#retail digital signage
Evolution of Digital Signage in Retail: Turning Customers Into Fans
Digital signage has advanced far beyond simply replacing posters with LCD screens into a core component of a sound retail strategy. Forward-looking retailers have linked their print, TV, billboard and Web messaging, created a social media presence, and put mobile solutions in place. Now, they are building digital in-store experiences, further driving the evolution of digital signage.
Five years ago there was a widespread belief that online sales would replace brick-and-mortar selling. That has not happened. Online sales continue to grow, but the value of an in-store experience is still critical.
Digital signage has gone through several stages of evolution. Early signage focused on delivering information. Digital signs could be updated quickly based on variables such as time of day and customized to a region or specific location. For years this was the state of digital signage while the industry focused on lowering the total cost of ownership (TCO).
As prices improved, the next evolution occurred — the introduction of interactivity turned the digital sign into a kiosk and enabled retailers to provide a higher level of customer service. Now they had a dynamic, interactive option that could be deployed at their stores.
Finally, the consumer electronics industry started using digital signage as a customer engagement tool, making it central to the customer experience. Now the digital in-store experience involves the shopper through mobile devices, by integrating social media and by creating an experience that entices the shopper into the retailer’s store.
Building a Relationship With a Shopper
Shoppers know you by the print, TV, radio, billboard and direct mail presence you create. But they are skeptical of the messages that bombard them every day from you and your competitors.
Conversely, when shoppers interact with you, shop at your store, download your app, or join your loyalty program, the relationship moves up a notch. Shoppers become customers and move into the world of owned media. They give you the ability to reach them with targeted messages. But they are likely to have a customer relationship with your competitors, too.
It is when you transition the shopper from customer to fan that you have a truly durable relationship. It is unlikely that a shopper will be a fan of yours and your direct competitor. Some shoppers are fans of multiple brands, but usually not in the same category. As fans, they are saying they like and trust you and will recommend you to their contacts. A fan will post about you on social media sites, talk about you in blogs or forums, and identify themselves with you and your products or services. These are earned media relationships — you have earned their trust, respect and appreciation.
In order to achieve this elevated status, not only must you create an experience with the shopper that is attractive and sustainable, but you must also constantly work to strengthen the relationship.
Using the In-Store Experience to Strengthen the Relationship
When fan shoppers come to your store, they want to feel that you value them. One way to accomplish this is to personalize their experiences while they are in the store. Faisal Galaria, senior director at Alvarez Marsal, posted an article at The Guardian titled “Digital media seeks to capture the audience of one.” Galaria discusses how services like Netflix have given users the ability to choose exactly what they want. For example, don’t wait for a favorite show to air on television; watch it on Netflix. Don’t buy the whole album; just buy the specific tracks you like. Don’t buy the whole magazine; just read the article you want online. Fan shoppers want to feel like an audience of one.
Fans feel empowered when they are given exclusive access to products, promotions and services. You can also simplify the order and delivery process, make it easy to find a size, color or style, and empower them to fulfill their goals. You can link digital screens to your loyalty program, enabling fan shoppers to scan loyalty IDs and be presented with options unique to them.
When you personalize and empower shoppers, you engage them and they feel connected to you. They will honor that relationship and connection as long as they feel it is as important to you as it is to them.
Strengthening the relationship will also increase revenue from existing customers, which is less expensive than capturing new ones.
You Need an Engagement Strategy
It takes a strategy to move a shopper from just a consumer to a fan. It is important to define how you build and maintain that relationship each time the shopper interacts with your brand and clearly how you plan to engage and inspire them. Your focus may be soccer moms; but a soccer mom shopping at 10 a.m. will have different inspirations than a soccer mom shopping at 10 p.m.
Using Digital Signage Tools to Carry Out Your Engagement Strategy
Here are some examples of how digital signage can be used to create engagement.
- Endless aisle kiosk – Most retailers want the ability to show more product than their square footage allows. Endless aisle kiosks let the customer look through more inventory and options than can be displayed on the show floor.
- Shelf-edge displays – A small digital display mounted at the point-of-decision creates a dynamic experience at the most important moment. Recent innovations in screens and a type of display called electronic paper make this a viable option.
- Endcaps – Traditionally a place to showcase promotional products, endcaps are a great attraction point for products or product categories. With the use of digital media endcaps, you can quickly change the focus or increase the number of items being showcased.
- Welcome boards – Your customers’ first impression each time they enter your store can be a dynamic message board that highlights your brand and your relationship with shoppers and the community.
- Digital menu boards – Wherever you have a menu board, you have the opportunity to highlight products. Whether you are providing automotive services or hot dogs and sodas, the digital menu board is a dynamic selling tool.
- Infotainment – Wherever your shoppers wait, such as pharmacies, photo processing centers, optical departments, bakeries or customer service counters, you have the opportunity to influence them. Reducing perceived wait time improves the customer experience.
- Remote access to experts – Specialty retailers have a challenge when product experts on the sales floor are unavailable; customers cannot get the level of service they expect. At an “Ask the Expert” kiosk, the customer can initiate a video chat with an expert—who can also be helping customers at multiple locations from a remote call center.
Analytics – It Doesn’t Matter if You Can’t Measure It
One of the long-standing debates about the use of digital media in the retail environment is whether the increase in sales is due to the media or some other factors.
Web site analytics measure who is visiting, where they are coming from, how long they stay, and what path they follow through the Web site. That same information is valuable to a brick-and-mortar store. Analytics give you the ability to compare trends in usage against results at the retail store and should be part of your digital in-store solution as well.
It is also important to measure the growth in fans, look at the messages of these shoppers, and measure their impact. For example, how many blog postings, tweets or Facebook postings do they create? When do they post, how many people respond, comment, or thank them for the information?
Does it All Really Matter?
In the final analysis, digital signage improves the customer experience by creating options for retailers to personalize offerings — thereby separating themselves from a commodity-based, price-driven relationship.
This was the most significant conclusion drawn from a story about the in-store experience by David Moth, deputy editor at Econsultancy, and an Adobe vice president. They maintain that retailers don’t want to represent just another product, as for example in the Amazon catalog where the key differentiator is price.
There is further proof that the in-store experience is both important and valuable. In a press release, Oracle reported that 81 percent of shoppers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. Not only were they willing to pay more, but 44 percent are willing to pay a premium of more than 5 percent for the better experience.
So take the plunge. You have already done the customer acquisition work. Now turn that customer into a fan.
Mike Tippets is vice president of the Business Solutions Group, North American Division at Hughes.