|| Blog: Lyle Bunn
Wednesday, 28 January 2015
In the wake of US retailer Target closing 133 stores just 2 years after their opening, Toronto Star Fashion Columnist Karen von Hahn offers some insights into the buying attitudes of Canadians versus Americans. This commentary by Lyle Bunn looks at buying habits through the lens of Digital Place-based Media. It is useful to read von Hahn’s her full article What Target’s fail Says About Canadians.
Canadians are different shoppers than Americans notes Karen von Hahn.
1. Canadians do not shop for sport. Perhaps it's the self-denying, tight-fisted Scot heritage or the wish to provide a better life for the next generation. Canadians do not enjoy parting with money, perhaps because Canadians simply have less disposable income than Americans since mortgage interest payments are not tax deductible and the cost of living in Canada is higher including everything from a accommodation to cars, to a bottle of wine or going out to dinner.
What this means to digital signage use and providers: The consumer purchase journey must include regular, ongoing profile of the brand and its promise. And, the point-of-purchase, or in the case of food services, the point-of-ordering must motivate trial, buying, upsell and cross-sell if the revenue aspirations of the brand or retailer are to be achieved. Digital media offers the opportunity to brand and merchandise simultaneously while presenting brand attributes in its most inspiring manner.
2. When Canadians do spend they are extremely discerning and are “touch and feel” shoppers. The comparative success of premium high street brands here such as Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and JCrew, each of which took baby steps here in their expansion, shows that we will pay more for brands that deliver.
What this means to digital signage use and providers: American retailers are aware of the value-consciousness of the Millennials demographic which is evidenced across all consumer demographics in Canada. “Value” is an expression of total benefits including such elements as suitable quality at suitable price, the purchase experience and remedy when the brand promise is not met. Digital signage can establish appropriate expectations including presenting the benefits that consumers could anticipate receiving. Many US retailers and brands (i.e. TJX in its Winners banner) test approaches in Canada before wider roll-out in their US locations, or monitor Canadian approaches (i.e. Tim Horton’s, Holt Renfrew, Air Canada Center, Oxford Properties, ScotiaBank, TD Bank, etc.) precisely because Canadian shoppers are more discerning and the competitive environment demands greater differentiation. It helps that many of the digital signage primary providers were founded or have principle operations in Canada where “best practices” can be advanced, tested and profiled. Hundreds of end users for example, attended the Digital Trends Showcase (DTS) in downtown Toronto in October 2014, which demonstrated merchandising approaches using Adidas as the sample brand. A major consumer package goods (CPG) will be used in the fall 2015 DTS demonstration event.
3. Canada’s urban centers are well served by brick-and-mortar retail options. Extensive, robust Internet access serves both rural and urban shoppers.
What this means to digital signage use and providers: Retailers must generate traffic and then convert shoppers to buyers. By offering an environment that merits being a destination, the retailer enjoys traffic, visit frequency, a deeper shopper loop and increased numbers of people in the shopping party and dwell time. These translate into conversion based on the 3 Ps, product, price and promotion. On-location media that adds to the experience and engagement results in increased conversion, basket size and share of wallet.
When online research is part of the path to purchase, message fidelity is fulfilled and content costs reduced through “transmedia,” where communications are adapted and repurposed while using the same graphics, font family, benefit statements, tag lines and story line. Brands can tell their story and sell their story through high quality video, animations and graphics that echo each other online and in-store.
4. Canadians are distrustful of hype, and when all the hype is investigated, God forbid the retailer or brand does not deliver, resulting in utter dismissal and disdain for the hooey.
What this means to digital signage use and providers: Eyes are attracted to messages that matter and the brain engages with communications that indicate how a problem is solved or an aspiration fulfilled. The inherent ability for dynamic signage to present features and benefits in the context of weather, economic or social conditions means that the brand or retailer is continuously able to put their best foot forward. The “bliss point” of a satisfied consumer and equally satisfied retailer is achieved.
In conclusion, in its ability to simultaneously brand and promote while adding a positive, modern ambiance and vitality that increase the attractiveness of a location, digital signage offers high return on investment to retailers and brands.
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s Dynamic Place-based Media industry. He has assisted over 300 organizations to benefit from the media, has helped train over 10,000 end user and professionals, and published over 300 articles, whitepapers and Guides including the popular “Dynamic Media in Retail” guidebook and NRF15 Summary available at http://www.lylebunn.com/Pages/aboutus.aspx. Email
Tuesday, 21 October 2014
The answer to confusion is always “no”. As product selection at the retail shelf is, by definition, a source of confusion for consumers, brands have a significant opportunity for point-of-purchase conversion through shelf level or service counter promotion.
When connecting the dots that represent the information and touch points on the ever-changing path to purchase, they ultimately converge at the shelf level. Even online ordering, the ever-increasing torture of physical space retailing with its “show-rooming”, is supported by shelf level media. The culture of shopping is moving forward as consumers seek information, inspiration, ever-changing stories that put the product in the context of their needs, wants, life and events.
In a session titled “The Future of Engagement” at the recent symposium hosted by the Digital Screenmedia Association, Jim Crawford, CEO of Chute Gerdeman and Ethan Whitehill, CEO of TwoWest provided insights about the retail experience. “Every store has a story,” Whitehill said. “How do you tell that story with technology? How do we enhance that story for the shopper?”
“Retail is mostly through brick-and-mortar stores, in large part because the in-store experience still provides utility, a sense of community and meaning” the panelists agreed. “Shopping happens because of the task, and the treat,” Whitehill said. “Brick and mortar delivers that better than any other experience.”
The two paramount marketing media questions that serve as the basis for action by the brand are a) Will consumers see the promotional message? And b) Will the message activate their action?
A resounding “yes” is the response to shelf level digital media. Dynamic media at the retail shelf reduces the “friction” at this most important of all points on the sometimes eclectic, always evolving path to purchase. Messaging that amplifies the brand identity and its promise at the point where the consumers hand moves products from a shelf to their cart, or places an order at a service counter deliver the prize that brands seek, including selection for trial or next use.
Many marketers, and consumers, believe that the consumer is at the center of the universe with buying power being a gravitational force that influences all brand and supply chain behavior. Emboldened by social media, consumers are happy to make brands feel the laurels or darts of their behavior.
Brand perception on the part of a consumer plays out at the store shelf. Appeal, distain or indifference motivate product selection, as the marriage of convenience between brand and retailer works to device and execute sufficiently capable branding and promotional communications.
The arsenal of point-of-purchase instruments is fairly limited, typically including package design, shelf positioning, attractive pricing or some nearby static signs that aim to earn attention.
The retail shelf has been coined as the First Moment of Truth by Dina Howell, which proposed that all elements of marketing and promotion should be defined from shelf level interaction and then including merchandising, promotion, advertising and branding campaigns.
In a September 21, 2005 article on page 1 of the Wall Street Journal titled, “In a Shift, Marketers Beef Up Spending Inside Stores”, Procter and Gamble Co. reflected its belief that “shoppers make up their mind about a product selection in about the time it takes to read this [sentence].” Dina Howell, as Director, First Moment of Truth (FMOT, pronounced EFF-mot), at Procter & Gamble, said “P&G wants to connect with consumers when and where they are most receptive to information about P&G Brands. We want to delight the consumer as well as simplify the shopping experience.” She said, “Working with retailers is pivotal to P&G success”, Ms. Howell added, “The store must be an extension of the brand and we must work in collaboration with retailers at that critical first moment of truth when a consumer makes the purchase decision”.
FMOT defines the point of product selection as the starting point for consumer goods marketing. In short, by appealing to consumer’s senses, values and emotions at the specific point of purchase, marketers can convert browsers to buyers and give their product the best chance of selection.
This “first moment of truth” as coined by P&G Acknowledges the decline in effectiveness of broadcast ad spending, the growing importance of retail media in the marketing mix, improved measurement capability and most importantly, the effectiveness of point-of-purchase and out-of-home ad display.
By inverting this marketing communications funnel, P&G has turned the questions to focus on achieving highest Return on Objectives. They ask, “In starting at the point of selection, how should we invest to achieve planned sales volumes and margins?” The basis of the planning and decision framework shifts to the achievement of effectiveness of “customer engagement” and relationship.
Retail marketing in this century harkens the important shift in 1694, when Galileo very successfully, and against established powers, that the sun was the center with planets and moons revolving around it, rather than the Earth being at the center.
In marketing, the brand has been central, but successful marketers accept that it is the consumer that is at the center, with brand options and the communications of each revolving around that buying power.
“The importance to growth of any brand is driven primarily by in-store visibility, consumer shop-ability and information that drives purchase decision,” says Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President, Shikatani Lacroix.
Russell Young, SVP, Interactive and Mobile Experiences at retail and dynamic media provider Stratacache says “Whether you call it the Point of Influence, or the Final Moment of Truth, there is no denying the importance of creating inspiration at the retail shelf level. Savvy brands and retailers realize this important point in the customer journey and continue to seek out innovative methods for driving conversion during these precious few seconds. The key to success in optimizing this shelf level engagement is to convey value in a subtle manner that feels natural in that specific environment.”
“Creating digital at-purchase moments is one of the most effective ways to influence purchase decision in-store, “notes Marcos Terenzio, Director, Digital Experience, Shikatani Lacroix.
The value of shelf-level dynamic signage, says Laura Davis-Taylor SVP, Director of Omnichannel Experience of The Integer Group, a member of the Publicis Omnicom Group of agencies, is “In being able to capture, connect and close in one fell swoop. The uniqueness of it can effectively capture attention unlike no other POP. It’s truly can’t miss. The attraction and content and call to action (CTA) can close them by answering their questions and lighting up their impulse propensity—sometimes in mere seconds”.
She adds, “It has worked well when ensuring that the way that the shopper encounters it is contextual to what they are trying to solve at the moment—in that particular store, in that category with that specific product”. By enabling consumer browsing, comparison, researching and selecting items in retail, it fits between Pre-Tail® when consumers research and choose a store or website, and Post-Tail® beyond the purchase moment and product use”.
Andy McRae, General Manager of Eot2Dot Communications, Inc. that provides the popular Scala content management platform and its additional capacities for third party advertising management, is a strong proponent for digital at and near-shelf media.
McRae says “We have long felt that shelf level media is possibly the most important step in the path to purchase. Being able to influence the purchase decision at the shelf allows retailers to maximize value. Using a combination of omnichannel capability, real time networked appliances and displays, and advanced analytics capable of changing content to fit the situation gives retailer ultimate control over the shopper’s experience”.
“Devices such as Electronic Shelf labels (ESLs) provide retailers with an easy way to change messaging, including pricing, based on any number of data inputs. Understanding the influences on a purchase decision is only half the equation. Having a system that allows changes to be made based on those influences, especially if it is automatic, completes the process” he notes.
“Dynamic pricing has long been the ultimate goal for most industries, but retail in particular” declares McRae, adding “The advent of inexpensive, low power Electronic Shelf Labels combined with the robust content management system, and advanced purchase analytics offered by Scala have finally brought this from a manual process based on guesses to a highly automated process guided by facts”.
Says McRae, “More and more often retailers are asking for intelligent data driven communications networks for their store environments. These systems must offer purchase analytics, real time content update capability, integration with point of sale systems, and comprehensive result measurement. The displays themselves now range from large spectacular outdoor and outside –store viewable video walls designed to attract people into the store, to the very small Electronic Shelf Label (ESL) aimed at influencing the actual purchase decision”. McRae speculates that “It is estimated that in the next 5 years, as much as 50% of purchases will be made on-line, or through mobile and social commerce so it is critical that any shelf level media have a mobile tie-in as a way of extending the shopping experience across multiple channels”.
“Shoppers are looking for retailers to connect with them, make it easier to search, plan and purchase. We have been working with brands to capture data from on-shelf interactive displays, using it to measure business results and improve marketing strategies” he said, adding “it’s all about strategy, scalability and relevancy. Our goal is always to make it easier for retailers to communicate and interact with today’s shoppers using the most advanced technology platforms.”
The Laurentien Bank has installed small screens horizontally under glass at the teller station. “This allows the client being served and signing paper such as deposits in front of the teller to see the digital screen messages with bank-related content, “ said Benoit Johnson, CEO of Montreal-based provider Viftele, which provides digital signage for the bank. “This screen allows the bank to have less small static signs at this specific space and the customers are presented with a hard to avoid message.”
“Empowering the consumer to have control and access to product information easily and conveniently is the key to their decision regarding what they buy. The value of shelf level digital media is that it is convenient and dynamic, and is a useful alternative to the mobile device though it can be used in conjunction with mobile to increase the brand reach” says Suzana Spratley, CEO of the digital engagement agency TechTAP.
Spratley adds, “It is all about the connected consumer having control over their choices in an easy and convenient way. By placing the choice for the consumer in a digital medium at shelf height, the brand will offer more than one key decision point; for example price as well as product features, benefits, ingredients, alternate uses, etc. Better choices bond consumers to brands and build advocates.” She emphasizes, “Brands must engage, inform and enhance the experience in a convenient and useful way”.
Displays are being used that maximize shelf space and do not displace any product frontage while being installed and operated.
A popular shelf dynamic display device is provided by Regency Digital. Vice president Abraham d’Ancona says, “The merchant is offered the opportunity to connect with the consumer. It reinforces the brand while maximizing shelf space and point-of-purchase consumer messaging that adds a sense of excitement, immediacy and urgency. In doing so,” adds d’Ancona, “it engages the patron to fulfill their needs and wants while also motivating product trial or an impulse buy. It is all about shopper conversion and product selection.”
The shelf video strip from Regency Digital includes multiple 2 x 4 inch video panels in a 1-inch deep housing that attaches easily to any retail shelf horizontally or vertically. Individual screens are able to play independently or in conjunction with each other and can be subdivided allowing for full color, high resolution video, animation, stills, QR codes or other engagement media. The device includes the display strip, a 2-inch cube media player that accommodates Wi-Fi or USB media loading, a mounting bracket and connection cables.
European retailers have already embraced shelf level dynamic media for more than two years, enabled by retail support agencies with retailer and brand relationships as well as experience with in-store merchandising /advertising or POP. “The most successful applications” says d’Ancona “has been where the shelf level video strip is the at-shelf element of a campaign that involved other promotion media. Products that have done especially well using shelf level video include new and aspirational products as well as market leading brands in consumables such as diapers, baby formula, chocolate, cosmetics, beverages, in particular when used in larger retail chains. Marketers who care about success in the retail store now have the tool that they need to generate more stock turns and gain market share over competitors at the retail shelf.”
“Getting the buyers attention has never been tougher, with so much messaging that it can just be noise to the buyer, that is why the video bar is so effective, it’s unique eye catching format at the point of decision engages the customer literally at his/her point of decision and delivers the motivation to buy” notes Mike White, CEO of Multi-media Solutions, which has provided digital signage for award winning retail applications such as duty free shops at the Shoppes at Ocean Drive at Miami International Airport.
D’Ancona notes that the Regency Digital video strip is being used on a constant basis in two of the leading retailer supermarkets and drug stores, and that brands tend to use the shelf level video strip on an ongoing basis after an initial trial.
Jose Avalos, Director, Visual Retail, Retail Solutions Division for Intel Corporation in the Embedded & Communications Group concludes “Digital Signage as an ingredient can be transformational to numerous product categories like Interactive Whiteboards for education, Digital jukeboxes for hospitality and transparent displays for supermarkets, among others. In the retail sector it is understood that 68% of all purchases are unplanned and 70% of brand choices are made at the shelf. The advent of Intelligent Shelving with integrated advertising and information content can fulfill a much more active role where it understands shopper needs, understands the product or products it is showcasing, and uses enhanced capabilities to participate more fully in the selling process. And it can do this in a way that is highly personalized, including the use of personalized pricing and promotions”. He adds “For manufacturers, an intelligent shelf can create data-led sales and marketing opportunities and help them better understand who is buying their products, and who is not. It can also maximize profit for the retailer by optimizing pricing dynamically, and enable manufacturers and retailers to reward shopper loyalty, all at the shelf edge”.
The consumer is at the center of the universe and that most essential of marketing success points, the moment of truth, is the retail shelf. Brand campaigns, retailer policy and the supply of shelf level display must align. As they do, the shopper will deliver benefits to all.
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon) is an analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s digital out-of-home industry. He has been recognized with six industry awards, helped hundreds of organizations to take advantage of dynamic signage, has published almost 300 articles, whitepapers and guidebooks, and has helped to train more than 10,000 media and supply professionals.
Tuesday, 29 July 2014
So many digital signage installations are either a “train wreck” today or are going “off the rails” on their path into the ditch. Many are under-performing.
We’ve all seen them… dark displays or error messages showing, or stale, boring or poor content.. In each case, under-achievement of the intended return on investment and little chance of system build-out through further investment.
Failure starts to show at the planning stage and rears its head especially during operations.
The effect of that the initial investment does not provide the intended return, and ongoing investment to system build-out. Without build-out, the benefits of broader multi-location installation and the amortization of the costs of volume purchasing, content and operations are not realized.
The causes are typically one or more of the following:
Inadequate planning lies in the short-sightedness related to clearly defining business goals and the content approach that is central to achieving these through the technology. The initiative will fail unless objectives are defined along with the content to achieve these, following by sourcing and installing the technology suited to presenting the content that achieve the goals.
Organizational issues can be blamed when one part of the organization (such as facilities operations or Information Technologies) puts the digital signage in place, while another (such as visitor relations, marketing or human resources) is expected to use and operate the system to generate return on the investment. The lack of investment understanding, budgeting, suitable personnel or skills, or over-arching executive validation causes the initiative to hobble along, being "good enough” and never fulfilling the full promise of the media.. or simply stagnating. The fault in this case is insufficient planning.
Revenue sourcing is sometimes expected from advertising as endemic or third party organization are invited or expected to pay for message display. Without focusing on activating this revenue, it simply does not occur and this source of funding is not realized. The fault is in the planning.
System outage: Digital signage is a technology system of media ingest, management and display, with the inherent needs of system performance monitoring and remedy as needed. The approach to making “help” happen is part of planning as are the establishment of training and human resourcing needs.
Poor content is the not-so-silent killer of digital signage. Stale or poor content are the cause of under-performance of most systems that are currently operating. It is the content that ultimately achieves the results once the technology is in place and operational.
No Analytics: The lack of quantified impact data means that value is unknown, and more important, that there is no baseline for performance improvement. In both cases, further investment has no validation. Information about impact does not need to be expensive or time-consuming to gather, and offer the strong basis for network health improvement. The free, 21-page paper “Digital Place-based Media ROI Analytics - Defining Value. ROI or Die! can lead a network operator through the process of assessment.
Poor planning is again the culprit. Content strategy must consider intended results from the target audience along with the viewing timeframe and context. Content spots then align with the display location and playlist daypart and structure.
The style guide and mechanical specifications of content for use by others who are submitting their messaging for display can help assure that content is suitable for display and of high quality.
The “Content Scoring Framework” paper will help improve content:
It is a “Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail” world where digital signage is concerned.
All circumstances related to network failure can be overcome through suitable front-end planning, while operational problems, extra-ordinary operating cost and under-performance can be addressed in a network review process. Independent, experienced expertise can be extremely valuable.
Papers referenced in this article are available for free download from http://www.lylebunn.com/Pages/aboutus.aspx to help in the assessment and improvement of network planning, content. Download:
• Content Scoring Framework
• Digital Place-based Media ROI Analytics - Defining Value. ROI or Die!
• Fail to Plan – Plan to Fail
• Getting Higher Value from Existing Digital Signage Networks
Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon) is an analyst, advisor and educator in the Digital place-based and enterprise media sectors. He has assisted hundreds of firms to define and implement their media programs and was named as one of the “11 Most Influential People” in place-based media by DigitalSignageToday.com.
Tuesday, 01 July 2014
Engagement is the coin of the realm for marketing and communication. For shopper, patron, traveler, staff or students, it is a strategic, tactical and operational imperative. The alternative is hit-and-miss or opportunistic, luck-of-the-draw marketing. Engagement means that:
- Targeted audiences of people with buying or decision-making authority or significant influence are noticing the message.
- They are entering or are on the path to purchase or decision-making.
- Awareness, alignment with and their amplification of the brand or its message is increasing.
- Actions are being taken that will improve their knowledge of the offering(s), such as inquiry, visit to a website, mobile downloads or commerce, and the expression of their support through social or viral marketing.
Location- based display messaging is ideally suited to generating or enhancing engagement because messages are typically presented at times and locations best suited to achieving this engagement.
This benefit is realized when the right message is presented to the right audience at the right time at the right place. In audience, time and place being already in place, the key is in the messaging.
Messaging success starts with profiling audience needs and wants, and then aligning the message to satisfy these. Message composition will assure that these resonate with the viewer, while the call to action puts the person on the path to having the benefits. It is all engagement, toward achieving those marketing and communications goals.
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator who has assisted hundreds and organizations and thousands of professionals to benefit from dynamic place-based media.
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
InfoComm is all about the selection and development of media and the June 14-20, 2014 annual conference was inspiring. More than 37,000 delegates from 114 countries attended. 5700 education seats were filled and 947 exhibits presented a wide range of innovations.
Early in the week the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reported on its study of roadside dynamic display safety, declaring that "Commercial Electronic Variable Message Signs" do not impact driver safety.
Is this a new descriptor (?) I wondered. Surely not for wide use, but it did point to an ongoing concern about what to name the media. "Digital Signage" seems dated, "Screenmedia" though increasingly used is commonly too broad a descriptor and terms such as "Dynamic Place-Based", "Enterprise Media" and others are applied. As the media applications broaden, we can assume that a wider range of names for this media application will emerge and be used.
"Who are these people(?)" I asked myself while touring the digital signage area of the show floor, as there were many new exhibitors.
For your consideration: The digital signage supply base continues to grow with providers of technology elements as well as supply partnerships and consortium. Numerous new patents have been filed and granted over the past few months including iSign for its ecosystem linking place-based display and mobile devices for commerce, impulseGuide for content management approaches and multi-choice/trivia authoring, VertiGo Digital Displays for outdoor displays for outdoor display/kiosk and Digital Factory for convection cooling. The fact that most of these suppliers did not exhibit, and nor did any of the larger digital signage providers such as Scala, Stratacache among other suggests that these providers are moving forward with day-to-day relationships and projects without the need for trade show floor exhibit presence.
Further, it would appear that the majority of AV/IT integrators that will add digital signage to their portfolio have already done so. As they have selected core products and continously scan for new and better products as needed, one could believe it is less important to await the InfoComm show floor while attending Digital Signage Expo or distributor events to gain the greatest benefit in supplier connection.
But, many of the top 25 AV/IT integrators do not yet have a corporate-wide offering as many branches depend upon their search/learn/apply approaches. These firms are encouraged to get their offerings to the next level if they wish to enjoy supply to larger deployments or be part of taking existing networks to the next level of value.
Digital signage education sessions delivered some of the best value that I've seen to date. Most went far beyond the "101" level as delegates were typically in the situation where they had already deployed and were looking to move the value and benefit from their installations to new levels.
For your consideration: Place-based message display and engagement media has been embraced by organizations in virtually every sector and use for patron, shopper, traveler, staff and student communications. The medium has proven its merits and end-users, as well as suppliers, are realizing that objectives, processes and the technology that served them at the initial levels of operation typically require refinement and change if improved economies of scale are to be realized.
Some other insights offered during InfoComm14 related to digital signage include:
- Statistics about the digital signage sector that would describe its proliferation or growth are not easy to come by. NPD Displaysearch analysis based on the flat panel supply chain do not consider display size of less than 26 inches, which discounts the deployment of service counter, shelf level, elevator or other smaller form factor displays. Intelligence on the installed base of DS, the number of users, total sector employment, etc. can only be achieved by extrapolating or calculating based on the available data.
- Typical display size for deployment in increasing and is now generally 52 inch or greater based on the price performance. The narrowing of display bezel is enabling more visually effective video wall use.
- 4K displays do present stunning imagery when the content and the media fueling approach support 4K resolution. The uptake of 4K in digital signage is expected to be slow as these elements develop further with the most immediate term applications being fashion display, museum and attraction exhibit.
- Laser-based projection, with its 20,000-hour lamp life (versus about 600 hours on projectors currently), offers significant potential for large space dynamic media projection, which has so far been cost prohibitive due to mounting and maintenance needs.
- Content drives business value. Never has this been so broadly understood and taken as a "given" in a large conference setting.
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator in North America's Digital Signage - Place Based Media Sector. He has assisted more than 300 enterprises and helped to train more than 10,000 professionals to benefit from the media. He has published over 280 articles and whitepapers and has been named among the 111 Most Influential People in the industry by DigitalSignageToday.com
Wednesday, 21 May 2014
Digital out of home messaging brings tremendous economies and agility to branding and promotional marketing. Messages can be created quickly often using graphic, animation and text elements that are used elsewhere in campaigns. And unique messages can be created to suit the target audience, display location, time of day and reflecting the context in which the message would be viewed, such as major holidays, events, weather conditions and world events.
But this ease of message creation places a burden of clarity on the marketer or communicator.
The simple question is “are we clear?”.
The message must achieve intended results, and the minimal amount of information required to achieve this always makes for the best digital out of home use.
The medium can, and should be used to achieve multiple goals simultaneously.
As a minimum, the message should include the identity of the product or service being offered, its core value proposition (i.e. benefit) and a call to action, which might include a telephone number, web address or invitation to engage with product/service/event information through TXT, download or mobile commerce.
When the intention is to increase brand awareness and recall, the primary message elements would include brand identity, tagline, value proposition and other information that allows a viewer to align with and aspire to the brand.
A promotional or merchandising message would seek to achieve viewer response with the promise of value that matters to the viewer. Examples include attractive pricing, selection, ease in getting the value, the benefits of improved life and fun.
Message benefits are maximized when the message is visually appealing and easy to read.
Our brains are hardwired to notice motion, and so the visual appeal should include animation that will attract the eye even unconsciously. Viewers will pay attention and “ingest” messages that they believe are relevant to their wants or needs, and they will unconsciously ignore messages that are not.
Content creation traps that must be avoided include:
- A lack of visual that easily represents the product or service
- Too much information, beyond what is required to achieve the outcome
- Text that is to small to read from the intended viewing distance
- Use of background and text coloration that make the content challenging to ingest.
- An unsuitable length of message relative to the viewing experience. Two short causes viewer frustration (and de-brands), while messages that are too long minimize the opportunity to make best use of display capability.
Generating engagement on the path to purchase can be achieved with simple messaging when the answer to the question “are we clear?” is “yes!”
Lyle Bunn is an analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s digital place-based media sector who has assisted hundreds of organizations to gain advantage from the medium, and who has helped to train thousands of professionals.
Tuesday, 06 May 2014
The presence of dynamic digital media hit its highest point among static sign and digital graphics providers during the 2014 International Sign Association (ISA) Expo held in Orlando April 23-26, 2014. The ISA is a 2,300-member trade association of sign providers that employs or directly impacts over 250,000 American workers and represent over $49 billion in annual revenues. The ISA Expo is the largest gathering of sign providers with over 17,000 delegates and about 500 exhibitors.
Since first offering education related to digital signage six years ago, the event this year offered more than 42 separate educational sessions in the ISA EXPO “Dynamic Signage Education Day,” on a show floor stage and in sessions offered in a co-located showcase offered by Almo. The Dynamic Digital Park on the show floor was 38% larger than in 2013, and included the range of hardware, software and services required by static sign companies to offer digital signage.
Research findings released by ISA in advance of the Expo noted that the number one issue impacting sign companies offering digital signage is "technology selection,” reflecting that 63% of sign companies are confused about technology selection. “How to” education related to technology configuration, content creation and selling the medium profitably were aimed at de-mystifying digital signage while exhibitors such as Capital Networks, Insteo, Kramer and many others were ready with products and answers to fuel sign company success.
Mark O’Connor of Roland said it well during an in-booth session, reflecting that “Sign shops should not have to go back to school or get a degree to make digital signage available.”
impulseGUIDE used ISA Expo 2014 to unveil its digital signage offering for static sign providers, which includes several patent pending innovations related to content management approaches. As a Buffalo, NY sign provider serving the food services, retail, hospitality and consumer services sectors, the impulseGuide system is “content-focused” which offers recurring, high margin revenues to sign providers wishing to offer dynamic signage while leveraging and advancing their capabilities in this additional area of their services portfolio.
Frank C. Pusateri said “The impulseGUIDE solution has been designed for sign providers looking for profitability through system sales, ongoing content creation, customer retention/upsell and improved prospecting for other lines of print and graphics. Digital signage makes a value addition to the sign shop portfolio” while cautioning sign shops to offer a solution that can be easily scaled in terms of network size and the addition of content that improves customer outcomes through better audience targeting, dayparting, templates and infotainment.
“Gamification” is growing as an everyday promotional approach and the digital signage system must be able to use this methodology.”
As the ISA Expo was in process, FASTSIGNS® International released an expanded section of their website focused on digital signage www.fastsigns.com/digital-signs). Drue Townsend, Senior Vice President of Marketing said, “This content is very educational for prospective digital sign buyers, and it shows our capabilities regarding planning programs, developing and managing content and integrating digital signage into an overall mix of other marketing materials, décor and general marketing programs. As the franchisor,we provide internal training and marketing support to prepare our 545 locations in 8 countries to be able to offer a wide range of solutions to meet the needs of businesses and organizations of all sizes”.
Distributors can play a valuable role in the sourcing of dynamic signage by sign providers since they are one point of supply for flat panels, hardware, software and other services, many of which appear to be quite similar in function and value.
Synnex, a distributor of static sign, digital graphics and dynamic signage products has suggested that sign shops should be looking at providing a complete solution that includes the display, content management software, media player, mount and in particular initial and ongoing content. Each of Synnex, Almo, N. Glantz, ND Graphics, Ingram Micro or other sign and digital graphics distributors have in-house staff that can assist sign providers with configuring solutions that can meet end user requirements, or they can connect sign companies with representatives of companies whose products and services they distribute.
Static sign and digital graphics providers are well suited to providing end users with dynamic digital signage, as has been reflected in numerous articles by Sign and Digital Graphics magazine in the past six years. These companies intrinsically understand short form messaging and the location-based sign requirements of end-users. Many of these firms have been providing outdoor electronic message boards and integrating dynamic signage into their proposals for campuses, healthcare and consumer service establishments for many years. They are aware that end-users are increasing their use of dynamic signage, in part due to its use by their competitors.
The recurring advice offered in many ISA Expo presentations can be summarized with these 3 points:
- START, by learning what digital signage can deliver for end users. Use digital signage as an extension of your current portfolio of offerings to serve existing customers and prospect for new ones, since many of these may already be investigating or shopping for this medium. Offer a system that is suited to ongoing and growing needs. Note that every dynamic signage installation requires content.
- Focus on providing “content creation” services since, once the technology system is in place, it is “content” that delivers the communications value. The need for content is ongoing “Think of the system as the razor and the content as the blades” said Pusateri.
- “Partner with or sub-contract to an experienced audio/visual or information technology integrator if you are not comfortable with the technology element” advised Mike White of Multi-media Solutions, which has delivered digital signage for more than 10 years to a wide range of end users.
Sign providers that are considering their offer of digital signage systems and/or services commonly ask some questions. The following offer insights by Lyle Bunn, reflecting and adding to an ISA Expo session titled “How to Sell Dynamic Digital Signage.”
Where is the profit in projects?
Profit always comes from serving needs. Where digital signage is concerned profitable revenues are primarily derived from technologies (i.e. supply of hardware, software, installation and operational services) and content. Since content requirements are ongoing, content services such as playlist strategy and administration, and the composition of individual message spots offers the largest and ongoing profits.
Are there areas of supply not currently well served or that are emerging?
Many small and medium-size businesses do not know who to go to for digital signage, yet this investment can offer high value in terms of sales lift, business branding, improved ambiance at the location and the reduction of perceived waiting times by patrons. Food services, consumer services and staff/visitor communication are under-served by larger digital signage suppliers and trusted sign providers are well suited to offering digital signage as a part of their portfolio. Dynamic signage for staff or visitor communications, which can include video walls in lobby or storefront are increasingly popular because they communicate while adding to the vitality and positive energy of a location, even to the point of enabling artistic expression of a brand.
How much preparing is needed to get to revenues?
Two elements are necessary. Every supplier needs to know what it is supplying and for digital signage, they need to recommend technologies that are suited to the requirement. There is plenty of information available for the” how to” elements. Examples include websites such as www.LyleBunn.com/RESOURCES and the FASTSIGNS and impulseGuide sites noted in this article.
The technology element is easily satisfied in sourcing from a distributor such as Synnex, N. Glantz, Almo, Ingram Micro, ND Graphics or others, which have assessed available technology elements and can offer a specific all-inclusive proposal that can best suit the end-user requirements.
When would partnering make sense and get me there faster?
Partnering or subcontracting makes sense when additional required skills are required. The sign shop may wish to partner, for example, with an audiovisual or technology integrator to provide hardware, software and installation or with media composers such as Web design freelancers or companies related to content elements. The key is that the sign shop be positioned as the primary an ongoing provider.
Where would revenues be exposed to unworthy effort i.e. What is not worth doing?
Sign companies should be cautious in investing undo amounts of time in training a customer or prospect about the benefits and processes related to digital signage. During the process they should reasonably expect that the end-user will answer key questions such as what benefits do you want to realize, how might it physically be placed within the environment and who, if anyone might be involved in contributing the benefits achievement. Sign companies should also be cautious about responding to Requests for Proposal unless they have unique insights and a service record to the requesting end-user. RFP evaluations can become very subjective in the complexity of comparing one solution to another on an “apples to apples” basis.
How can the risk of loosing profits best be managed?
The greater your productivity in sales and supply efforts, the greater your management of risk will be. The two go hand-in-hand. Supply processes and expectations should be defined as clearly as possible, as is the case with other communication services.
Is the effort and investment related to digital signage really worth the rewards?
In the situation where sign companies can add digital signage as an offering in an existing, trusted supply relationship, the addition of digital signage makes very good sense not just as a sales and revenue instrument, but as a way of protecting an existing account from those who may offer digital signage and leverage this into the offer of other sign and communication services.
What is the opportunity cost of waiting just a little longer for things to mature?
Digital signage has been maturing for 20 years and has really accelerated in its stability over the past 10 years. Technologies have become highly reliable and cost-effective, while at the same time end-users are seeing the use of digital signage by their competitors and many other businesses. More end-users are installing digital signage every day as a way to maximize the benefits of their communication investment. Asked yourself this… How would you feel if in going into a customer location you saw that they had installed digital signage that they had sourced from one of your competitors? Would you begrudge not having enjoyed the revenues and profit that comes with the technology supply in the ongoing licensing of digital signage software? As noted previously, a good supply opportunity still exists in providing new and fresh content, and the way in which content gets results.
How do I proceed from a technology standpoint? There are two approaches, both of which are valid and even complimentary. One approach is to use an inexpensive media player and software combination to deliver basic digital signage for an early customer with a relatively simple requirement. This will allow you, as the sign shop provider to familiarize yourself with the medium and better understand the level of supply that makes most sense for your firm. Recognize that in many cases, a more functional and cost-effective system may be required to assure the best value to the end user and supply profitability. The sign provider can start simple and “move up” to more functionality, or, as has been found by many sign shops, can start with a more enabling infrastructure and then focus on maximizing the benefits from its use. While “starting” is the key it is of greater importance at times to start with the “finish” in mind. Choose a solution that meets longer term needs because dynamic signage is typically in place for a four to seven year period once installed.
Static signs are not going away, so plan to integrate digital signage into existing communications approaches to maximize the investment and benefits in customer, patron, visitor, traveler, staff and student communications.
Lyle Bunn is an analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s digital signage industry. He was named one of the 50 innovators and influencers by Sign and Digital graphics magazine, and one of the 11 Most Influential People by DigitalSignageToday.com in 2013. He has published over 280 articles and whitepapers, assisted over 300 end user organizations and helped to train over 10,000 professionals to benefit from digital signage. [email protected]
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Digital signage hangs on one single word - "benefit" and it is content, the media presented on digital signage that delivers this benefit once the technology infrastructure is in place. The quality of content and the merit of investing in this has been an ongoing frustration for network operators. Perhaps this is in part because impact analysis is not commonly conducted and no easier mechanism exists for assessing content quality. What follows is a framework for evaluating content quality toward improving specific and overall benefits through imporved content.
The ability to display motion, animation in content that is suited to the audience, time of day and location of presentation make the medium inherently powerful. Too often the fuller advantages that can be gained from the medium are not realized as basic messaging is considered adequate to achieve suitable viewer impact.
Content can achieve four areas of impact simultaneously as illustrated in the graphic below.
Influence reflects the tangible outcomes of value such as product or service purchaseor enquiry, registration for events or programs, visits to websites of mobile engagement that is triggered.
Branding outcomes are measured through brand awareness or propensity for future purchase and product/service reference.
Ambience is measured in terms of the degree to which the content reflects for add to the environment in which the display is located. The reduction in perceived wait time is a further indicator.
Energy reflects on the level of vitality, excitement or calm resulting from presentation of the content at that location.
Content impacts on audiences in each of these four ways and may affect different viewer demographics differently, so distinguishing the target viewer demographic is a key element of content composition planning.
This 4-benefit framework provides an easy way to assess the quality of content.
Weighting can be assigned to each of these four areas of intended outcome. For example, an area of high importance, such as influence, might be assigned a score of 40 possible points, while an ares of lesser importance such as energy might be assigned a score of just 10 possible points wht branding and ambiance at 20 points each.
Then, score each of these four areas subjectively upon viewing the content, or more objectively based on impact data or viewer survey results. Strengths and shortcomings will become clearer, and a usable language with which to communitcate areas of improvement is available.
Some questions which might be asked during content scoring include:
a) Is what is being communicated consistent with intended outcomes?
b) Are the font size, style, color contrast to background and the pace of appearance or animation suitable for viewers to easliy consume or ingest the text?
c) Is there too much text for the viewer to read in the expected timeframe, in particular when they are in the process of making a decision based on the information presented (i.e. menu of product or service options)?
d) Are graphics and images appealing, eye-catching and a positive reinforcement of the value proposition?
e) Does the color palette used for the content reflect the brand accurately?
f) Are images of products the best that they can be to reflect the product the consumer will receive?
g) Are the text and images related to and aligned with each other?
h) Is there a specific or clearly implied call to action?
i)If there are multiple options for product/service selection, is the recommended option emphasized?
j) Are there graphics or icons in use that may not be easily understood or interpreted by the viewer?
k) Does each message appear for a suitable duration?
Answering these questions to score the content in each of the four areas identifies where areas of improvement are required. It also offers an overall score for the individual spot.
For example, if influence achieves a score of 20 out of 40, branding gets a 10 out of a possible 20, ambience gets 10 out of 20 and energy gets 5 out of 10. The total score for the spot is 45 out of 90 or 50%.
The level of an acceptable score can be established in conversation with the network operator, location provider, the message owner and content producer with whom acceptable or target levels can also be established. Content spots that do not achieve a high score are very good candidates for improvement.
It also makes sense to score the overall play loop while assessing individual content spots. A similar scoring structure around criteria such as play loop versus typical viewer dwell time, transitions, compliance with an overall style guide and suitablity of a multi-zone layout.
Some questions to ask during this scoring include:
a) How does the overall length of the play loop correlate to typical viewer dwell time? This should be a one to one ratio so the viewer can see all messages in the loop. Messages that are not seen cannot be expected to produce outcome and most viewers would find it acceptable to see messages two or perhaps three times.
b) Are transitions between individual content spots smooth and appealing to the eye, while maximizing message presentation time?
c) Do all of the content spots generally use the same color palette or is the viewer challenged to accept and interpret a range of composition styles and color choices?
d) Does the use of multiple zones on the display layout support or hamper the achievement of desired benefits?
Scoring of the overall playlist will provide indicators where adjustments could achieve greater benefits in this area.
Lyle Bunn has been recognized with many digital signage industry honors while advising more than 300 organizations to gain best benefit from digital signage and helping to train more than 10,000 user, brand and supply professionals.
Friday, 07 March 2014
In the 1 to 3 months it takes to successfully conduct a digital signage sourcing initiative, some aspects lead to success and the fast lane while others are the potholes that hinder progress, and more important sustainable value.
The Request For Proposal (RFP) process really tests the preparedness of an organization to benefit from location-based media. Sourcing also enables the ability to minimize costs and maximize the return on investment.
The RFP process should include stakeholders such as the end user departments, procurements, facilities, information technologies and others that may be affected by the selection decision. This can include representatives of location/branch operations, customer experience, human resources, public affairs, loyalty program, architects, designers, advertising, promotion and other professionals whose activities impact on brand equity, revenue achievements and cost containment.
The express lane is achieved when perspectives of the end-user, information technology and location operations personnel are included in defining the requirements as presented in the RFP, evaluating proposals and ranking the “short list” of possible vendors.
The sourcing process encounters “potholes” when stakeholders that will be impacted by the selection decision are not advised or included in the process.
The range of hardware, software and services that are to be contracted through the RFP process also enables vendors to make their proposals relevant.
Since digital signage is intended to provide competitive advantage, it is common to invite proposals from vendors whose capabilities aligned with the requirements. A nondisclosure agreement can be established with invited vendors to help minimize the broadcasting of the intention to apply digital media as a competitive instrument.
A framework of response should include capabilities, related experience, processes, personnel and pricing to enable vendor comparisons. Each RFP respondents is ultimately expected to answer the question “why are you the best vendor related to our requirements?”
Vendors that response positively to mandatory requirements and show innovation in answering the overarching question of “why us?” will commonly receive higher scores from evaluators toward finding themselves included on a short list.
Presentations by short list vendors will clarify proposal elements, reveal additional information and allow the organization to gain insights into subjective elements of a future possible relationship, which might contribute to ongoing project success. Culture and chemistry matter in every organization and this is particularly true where digital signage is concerned because it is not generally a commodity, but rather a solution to current or anticipated business challenges.
Through shortlisted vendor presentations, which are typically two or more hours in length, consensus can be determined on the preferred and alternate vendor.
Should reference checks, pricing, service levels, remediation and contracting not proceed in a satisfactory manner with the preferred vendor, (this is usually known within 2 to 3 weeks), the sourcing initiative can continue to advance in the fast lane with the alternate provider. This in itself, assures that potholes are addressed and avoided.
Express Lane sourcing means that:
- The business, marketing or communications requirement is clear;
- Possible vendors suitable to the requirement have been identified;
- Stakeholders are included in the sourcing initiative; and,
- A clear path to funding and contrasting are in place.
Potholes occur when:
- The need is not well articulated;
- Users or influencers to project success are not included;
- Vendors that are not suitable to meeting the requirements are invited to respond;
- The weighting of evaluation elements are not appropriately weighted; and,
- The process is not focused on establishing a contract as the core outcome.
Whether it is for digital signage hardware, software, services or any combination of these, at the beginning or expansion of media needs, a strong request for proposal process will assure the highest return on time and investment.
External resources can with in-depth, vendor-neutral experience in digital media objectives definition, system architecting, vendor identification, sourcing and contracting can help mitigate/manage risk and assure a successful procurement initiative toward ongoing, accelerating value from digital signage and enterprise media.
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s digital signage sector who has assisted over 300 organizations to benefit from place-based media. He has been acclaimed as a leading industry figure.
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
This paper outlines the status and provides a qualitative analysis of the outlook and inherent tensions in North America's digital signage industry, while providing an approach for assessing supply and project outlook.
In summary, 2014 has an extremely positive outlook for digital signage in North America. The use of the medium continues to grow in corporate and brand application and it continues to be integrated into communications plans and location experience. Technology elements and supply approaches are advancing. Industry challenges can be addressed including key tensions such as the range of supply options and the lack of return on investment analysis, along with other sources of project and investment delays. The outlook for digital signage and place-based display media for 2014 is positive for communications application, revenue and jobs.
Download the report here
Provided by Lyle Bunn