A mall in upstate New York is deploying digital signage kiosks that integrate social media to drive traffic to the mall and help shoppers find their way once they get there.
And finding new ways to integrate social media with digital out-of-home technology is a boon for providing up-to-date, dynamic content, and relevant context to that content. Take, for example, Destiny USA's new focus on the combo. The 2.4 million square-foot mall in Syracuse, N.Y., is deploying almost 30 digital directories that provide wayfinding functionality but also combine that with social media interactivity, said mall spokeswoman Sara Wallace.
The mall recently completed a 1.3 million-square-foot expansion of the original 22-year-old mall, previously known as the Carousel Center, bringing in new entertainment, dining and retail venues, Wallace said. And it's already begun installation of 26 new digital directories to replace its old paper directories — and which will include an interactive social media sales sheet — similar to Twitter — that allows merchants and shoppers alike to comment on sales and promote products, brands or events. Destiny USA worked with Denver-based Four Winds Interactive to create the social media-integrated digital directories.
"In bringing in these new brands we wanted to introduce a new way to make it more interactive and interesting for visitors," she said. "Obviously we want to drive traffic, and we want to keep people informed and comfortable in such a large space."
The wayfinding kiosks also will email directions to shoppers' smartphones and provide access to the mall's Facebook page, and the directories' content is branded to be similar to the mall's Web homepage.
"In integrating the social media we're really trying to hit a very unique market segment; we have a very dense population of college and university students up here in the area; they're very present on social media," she said. "And then we have a lot of women and mothers, matriarchs who use social media as well to find the great deals, so our big focus is getting third parties on social media talking about the sales and what they're finding on-site to help drive traffic as well, because it's really their experience that's going to show people that it's a great experience worth having."
In deciding to go the social media and digital signage route, Wallace said, planners wanted digital signage to make what might otherwise be an intimidatingly large space seem welcoming and convenient to get around.
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"If I'm holding my cell phone and I can pull up a map of the space and find the brands I'm looking for, that makes it so much easier for shoppers," she said.
And they also wanted to bring in social media to get third-party endorsements rather than just advertisements from the facility and its brands.
"It's always nice to have 'Joe Sixpack' tweeting about these great shoes that he just bought for 50 percent off and that Foot Locker is having the sale for three more hours," she said. "I would be more apt to go because I know that Joe Sixpack in regular just like me and not representing a brand."
Social media fits particularly well with digital signage kiosks, especially in the areas of providing real-time aspect to signage content and context to the content deployers show on their screens, said David Wilkins, president and CEO of X2O Media. X2O has been active in integrating social media with digital signage content and extending that content to other screens, from smartphones to tablets
"First of all there's the real time aspect to it," he said. "It's like you're getting these live updates going up on the screen in real-time, and there's that very dynamic element to it. To me that's really interesting, because I'm a big believer in keeping your content up to date, dynamically refreshing, because if your content grows stale no one's going to look at your screens."
And the idea of context is vitally important not just in digital signage but in enterprise communications in general, Wilkins said.
"Social media can put your other content into context ... and context is so important," he said. "So if you've got a breaking news event happening, and you could pull in social media around that to sort of give people's opinions and impressions at the same time that you're showing the raw news story, all of a sudden it becomes something different. It's more than just that information push; as you're seeing what's happening, youo're seeing what the community response to that is. That context, and the concept of community, I think is really, really important."
In a retail context, and in the context of the mall in particular, integrating social media offers a "neat interactive way to get (customers) on-site and also find out what's going on and maybe direct them to brands they might not normally visit," Wallace said.
"One unique aspect of having the social media as part of it is if I'm sitting at home and I have no plans that day but I didn't plan to go to the mall, I might pull up that sales sheet and see somebody tweeting about a flash sale or about that shirt that I've been looking at, at Saks Off Fifth, and now it's finally on sale and that might drive me to go to the space as well."
Using social media in the mall's digital signage represents "that unique dichotomy" of raising brand awareness by having the brands promoting themselves but also having third parties and people who are frequenting social media commenting on the brands themselves.
"So you also get feedback from real people," Wallce said. "It is a powerful way to hand the consumers themselves the power to engage with each other and the brands."
For instance, Wilkins said, imagine going into The Gap and seeing digital signage screens showing the latest Gap commercials or Gap-themed videos, right next to a feed showing comments from the brand's Facebook page or Twitter feed about the videos.
"Social media changes everything, I think, for digital signage," he said. "All of a sudden the whole is great than the sum of the parts."
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