Walmart digital signage delivers broken content

| by Bradley Cooper
Walmart digital signage delivers broken content

Earlier this week, I went to a local Walmart store to buy cleaning supplies. When I reached that section of the store, I heard a rather strange stuttering noise, a halting soundtrack that would play normally for one second, and then stop the next. I turned to see a shelf-edge display for Glade holiday fragrances.

I took a closer look at the display, which was attempting to play a video of a mother walking around a Christmas tree with her child. I'm sure it was a lovely video, but it had three major problems:

  • It constantly stopped to buffer, so I could hardly tell what it was supposed to be about.
  • The sound barely worked.
  • The screen went dark after about 30 seconds and didn't come back on for several more seconds.

It certainly wasn't helpful to the Glade brand that I could barely make out the company's heartfelt holiday message. And all of these problems could have been prevented with a little forethought about potential issues related to hardware and connectivity.

Hardware issues

Any number of hardware issues could have caused problems with the video replay.

For example, the speakers might have been damaged, which would make the soundtrack break up or crackle. It's also possible that the media player was receiving a poor-quality signal due to a bad connection.

These issues might have resulted either from an internal fault or from external damage, perhaps caused by a clumsy shopper slamming a cart into the display.

Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign, suggested that video stuttering might have been "caused by a PC that doesn’t supply a dedicated video pipeline," which is a problem with certain media players.

Connectivity issues

The issue also might have been a less than optimal feed. For example, a device with a poor online connection might have difficulty playing content pushed to it from an outside source.

"This kind of bad video buffering usually relates to a slow connection to online content," Hastings said.

He also suggested that most PC-based solutions would benefit from high-efficiency video coding such as  H.265, "which would allow for much better video playback on a slower connection."

The larger issue

The real problem with a situation like the one I encountered is not the flaw in the hardware or software solution, but rather how this flaw influences the customer's perception of the brand.

If a display or kiosk is acting up and customers don't see anyone doing anything about it, they come away with the impression of brand incompetence and failure. This is the last impression any company would want to make.

The best way to approach this kind situation is to prepare for it. Test the solution before deploying it, and then put diagnostic measures in place that will allow the deployer to catch and correct a problem with a playback system — before it becomes a problem for the brand.

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Topics: Content, Customer Experience, Retail

Companies: BrightSign, Walmart

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

wwwView Bradley Cooper's profile on LinkedIn

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