Why Retailers Should Switch from Print to Digital Signage
Retailers and brand owners increasingly embrace retail digital signage to enhance the shopping experience and create a more pleasing environment for their customers. In this article, we will look at the main reasons why digital signage software has become such an important part of the modern marketer’s arsenal.
Digital signage displays are used to display ads and product information right where customers make their purchasing decisions. When properly implemented, digital signage screens can become a powerful tool that will inform, inspire, and entertain customers. For this to work, screens must be installed at the right location and the advertising content must be relevant and engaging.
Changing customer behaviors at the point of decision
When digital signage deployments fail, it’s usually due to poor content or bad planning. Position your screens strategically so they are easily noticed and consider sightlines at the planning stage.
The quality of your content is another important factor. Remember that content attracts the eye, but useful content keeps customers looking.
New technologies based on Computer Vision and Artificial Intelligence can optimize content delivery by showing relevant ads and information based on the audience’s profile. For example, your screens can deliver a specific ad whenever the software detects female viewers aged 20-30 while other viewers are shown different content. These technologies let you deliver targeted ads to specific demographics with a mix of informational content.
Keeping customers shopping on site
Retail store owners and operators often complain about “showrooming.” This is what happens when customers start using their smartphones to shop around for better prices. Proactive store owners know they must reach these customers and provide as much information as possible while they are in the store. It’s the best way to help curb this practice.
Showrooming is a phenomenon that can be addressed in a few simple steps:
- Make sure your digital signage displays are always showing high-quality content that is relevant to your customers. If you install screens in different departments, publish the right content in each department. For example, show promotions for digital tablets and portable devices in the electronics department. Be sure to include competitively priced items with a call to action as this will motivate potential buyers.
- When preparing new content, consider where and when it will be shown. Design specific content for upcoming holidays and special events. Be bold.
- Promote useful services such as expert advice, repairs, and maintenance, or other unique offerings. The number one complaint about e-commerce is the lack of service so you should make sure customers know you offer professional services, warranty assistance, or any other information they may find relevant.
- Publish positive reviews from social media sites. Even better, publish live feeds on your screens (but be sure these feeds are moderated).
Modern retail will benefit from real-time and dynamic content when competing with smartphones and other communication devices. It’s the main reason why traditional print-based signage is being phased out and replaced with digital signage screens.
Remember, print material can’t be changed quickly enough to meet the needs of 21st-century retailers.
Modern retail requires real-time and dynamic content to compete with smartphones and other portable devices. It’s one of the main reasons why traditional print-based signage is being phased out and replaced with digital signage displays.
Remember that print material can’t be changed over quickly enough to meet the needs of 21st-century retailers.
The cost of producing, stocking and shipping print material is going up
Printed signs are falling out of favor with retailers for many reasons and cost is at the top of the list.
Looking at it from the production side, it’s a catch-22. You must place large print orders to lower the cost of each sign which can be a nightmare if you’re a small or medium-sized business.
Retailers can be asked to pay high upfront costs to produce and ship their print material. If your business is too small for a proper storage room, your costs will increase because someone else will handle stocking and distribution for you. These costs add up but it’s only one of the many issues retailers face when ordering printed signs.
Environmental regulations can add complexity and cost to the printing process. Today, printers use vegetable inks, recycled paper/cardboard, recyclable packaging materials, and environment-friendly adhesives which are getting more expensive.
And all this effort is only to get the material produced and out the door. Retail store operators face additional expenses when they dispose of their signs once their promotions or advertising programs expire. This all adds up quickly.
An affordable alternative
Digital signage offers a different proposition because most of the costs are borne upfront. It’s why some retail chain owners/operators get a bad case of sticker shock the first time they cost-out a digital signage deployment.
You must deal with hardware and software acquisition costs, followed by shipping, stocking, and installation charges. Some stores may need electrical work or network cabling installed. But when you take a long-term view, you find out digital signage can be a very good investment.
Digital screens and media player hardware costs have been going down for years and this trend will continue. Installations that used to require expensive PCs and cabling now use smart displays that have the media player hardware built-in. The benefits are lower acquisition and installation costs because there are fewer components to buy and install. Screens are getting thinner and lighter so the mounting hardware is more streamlined and less expensive. Many media players can communicate over WiFi so there is less network cabling required. Today, most installations require a 110v wall plug and little else. All these factors contribute to lower installation and maintenance costs.
We find a similar phenomenon on the software side where on-premise software is replaced with cloud-based content management systems (CMS). Here’s why… Cloud-based software has low upfront costs. You just pay a monthly fee for the software you need, and back-end services are included in the price. Just sign up for more licenses you roll out new locations.
Cloud-based software has proven itself to be an efficient and scalable option for any size business. Subscribers all use the same CMS Software and back-end server maintenance costs are included in the monthly fee, which reduces costs and complexity. Cloud solutions are gaining in popularity because not every organization can afford to have a large IT staff on hand. For many small to medium-size businesses, cloud-based solutions are the logical choice.
Keeping content fresh
With digital signage, content is updated with a few mouse clicks and this is another area where print can’t compete. With printed signs, you must order replacements and store the signs until they are needed. Then you must pay someone to remove the old signs and dispose of them before hanging new ones. It’s labor-intensive. It’s also slow and inefficient. This is why retail chain owners and operators have embraced dynamic digital signage. Easy and frequent content updates are key to keeping customers happy and engaged. It’s what’s expected today.
Let’s see why…
Social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have made a strong impression on millennials. Consumers who grew up using these apps have developed certain expectations, so retailers must “up their game” if they want to remain relevant.
With this crowd, static content just won’t do. It’s one reason why so many retail chain owners have embraced digital signage for their stores. Electronic signage displays offer a modern communication medium that reaches and engages today’s shoppers. Digital signage’s ability to display real-time information has become essential to the modern, competitive retail store operator.
Digital signage offers a level of engagement that is unmatched. It works with mobile technologies that everyone uses and complements them. For example, customers can be very vocal about the products they like and the services they love. They will post ratings and discuss their experiences on websites, Twitter, and Facebook. Digital signage can be used to display this information stream on flat-panel displays and digital signage video walls in a retail setting. Social media postings can be curated so only approved content can be shown. This is a great way to enhance your branding, inform people, and improve the entire customer experience.
Compete… or else!
Consider today’s competitive environment. Merchants must constantly evolve their pricing strategies to compete with physical and virtual stores. Before e-commerce became such a dominant force, retailers would manage pricing zones at a very basic level. They would look at the numbers and types of competitors within a certain radius from each store then set pricing and advertising strategies accordingly.
Back then, retail chains would focus on specific sectors. They would only consider stores that directly competed with one another. This all changed with the advent of superstores and warehouse stores (think of Wal-Mart, and Costco in North America – Tesco in the UK and many others). By now, grocery stores had to compete with larger competitors who also sold sporting goods, automotive accessories, and décor items. These are “one-stop megastores” that offer a powerful mix of price and location. They offer aggressively priced products and shelves that are always well-stocked.
These megastores also pull in consumers from further away, which compounded the problem.
Soon after, e-commerce happened and small retailers started facing even stiffer competition. Amazon and other specialty e-commerce stores launched, shaking up the retail sector and sending traditional retail chains into a tailspin. E-commerce businesses now compete globally and offer even more aggressive pricing, with free shipping and easy returns.
In the beginning, bricks-and-mortar retailers were caught off-guard. They needed to adapt quickly or risk losing their customers to these new competitors.
Modern retailing 101
To this day we hear stories of retail chains closing stores or going into bankruptcy. These are the retailers who haven’t evolved quickly enough to meet today’s retail challenges. Many still rely on old technologies (static print material, for example). They don’t understand the importance of dynamic content, or the need to engage customers using social media and digital signage in stores.
Here’s how you compete in modern retail:
- Link your point-of-sale systems with your digital signage so information can be updated in real-time. Display accurate pricing every day. Use automation to increase sales such as adapting your advertising content based on environmental data. For example, a CMS system that can detect when certain products are overstocked and automatically adds them to the currently scheduled playlist, or items that are promoted whenever the weather changes.
- Tap into your company’s social media accounts to display positive comments from your customers. A strong endorsement from loyal customers can help increase sales and improve the bottom line. Use social media to promote in-store events to help drive foot traffic. This is especially important when competing with online retailers.
- Entertain customers with in-store contests and build brand loyalty.
- Adjust promotions based on competitive pressures. Monitor the top online e-commerce competitors and price-match key products to retain customers.
- Reward top customers with in-store recognition, awards, and other engagement tools.
The new retail landscape
The coronavirus pandemic exposed major weaknesses. It’s no longer sufficient to deliver advertising, or product and pricing information. We now have to control the number of people in our places of business and ensure everyone is wearing a face mask while respecting physical distancing rules.
Here’s where digital signage and AI-powered computer vision come into play. Cameras paired with Computer Vision software are installed at each store entrance point. Shoppers who wish to enter the premises are scanned and told if they can enter or need to wait based on the number of occupants. A digital signage screen displays information about the number of people in the space and an estimated wait time. The computer vision software also determines if a visitor is wearing a mask and an alert is shown on screen when that’s not the case.
The pairing of digital signage and AI-powered computer vision technologies makes this all possible.
Getting your digital signage project on track
Let’s say your organization decides to roll-out its own digital signage network.
How would you go about it?
Here are a couple of tips…
Look for solutions that support real-time data from a variety of sources such as social media, websites, infotainment, proprietary and corporate databases (including point-of-sale systems), video and static ads. Find a CMS software that scales well so you can start with a small test run and then expand to the entire organization. Look for a reliable and competent CMS Cloud partner. Pick someone who reinvests in their business to ensure their product will evolve, and who will continue to fund research and development over time.
Consider a CMS software platform that offers a user-friendly interface. Don’t just go by a technical assessment when selecting a CMS product. It’s not all about technical features. It’s about people too. Tools that are too difficult to use or complex to learn can lead to failed projects. Be sure to do a lot of end-users testing and take these results into consideration before making a choice.
Work with experienced software suppliers. There is nothing more frustrating than discovering your software won’t scale easily or isn’t compatible with your corporate databases. Insist on references and make sure the product is flexible enough to meet your requirements. Look for products that offer an application programming interface (API) or a software development kit (SDK) as these indicate a solution that can be integrated with third-party software.
Think about the future. Make sure the digital signage software you choose today will fulfill both current and future needs. You must feel comfortable that the platform you select will continue to work when new technologies are introduced.