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Executing an effective marketing program can be challenging, even for the most seasoned executive. Successful marketing blends many disciplines — from advertising to public relations to an almost endless array of social media vehicles. But when you strip marketing's task to its very core, the mission is quite simple: build a brand for your company and increase sales.

Take retail for example: A traditional measure of success in retail marketing is store traffic, but this overlooks the most critical element of all — closing the sale. A packed store means nothing if the register isn't ringing. Herein lies the challenge for most retailers: how to convert a sale before the customer walks out the door. This is one area where digital signage really shines in a retail setting. Proprietors can display engaging signage content at strategic points throughout their stores to increase sales conversion rates and decrease the number of customers that leave their stores empty-handed.

Marketers in all segments of retail are tasked with finding ways to encourage customers along this "last mile" — a journey that ends with the customer making a purchase. After all, this is the only link in the marketing chain that actually adds to a company's bottom line.

Retailers understand the importance of closing the sale, so they invest heavily in merchandizing options and salesperson training to create an inviting, informative shopping experience. They even go so far as to choose the right background music and toy with color schemes to put customers in the mood to purchase. But these are well-known tools of the trade that are decades old.

The recent recession had a crippling effect on retail. As the economy slowly but steadily continues to recover, savvy retailers are investing wisely in point-of-decision improvements that enhance the shopping experience and dramatically increase sales.

One of the most significant changes in retail merchandizing has been mainstream adoption of interactive digital signage. While digital signage has been prominent in airports, shopping malls and other large-scale commercial settings for many years, technology has evolved such that interactive signage applications can now be made affordable on a much smaller scale. In addition, it's become much simpler to implement and maintain digital signage, further reducing the overall cost. This levels the playing field such that even the smallest independent retailers can deploy a digital signage solution that, only a few years ago, would have been financially and technically out of reach.

This presents a great advantage to retailers of all sizes to help guide customers through the "last mile" I mentioned earlier. This is especially true for the customers who walk into a store undecided — these individuals are prone to making impulse purchases, but they're also at risk of leaving to shop elsewhere if they don't immediately find what they're looking for. A compelling, interactive display serves several purposes: In the case of a meandering customer, it can pull them in and educate them about a specific product. Oftentimes those meandering customers represent the biggest upside for retailers because they can be easily influenced. And in the case of a customer who comes in seeking guidance, an informative display can help educate and influence them, even substituting for a salesperson that's busy helping other customers.

Guiding customers through the "last mile" often falls on the salespeople and, in many cases, is left to chance as customers wander the store hoping to stumble upon what they're looking for. Digital signage changes all that, arming retailers with valuable tools to help educate and persuade customers from the moment they enter the store. Most importantly, digital signage completes the marketing cycle, effectively validating every marketing dollar that was spent to get customers in-store.

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Jeff Hastings
BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign in August 2009 while it was still a division of Roku Inc. In late 2010 with digital signage activities growing so rapidly, BrightSign became a separate firm. The holder of eight U.S. patents, he also has a history of tech industry leadership, including as president of mp3 pioneer Rio.
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