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Just before the end of 2010 I wrote an article that appeared in Mobile Commerce Daily that introduced the mobile industry to digital signage as a mechanism for creating mobile context.  The first article defined mobile context as a connection between a given environment (e.g. a venue such as a store, hotel, etc) and a mobile experience (e.g. app, mobile content, commerce transaction, etc) that is best suited for that environment.

While the first article was designed to be an introduction to digital signage as a tool for setting a mobile context, the second article has been designed to educate the mobile industry on where and how to start.   The second article is slated to appear in Mobile Commerce Daily in February, but you get to preview the article before the mobile industry.

Putting Context Into Mobile (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of three articles dedicated to the proposition that the explosion of consumer-centric mobile innovation is demanding a new focus on “mobile context.”  In the first article, mobile context was defined as the match between a consumer’s given physical environment (e.g. a venue such as a store, hotel, restaurant, etc.) and the optimal mobile experience (e.g. mobile app, ad campaign, commercial transaction, etc.) for that environment.

The first article took the position that a venue’s patrons/guests must first be made aware that one or more mobile experiences exist before a context can be set.  Once the awareness is established, the consumer must then be educated on the scope of the mobile experience as well as the value of the experience.

Several techniques for creating a context were reviewed.  The first article concentrated on a method called digital signage. Digital signage was described as the system for centrally managing the delivery of digital messages to electronic displays installed within venues (i.e. environments) for the purpose of educating, entertaining and/or influencing viewer behaviors.

Millions of digital signage screens are in use worldwide and thousands more are being deployed daily.  Very few however are being used to create a mobile context.

This article, and the one that will follow, will focus on further explaining how mobile app developers, carriers, venue owners and mobile advertisers can use digital signage to set mobile context, create a more engaging experience for the venue patron/guest and increase awareness and dependence on a given mobile experience.

As noted in the first article, the first step is to define the target audiences for the mobile experience and identify the venues in which the target audiences can be found.  Once the venues are identified, the next step is to find the digital signage network operator(s) that service those venues.
When looking to identify a digital signage network operator, it is important to note that not all signage network operators are the same.  Some are venue owners who operate their own digital signage networks, some are third parties who manage networks on the behalf of client venues and others are third parties that manage the networks for their own benefit but allow venue owners to access a portion of the screen real estate.

Venue owners who manage their own networks are generally the easiest to approach about a mobile convergence.  They intimately understand the purpose of the digital signage and generally have a higher propensity to listen to ideas that can enhance the value of their signage network and business.
One should know that third party network operators can be sold on mobile convergence, but it is likely to be a much more difficult and complex discussion.  Third party network owners have a wider range of motivations for doing business. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on those venues in which the venue owners manage their own networks.

Once the target audience and corresponding venues have been identified and once it has been determined that the venues have a self-managed digital signage network, the next step is to identify and articulate how the mobile experience will benefit the venue.
Venue management will only be comfortable promoting the mobile experience if it has a direct benefit to their business.  It is therefore essential that those advocating the mobile experience be able to clearly articulate the value to the venue.

After selling the venue on the value of the mobile experience, the next step is to craft a message that defines the scope and value of the mobile experience to the venue’s customers, guests and/or visitors.
Once the customer message is crafted and approved by the venue, it must then be repurposed (e.g. made into graphics, videos, illustrations, etc.) so that it can be displayed on digital signage.   Many times venues that manage their own signage networks have in-house creative staffs that can help you repurpose your message.  If they do not have an in-house staff, then they will likely have a creative agency with which you can work.

Effective digital signage messages lend themselves to be easily understood in less than fifteen seconds.  When designing a message for a digital signage display, one should strive to keep the old adage in mind that says: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” The goal is for your message to be so graphical that your value proposition can be easily understood without a lot of text or supporting audio.

The digital signage network operator will integrate the repurposed message into their network’s playlist.  The playlist defines the time and date that the message will play, on which screen(s) the message will play, and what priority the message will have on the screen’s layout.
The priority of the message defines whether it will play on the entire screen or concurrent with other messages as a part of multi-message screen layout.

It is important that those promoting the mobile experience understand their message’s position within the playlist and play schedule.  The mobile message must play at a time that the desired audience will be present and receptive.

So what if the targeted venue is perfect for promoting the mobile experience but does not have digital signage.  This will be addressed in the third article in the series.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • Allen Ng
    Interesting article, i concur with you that digital advertising must engaged the audience in a meaningful way in which a value proposition is display and understood.

    In that regard, MiniAD Interactive has an interactive solution in which touch plays a very important part of the engagement process. We provide each digital players that we install with the ability of a "call to action" by downloading an E-coupon to a consumer's cell phone by touching the incentive that is offered.

    This has the effect of the consumer being able to redeem the incentives offer simply by presenting the cell phone with the E-coupon to the advertiser for redemption. Advertisers now have a measurable way of tracking their ROI on their advertising campaign.

    We have also added a loyalty component to our services with the issue of a branded loyalty card that can be swipe at our players every time they visit to participate in a daily rewards program

    Swiping the card can only be done once a day with the same id code but is allow to be triggered at other each host locations located in the city. This process enable the tracking of each card holder and the number of times they visit participating host locations to garner a real time demographic profiling for advertisers.

    More info can be found at www.miniadinteractive.com
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Steven Gurley
Steve Gurley is broadly recognized as an industry expert and thought-leader in mobile and mobile content management solutions. He is a widely published author of numerous papers, articles and blogs on mobility and serves on numerous mobile advisory boards and committees, including serving as the current chairman of the Digital Screenmedia Association's committee on mobile. Steve is currently the President and CEO of Pyrim Technologies, a mobile business and new market development company.
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