Retailers are recognising that printed marketing and sales collateral can no longer be produced quickly and cost-effectively enough to keep up with today’s accelerated product lifecycles and rapidly evolving trends. Subsequently, many are investing in in-store digital screens to display content that can be constantly refreshed to reflect changing promotions and sales patterns.
However, does digital signage provide a return on investment for retailers?
Many digital screen vendors use hardware specifications and software capabilities to sell the technology, but then don’t offer guidance as to how to use it to its full potential as part of their service. A successful digital signage campaign is dependent on the screen content being compelling, relevant and timely; the technology by itself is ineffective.
Small retailers rarely have the time or skills to develop and manage high quality content and even larger, multi-location businesses can struggle to find the right combination of creativity, technical knowledge and market awareness needed. Often the responsibility for digital signage content management falls somewhere between IT and/or marketing departments and facilities management, with few having the right span of skills to create, co-ordinate, schedule or deliver content effectively. Not only does the content itself need more thought, but also the strategy behind it needs to be developed and monitored. Like any typical marketing programme, a digital signage campaign must be eye-grabbing, keep the viewer engrossed, transfer easy-to-understand knowledge and then ultimately convert a prospect’s interest to sales.
With expectations raised by the internet and the growth of mobile apps, consumers today expect content to fresh, topical and interactive. The messages being communicated must also fit with a retailer’s wider business goals and brand values. Maintaining this balance between consumer and retailer can be challenging for a retailer of any size. Creating the right content, measuring and reporting on the success of a campaign and tailoring it accordingly requires expert and specialist skills.
Digital signage can be offered as a managed service from the cloud which combines the on-going support of hardware and software with the creation, management and measurement of content. Using a cloud-based service, also changes a business’ purchasing model, therefore, enabling retails to realise their return on investment.
The most immediate benefit of subscribing to a cloud-based service is that upfront costs are radically reduced and a manageable monthly fee put in place. The cloud also ensures that the solution is highly scalable making it ideal for growing businesses or established retailers who would prefer a staged roll-out.
Most digital signage cloud-based managed service providers have their own content creation specialists. These will work with a retailer’s marketing team to ensure that content is developed and scheduled to align with business strategies and includes the right call to action to help maximise return on investment. They will help retailers constantly create interest with targeted and dynamic visuals that will provide an immersive and engaging customer experience.
There are many different and effective ways to manage and measure content for a digital signage campaign:
- Multi-location stores may wish to localise content while maintaining centralised messages.
- Social media, a growing trend, can be used to increase customer involvement and boost online traffic: Digital signage content can encourage customers to tweet a message to access certain deals; or upload appropriate customer Facebook quotes to help give a personal and local face to a brand.
- Digital signage can also contain links into RSS feeds and other live online data which allows content to respond to topical events; for example, a heat wave might activate an ice cream or cold drinks promotion, or it may display temperature levels for the duration to initially attract attention to other linked messages elsewhere on the screen. This model also enables a far more integrated approach to campaign measurement enabling users to assess success and alter content in response to shifting audience demographics without delay.
- Camera technology can also be used as part of a digital signage campaign to monitor who is looking at the screen and can even trigger different content according to the age or gender of the viewing customer.
Whether data is held in a service provider’s cloud, on the internet or on a private cloud behind a firewall, security levels may well exceed a retailer’s normal standards, going beyond the required accreditation benchmarks.
The current standard of digital signage content points to one important observation. There is a huge marketing opportunity waiting for those who raise the bar and begin to explore its full potential. When digital signage campaigns are conducted with the same targeted and measured approach used by the best traditional marketing and advertising programmes, then increased sales will follow. But these require the right mix of strategy, content and technical knowledge and support to enable this to happen.