Display & Design Ideas' first ever survey on retail media is out, and the results -- while not exactly earth-shattering -- may indicate some important trends for in-store displays. Specifically, it looks like the use of in-store media like signage and displays is on the rise, and the role of technology in retail marketing projects will be expanded as RFID, interactive kiosks and digital signage networks become more pervasive.
Not surprisingly, the most frequently-used retail media are still static displays, with nearly all respondents claiming to use some combination of in-store signage/graphics, shelf-mounted displays and custom brand displays. However, technology-based approaches also made a strong showing, with RFID in the lead (29.4% said it was the most important innovation in at-retail media), and various forms of digital signage (including "new screen technologies," "in-store retail TV networks," and "in-store TV commercials") close behind at 25.5%. Interestingly, the primary reason listed for using retail media (high tech or otherwise) was simply "branding" for 34.5% of respondents, followed by promoting specials at 30.9% and customer communications at 18.2%. So it seems as though many marketers still feel that simply being noticed in the store is a big enough challenge, even without focusing on getting a particular message or promotion across.
One curious outcome was that even with the rise of digital media and other technologically-sophisticated programs, respondents indicated that the store planning/design and visual merchandising departments would still be making most of the decisions about in-store media (at 59.9% and 55.7%, respectively), while IT departments would only be involved with the decision about 29.1% of the time. This makes sense, since the planning and merchandising departments are arguably much more involved with the look-and-feel of the store environment than IT, but the numbers actually represent a significant departure from an earlier DDI survey about in-store technology (PDF), which found that IT would make the majority of decisions about interactive kiosks, digital signage, RFID and other marketing-oriented tech. It finally seems as if many digital merchandising techniques are being examined more for their merchandising and branding value, rather than any nebulous 'cool-factor'. In fact, 69.8% of respondents felt that digital signage would be used by "slightly more" or "significantly more" retailers in the next three to five years, though a noted lack of financial and content support suggests that many retailers and marketing firms will need outside help when putting these networks together.
Despite the optimistic projections for digital signage and the growing number of retailers launching in-store networks, it seems like we still have a long way to go before we can reach the same satisfaction levels as static displays. While DDI reports that 62% of respondents are either "very satisfied" or "slightly satisfied" with signage/graphics, the numbers are much lower for digital screens. There have been a number of spectacular failures in the past (especially going back 5-10 years when the technology clearly wasn't ready for prime time), and given the complexity of successfully installing and managing a digital sign network, I'm sure that there are a number of seasoned retail professionals with a bad taste in their mouth. Fortunately, both technology and perceptions have come a long way in the past few years, and there is a growing body of digital signage-savvy professionals who have real experience deploying networks. Additionally, I get the feeling that retailers in general have a somewhat more realistic view of what digital content networks can do for them. More sensible goals should translate to fewer "failed" projects, as well as a more accurate understanding of the signage network's ROI.
One final takeaway from this DDI study: the vast majority of decisions regarding any kind of in-store media come from the corporate level (at least according to this panel of 120+ respondents). So while it's still imperative to build good relationships with regional and store-level managers to ensure strong local support once the deployment is underway, in-store media is clearly being viewed as a strategic initiative by leading retailers, and is thus worthy of corporate-level oversight.
So if you're planning to pitch a retail chain with your plans for an in-store media program, there are three things that you might want to keep in mind:
1: Nearly everybody has static signage, and most like it. The value of static signage is easy to understand, and people are comfortable with how it "works" (both aesthetically and practically) in their stores. Use that to your advantage, maybe by comparing and contrasting it with your offering.
2: More people are getting excited by the concept of digital media networks. Play up the unique strengths of this technology, but also be honest and up-front about the challenges of managing what basically amounts to an in-store TV channel.
3: Make sure you're presenting to the right people. In-store media is a strategically important part of the retailer's business, and it's only going to become more important in the future. Explain how your offering works as an integrated piece of the retailer's overall media and marketing strategy, instead of just spotlighting it as something new and different.