|| The Perspective
Wednesday, 01 April 2015
By David McCracken - Livewire Digital
Turn on any high school or college sports movie and you’ll see a natural rivalry between the jocks and the tech nerds(…who I refer to fondly, being one of them!). Something in their DNA just can’t make these two groups get along. But in the case of sports Halls of Fame, life doesn’t seem to imitate art — jocks and tech geeks get along perfectly.
The hottest trends in sports Halls of Fame are digital signs, kiosks, and interactive software to organize and display the overwhelming amount of sports information available.
Baseball Hall of Fame
From the exhibits to the devices employees use to run operations, the Baseball Hall of Fame is taking tech to a new level. The Cooperstown landmark uses digital signs and interactive kiosks to give visitors a customized experience, no matter what they’re interested in.
The Baseball Hall of Fame has also started digitizing three-dimensional objects like documents and historic items to give visitors a hands-on experience, even if the physical item itself isn’t in the museum.
College Football Hall of Fame
Hot on the heels of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s tech success is the hall of fame for America’s #2 pastime: college football. You won’t see any plaques or busts in the College Football Hall of Fame — you’ll see movable touch screens instead. This Atlanta hot spot also incorporates RFID technology. Each visitor who enters selects their favorite team, and interactive video walls and other elements throughout the Hall are customized to reflect their preferences.
University of Massachusetts
At the UMass Football Hall of Fame, visitors use an interactive exhibit to explore the university’s 130-year-old football program. Kiosks and digital signs show visitors detailed historical information, current data and statistics, and engaging information on players, coaches, bands, mascots, and more. The digital directories allow every visitor using the kiosk to easily find something of personal interest through use of the touch screen software.
The Stevenson University Mustangs were inspired by the All-Sports Museum at my alma mater, Penn State University, and wanted to use the same interactive kiosks as well as video wall technology to celebrate their own program. Visitors of the Stevenson Hall of Fame use the touch screen kiosk and ultra-high definition video walls to learn all about the students and staff of the Athletics Program. Livewire’s eConcierge Content Management System makes it easy for school personnel to update and change the information on a dime — and since sports are always changing and evolving, this ensures the most up-to-date information available.
Ultimately, this technology provides so much more than could ever be inscribed on a plaque in traditional Halls of Fame. Why share a small amount of information with plaques, busts, and photos, when you can share a limitless amount with kiosks, video walls, digital directories, and a content management system?
Friday, 13 February 2015
Vice President New Business Development - Displays/Merchandisers
Frank Mayer and Associates
With more than 20 years of experience at trade shows, I have attended more than 100 shows. While each show is different, I seem to always take a similar approach to each one.
I’d like to share my 7-part game plan for playing the trade show field with you. Hopefully, this rulebook helps you accomplish your goals in an efficient manner.
1. Know the Playbook: Almost all trade shows have a Pre-Show Planner on their web site. These planners can assist your company in tailoring your game plan for the show.
The amount of companies exhibiting at a show is overwhelming. You want to know which of your targets will be there before the show kicks off so that you avoid leaving a prospect without coverage. At the same time, you don’t want to rush the passers so make sure to work with your teammates. If you and multiple colleagues are going to the same show, be sure to know who will be tackling which exhibitor or event. You don’t want to double up – wasting your time and making your company seem unprepared/non-communicative.
You may be able to set up certain plays before the show by finding information on prospects via LinkedIn, the company’s website or even the trade show’s publication. Finding this information can enable you to leverage the meeting systems within the trade show organization. Consider establishing a quick meeting ahead of time to page through visual examples and capabilities.
2. Get your Jersey Ready: You want to present yourself so that your prospect welcomes you to their booth, is happy to have you on their sideline and introduces you to their teammates.
Dress professionally. If you belong to a world class company, present yourself as a world class individual. This includes comfortable shoes. You’ll need proper support to endure the entire game. My pedometer shows between 7 -10 miles/day at a show.
Practice good hygiene. You are talking to people and shaking hands throughout the day; so never leave the locker room unprepared – carry some mints and wash up after meals.
3. Train for the Big Game: Get the sleep and exercise you will need to keep you at your best. Trade shows are long days – you will want to be in top physical and mental condition.
Practice what you plan to say to each company. You want to be concise and direct; have a list of questions prepared that are focused on that company’s product offerings and be able to convey what it is you’re searching for. Be able to explain your company’s value proposition within 60 seconds. You will want to focus on the prospect but be able to convey your company’s value so that they remember you and what you are about!
Make sure to take care of yourself. Eat right and get plenty of sleep. Avoid staying out late watching the big game on Monday Night Football.
4. Stay on Your Toes: Be ready for anything from Warm-Up to Cool-Down
Always be prepared to show your value. Talk to everyone on the plane, on the shuttles, at the bar, at the restaurant, in the elevator. Trade shows typically have 1,000’s of people attending them. You never know when the big score is right around the corner.
Be creative. The last thing brands and retailers want to deal with is the “pesky” sales representative who is there to get business from them. You’ll need to present your company in an interesting way. Bring something of value that is relevant and captures the extensive knowledge base in their specified vertical market.
GlobalShop trade show5. Scope the Field: Know the show floor and detail your route so that you use your time most effectively and ensure you don’t miss a prospective company.
If you walk into a trade show without a path of execution, you will wear out long before the second half. Print a floor plan and highlight the people you want to see – making a route for the day.
Walk the floor several times. Try to come in and address their sales growth needs through the use of your company’s goods and services.
6. Watch the Play Clock: manage your time wisely, and remember – it is a marathon and not a sprint.
Manage your time from one company to another. Exhibitors are there to sell and they will keep detailing their products and benefits for hours if you let them. If they do not meet your requirements or help to advance your goals, swap business cards and move along.
Budget time to allow for follow-ups and re-visits you may need to get that contact or business card. Show respect for their needs and they will show respect for yours in return.
7. Review the Tape: Review and follow up with every contact you make.
When you sort through the business cards remind yourself of every detail that is important to fostering a lasting relationship with them. Each night at the show, write a review of the prospect’s needs and follow-up specifics.
Follow up with the individual. Don’t leave it up to the companies you met with to reach out to you.
Overall, remember – the prospect doesn’t owe you the time they are taking away from their important business at the show. Greet them with a smile, and leave them having a smile for meeting with you!
Wednesday, 04 February 2015
By Reflect Systems
The world of retailing just keeps getting more exciting as the landscape continues to radically shift and morph with new business models and approaches in the age of the Connected Customer. Traditional retailers have been honing their digital chops with omnichannel strategies. But we’re also seeing other brands that are not traditional retailers now expanding with efforts to get closer to the consumer with a “physical” retail presence.
A new form of retailers are emerging and exploring the benefits of physical stores and showrooms. While many brands have leveraged pop-ups and store-in-store implementations, dedicated stand-alone locations are increasingly part of the strategy for many brands. Examples include Nike, Levis, Polo Ralph-Lauren and many others.
Some brands have had long-standing programs using their own branded store locations. Some of these brands rely on the bulk of their sales through wholesale channels and now, increasingly, through online purchases. But they have also leveraged their own physical stores for branding and customer insights.
Newcomers continue to move into the physical store landscape. Samsung, seeking to increase brand awareness and better customer education, made a big effort with a store-in-store partnership with Best Buy and will soon be seeking to test their own dedicated stores to further solidify their brand presence and compete with the likes of Apple.
Now, even more interestingly, e-tailers are getting aggressive with new forays into dedicated shops and “showrooms". While some of these efforts are still experimental, toe-in-the-water programs, many examples are proving to be quite successful to brands seeking to move beyond the confines of the digital world to establish valuable face-to-face connections with customers. Some of these brands may keep their physical footprints relatively small to grow awareness in strategic markets and leverage customer insights to further strengthen their online business. Others may prove to be more expansive and farther reaching.
There are many cases of brands moving into the physical store game, including Bonobos, Warby Parker, Birchbox, J. Hilburn, Trunk Club, Alton, Justfab, SwimSpot, Nasty Gal, BaubleBar, and others.
Many of the newcomer brands like to the physical retailing world are starting the move to the physical world by experimenting with pop-ups and store-in-store formats before taking the plunge into dedicated stores.
Birchbox, Athleta, and Amazon
Birchbox, a New York-based apparel e-tailer, has been one of the oft-cited examples of this transitional, phased approach to entering physical stores. They partnered to make selections of merchandise available in Nordstrom and Belk stores. Birchbox expanded their own presence with dedicated “Guideshops” in multiple major markets.
Athleta, previously a web retailer for women’s sportswear, was acquired by Gap, Inc. and is making the move into dedicated brand stores. While other e-tailers will face learning curves on the science of merchandising in the real world, Athleta will likely benefit from the operations and traditional retailing expertise of Gap.
And then there’s the proverbial elephant in the room… Amazon. It’s unclear what their overarching long-term strategy is for physical retail presence, but they are likely to make waves.
Insights and Lessons Learned from Brands Moving to Dedicated Physical Stores
- Boosting brand awareness and creating a connection with new customers is a big driver for many businesses. However, there are lessons being learned related to timing and brand awareness. While going physical may be a good move for some online-only businesses, it helps to have recognized brand and buzz before opening physical stores.
- Personalized services like beauty consultations and other one-on-one appointments are playing a big part in this new world of connected retailing. Stylists in Trunk Club locations consult with customers and fill a “digital trunk” with selected products to be shipped to the customer. This approach is proving to be effective at helping men who may not like the hassle of shopping, but need help and consultation to quickly find the right fit, brands and accessories that are right for them.
- E-tailers and consumer product brands are recognizing the customers’ desire to touch and feel products in the real world. Many products are challenging to effectively sell online. Apparel, glasses, and makeup and beauty products in particular can benefit from physical shopping. This can be a challenge for e-tailers as they move from online to physical. They must learn or acquire the knowledge to merchandise products using best practices ingrained in traditional retail models.
- The art/science of product curation has a big impact in showrooms for engaging the customer and educating them on offerings. Brands are experimenting with the breadth and depth of the products to show in the store, and they are finding the best ways to merchandise in person. Birchbox, for example, has showcased products by category, rather than by brand.
- In-store events like celebrity appearances, classes, and other events like make-up and beauty parties provide brands with more opportunities to leverage the in-person benefits of a physical location. Using the storefront or showroom to leverage the “art of the happening” may prove to further enhance the brand to consumer connection.
- Digital is still playing a part in the physical store. Even as traditional retailers are embracing in-store digital technologies, e-tailers and brand stores have an even stronger reliance on having a seamless connection with the web. Birchbox uses video content and product reviews with their interactive in-store displays. Alton Lane, another men’s apparel retailer, uses a 3D body scanner to take measurements, providing an in-person edge over the challenge of finding the right fit online.
- Some of these new in-store purchases have shown higher average transaction sizes versus online. They are also seeing customers acquire a higher comfort level with brands in-store, then transitioning with ease to making follow-up purchases online.
- One of the big findings of e-tailers has been that there are still many people who just like the act of browsing products in person. While traditional retailers are getting better at their web presence, e-tailers are learning how to best bring their website into the physical world.
- Shopping, for many, is still an activity and event providing an outlet for moving around and exploring. As Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal has acknowledged, shopping is a form of entertainment.
While the online and physical worlds collide and alter the retail landscape, the recognition of the value of physical presence is gaining more visibility. Online is big, but brands are also getting physical.
Tuesday, 06 January 2015
Ron Bowers (bio)
SVP, Business Development
Frank Mayer & Associates
Millennials controlling 70% of the spending power in the U.S. creates vast uncertainty amongst retailers; but with the strongest economy in years, optimism prevails as we begin 2015.
For many retailers, the Millennial consumer is an enigma: they are more suspicious of who to trust and yet, more likely to be influenced by apps and social media than any other generation. Only 19% of Millennials (versus 40% of Baby Boomers) say that, “generally speaking, most people can be trusted” (PewResearch). However, in order to make buying decisions, consumers look to a retailer’s online presence and social influence before considering a purchase.
This generation’s spending habits are moved by its self-paradox. Millennials are self-focused and at the center of their own global communications. It is vital for them to have a positive self-image while finding a sense of belonging when purchasing consumer goods. They desire self-preservation and a personal connection to a product or service.
So, what does this mean for retailers?
The heightened competition amongst store fronts and e-commerce will increase. Currently, roughly ¾ of consumers claim to showroom (Retail Future Trends 2015) or rather compare brands in order to receive the lowest price, best quality and/or widest selection of merchandise when shopping—many times without ever stepping foot in a store. This creates less in-store traffic and increased wavering among dominant brands. So, retailers must draw their target markets in through a strong online presence while providing feelings of exclusivity and individuality for a reasonable price.
To draw consumers into their store fronts, many retailers have begun incorporating various electronic capabilities; this includes the use of tablets, interactive kiosks and beacon technology. Tablets and interactive kiosks extend inventory past what can be offered in stores. The use of tablets has expanded into the retail environment to replace paper signage with digital advertising while providing sales associates quick and easy access to inventory, online ordering, product information and faster checkouts. Interactive Kiosks act in a similar way – allowing for added promotions through electronic ads specified to a department and the time of day. They also enable retailers to connect with consumers by blending in-store merchandising and virtual product displays. Beacon technology, on the other hand, provides the retailer with direct communication to the consumer and has the potential to completely change the in-store shopping experience by creating personalized and targeted marketing in real time. A beacon uses a Bluetooth signal to send special offers to nearby smartphones equipped with the store’s app. App users will receive targeted messages and deals while moving throughout the store.
Let’s say you’re shopping at a retailer equipped with these devices and have previously downloaded the store’s app. As you walk through the doors, your phone buzzes with an exclusive storewide discount. You wander into the home goods department and begin looking for a new blender when your phone alerts you of a sale on KitchenAid products. You can’t pass up the sale price and find the specified blender but are not happy with the color selections available in store. Scanning the product’s barcode at a nearby kiosk, you find additional product specifications, customer reviews and available colors. The color you’d like is available only online. No need to worry. Once your shopping is complete, you bring all of your selections to the nearby associate. They ring you up on their iPad and include the desired blender and ship it directly to your home.
As many stores have already begun implementing this technology, this experience won’t be a thing of the future for long. In fact, Macy’s has added 4,000 iBeacon devices nation-wide and provides coupons via this technology to customers who have downloaded ShopKick. They have also begun testing smart dressing rooms and an image search app. The smart dressing rooms have a wall-mounted tablet that allows customers to view various sizes and colors of a product while the image search app allows customers to snap a photo of an outfit or clothing item to find similar items on sale.
With these exciting advancements in technology, 2015 will be a year to watch how the in-store experience changes to accommodate the self-regarding Millennial. While it is clear that tech-enhanced stores offer an enriched shopper experience with benefits like improved productivity, inventory counts and use of store square footage, we have yet to determine exactly how to incorporate this technology so that it is most useful to each individual without overwhelming them.
Tuesday, 02 September 2014
Brand advocates are easily the knights of the branding chess board. Versatile enough to reach the audiences regular marketing can’t; they are key players well worth your time and effort. Armed with one of the most powerful weapons of our time, the internet, advocates can create a tidal wave of buzz around a brand in few simple clicks. Their good reviews are marketing gold. In fact, 90% of consumers believe Internet recommendations are the most credible persuasion when purchasing a product or service(1)
How Do You Get Customers to Advocate Your Brand?
So people seem to like your brand: Your products are trustworthy and you’ve trained your employees to have great customer service skills. You market your sales and special events, but you still can’t seem to create a special connection between your customers and your brand. While customers may spend money on your products and services, they aren’t compelled to talk about it.
To create conversations about your brand, you need to be innovative and unique. 60% of consumers feel more positively about a company after reading custom content on their sites or #digital displays. (2) Digital signage incorporates endless options for viewer engagement. One of the top three reasons consumers will follow a brand on social media is for interesting content.(3) Digital signage is a medium that can provide interesting content that reaches every shopping persona. Instead of using static marketing to relay one or two messages about your brand, digital signage plays dynamic content and integrates social media applications. Therefore, campaigns can be designed to target specific shoppers at specific times of the day.
Select the Right Promoters
Once you’ve engaged and engrossed potential advocates with your dynamic digital media, you can start deciding who is worthy of being your brand cheerleader. Keep this in mind: the entire world can love your brand, but they don’t all have to be your advocates. Choose a couple influential members (with lots of appropriate followers) to can reach your targeted audience with the correct messages.
3 Ways Digital Signage Can Help You Retain Your Advocates
Once the relationship is solidified, put together a program to thank, reward, and maintain your advocate. Don’t make this a campaign, campaigns don’t last; make this an ongoing program. Longevity is good for a relationship, after all. Have an entire plan for the program so that you can identify how you and your advocate will both get what you want for the entire length of the program.
1.) Give ‘Em Publicity: An easy way to show appreciation is to display advocate-generated content on your digital signage. With Instagram and social media integrations, your advocates can become your models.
2.) Keep It Exclusive: Interactive Kiosks are a fantastic way to keep your advocates engaged and coming back for more. Implement a reward system for exclusive offers that only advocates can access via the kiosks. Hashtags for reward points!
3.) Contribute Together: Donate to charity on behalf of your advocates. Create an ‘Advocate of the Month (or Week)’ system that will honor a select member. Then your brand can donation in their name to a nonprofit organization. Their picture and donation can be displayed on your digital signage.
Marketing for sales doesn’t cut it anymore. Consumers need a fellow shopper with an opinion that they can trust. Obtaining, choosing, and keeping your advocates might seem intimidating at first, but with digital signage, the integrations practically do all the work for you. By making sure the content around your brand is dynamic and interesting, you’ll start conversations that will lead to recommendations.
1: Ciceron, 2: Ciceron, 3: Ciceron
Tuesday, 17 June 2014
By Bill Bishop
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.
Friday, 30 May 2014
President & Founder
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.
Marketing’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
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.
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.
Wednesday, 02 April 2014
Frank Mayer & Associates
Consumers today face an almost unlimited array of media and merchandise to compete for their time and resources. According to a recent Nielsen Newswire, Americans’ retail trip frequency has decreased by 15 percent over the last six years, while basket size has only increased by 9 percent. This is a trend that cuts across income levels and has implications for a wide range of retailers.
With shoppers visiting stores less frequently and ever present competition, retailers have their work cut out for them to attract customers to their stores and increase their dwell time. With hyper-connected shoppers, there’s much thought and discussion about interactive in-store experiences, but a recent visit by a colleague to the flagship store of Whole Foods Market reinforced the importance of visual merchandising and store ambiance to retail experience.
Retailers have a lot of competing demands and a whole host of touchpoints that didn’t exist a decade ago, but they can’t lose sight of the power that physical design and in-store merchandising have on customer experience. Whole Foods Market is not a current client, but as an in-store merchandising company serving a mix of retailers and brands across a variety of categories, we admire the way Whole Foods has carried out its philosophy to create store environments that are “inviting and fun, and reflect the communities they serve”.
As much as any retailer can, Whole Foods embodies the notion that stores aren’t simply places to buy things; you can buy things--even groceries—online. Careful planning of every detail naturally occurs when company headquarters sits atop your store, as it does in the heart of Austin, and the effect is awe inducing, a retail feast for the senses.
The Austin flagship is an example of store as destination – a concept that can maintain the health of physical retail. The store itself is large, but each department is, in fact, a destination made manageable and engaging by display materials that reinforce a natural, wholesome, clean positioning and ample, friendly, sometimes whimsical, signage that reflects the Whole Foods brand.
The Austin venue is more than a market, it is a social center with outdoor dining that draws people off the street and multiple indoor food bars that invite people to linger and interact. It has the feel of a community hub.
Reflective of its location in a music-loving city where even the airport has live musicians, it is an entertainment venue that attracts people and invites them to stay. The store contains a live stage; where on a Friday afternoon musicians were setting up to usher patrons into weekend mode.
Common design elements are a necessity for all chains, but Whole Foods strives for product and visual connections that reinforce a local feel. The local ambiance is reinforced in part by a neon “Love Austin” sign hanging above merchandise that celebrates the city. In Detroit, for example, it is reflected in Motown 45-LP records that adorn the checkout lane markers. These are elements that might appeal to civic pride and spark a little allegiance in an era when it is harder to come by.
Not every retailer can be Whole Foods Market, but every retailer should be focused on the elements that ensure that physical stores are places of discovery and delight and can instill some sense of loyalty so we are enticed to get out from behind our screens, loosen our pocketbooks and experience retail with all our senses and some of our emotions.
Tuesday, 14 January 2014
Provided by Frank Mayer & Associates, Inc.
Retailers are both optimistic and realistic about challenges heading into 2014. Either way, they should be intent on making each touch point with the customer as meaningful as possible. Here are some of the ways our thought leaders see this imperative playing out in stores.
What role does in-store merchandising play in positioning retailers for a new and challenging year ahead?
Mike Mayer, President: Our success and that of our clients going forward will come from helping marketers face a changed environment, changing consumer and rapidly evolving technology. The biggest challenge we can help our clients meet is keeping the in-store experience vibrant and relevant in the midst of upheaval.
We create solutions that keep shoppers coming into stores, help them make sense of categories, and keep them engaging with products so that in the end they appreciate the advantages of the in-store experience and are enabled to shop the way they want to. Sometimes it isn’t the newest, shiniest technology, and sometimes it is. Fitting the right technology to the environment and the consumer leads to the best outcome.
Are there new tools that will be put to use in the realm of interactive retailing?
Ron Bowers, Senior Vice President Business Development: I’m watching to see if 2014 will usher in a new wave of in-store communication with shoppers. Proximity marketing enabled by beacon technology gives retailers a new tool to interact with connected consumers at precise locations in stores. People in retail, entertainment, transportation and other industries are paying attention to news about Apple’s iBeacon.
I’m rooting for this technology to work because from an in-store merchandising perspective, iBeacon has the potential to increase ROI and make even non-interactive displays “smarter.” A beacon could send a prompt to engage, a purchase incentive, or information. This solution helps address the “if you build it, will they come” question that often arises when ambitious interactive merchandising solutions are used, and it could enable something as simple as knowing when and where a display gets put up.
Retailers are the real harbingers with beacon technology. If several retailers have successful tests and roll beacons out to their stores in 2014, it will add an exciting new layer of relevance to in-store communication.
This development begs the question: Have we finally reached the point of cultivating true one-to-one relationships with important customers that Peppers and Rogers espoused in their book One to One Future a decade and a half ago?
What will 2014 bring from a display design perspective?
Ryan Lepianka, Creative Director: As online shopping options become more enticing due to cost savings and ever faster shipping, brick and mortar retailers must differentiate themselves evermore from their virtual counterparts. One aspect that really sets physical retail apart is the presence of well-crafted, hands-on experiences. A live demo allows potential purchasers to gain a tactile knowledge of products that is impossible to attain from a jpeg and a few questionable product reviews.
Heavily branded custom demo stations – for electronics and gadgetry for example – give premium products the pop they need to stand out in a crowded retail environment. They help consumers answer questions like: Does this product have the quality build I’m looking for? Do I trust this product?
The quality of the demo station itself helps to reinforce a premium message. These types of displays have elevated in quality of construction and features of late, and I see a continuation of this trend. More enticing lighting, less visible fasteners and more premium-looking materials are defining the preferred brands at retail today.
What worked well at retail in 2013 that we are likely to see more of in 2014?
Joe Holley, Vice President New Business Development–Displays/Merchandisers: The “less is more” trend from retailers this past year will carry into 2014. A growing number of retailers are focusing their efforts on a detailed consumer profile for a category and only offering products – including top sellers – that fit that profile. Omitting some SKU’s in the lineup creates opportunities to develop point of purchase displays on a higher level.
Displays and merchandisers have more real estate available to communicate to the consumer and can present a category with more style and simplicity. The “less is more” trend also opens the door for innovative ways to showcase the product as well as provide guidance to the consumer to shop the display/merchandiser with ease at the point of sale.
Tuesday, 17 December 2013
By Tanya Williams
Business Development Manager
As the biggest sales period of the year, every retailer needs to get smarter about how they maximize sales and about turning as many one-off Christmas customers into fans for life. The holiday period is not just about the short-term sales but also the long-term potential to turn these customers into raving fans.
Consumers have more choices than ever before and have an abundance of information at their fingertips. You as a retailer now have the resources to take advantage of this to stop delivering a fragmented "anywhere experience" and to create an "only-here experience" for your customers.
With the increase in online shopping, there is virtually unlimited scope for retailers to think outside the square by embracing digital signage to engage and give consumers a "real" in-store experience. Digital or intelligent signage uses technology to replace static posters as a means of targeting consumers in an engaging and responsive way:
- Use online sales to your advantage and create an in-store digital catalogue that takes elements of your website and makes them suitable for use in a store environment.
- Combine traditional and digital for greater results.
- Provide a personally relevant experience.
- Stand out from competitors.
- Maximize sales in-store and offer upsells.
- Attract new shoppers by having digital signage such as screens, video walls or touch projection in windows, at front of store, etc.
- Entertain your customers to extend dwell times.
- Promote new product lines.
- Know your audience and talk their language.
- Use dayparting to reflect the changing mood of the day.
- Send the love.
- Get social and interact.
Wednesday, 05 September 2012
We had our second annual DOOH Media Cross Media event last week in cooperation with the Digital Screenmedia Association (DSA) and the Digital Place-based Advertising Association (DPAA). Held at Gannett's HQ with a backdrop of Madison Avenue, the event attracted a mixed crowd of digital signage networks, agencies, brands, platform companies and mobile experts.
Speakers from NEC, MWW, The Wow Factor, Time Square Screen Alliance, Blue Bite and The Wall Street Journal dissected the overall growth of mobile, digital signage and best practices of this overall evolution of convergence. The common themes evolved around experience, media strategy and scalability.
Don Blanton, CEO of The Wow Factor
Theme 1: Experience
“It is so important to build an experience that creates an emotional response,” stated Don Blanton, CEO of The Wow Factor. Don is one of those true visionaries that had created some of the best campaigns in Times Square, bringing creativity and innovation to an environment where consumers are stimulated by digital media from every angle. He showcased some of the campaigns that had been successful, and shared techniques and strategies to best gauge the usefulness of the campaigns.
“We find that in order to have a successful campaign, the integration with the street-teams is a key part of process. We found that with mobile, sometimes the downloading of an app can be a bit of an obstacle. Getting users to activate the app is still not a perfect scenario, but overall integrating the campaign is effective in getting engagement with the massive screen,” said Blanton.
Mikhail Damiani from Blue Bite also shared his vision on how to drive a campaign first from the strategy of experience that then determines the right technologies to use. “NFC is going to be a key driver of this interaction in the future,” he stated and shared some statistics that proved this is happening faster than we expected.
Tom Hennigan of Times Square Screen Alliance and Blanton also shared a sneak-peak of what is to come with the connectivity of all screens. “Giving advertisers the best opportunity…massive emotional experiences are coming soon in our launch in October to Times Square,” Hennigan announced.
Theme 2: Media Strategy
The discussions also took on a perspective that the holistic view is a critical part in an overall media strategy with the brand. “Getting the strategy right from the beginning is essential and the platform with which you serve ads to the different screens is critical,” explained Carolyn Walkin of NEC. “When deciding on an ad server for your business, it is now the time to choose one that gives you the ability to work everywhere. That will make your planning much more streamlined.”
As we are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the growth of digital place based media, having a strategy that looks to combine these areas is going to be quite essential. “Given that mobile is with you everywhere, especially when you are on the go, it can be a great resource in linking these strategies together,” said Michael Scheiner, executive creative director of MWW.
When asked by Jim Harris, CEO of the Wall Street Journal Office Network what we can expect in five years, the panel of speakers was quick to talk about the further fusion of media. And there was a strong consensus on the opportunities of augmented reality. “Augmented reality is going to bring amazing things to Times Square,” said Blanton.
Michael Scheiner, executive creative director, MWW
Theme 3: Scalability
Another common theme for the event was the issue of scalability. “When developing a plan, it is important to have a long-term scalable strategy,” said Scheiner. “Many campaigns that link these converging areas together have been created as one-offs without a long-term sustainable plan. But with the right strategy from the beginning, that campaign can have longevity and can bridge all the different areas of PR, social, interactive, mobile and digital out-of-home.”
Although scalability has been a topic discussed quite often and sometimes hard to qualify, in a world of an overwhelming flow of information, it is clear that getting the message right so that it can continue across all mediums is very important. Harris noted that this is a challenge they pursue every day when you have a 700+ location digital signage network. When he asked the panel their remarks on the subject, the common answer of “creating the right content experience for the user” was the key media strategy.
Matthew Snyder is producer of MXM Events and CEO ADObjects, Inc.
Tuesday, 13 December 2011
When you create and nurture a brand, your customers are the audience. We tell them a story designed to communicate your value proposition in a way that will engage them and compel them. We want them to not only want our product or service, but also to identify with the brand and embrace it.
We work in a business that often lies at the intersection of brands and consumers, so we're able to see firsthand the value in helping our clients to tell their story in a compelling way that deepens relationships and reinforces messages. Digital shopper marketing, through digital signage, mobile apps or social media, is a discipline which requires telling a consistent story effectively and frequently.
All of us carry around a "brand Rolodex" in which we maintain a collection of loyalty cards (whether real or virtual) for each product or service we consume or use. These cards are stamped with a brand we have adopted as our own, a brand we identify with and agree fits our needs and with which we can identify. In business, whether you are a retailer, a manufacturer, a software provider or any other type of business selling something to consumers or businesses, it's your job to tell your story, create a connection and nurture relationships. Brand identity should be reinforced to customers on a continuous basis, with a focus on consistency, and should never lose sight of what your core value proposition is.
There was an article in the Wall Street Journal not too long ago about how customers' perception of Walmart has changed. Surveys indicated that a majority of consumers polled no longer thought of Walmart as being the leader in low-price value on products. What was interesting was that research showed that the store was still very competitive in this area, but what has changed is just the perception of the customers. What happened? Did some of Walmart's new initiatives like customer experience and store design changes create this new perception? Was it a decreased focus on low price in the company's marketing? In any case, same store sales have been down for quite some time. Retrenching the branding efforts to reinforce the core value proposition to the customer is probably a big focus now.
Best Buy capitalized on the weakness of competitors like Circuit City by creating a superior store experience. Circuit City cut costs and removed the knowledgeable store associates, while Best Buy ramped up the Geek Squad and other efforts to deepen their bench strength in winning the hearts and minds of the consumer electronics shopper, and they continue to deepen that connection through service and superior experiences.
Gatorade is a good example of a consumer goods brand trying to tell a story effectively. Their new product offerings require a well-executed plan with which to educate the consumers. They now have a whole platform of products designed to help athletes perform better before, during and after workouts. The key challenge here is to not lose sight of the core brand identity they have established, and to maintain the message with their audience that they help people perform. Avoiding confusion with new product offerings, while maintaining core value proposition, is the trick.
When movie studios decide to capitalize on a hit by releasing a sequel, they try to stick to the original formula that created their initial success. If they stray too far from the original formula and take a left turn with character or plot consistency, they are taking a risk. They may be offering up something that a new audience might enjoy, but the primary goal is to maintain their core audience that has come to identify with the brand.
Whether we are helping our clients or focused on our own branding efforts, we can all be well served by remembering to focus on deeper engagement, frequent reinforcement of messaging and above all, a faithful commitment to core values.