Commentary: What I learned about digital signage at GlobalShop

March 31, 2009 | by Paul Flanigan

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at GlobalShop's Digital Signage conference, sponsored by Digital Signage Today. Several speakers from all disciplines came to talk about best practices (and executions) in digital messaging. Here are five things I learned:

Size doesn't matter

Linda Hofflander, vice president and CMO for Wireless Ronin gave an outstanding presentation entitled "Challenging the Retail Challenge." She suggested to never rule out a test size. The size of a test is only determined by what you really want to know. A two-store test can be just as valuable as a 200-store test. It all depends on what you want to know and how you can learn it.

She's absolutely right. At Best Buy, we have done tests with as many as several hundred stores and as few as a single store. We tend to worry that a poor size won't validate the results. Don't let the size of your test get in the way of learning.

Seven steps to create a value-based network

Another bell-ringer from Hofflander. After learning about the challenges facing digital signage execution, you need to put the steps in motion to create a values-based network:

Self Discovery: You must know what you want; don't expect anyone else to know.

Vision: Think big. Think scaleable. Think flexible. Think long term.

Reality: Know what you can do now. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Partnering: If you know about what you want, picking a partner is easier.

Discovery: When you find the partner, show yourself and your true colors.

Alignment: We're all on the same page.

Solution: The end result of the first six steps.

As Ms. Hofflander said, "The original author was a client of ours, George Yunis, senior director, creative services for ARAMARK. George co-presented with Steve Goertz, sales VP from Wireless Ronin at DSE 2009 on ‘How ARAMARK Got the Digital Signage it Wanted.' George outlined for session attendees how ARAMARK serves 15,000,000 consumers daily, operates 3,000 locations nationwide, serves 10 lines of business and use one digital signage solution via Wireless Ronin Technologies."

The ‘one more beer theory'

Jeff White, owner and CEO of The Bar Channel, gave the most entertaining talk of the day, avoiding the usual rhetoric and providing a terrific, up-front attitude to understanding how to succeed with digital signage.

Jeff's "one more beer theory" is a tangent on dwell time. Within any venue or network, the better job you do of keeping the eyes on the screen, the longer people will stand around and watch. In the case of bars, if people stick around they tend to purchase more beverages, so the financial reward to the venue is cyclical and positive: The venue earns revenue with eyeballs on the screens because the eyeballs stay in the seats because the network has great content, meaning the venue provides value to the network. Money all around.

Interactivity with mobile technology and digital signage

This is more of an extension of what I'm learning about digital signage and mobile technology, but I was very interested to hear Steve Gurley, vice president of marketing at Symon Communications Inc.

In particular, Gurley proposed quick progress toward more interactive engagement between digital signage and mobile technology. Instead of the passive mode of sending a text message to a location to get more information, the return message will be a call to action for the viewer to take the next step in the experience, like being directed to a site with real rewards for the effort.

Also, he said we'll see customers and viewers interact with the digital signage and change the signage right on the spot. The idea is that a customer can select something to watch from a menu of options. The customer sends a text message to a computer and the computer plays the new content.

I took advantage of a break in the day to wander through the show floor. I didn't know there were so many ways to hang stuff in a store. This was my first time at Globalshop, and I couldn't decide what was more impressive, the hundreds of different ways to put products on a shelf, or the elaborate and truly amazing vendor booths. Can we even call them booths any more? Perhaps we should call then vendor provinces.

Traffic was low, but not unexpected given the economic situation. Yet I'm still sure plenty of business was done on the floor. I'm just happy I'm not a fixture guy for a retailer. Now that's a job.

Overall, a very worthwhile trip, and I'm thrilled I was a part of it.

As producer at Minneapolis-based Best Buy, Paul Flanigan manages the U.S. chain's in-store video network and coordinates with internal partners on the Best Buy stores in Canada, Puerto Rico and China. He oversees the business model, creative, execution and research associated with the network.

Topics: Tradeshows

Companies: GlobalShop , Symon

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