The Digital Signage Insider

Retail Digital Signage Explosion!

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As I mentioned a few weeks ago (in Get your Digital Retailing Budgets in Order Now!), the holiday season is a great time to check out the latest digital retailing experiments being done by your customers, potential customers, and competitors.  I did an informal survey of the retail landscape this weekend by visiting the Coral Square Mall, which is a Simon property.  Coral Square is probably a mid-tier mall, both in terms of size and quality, and is located in the largely middle class community of Coral Springs, FL.  There are three anchor properties, Sears, Burdines (now Burdines-Macys), and Dillards, and probably around 150 other stores and freestanding pavilions inside.  What was amazing to me was the number of stores trying out some digital signage initiative.  I would estimate that around 70-75% of clothing retailers had digital signage either in their store windows or inside their stores.  The content ranged from a simple slideshow of product images to mixes of music videos, fashion news and other entertainment content.  A few observations about these:

  • The program audio (when there was any) was most often piped out of speakers immediately next to the screens, so viewers would only get the full effect when standing within a reasonable distance from the screens.  Coupled with the fact that the screens were often dropped from the ceiling (and were therefore 10-14 feet off of the ground), you'd have to be standing almost completely underneath of one and looking up in order to see and hear clearly at the same time.
  • Program audio was often in competition with other audio sources in the same store.  Forget for a minute that malls are already crowded and very noisy this time of the year.  I'm perplexed by the idea that a retailer would try to have more than one audible feed running at once.  About 50% of the stores that I saw were playing Christmas music loud enough to (almost) completely drown out the audio from their digital signage.
  • Most of the content wasn't trying to overtly sell anything.  I don't know if it was good or bad in all of the different locations I looked at, but I do think that the proper balance between advertisements and entertainment/informational content is going to take a long time to figure out.  While most television networks have settled on 22 minutes of content and 8 minutes of commercials for the average prime-time sitcom, the situation is a bit less clear for digital signage network operators, since they must take into account things like location specificity, in-store traffic patterns, average viewing time, and the like.  Still, I would like to have seen more calls to action in the advertisement clips that I did see.
But the most interesting thing (from my perspective, anyway), was that most of these displays were simply being powered off of local DVD players or satellite feeds, making them more like the in-store TV networks of yesteryear, rather than the Internet-connected, remotely-managed networks that we typically call digital signage or dynamic digital signage systems.

This, to me, represents a huge opportunity for digital signage integrators who can convert the existing networks to networked digital signage and help customers exploit the many benefits of this technology.

As always, I'll shamelessly promote WireSpring's own FireCast digital signage software as the best choice for your next digital signage project, whether converting over from a legacy system, or starting from scratch!

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