part of the community" messaging.  

#7. Reduce point-of-purchase expenses and in-store clutter

Clutter and environmental conservation are two issues that often go hand-in-hand, and retailers are grappling with ways to ensure shoppers get their messages while not having their stores look like a used car lot on President's Day.  Digital media that attracts more attention than static signs can help to clear up those aisles while lowering the costs related to printing, shipping, in-store compliance and disposal.  It also supports more frequent and targeted messaging, which is not practical with traditional static signage.   

#8. Improve employee communication and training

Retailers are very aware of the high cost of employee turnover.  One of the most formidable challenges retailers face are 80 - 120 percent turnover of in-store personnel.  The cost of hiring and training combined with the cost of poor customer service is enormous.  
 
Retailers realize that they can "sweat the asset" of a digital in-store media network to improve employee communications and lower turnover rates.  Off-hour programs can pay huge dividends: daily team message, customer service and sales techniques, career profiles, product safety and recall information, and straight-forward training content that support the store manager.  Some retailers are even looking to their supplier community to sponsor training, for example "Speaking to shoppers about pet nutrition brought to you by Iams," making them a revenue generation source as well.     

#9. Strengthen your mobile marketing/loyalty program

Retailers are addressing a new breed of shopper. A shopper who has ready access to all sorts of information, who can stand in your store and do competitive price comparisons or look up consumer product reviews on their mobile devices.  Their shopping list, their coupons - virtually everything - can be accessed via that mobile device.  

Conversely, you can reach them with useful information such as promotions, event updates, and last-minute over-inventory blow-out sales through this device. However, there is a delicate line between annoyance and attraction when it comes to a device that is regarded as highly personal as a person's mobile device.  

Therefore, people need to explicitly opt into a program.  Like e-commerce, digital in-store media can be a powerful way to promote adoption and begin to grow that highly coveted mobile marketing list of shoppers.  

#10. Influence inventory and supply chain efficiencies

One of the most powerful benefits of this media is to do just-in-time messaging and leverage its ability to drive incremental sales to move over-inventoried product at the specific store level.  Take, for example, women's apparel. When the next season's fashions are due, last season's line starts to make its way toward the back of the store, getting markdowns along the way.  
 
Pre-markdown, heavy-up promotion of that line in the stores with excess inventory, thus selling more product at full margin.  This also applies to product over-inventoried at the distribution center, using the digital in-store media to pull product through the supply chain.  

#11. Generate new revenue by selling advertising space

Why #11?  Because where 1-10 address core retail operating and promotional considerations, this point is outside of a typical retailer's traditional competencies. It is also not for everyone, retailers with all store brands or a heavy emphasis on their brand and shopping experience may feel that any level of advertising fights with their marketing and décor.  
 
For many, the right model is a hybrid that brings in appropriate and viewer-minded advertising.  When it is done right in can be a powerful incremental revenue generator.  Studies are showing that out-of-home video advertising network spending in the US reached $1.28 billion in 2007 and are projected to reach $3.22 billion by 2011.   Do it right and you can get a piece of this action.  Do it wrong and your shoppers will have a piece of you.
Posted by: Stuart Armstrong AT 10:49 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The self-service and kiosk industry is alive and well, in spite of the difficult economy. KioskCom and the biannual Self-Service & Kiosk Association Advisory Board meeting, held recently in Las Vegas, is always a good opportunity to get a pulse of the industry.

Joel Davis, CEO of JD Events, reported on numbers for KioskCom: 1,382 qualified attendees. Davis said that while it might be tempting to let anyone in the show to keep the numbers up, the organizers stuck to their policy of only approving buyers so as to retain the quality of the audience. So while attendance may have been down from 2008, it still meant that there were plenty of good folks for the 162 exhibitors to talk to.

I reported on membership growth. Through our deployer membership campaign, we’ve added over 100 deployers since August and we project that deployer members will exceed vendor members in the Association by the end of the year as planned.

Chris Rezendes of VDC Research presented some very interesting figures on the size and projected growth of the industry. The self-service market in North America in 2008 was a healthy $4.9 billion and projected to grow to $9.8 billion by 2013. Rezendes noted that these numbers include all spending associated with self-service implementation, including hardware, software and services.

I also reported on our foray into social media with LinkedIn and Twitter. Our SSKA LinkedIn Group, established on April 10, 2008, now has 366 members and counting. It’s free to join; I encourage you to join the group, get connected to other members, post discussions, news and job opportunities. You can also follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/daviddrain.

The SSKA board re-elected Miller Newton of Netkey to a second year as president and elected vice presidents from the deployer, vendor and international communities. We also welcomed newly elected board members and, with "fresh blood" come new ideas. Board members expressed enthusiasm for promoting membership in the Association, but requested an "elevator pitch." These talking points can be summarized as follows:

1. Advocacy. The Association advocates for the use self-service technology, which saves consumers time, deployers money and improves the customer experience. Since we are the voice of the self-service industry, we’ve been called upon by the likes of Newsweek, CBS MarketWatch, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Airport Innovation magazine and Credit Union Business magazine.

2. Education. We want deployers of self-service technology to be successful, so we arm them with valuable information through this website and through newsletters and our library of members-only best practices. Deployer membership is currently free, so there’s no reason not to join. Our Speakers Bureau helps connect conferences and trade shows seeking speakers and our member experts.

3. Networking. Both deployers and vendors of self-service technology benefit greatly by meeting other people in this space and we facilitate that — whether it’s through board or committee service, membership luncheons like the one we held on May 5 or the Buyer’s Summit we co-sponsored at KioskCom, or through virtual opportunities like LinkedIn. We will help you meet other members to get business done.

SSKA co-sponsored the Self Service Excellence Awards with KioskCom where we inducted three more members into the SSKA Hall of Fame:

  • Gregg Kaplan, president & chief operating officer, Coinstar (former CEO of Redbox)
  • Rick Malone, founder and president of KIOSK Information Systems
  • Bradley Walker, founder and CEO, Nanonation

On May 7, I moderated a panel called "What Self-Service Technology Do Customers Really Want?" with panelists Jared Miller of Continental Airlines and Janet Sherlock of AMR Research. I presented some of the findings from our recent survey of over 1,000 consumers.

Read also: KIOSKCOM: Survey data revealed to show attendees 

We’re beginning a series of free webinars, so mark your calendar for our first webinar we are planning for June 16 called "Survivor’s Guide to Deploying Kiosks," led by Janet Webster, president of Creative Solutions Consulting (formerly with US Postal Service) and featuring an all-deployer panel:

  • Sarah Canepa Bang, CEO, Financial Service Centers Cooperative
  • Greg Clore, vice president, information technology, Dave & Buster's
  • Faith MacPherson, director, HR transactional services, Avery Dennison

So as you can see, we’re not sticking our heads in the sand, waiting for the economy to turn around. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the opportunities in this great industry and Association of ours.

Read also: KIOSKCOM: SSKA advisory board holds elections, annual meeting

Posted by: David Drain AT 12:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 11 May 2009
If customer-data security was a big issue before, it became gargantuan in 2007, following the infamous TJX Companies security breach. More than 45 million customer records were compromised, causing the company to spend more than $20 million investigating the breach, notifying customers and hiring lawyers for multiple lawsuits.
 
The crisis caught the attention of virtually everyone — from consumers, who heard numerous stories and warnings from multiple media, to retailers and other handlers of customer data. No longer could the need to protect financial information be treated as a secondary concern.
 
Enter the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, developed by a council of multiple financial institutions to enhance payment-account data security. It includes guidelines for user authentication, firewalls, encryption, anti-virus measures and more.
 
Despite the increased focus, however, one path of credit card and other information from the consumer to the back office of the store and the bank has not seen enough attention: the kiosk.
 
Kiosk manufacturers and software developers in self-service should understand the importance of a secure kiosk network and how it affects their customers, and be prepared to introduce the right partners to help customers build, deploy and manage a robust kiosk network to meet the requirements of PCI DSS.
 
Kiosk deployers and endusers should not only understand how to best secure their networks to comply with PCI DSS, but also assign someone on their teams, or even hire connectivity and security experts, to assume ultimate responsibility for securing the kiosk network and the customer data it captures and transmits.
 
The formation of the PCI council was announced in September 2006 and comprises American Express, Discover Financial Services, JCB International, MasterCard Worldwide and Visa Inc. This article will look at a specific segment of PCI’s complex body of rules and regulations and discuss the firewall and network components that are recommended to secure a kiosk network.
 
Relevant issues include protecting data at rest (storing information like credit cards) and in motion (sending credit card info for processing). Playing into that is whether the network is connected to the payment center or corporate headquarters by a wireless (cellular) or wired (DSL, cable) network, and what equipment and security setting is best for securing the data and protecting the network from intruders?
 
Firewalls
 
In the years of experience providing network expertise to the self-service industry, we at TeraNova have seen kiosk deployers utilize both software-based firewalls and hardware-based firewalls in the kiosk to secure the data that is captured from the user. Here is some perspective on both:
 
Software. Many kiosk deployers utilize software-based firewalls to protect their networks from vulnerabilities because it’s less costly. They simply use the server/processing unit inside the kiosk (often a computer with a Windows operating system) to ward off viruses, worms, trojans, bots, and other sorts of computer malware. They can block certain popular ports of entry such as port 80 and others. These deployers do not want to incur additional equipment or maintenance costs required to set up a separate firewall to launch a hardware-based VPN tunnel with encryption algorithms available to “scramble" the data in motion.
 
This relates directly to the TJX debacle. According to InformationWeek, poorly secured in-store computer kiosks were partly to blame for acting as gateways to the company's IT systems. The kiosks, located in many of TJX's retail stores, let people apply for jobs electronically, and they were connected directly to the company's network and servers. These kiosks were not protected by firewalls. An anonymous source said, "The people who started the breach opened up the back of those terminals and used USB drives to load software onto those terminals.”
 
The source said the USB drives contained a utility program that let the intruder or intruders take control of these computer kiosks, essentially turning each kiosk into a remote terminal that could connect into the main network. The firewalls on TJX's main network weren't set to defend against malicious traffic coming from the kiosks.
 
According to Corey Nachreiner, senior network security analyst at WatchGuard Technologies Inc., a manufacturer of firewalls and other network security products, if someone is protecting a mobile computer, like a laptop used for business travel, then a software firewall combined with other security software might be “good enough.”
 
If, however, someone is protecting a computer or network of computers that is not mobile, like a kiosk system, a hardware firewall often provides better protection.
 
Hardware. Software firewalls are designed to be just firewalls: They often can't block email or Web-based malware. “Malware” can be defined as software designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system without the owner's consent. If malware does infect a system with a software firewall, the malware can easily bypass that software firewall, or just simply turn it off.
 
In the past, many worms, trojans and bot clients were designed to actually add policies to various popular software firewalls, thus bypassing the software firewall and allowing malicious traffic to enter and exit the network at will. If the software firewall lives on the system (server/PC in the kiosk) and the malware infects the system, then the malware can easily reconfigure the firewall. If one has an external hardware firewall, even if malware does infect one of the internal systems, it can't make policy changes to that firewall, since it's external to the system.
 
With kiosks, the security goal is often two-fold. The system needs to be protected from Internet and network threats, but also from the kiosk users as well. A kiosk is typically designed to only allow users to perform specific actions. Often, these types of kiosk systems implement security controls that try to prevent users from gaining unauthorized access to certain areas of the kiosks operating system.
 
Unfortunately, kiosk attackers have become experts at bypassing these restrictions and gaining unauthorized access to the operating system. If someone uses only a software firewall on the kiosk, and an attacker is able to bypass the local security restrictions, the attacker gains full control of that software firewall, and can disable it with ease. However, if a hardware firewall is used outside the kiosk, even if a local user gains access to the kiosk, he cannot disable the firewall.
 
In addition, software firewalls are sometimes ineffective at preventing attacks that target a system’s operating system. Since a software firewall runs on top of an operating system, the operating system usually has to handle network traffic before the software firewall does. If certain components of that operating system suffer from security vulnerabilities, attackers could exploit them before the attack traffic actually reaches the software firewall. At that point, the hacker has already created a path to the kiosk processor.
 
story continues below... advertisement
 

 
Data_security_and_PCI.jpg  

Data Security and Privacy:
Best Practices for Protecting Customer Information through PCI

Consumers are going to become more and more aware of the need to be smart with their electronic data. Rising reports of identity theft will continue to remind consumers that they need to pay careful attention to where, when and how they use their cards — and in whose hands, virtual or otherwise, they are willing to place those cards. For their part, retailers will need to bring their practices up to speed while educating their customers about the steps they are taking and the processes they are implementing. That means working through the hive of complexity that is PCI, then passing along the essence of it to customers in language that they will understand.
 

 
 

Airborne attacks
 
Let's take another look at how the hackers got into the TJX Companies' network.
 
According to The Wall Street Journal, another separate entry point was an improperly secured Wi-Fi network the thieves accessed from the parking lot of a Marshall's store in St. Paul, Minn. The thieves reportedly used a wireless data-poaching tactic called "wardriving" and exploited the deficiencies of the aging Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) wireless security protocol. Although WEP is a security algorithm that can be enabled to secure the Wi-Fi network (802.11), it is susceptible to hacking.
 
Do not confuse Wi-Fi with cellular. Cellular refers to data that is transmitted directly between a device and a carrier's cell tower. Wi-Fi is the name of a popular wireless networking technology to provide high speed Internet and network connections in a wireless local area network (WLAN) using the 802.11 standards.
 
WEP a security protocol for Wi-Fi is based on a 64-bit or 128-bit shared key algorithm. WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) on the other hand, is an enhanced wireless encryption mechanism. But even WPA can have inherent weaknesses, although it is much more difficult to crack than WEP. The danger is that if an access point is hacked, the hackers can now sniff all the packets on the private Wi-Fi network.
 
There are a number of measures that can be applied with WPA to ensure higher barriers to hacking. For example, one can choose a long pass phrase over a simple password, and make sure it isn’t composed of common words; a “brute force” dictionary program can run all common English words to uncover the pass phrase. If the hacker retrieves the pass phrase, they render the WPA security useless or at least highly vulnerable.
 
Builders of kiosk networks must be careful how they lock down their 802.11 security. Kiosk deployers may be leveraging a customer's Local Area Network (LAN) and using 802.11 (Wi-Fi) to broadcast that connectivity to the kiosks. Or they might bring in their own network but broadcast to multiple kiosks in the location. Either way, they need to secure the Wi-Fi portion of the LAN and the data as it is tunneled, encrypted, and transmitted across the Wide Area Network (WAN) to its destination, such as a payment processing center.
 
In fact, most security experts would not recommend the use of Wi-Fi unless there is a very specific and business critical reason to do so. If so, it's important that the wireless traffic be on a separate VLAN or network segment. Also be sure the WPA/WPA2 encryption and appropriate authentication as dictated by the PCI-DSS are enabled. In some cases, using Wi-Fi can add cmore PCI-compliance burden than it would cost to run DSL/able or use a single cellular connection for each kiosk.
 
Point of capture
 
Jason Sweitzer, president of Tempus Technologies Inc., says, “Assessment of PCI compliance is a point in time.”
 
Tempus Technologies  is a technology vendor that focuses on point of sale applications, data warehousing, and payment processing for retail companies.
 
Indeed, PCI compliance is a moving target, and companies need experts and managed solutions to take the complexity and costs out of the ongoing exercise of maintaining security. Certifying costs are high, and if a deployer doesn’t know what he is doing, not only is he in jeopardy of non-compliance and potential security breaches, but is spending more to process credit card payments. For a mistake in processing, the transactions can go from being charged at 1.5 percent to 3 percent from the merchant bank.
 
Here are some potential solutions for security at the point of capture as well as for protecting the data at rest.
  • Sweitze says Magnesafe technology, which encrypts track data on the head of the card reader, allows for the transmission of data without ever having unencrypted data on the kiosk network. This is one line of defense. Then the data should travel across an IPSec tunnel with at least Triple DES encryption to the data center. Again, this requires either a software-enabled tunnel and firewall or a standalone device that can launch the tunnel, encrypt the data and protect against intruders on the network.
  • File integrity management products can “protect” data at rest, such as preventing it from being changed and providing alerts when the data is tampered with. This essentially ensures the “virgin” state of the kiosk so that the only programs that can run on the machines are the ones that have been loaded. Even if the kiosk network becomes compromised, the malware cannot run its programs.

How are other kiosk deployers handing the PCI compliance issues? Alex Doumani, vice president of engineering for Coinstar, says fraud and security are constant concerns, and they have invested heavily not only in PCI compliance but also in multiple layers of authentication and encryption for access and data transfer between the kiosks and the Coinstar data centers.

Smaller deployers of kiosks, however, need to watch the costs of deploying their networks and auditing for PCI, carefully weighing potential security risks and the need for more robust security options against doing the bare minimum for the network’s security. With the use of the proper network equipment, purchasing a few affordable managed services, and leveraging industry experts, those deployers will be able to offload the complexities of designing, deploying, and maintaining a secure network. For a reasonable cost, they can ensure they don't fall behind on security requirements to protect their company and their customers’ assets.
 
Natasha Royer Coons is the managing director of TeraNova Consulting Group Inc. To submit a comment about this commentary, please e-mail Tracy Kitten.
Posted by: Natasha Royer Coons AT 12:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, 06 May 2009
Last month, I was invited to visit the Microsoft Retail Experience Center near the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. We've talked about the REC before, as well as shared with you a video walkthrough, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see it first-hand.

It's a truly remarkable retail test lab, one that could easily be mistaken for a real electronics superstore, but you'd never know it if you drove by: The 20,000-square-foot facility is tucked away inside an unmarked building with no Microsoft signage anywhere to be seen. It's an invitation-only affair, a place where the company can bring retailers, partners and focus groups to test-run merchandising strategies and in-store technologies.

Stephen Sparrow, Microsoft's senior industry marketing manager for U.S. retail, is the driving force behind the center. He said his emphasis is on making the retail experience more connected, a word he uses a lot. It's at the core of his philosophy of what retail must become in order to thrive ? connecting stores with one another, with their employees, and with their customers.

"Disney used to say, when you're on a Disney cruise line, we'd better be able to recognize you as someone who just dropped four grand on a cruise," he said. "(We want to) create a world where you have more transparency, where you can deliver the right information and business insights to the right person, in an actionable way, when they need it and where they need it."

SLIDESHOW: Take a look inside the Microsoft Retail Experience Center

The store itself is a faux electronics store, replete with big-screen TVs, laptops, Xbox games and boxed software. But beneath the surface, the emphasis on connectedness bubbles up in some unique and new ways.

Take the shopping cart, with integrated touchscreen. Anyone who has attended a retail trade show in recent years has seen any number of such smart carts, but here it is integrated with the store's loyalty program to connect store database with shopper from the moment the shopping experience begins. An interactive store map, with turn-by-turn directions, not only delivers the shopper to the right place but builds an ever-growing pool of behavioral data.

Most of the products the shopper passes by in the store bear a Microsoft Tag, a technology that Sparrow calls "leveraged capital" ? a unique example of an in-store technology that the customer paid for himself, the cell phone. Giving a shopper a handheld scanner is one thing, but utilizing a device that is already in his pocket is quite another.

Giant touchscreens dot the walls, allowing customers to browse never-ending catalogs in a very intuitive fashion. Similarly hands-on experiences are served up by a Surface tabletop computer. In each instance, the devices in the store are pulling from the same central database, which not only insures a consistent experience, it saves the retailer time and money ? a screenshot or a product photo or a box cover need only be scanned once, and can then be automatically resized and repurposed for whatever touchpoint needs it.

Making the supply chain fully visible from source to shelf requires tagging, and in a perfect world, retailers will have RFID tags applied by the manufacturer. But for smaller retailers or those with a manageable assortment of products (or perhaps assortments from a large number of sources), the answer lies at the back of the REC. A desk bears a computer station with an RFID printer; as products come in the back door, a staffer prints a tag for each one and applies it to the box. Boxes are walked through a pair of reader gates, and from that moment on, the store is aware of each and every product for sale in the house.

In the back office, the database is mined through a data-rich but easy-to-understand management dashboard. From a single location, a manager can see any idiosyncrasy at the device level, and can make smart scheduling decisions. Color-coded feeds give real-time sales data, out-of-stock alerts, camera arrays, and even comparison charts detailing other stores in the network.

Sparrow pointed out that it's not just customers that benefit from the connected experience ? it empowers store managers to do their job better.

"You look at store managers ? retailers typically take their best sales rep and make him the manager and put him behind a desk with a Monday morning report," he said. "We say, give him that report mobile. And do it quickly, so he can get back on the sales floor, helping customers."

Sparrow said the REC is a "living, breathing facility," one that is evolving over time. In recent weeks, his team has begun experimenting with interactive storefront windows and new merchandising strategies.

"We understand that it's all about the customer? how do you help them find what they need," he said. "And how do you help the employee help that customer."
Posted by: James Bickers AT 10:50 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, 04 May 2009

Given the current economic situation, it’s more important than ever to cost-effectively deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. Instead of focusing only on the traditional platforms of television, radio, newspapers and magazines, marketers are excited about the ability to use new digital media — via the Internet, digital screens and mobile phones — to reach people wherever they are during their busy day, and in the right context.

Coffee shops, gas stations, ballparks, gyms, subway stations and grocery stores — this medium is everywhere your audience is. Including “place-based” digital advertising in an integrated marketing campaign delivers a highly targeted value message to your consumer and builds overall cost-effectiveness into your campaign, all while providing precision targeting unthinkable just a few years ago.

Place-based digital video has emerged as an extremely effective branding tool. According to research by OTX, 44 percent of adults said they paid some or a lot of attention to place-based digital video advertising, placing it ahead of billboards, the Internet and mobile phones, and on par with magazines, radio and newspapers. And 63 percent of adults reported that place-based digital advertising “catches their attention” — more than any other media.

Historically, the lack of national reach across multiple locations made it very difficult for national brands to incorporate place-based digital video advertising into their marketing strategy. Some companies, however, have begun aggregating individual networks to create a truly national advertising platform — very similar to what’s happened with Internet advertising. An aggregated network approach can deliver more than 50 million weekly gross impressions across nearly 30,000 locations around the country — all from one network.

Beyond massive scale, an aggregated network offers the ability to add sophisticated planning algorithms and Web-based planning applications across multiple networks to make it easy to plan, optimize, buy, manage and measure place-based digital video advertising campaigns. These technologies make it possible for national brands to evaluate the strategic benefits of the medium and quickly plan how to use it to complement integrated marketing programs.

So what does placed-based digital video advertising bring to integrated marketing campaigns? The ability to target timely messages to precisely defined, but elusive mobile consumer segments while they are out and about, working, shopping and socializing. Think of the impact your message will have on your customers in the context of their daily life patterns. Whether it’s pumping gas in the morning, shopping for groceries in the afternoon, exercising after work, or socializing in bars and restaurants in the evening, you can intercept them at relevant touch points in their day.

Life pattern marketing
 
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Life Pattern Marketing allows advertisers to map routines and traits of a target audiences.
Life Pattern Marketing helps advertisers use behavioral targeting to more cost-effectively deliver relevant ads to a highly customized consumer segment. It isn’t enough to know only demographic characteristics — it’s more important to understand what consumers do and where they go.

Studying the Life Patterns of various consumer segments reveals what they do during a busy day, enabling marketers to identify a customized Life Pattern for the audience they want to reach. Imagine the power of reaching “Alpha Moms” with a relevant message while they are out during their busy day, or “College Students” in a completely different set of locations — where they are most likely to gather on and around campus.

Geo-targeting

Another technology developed for place-based digital advertising, geo-targeting, allows marketers to customize a geographic area more aligned with strategic business needs and more cost-effective than broad-based media. This unprecedented precision gives marketers much greater flexibility, allowing them to go beyond specifying large geographic markets and instead communicate more effectively with the people most likely to be interested in their products.

Geo-targeting makes it possible for national brands to use placed-based digital video advertising to market goods and services only to consumers who can actually purchase them. For example, a telecommunications company can run a campaign targeting specific zip codes where its service is provided or around all its store locations to announce a new product or service. In the same way, a restaurant chain can target a Life Pattern in close proximity to its restaurants when the consumers are out and about and more likely to make a decision to eat out. Geo-targeting minimizes wasted impressions and lets marketers focus spend where it will have the most impact.

Geo-targeting and Life Pattern Marketing enable marketers to extend integrated marketing campaigns with highly focused and cost-effective place-based digital video advertising that can deliver specific messages in contextually relevant settings. What better time to tell Alpha Moms of a sale or special promotion than when she is out shopping? Can you think of a better time to reach College Students with an ad announcing a new computer or mobile phone than when they are on and around campus with friends?

Let’s say an automobile company wants to drive young urban professionals who live or work within a certain radius (five miles, 10 miles, etc.) to its dealerships. Using Life Pattern Marketing and geo-targeting, the automaker can design an interactive campaign that runs in targeted local spots around the dealership to reach this audience. With SMS, the automobile company can use opt-in text messaging to provide the target consumers with the location of the nearest dealership.

When evaluating the cost of adding placed-based digital video advertising into the marketing mix, it’s worth noting that most digital video ads can be easily produced using existing assets, so they don’t require a significant investment in new creative. In fact, by incorporating existing text, flash-based graphics and existing video assets, placed-based digital video advertising becomes an integral part of fully integrated marketing campaigns, delivering the same brand messages directly to target audiences in places with greater contextual relevance and immediacy.

There’s no substitute for reaching customers during those fleeting moments when they are open to receiving messages during their busy day. Since bombarding audiences with frequent, non-specific messages may actually result in more resentment than awareness, leveraging today’s new place-based, micro-targeted approaches will pay off in spades. Place-based digital video advertising is a powerful, proven media, and with today’s newest tools for planning, optimizing, buying, and managing campaigns, this media should find a home in most integrated marketing programs.

Peter Bowen is CEO and co-founder of SeeSaw Networks.

This article was originally published at the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA) Annual Integrated Marketing Conference on March 10, 2009, as part of series of thought leadership articles from marketing leaders to educate and marketers and media planners about integrated marketing planning and practices.

Posted by: Peter Bowen AT 12:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 28 April 2009

In the days leading up to Screen Media Expo in London, the DailyDOOH blog published an article entitled What To Do In London The Day Before Screen Expo, which highlighted some of the most interesting and worthwhile installations in the city.

Thanks to the very efficient Underground subway system, I was able to see some of the sites myself before and after the expo. 

St. Pancras Passenger Information Points
I took the EuroStar in from Paris to St. Pancras station, so the first installation I saw was the St. Pancras Passenger Information points, 11 of which are set up in walkways of London’s newly-renovated train station. The kiosks are equipped on each side with two NEC screens, a 32-inch interactive unit and a 46-inch display in portrait mode.




Oxford Street
Walking up and down one of London’s busiest corridors shoppers and commuters can find screens galore, many of them in the windows of cell phone providers such as O2, the Carphone Warehouse and Vodafone. Most notably, Eyeconic and WindowGain installed double-decker rear projection screens in late 2007 directly across from the Oxford Circus station. Interestingly, they were running the same content as WALK’s StreetlevelTV by Motomedia.




Digital Escalator Panels
With installations in 12 of London’s Underground stations, there’s no doubt anyone in the DOOH industry has missed CBS Outdoor’s digital escalator panels
from Esprit Digital and Digital View. Shown here are panels from Bond St. station (going up) and Knightsbridge station (going down).





Inamo
The coolest (and most delicious) stop on the tour was Inamo, a hip restaurant and nightclub in London’s Soho neighborhood. Using projection and a built-in touchpad, diners can order see the menu (and what each item would look like on the plate!) and then order food and drink directly from their table. The table also allows you to set the background image, view a live “chef cam,” check local movie times and find the nearest train stations.





Westfield London
Westfield is London’s newest shopping mall and is nicely located near Olympia, where Screen Media Expo was held. Much has been made of BF Group’s installation of CBS Outdoor pods at Westfield last year
, which are placed about every 100 feet in the main walkways of the mall. There are also some interactive wayfinding kiosks and installations from Carlipa Group in the Marks & Spencer and Debenhams at Westfield, but the bobbies didn’t take kindly to my filming so this tour stop was cut short!




Harrod’s
Fortunately, one of the world’s most famous department stores has a bit more liberal video policy, so my visit to Harrod’s was a bit more worthwhile. The entire store is decked out with LG screens used for wayfinding and branding. The famous Egyptian escalator features digital signage in between every floor and large screen at each landing. In the electronics retail area Harrod’s has installed a gesture-based LG-branded floor screen that changed content about every two minutes.





Victoria Station
This station, one of many that Titan Outdoor has outfitted in London, features a huge LED Transvision screen in the central area as well as 17 digital posters scattered throughout the station.





Heathrow Express
This train goes back and forth from Heathrow to London Paddington in 15 minutes and has become a lifesaver when I’m running late. The train features on-board screens running informational and entertainment content, as shown in the video below. I only took the train one-way from Paddington to the airport this time around, but if you are going the other way you can see a Sidetrack Technologies installation of 360 LED bars over 450 meters of tunnel that flash as the train goes by and creates a video ad that looks like its running alongside the train car.

To see a video of London’s SideTrack installation, click here.



There are two stops on the DailyDOOH tour I wasn’t able to make – Heathrow Terminal 5, because I was flying to the U.S. out of Terminal 2, and the Walkabout bars near the Thames in Central London. You can read more about those in original blog post.

Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
In 1939, the first television was demonstrated at the World’s Fair in New York. According to Nielsen, it wasn’t until 1950 that television audience measurement was developed, and it was another four years until active measurement occurred.

From the 1990s to today, the internet industry has matured in engagement and measurement, but it has taken place over at least 15 years of incredible work by every discipline involved.

There is a lot of attention being paid to proper measurement of Out-Of-Home (OOH) messaging networks. It is a young and growing industry with a lot of key players from every discipline trying to figure the best business model for prosperity.

After attending the Digital Signage Expo and Global Shop, reading through dozens of white papers and articles, listening to the best and brightest minds of this industry, and finding more questions than answers, I wonder: Do we really need to worry about measurement right now? Rome was not built in a day.

What tools do we have to measure?

Last year, the Out-of-Home Video Advertising Bureau (OVAB) introduced the first comprehensive set of guidelines designed to understand the value of an audience in a given space at a given time. On page 24 of the OVAB Audience Metrics Guidelines, it states, “Three constituencies have been involved: research providers, media sellers, and media buyers.”

Were venues (network owners) involved? If so, which ones? I know of at least one retailer on the Fortune 100 list that was not in this discussion.

In Measurement and Analysis for Digital Signage, author James Bickers writes that “OVAB plans to enforce adherence to the guidelines among its 38 member companies and to promote best audience measurement practices across the entire digital signage community.” (Note: I cite this white paper a few more times in this article, referring to it simply as Measurement.)

What about that community? What about the hundreds, or thousands, of networks that are not OVAB members or OVAB compliant? How will these guidelines be enforced? Do networks have to pay the huge OVAB dues to get accreditation for compliance? Would an advertiser avoid a non-compliant venue? Would an advertiser avoid a retailer on the Fortune 100 list?

Dave Haynes, the brilliant mind behind the Sixteen:Nine blog, wrote an article on February 14, Are you OVAB compliant? Nope…, citing Nurlan Urazbaev of BroadSign and his concerns that the guidelines are “heavy going,” that networks must work with a third party to properly measure the average unit audience, and the fear that, “there will be companies who will start claiming ‘compliance’ for PR reasons, without even reading the guidelines requirements.”

This is coming from someone very active with OVAB.

We know of Wal-Mart’s decision to pull out from the PRISM project, and Nielsen’s eventual decision to shut it down. We also know about POPAI’s MARI (Marketing at Retail Initiative) project. Bill Gerba’s article on January 27, Measuring Out-of-Home Media and DOOH without Nielsen PRISM, suggests MARI may move forward after initial obstacles.

According to Janet Stilson’s article on MediaWeek.com, Coming Into Focus, The Traffic Audit Bureau’s “Eyes On” measurement initiative (“Four years and $20 million in the making”) is set to release ratings on the outdoor industry. This is for outdoor billboards, but what if the results are so solid that brick-and-mortar venues take notice and adapt these measurement metrics to their own environments? It’s traffic, right?

Teri Moore from Digital Dirt wrote in her article, The Measuring Matrix - What’s Real and Are We Ready to Take the Red Pill?, that, understanding the evolution of technology and standards, “…we immediately enforced strict ROI guidelines…allowing us to report accurate measurements to advertisers.”

In Measurement, Scott Templeton, senior vice president of Business Development for Intellimat (now LevelVision), said that he “…has attracted brand and new product introduction money from Coke and Pepsi because I had a digital network and proven track record.”

Rob Winston, senior account manager with Arbitron Outdoor, is quoted in Measurement saying, “Digital signage is not easy to buy. Each network is offering its own unique value proposition and must therefore be evaluated individually. The grocery network, restaurant/bar network, transit network, mall network, waiting room network, etc… are all used differently and have their own merits. Learning, evaluating and deciding on all of these individual networks is hard work for advertisers.”

Bill Yackey, editor of Digital Signage Today, wrote about research and audience metrics last December. In his article, Research Key to Providing DOOH Audience Metrics, he quotes Suzanne Alicea, President of OVAB, stating, “The guidelines are just that. They’re not strict standards at this point. They essentially outline the information you should be reporting. This information should be common across any audience study from any researcher for any network.”

Did Ms. Moore and Mr. Templeton use OVAB’s measurement guidelines? If not, what was their measurement matrix? If it’s different, and if it’s successful, and if OVAB’s guidelines are only guidelines and not rules, why should they move toward a different set of metrics? Because someone else said they should?
Here’s the dangerous part: If one method of metric measurement shows a positive return on the investment, but the other method does not, who should we believe?

The shopper mindset

We know that a shopper’s behavior in certain environments is affected by digital messaging. OVAB’s guidelines provide results for measuring the size of an audience in a given space, and Nielsen research does a terrific job of telling me that digital signage changes behaviors. But what changed the behavior? And how was it changed?

If content is king, then the content should have a measurable effect on audience perception. It’s acceptable to measure the number of people in a given space at a given time, but impact is the missing link.

I believe this is the most important aspect of true audience measurement to consider. How an audience member acts in one location is radically different than how he/she acts in another. Example: You go to Target, a “needs” based destination, to pick up toilet paper and baby food and a pair of socks because you need them.

Your mindset is very different when you go to Best Buy, a “wants” based destination, where you’re looking for a new mobile phone that makes your life easier and looks better on your hip than that old clunker you have right now. If the same spot is running (say, a film trailer for a DVD release) in both locations, and you see it and comprehend it, how can I measure that one location had greater impact than the other?

Herb Sorensen, Ph.D., global scientific director for TNS Sorensen, wrote a superb article, Deconstructing the Shopping Trip (so far!), on understanding the shopper’s mindset during a shopping trip. He writes that a shopping trip “…can be divided into search and selection, with search having two components, the first of which is cruising, which consists of a macro search for the area in the store where sought merchandise is located.  This cruising typically constitutes something like 60 percent of the shoppers trip.”

So 60 percent of my time is already taken by wandering around, even though I may know what I want.

Further he writes, “The search and select paradigm highlights the twin barriers to purchase that retailers and their brand suppliers erect:

• Where is the . . ?
• Which one of these . . ?

The first of these plagues the shopper when store layout does not match the shopper’s natural navigational practices and the second when it is unclear which of many options is the right one for the shopper.”

As a shopper, does digital signage fix any of this for me? That’s very debatable. If it does, can we truly measure it?

Jim Lucas, executive vice president/director of Draftfcb’s Shopper Marketing division, writes in his article, Retail’s Ecosystem, that, “…there are thousands of elements - i.e., products, navigational signage, format, layout, departments, aisles, shelf organization, displays, digital signage, interactive kiosks, etc. - all sharing the same habitat. In short, there are hundreds of communications vying for the shopper’s attention.”

David Drain, executive director of the Digital Signage Association, wrote in his article, The Psychology of Digital Signage, about research by Brian Brooks and Kelly Caravan from 3M. Trying to understand the psychology of branding and promotion, Mr. Brooks said, “Branding doesn’t just change our emotional experience, but literally our physical reaction.” Mr. Brooks’s research suggests that a customer’s eyes will focus on desirable areas of the store based on colors.

To this point, I would lean toward charging top-tier brands premium rates on my program if they already have an advantage before the customer even steps foot in the store, especially if I have a private label brand that I want to promote as well. Or would metrics force me into “one-rate-fits-all?”

In Mr. Yackey’s article, he writes about Danoo and its results after commissioning Arbitron to study audience engagement. Seeking to understand the engagement with promoting FOX’s show House, the study found that, “…the ads drove a 25 percent increase in intent to watch among their audiences.”

Here are my questions: Where was Danoo showing this promotion and what other content was around these particular spots? What if I sell the House TV series on DVD? What if I promote a competing drama right before or after promoting House? What if I show a clip of grass growing before the House spot and a clip of paint drying after?

Nikki Baird, managing partner at Retail Systems Research wrote a brief article, Marketing Metrics in the Age of Social Media. After speaking at the Digital Signage Expo she wrote, “…we came to the conclusion that performance is ultimately what matters - because how can you really justify digital in-store media on anything else, given the context of being at the shelf - at the point of decision? But in order to understand the levers that move response, we must make that ‘deep’ effort to understand the why behind the buy.”

Currently, Bill Gerba is writing a series of articles based on his outstanding presentation at Digital Signage Expo. Writing in his article, Digital Signage Screen Placement: Understanding Store Layout, I think he sums up the challenge quite nicely: “Even if you do everything you possibly can to properly integrate your screens into a venue, the differences in personalities, demographics and mentalities of the viewers from one place to the next can make a huge difference.”

It seems we’re rushing to measure something we don’t fully comprehend. We have a corporate phrase for this: Ready. Fire. Aim.

Where do we go from here?

The OOH industry is young and still trying to figure out its place in our culture, still trying to figure out why people act the way they do in certain situations, trying to figure out that elusive connection.

At a time when technology and content are finally developing a synergy that enhances the experience, is it truly imperative that we start measuring right away? This industry is growing so fast that any statistical measurement done today could be obsolete within a few years, if not a few months.

Network operators and venues are in no hurry to become metric compliant; media planners and buyers don’t fully understand the medium yet; agencies are still working toward a full understanding of creative and compelling communication techniques for OOH; OVAB is trying to enforce compliance with only a few dozen members; and there are other companies out there with different and perhaps stronger methods for measurement and definition.

This feels like I should grade my daughter on calculus while she’s still learning to count to 10.
With economy so low, now is not a good time to measure or set metrics based on audience participation with OOH messaging. Clearly the traffic is skewed; huge numbers of people are using mass transit and watching point-of-transit messaging, but retail and point-of-sale traffic has disappeared.

There are probably hundreds of theories and technologies around measuring an audience and message impact. With these theories come dozens of terms and definitions that, even for one who loves to read white papers, make me scratch my head. I have cited 13 sources for this post, and I’m certain I haven’t even scratched a byte out of the digital iceberg.

My take: Wait two more years. Before we jump into the necessity of measurement and compliance, let’s consider our current and future situations. We constantly preach that we should build a strategy first, so let’s do it. For retail, now could not be a worse time to measure customer engagement, so let’s wait for the numbers to come back. Let’s hear every voice from every discipline — the technology providers, the venues and agencies, regardless of size, the research organizations, and every other key player. The more we learn about optimal customer engagement, the better prepared we will be to hit the market in full “bull” mode and apply proper measurement techniques that benefit every discipline.
Posted by: Paul Flanigan AT 10:51 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The following is a preview excerpt from our 2009 Self-Service Consumer Survey, to be made available later this month. –Ed.

The self-service industry has come to a crossroads of customer service and technological innovation.

Over the past two decades, banks and airlines have led the way with ATMs and kiosks, with retail, medical, hotels and ticketing embracing self-service technology in ever greater numbers. Now, we are close to the tipping point of full adoption of self-service technology, similar to where we were in the mid-1990s, when the Internet and e-commerce became inextricably linked to consumer behavior.

The primary evidence of this arrival is that customer requests for self-service are increasing throughout most service-transaction industries. Kiosks are no longer a fad but rather a requirement for many (albeit not all) customers.

None of this is lost on hospitality professionals.

"The depth and range of self-service solutions in the hospitality industry has grown over the last year," said an article in Hospitality Technology. "Consumers are more interested and motivated to use self-service kiosks, and both hotel and restaurant operators are making significant strides in respect to rolling out solutions. While self-service solutions still have limited availability in hotels and even fewer restaurants, the number of rollouts planned will increase markedly over the next four years."

The customer speaks

The same reasons that make self-service popular elsewhere also apply to its applications in hospitality. Consumers want more choices and convenience, and benefit from shorter lines, less waiting and faster service. Control is another big factor. Some consumers just want the choice to do it on their own and maintain control over the experience. While these systems will never replace personalized customer service, they are flexible and offer an increasing number of consumers fast and reliable service. Service companies, then, need to offer guests the option to initiate a transaction and not stop at the reception desk, if that's what they choose to do.

"Hoteliers are seeing that self-service will become an expectation for consumers and therefore a critical component of their business strategies," also according to the above report.

Among technology options, mobile is showing significant promise. "It’s clear that mobile is the gateway to how airlines will interact with their customers in the future for almost anything," said Henry H. Harteveldt, a vice president with Forrester Research. As airlines led the way with kiosk deployment, we can predict that customers will be increasingly demanding mobile technology at the hotel.

A survey performed by market research firm TNS in December 2007 states that when given a choice of checking in to a hotel up to 24 hours prior to arrival via the Internet or a mobile device, 36 percent of respondents preferred the PC, 20 percent preferred the mobile device and 24 percent expressed no clear preference. Hoteliers wanting to move guests to mobile check-in may consider including top-rated options such as "upgrade room" and "choose room based on floor maps," the respondents indicated.

Getting it right

Self-service technology has now passed the "nice-to-have" and early-adopter stages. An ever-increasing number of customers expect transactive, interactive, efficient and elegant user-friendly technology to be available during the full cycle of customer interaction. It should be implemented from the first remote touchpoints through transaction completion.

Key issues to consider for successful self-service transactions are:

  • Kiosk deployment. Ensure that the units are available where customers want them, at as many touchpoints as possible.
  • Increased functionality. Adopt the most comprehensive units as possible and retrofit currently deployed kiosks with the latest functionality.
  • Wireless. Wireless kiosks will increase your customer capture as they provide the flexibility to adapt to changing customer patterns. In short, you can put them where you need them, when you need them there.
  • Web and mobile access, with barcode functionality
  • Mobile messaging and marketing. Develop a mobile message strategy to bring the customer into the transaction at the earliest possible touchpoint.

Notwithstanding the appeal of the kiosk and the novelty of mobile technology, hospitality professionals should not neglect the Web.

Web check-in provides guests the ability to remotely use a computer or mobile device to check in to the hotel. This is a direct evolution of the customer hotel experience. Customers worldwide are becoming more and more connected via PC, laptop and mobile phones. The customer has already shown increasing adoption of Web check-in for airline boarding passes. Also, according to a study by Compete Inc., hotel guests want and expect branded Web sites to provide a better "total travel experience." Further, one-third said online check-in was significant to them.

"Service enhancements that are geared to making the pre-arrival experience easier for business guests, such as online check-in, continue to be important guest satisfaction factors," said Linda Hirneise, hotel practice partner for J.D. Power and Associates. 

Peter Slifka is a business consultant with more than 20 years’ experience in operations and corporate disciplines. Most recently, he focused on the self-service initiatives for the Starwood Hotels, implementing kiosk programs for Sheraton, W Hotels, Le Méridien, Four Points, Aloft & Element brands.

Posted by: Peter Slifka AT 12:12 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 02 April 2009
Given the current economic situation, it’s more important than ever to cost-effectively deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. Instead of focusing only on the traditional platforms of television, radio, newspapers and magazines, marketers are excited about the ability to use new digital media — via the Internet, digital screens and mobile phones — to reach people wherever they are during their busy day, and in the right context.

Coffee shops, gas stations, ballparks, gyms, subway stations and grocery stores — this medium is everywhere your audience is. Including “place-based” digital advertising in an integrated marketing campaign delivers a highly targeted value message to your consumer and builds overall cost-effectiveness into your campaign, all while providing precision targeting unthinkable just a few years ago.

Place-based digital video has emerged as an extremely effective branding tool. According to research by OTX, 44 percent of adults said they paid some or a lot of attention to place-based digital video advertising, placing it ahead of billboards, the Internet and mobile phones, and on par with magazines, radio and newspapers. And 63 percent of adults reported that place-based digital advertising “catches their attention” — more than any other media.

Historically, the lack of national reach across multiple locations made it very difficult for national brands to incorporate place-based digital video advertising into their marketing strategy. Some companies, however, have begun aggregating individual networks to create a truly national advertising platform — very similar to what’s happened with Internet advertising. An aggregated network approach can deliver more than 50 million weekly gross impressions across nearly 30,000 locations around the country — all from one network.

Beyond massive scale, an aggregated network offers the ability to add sophisticated planning algorithms and Web-based planning applications across multiple networks to make it easy to plan, optimize, buy, manage and measure place-based digital video advertising campaigns. These technologies make it possible for national brands to evaluate the strategic benefits of the medium and quickly plan how to use it to complement integrated marketing programs.

So what does placed-based digital video advertising bring to integrated marketing campaigns? The ability to target timely messages to precisely defined, but elusive mobile consumer segments while they are out and about, working, shopping and socializing. Think of the impact your message will have on your customers in the context of their daily life patterns. Whether it’s pumping gas in the morning, shopping for groceries in the afternoon, exercising after work, or socializing in bars and restaurants in the evening, you can intercept them at relevant touch points in their day.

Life pattern marketing
 
Life Pattern Marketing allows advertisers to map routines and traits of a target audiences.
Life Pattern Marketing helps advertisers use behavioral targeting to more cost-effectively deliver relevant ads to a highly customized consumer segment. It isn’t enough to know only demographic characteristics — it’s more important to understand what consumers do and where they go.

Read also: DirecTV blimp elevates SeeSaw’s ‘Life Patterns’ for DOOH media

Studying the Life Patterns of various consumer segments reveals what they do during a busy day, enabling marketers to identify a customized Life Pattern for the audience they want to reach. Imagine the power of reaching “Alpha Moms” with a relevant message while they are out during their busy day, or “College Students” in a completely different set of locations — where they are most likely to gather on and around campus.

Geo-targeting

Another technology developed for place-based digital advertising, geo-targeting, allows marketers to customize a geographic area more aligned with strategic business needs and more cost-effective than broad-based media. This unprecedented precision gives marketers much greater flexibility, allowing them to go beyond specifying large geographic markets and instead communicate more effectively with the people most likely to be interested in their products.

Geo-targeting makes it possible for national brands to use placed-based digital video advertising to market goods and services only to consumers who can actually purchase them. For example, a telecommunications company can run a campaign targeting specific zip codes where its service is provided or around all its store locations to announce a new product or service. In the same way, a restaurant chain can target a Life Pattern in close proximity to its restaurants when the consumers are out and about and more likely to make a decision to eat out. Geo-targeting minimizes wasted impressions and lets marketers focus spend where it will have the most impact.

Geo-targeting and Life Pattern Marketing enable marketers to extend integrated marketing campaigns with highly focused and cost-effective place-based digital video advertising that can deliver specific messages in contextually relevant settings. What better time to tell Alpha Moms of a sale or special promotion than when she is out shopping? Can you think of a better time to reach College Students with an ad announcing a new computer or mobile phone than when they are on and around campus with friends?

Let’s say an automobile company wants to drive young urban professionals who live or work within a certain radius (five miles, 10 miles, etc.) to its dealerships. Using Life Pattern Marketing and geo-targeting, the automaker can design an interactive campaign that runs in targeted local spots around the dealership to reach this audience. With SMS, the automobile company can use opt-in text messaging to provide the target consumers with the location of the nearest dealership.

When evaluating the cost of adding placed-based digital video advertising into the marketing mix, it’s worth noting that most digital video ads can be easily produced using existing assets, so they don’t require a significant investment in new creative. In fact, by incorporating existing text, flash-based graphics and existing video assets, placed-based digital video advertising becomes an integral part of fully integrated marketing campaigns, delivering the same brand messages directly to target audiences in places with greater contextual relevance and immediacy.

There’s no substitute for reaching customers during those fleeting moments when they are open to receiving messages during their busy day. Since bombarding audiences with frequent, non-specific messages may actually result in more resentment than awareness, leveraging today’s new place-based, micro-targeted approaches will pay off in spades. Place-based digital video advertising is a powerful, proven media, and with today’s newest tools for planning, optimizing, buying, and managing campaigns, this media should find a home in most integrated marketing programs.

Peter Bowen is CEO and co-founder of SeeSaw Networks.

This article was originally published at the Promotion Marketing Association (PMA) Annual Integrated Marketing Conference on March 10, 2009, as part of series of thought leadership articles from marketing leaders to educate and marketers and media planners about integrated marketing planning and practices.

Posted by: Peter Bowen AT 10:53 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 31 March 2009
At its simplest, self-service is any application that allows the end-user to perform a task with minimal supervision of the application owner.
 
In this context, the very first Web site was a self-service solution. These early Web sites contained nothing more than static information, but it enabled a consumer sitting at home to learn about a company’s products without tying up company staff. Nowadays, Web sites are infinitely more useful, and it makes sense for companies to extend that self-service utility to the public kiosk realm. But useful as Web sites are as a self-service tool, Web sites and touchscreen hardware in particular do not mix.
 
When the vast majority of Web sites were developed, the user in mind was sitting behind a standard computer complete with keyboard and mouse. Today, perhaps, those developers are designing sites for users to view on a cell phone. But the one user likely not on their minds is the one standing at a kiosk, trying to interact with the site via a touchscreen. After all, the typical user’s finger is probably more than 100 times wider than the mouse pointer the Web site was designed to use. This fact alone likely makes the Web site unusable in a touchscreen environment.
 
What should be kept in mind, however, is that the touchscreen interface is not the only means by which kiosk users can interact with Web sites.
 
Touchscreens are great for presenting uncluttered and simple interfaces that don’t require significant text input. When text input is required, a touchscreen application must use a virtual keyboard: a graphic representation displayed on the screen that requires a user to hunt and peck using a single finger. This can be frustrating and slow to the user but a reasonable compromise when the input is minimal.
 
But what about uses that require significant text input, such as job applications? If the goal is to maximize the number of applicants, using a touchscreen should be avoided. The caveat stands regardless of whether the form is Web-based.

 

Pairing web and kiosk

 
Most obviously, self-service devices and Web sites work well together when the content of the Web site already is aligned with the goals of the self-service project. Fitting examples include: product-ordering retail kiosks that allow users to order a product not in stock, gift registry kiosks, HR kiosks that use the company's existing 401k and benefits applications, web-banking kiosks and informational kiosks in tourist spots, churches, college campuses and company lobbies.
 
Fortunately, there are many kiosk software products that enable browser-based content to be efficiently deployed to a self-service kiosk. Kiosk software titles can provide many features, but the most important ones are those that replace the existing browser software, lock down the PC, control where a user can browse, provide alternative navigation toolbars, manage the user’s session to remove any trace of users when they leave, and interface with specialized kiosk hardware.
 
There are many reasons to go the software route instead of considering other, more extreme measures.
 
CONTENT. Why re-invent the wheel if the content already exists? Especially now, ROI is paramount in determining project viability. Rewriting the display layer of an existing application can cripple the ROI of the project. A visitor center kiosk is a good example. The local tourism bureau likely already has an existing Web site with links to all the local attractions. Why recreate that content and pay for it anew?
 
INTERFACES. Why confuse the user with a different interface? For a financial institution with online banking that their clients regularly use from home, a second user interface designed for a self-service kiosk will only confuse those clients and force them to learn two different interfaces that perform the same functions.
 
OPERATIONS. Maintaining a second user interface can cause operational problems. Often the organization responsible for the company’s Web site is not the same organization responsible for the self-service kiosk. With two interfaces, the business logic and Web site interface will be owned by the Web site organization. And they may not notify the kiosk organization when the business logic changes, thus breaking the self-service interface. Irate kiosk customers may be the first indication of the problem.
 
THIRD PARTIES. Applications from outside vendors can prevent the development of an alternate self-service user interface. HR self-service applications are a perfect example. Most companies deploy a third party HR solution, which they don’t control, so they are severely limited in how the user interface can be modified.
 
There is a middle way between the issues above and the extreme of forgoing the application of Web content to a self-service device. Kiosk software provides a solution that is convenient for the deployer, friendly to ROI and comparatively fast to put to use.
Posted by: Jim Kruper AT 12:07 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
The following commentary appears in the ATM Future Trends Report 2009: A comprehensive look at the ATM industry over the next five years, published by ATM Marketplace.
 
In global banking and financial circles, retail banking has proven to be a relatively stable factor in the partially volatile banking sector. At least in the short term, we expect further growth in this area of banking, which in recent years has experienced a renaissance worldwide.
 
This outlook is based on our belief that the basic trends in the retail banking sector will remain the same for many players during the present economic crisis. Most retail banks, for instance, will continue to face fierce competition. To grow their business, they aim to expand their customer base. At the same time, they plan to invest in optimizing processes to reduce costs.
 
Despite these robust conditions in the medium term, we acknowledge that retail banking could be impacted in the short term by the unfavorable situation in the financial sector and by a possible weakening of the overall economy. That said, we expect growing competition to lead to additional opportunities for Wincor Nixdorf in the medium term. Subsequently, we will continue to make significant investments in research and development in order to expand our portfolio of IT-based innovative solutions for retail banks. Here are a few market trends as we see them.
 
Self-service and automation continue to advance
 
More and more processes are being automated or transferred to self-service systems such as ATMs. While banking customers benefit from faster service, standardized processes help banks streamline their operations. One example from the United States is the automated processing of checks through self-service systems. The technology reduces not only the amount of time customers spend waiting at the counter, but also the enormous transaction costs, ranging from about 39 cents to $1.70 per check. A factor further driving automation is the huge costs for banks of cash handling.
 
Branches remain highly valuable
 
Despite the growing importance of other sales channels, the branch remains the “personal face” of the retail bank to its customers and its most important contact and sales channel. Particularly in established markets such as Germany, Europe and North America, banks are modernizing their branch networks and creating additional services via self-service systems, for example. The goal is to retain existing customers and win new ones. In numerous emerging markets, retail banks are expanding their footprint through branches and self-service offerings.
 
The mix of various sales channels is becoming more important
 
Increasingly, customers are deciding for themselves which channel to use to contact their bank. Adapting to this behavior will become a key success factor for banks. Many of them already use customized software to combine their sales channels and unify applications across all channels and various devices. With this software, banks benefit from features such as improved information from the individual channels and the capability to use this information across channels.
 
Intensifying customer contacts, also through ATMs
 
Market studies show that banks in a number of countries risk losing direct contact with their customers. In the United States, for instance, only one third of all retail bank customers seek personal advice from their bank. In the United Kingdom the figure is even lower: just one tenth. In Germany, our home market, around 85 percent of all standard transactions, such as cash withdrawals, are now processed at self-service terminals. Since self-service systems, and in particular ATMs, have become the most heavily used channel to contact banks, it makes sense to use these systems to communicate individually with customers.
The first step in this process is to gather information about the users of the various sales channels and process this information consistently and individually on a common software platform such as PCE. With these solutions, banks have access to individual customer data to create targeted advertising campaigns. As such, self-service systems — designed primarily to automate processes — can be used by banks as highly effective communication tools to promote their own products such as loans and insurance. Also, independent ATM deployers can use them to generate additional revenue through third-party advertising.
 
Searching for new means and possibilities
 
These examples show that there is plenty of activity happening around self-service systems like ATMs — activity that is totally independent of the current financial and economic crisis. At the same time, they illustrate how companies in the ATM space have the potential to drive change through innovation and help customers deal with the many challenges they face. In these difficult times, we view it as both an opportunity and an obligation to explore new paths for the success of our customers. Mutual trust grows in these times of special challenges.
 
Eckard Heidloff began his career in 1983 at Nixdorf Computer AG. He was named president and CEO of Wincor Nixdorf AG in January 2007.
Posted by: Eckard Heidloff AT 12:06 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
This article is an excerpt of white paper published by Reflect Systems, TracyLocke and DPMI.  To download a copy of the complete white paper, click here.
 
During the middle of the 19th century, newspapers and magazines were read by only a small, literate minority. It was at that time that the first commercial mass communications medium emerged in Western Europe and North America. That new commercial mass medium was the department store.
 
As this new retail medium developed in the USA, department-store barons such as Marshall Field in Chicago and John Wanamaker in Philadelphia built retail palaces that communicated to the native-born and immigrant masses both the practical utility of ready-made, store-bought consumer goods and the allure and glamour of what today we might refer to as the “mass consumer culture.”
 
Reflect Systems digital signage at the Verizon Experience store.
For many Americans of that day, the department store medium was experienced much like a rare window into what today we might call the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” That concept – the store itself as a communications medium – was powerful, it was engaging and it was ultimately more successful than any other communications medium deployed by retailers before or since.
 
Enter the 20th century: mass media expands beyond retail
 
By the beginning of the 20th century, the retailers’ monopoly on mass consumer media via the brick-and-mortar department store had faded. As literacy increased and the technologies for printing, electric power generation and transportation matured, U.S. newspapers and magazines were transformed.
 
During this period, department stores needed the newspapers and magazines to reach more customers, and the press needed the advertising revenue from the department stores. As a result of that partnership between commercial mass media and department-store retail, the American mass consumer culture began to emerge.
 
By the end of the 20th century, the mass-media scene was no longer dominated by the leading retailers of that time, such as Walmart, Sears, JCPenney and Kmart. Instead, the media scene outside of the brick-and-mortar retail stores was largely controlled by highly profitable mega media corporations such as Viacom, News Corporation, Gannett, Time Warner and GE/NBC.

Digital technology and the fragmentation of mass media create a new digital media space for retailers
 
In our new 21st century, this high concentration of media power in the hands of the mega media corporations is clearly in flux. Today this shrinking and fragmentation of the mass audience for newspapers, network TV and radio creates a big opportunity for retailers. North American retailers now have an opportunity to incorporate shopper-friendly digital media technologies (audio and/or video) into their stores and reclaim the historic role of the retail store as the leading mass consumer medium.
 
A Reflect installation at the Borders Digital Life concept store.
Retail anthropologist Paco Underhill describes the retail store as a “three-dimensional TV commercial” and a “walk-in container for words and thoughts and messages and ideas.” In order to avoid confusing shoppers, Underhill notes that “Every store is a collection of zones, and you’ve got to map them out” before producing any messages – digital or analog – for shoppers.
 
When retailers bring digital media networks into their stores, they can avoid many of the early mistakes that were made with online retailing during the 1990s. Today retailers can test the waters by developing version 1.0 of their in-store networks in pilot mode at a small number of stores. These pilots can provide retailers with validation that in-store digital media networks really can engage shoppers in their stores.
 
When planning an in-store digital media network, retailers should ask themselves two questions: “Why do we want a network?” and “What are our goals for the network?” To plan the network, the company should complete a comprehensive Business Planning process. Next management needs to select the right software to control the network and recruit a competent media production house to produce audio/video content for the network.
 
The medium is the message and the Chief Marketing Officer owns that message

For any retailer, the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) should own and control the messaging and branding that is delivered to shoppers by the in-store digital network. When creating the network, it is inevitable that the marketing department will find itself in conflict with other departments.  These conflicts can be managed successfully if senior management understands the issues and provides effective leadership to the company and local store managers.
 
In-store pilots of digital media networks work best if they last about 90 days and are staged in about ten stores located in two distinct local markets. Within each store, shoppers need to see the network screens in three types of store zones where shoppers find themselves in a different mindset or “mode.” These are the “pass-by mode,” the “dwell-time mode” and the “interactive mode.”

The critical factor of any in-store digital media network – whether it’s in pilot or in a full nationwide deployment – is creating the right content that meets shoppers’ needs. To develop that content, retailers should start by reviewing the company’s brand/style guide. Next they should work with the company’s creative agency to create a brand/style for the in-store network that dovetails with the company’s overall brand and style.
 
To evaluate the in-store pilot, retailers should recruit a research team to survey shoppers in order to learn what they think about the network and its content. This research will address three questions:
  • Are shoppers aware that the network exists?
  • What do shoppers like and dislike about the network?
  • Has the network successfully changed shoppers’ behavior in ways that meet the needs of the business?
As the pioneer U.S. retailer Marshall Field is credited as saying in his heyday, good retail practice can be summarized in two simple statements. The first statement is “Give the lady what she wants” and the second statement is “The customer is always right.” When in-store digital media networks enable modern shoppers to feel that they are being treated right and getting exactly what they want, then this new technology and new-media content will integrate itself seamlessly into the retail landscape.
 
Bill Collins is principal of DecisionPoint Media Insights (DPMI), which produces custom research and consulting on digital media networks that are deployed at retail and out-of-home. 
 
Dorothy Allan is senior vice president for retail strategy at TracyLocke, a full-service marketing agency based in Dallas. Dorothy is currently driving the TracyLocke Engagement Strategy, developing shopper personas and recommending relevant touch points for their clients’ shoppers.
Posted by: Bill Collins AT 10:55 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
 
As ATM Marketplace unveils its latest edition of its Future Trends report, a variety of factors are accelerating and enhancing the financial services environment. Notably, consumers expect ubiquity in touchpoints and an ability to engage in a relationship with their financial institutions.
 
To make them available, financial institutions need to implement a merged-channel strategy that combines online, mobile and point-of-service options, such as the combined power of ATMs, kiosks, call centers and branches. Choice, speed and flexibility are now merely the price of admission, while multi-channel is the next hill to climb for those who want to maintain and acquire new customers over the next decade.
 
These factors are bringing rise to a number of new trends.
  • Software-as-a-service (SaaS) will become more important in providing organizations with cost-effective, secure and highly available applications for online and mobile channels via hosting. SaaS enables banks to keep pace with the latest innovations and consumer needs while executing transactions at a fraction of a bank’s start-up investment.
  • Online and mobile banking, supported by the expansion of broadband communication access, are becoming more than mainstream; they are becoming a mainstay. Mobile devices and applications and their always-on convenience represent the biggest opportunity to reach a permanently alerted mobile and global consumer.
  • Environmental responsibilities will need to be addressed through existing technological improvements and new innovation, such as two-sided thermal printing. Near-field communications (NFC) will help merge the experiences of branch banking, online banking, mobile banking and beyond, into the retail environment as a payment device.
Industries everywhere are rising to the challenge of serving customers when, where and how they want to be served. But simply providing alternative channels is not enough; consumers expect those channels to work together. Whether buying an airline ticket or paying their bills, consumers now move through their daily lives purchasing products, services and information through a variety of channels. More often than not, they will begin a transaction on one channel and complete it using another. Increasingly, people now have flexibility and expect it in whichever channel they use, based on personal preference, the nature of the transaction and the time and location of the service they need.
 
Consumers will choose financial services providers that empower them to manage their lives through such options. Customers want a faster, easier and more personalized interaction with their bank. They want to bank when and where it’s convenient for them — whether at noon or midnight. Home or branch. ATM or mobile. Call-center or kiosk.
 
For financial institutions, this means their mobile banking experience must look and feel like their online banking experience, with applications that offer critical services on the go. Targeted product offers that are provided online must be in concert with offers delivered via the ATM channel. Consumers are moving too quickly and have too many other inputs in their lives to deal with fragmented marketing experiences that have no relationship to their needs.
 
The upside for financial institutions that do respond to more integrated approaches is enormous. The downside to those who do not is a future of reduced loyalty and a declining customer base. Banks that do not offer a rich merged-channel capability will fall behind the competition and risk their own relevance. We already know that the more touchpoints consumers have with their banks, the more likely they are to stay with those banks. A study carried out by Opinion Research Corporation found that 43 percent of consumers are more likely to choose a financial institution that offers multi-channel self-service. The uniformity of experiences and communications will make it easier and faster to interact with customers, whom no one can afford to lose. Institutions also can use channels to reach new customers that have been excluded from financial services through the traditional channel approach — an important opportunity in the current economic downturn to create new relationships and core-deposit growth.
 
As consumers turn to financial institutions for more choice in how they connect, interact and transact with a myriad of companies, the future is how banks will deliver a powerful, integrated consumer experience that builds customer loyalty.
 
William (Bill) Nuti is chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of NCR Corporation.
Posted by: Bill Nuti AT 12:04 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Two years ago Sean Andersen was brought on board the Interactive Services team at Six Flags Theme Parks and was issued a challenge. The company was refreshing all of its in-park digital signage and launching the Six Flags TV network and he was going to lead the charge. Whether he knew it at the time or not, Andersen had become Six Flags' internal champion for digital signage.
"Internal champion" is the term that those in the digital signage industry use to identify the project manager and liaison within the company deploying the digital signage. Aside from managing all of the internal complexities that go along with a digital signage installation, these individuals also must have a firm understanding of the industry they are working with – from screens to content to environmental planning.
 
Two types of champions
Six Flags TV is now installed in seven of Six Flags' theme parks nationwide and is the result of Andersen's internal championing.
 
While the internal champion will be the face of the project within his company, there is usually someone above him that is championing the project from the helm.
 
"You need a senior-level executive that has the vision, the financial resources, the organizational position and the authority to deliver a project that includes many cross-functional aspects," said Rebecca Walt, VP Consulting Services, Out-of-Home Digital Media at Reflect Systems Inc. "This key role is called the executive sponsor."
 
The executive sponsor must have several key qualities:
 
1. The authority to execute projects. "The executive sponsor brings other stakeholders to the project such as finance, IT, marketing, advertising, security and other lines of business that may be impacted or could participate," said Lyle Bunn, a digital signage consultant and author of the SPEED digital signage training program.
 
2. Budget authority. The executive has to have the ability to turn the switch and spend the money on the project. This usually requires close ties with the CEO and CFO and influence over decisions made with the company's budget.
 
3. Business management skills. He or she doesn't have to have an MBA, but the executive sponsor must have good management skills and business sense in order to have the rest of the company buy in. At the end of the day, the sponsor is going to have to prove a business case for the network.

The internal champion
The internal champion can operate under many monikers – change agent, line of business manager or project manager. Internal champions can come from many departments in the deploying company – marketing, IT, merchandising, to name a few – but what is most important is that the digital signage becomes one of these internal champions' sole responsibilities.
"I believe that in order for a digital signage system to be properly managed and properly refreshed with timely and meaningful content, someone must have 'skin in the game,'" said Mike White, president of Multi-Media Services. "Unless someone's job evaluation and potentially compensation is tied directly to the responsibility of that person, it will likely not be successfully managed and supported."
Internal champions must:
 
1. Have cross-departmental functionality. The internal champion must coordinate stakeholders in technology, merchandising, store operations, advertising, marketing and other departments to work on the project. He or she has to have the people skills to get them on board, get commitments, delegate responsibility an