The Digital Signage Insider

Using ongoing marketing and training to make your digital retailing program successful in 2006

Published on: 2006-01-02

Happy New Year everyone! Here at WireSpring, the fourth quarter is a magical time when all of our strategies and carefully-laid plans from the first 9 months of the year get shelved, and customers, vendors and partners gather together in a frenzy of pre-holiday deployment craziness that peaks somewhere right before Christmas. Consequently, my New Year's resolution is always to plan smarter and try to avoid having the same thing happen next holiday season :) But that's just what happens when a big part of your business involves working with the retail industry, who are hell-bent on making things perfect for the month-long American shopping orgy between Thanksgiving and New Year's day. Despite this gripe, I'm extremely happy with the performances turned in by our clients and partners in the last few months of 2005 - many were determined to get their self-service kiosk applications and digital signage displays up and running before the busy holiday season, and amazingly, most were able to do so. As a result, more companies have a head start on boosting sales and improving customer satisfaction in 2006. Still, ensuring that these new networks (and existing ones) keep performing throughout the year is going to require some ongoing effort on our part, in the form of employee training and post-deployment marketing.

First of all, let's talk about ongoing training. In last month's article about maximizing ROI on your self-service network, CIO Magazine's panel of experts agreed that employee training is an essential step for any kind of in-store technology deployment. As Ron Wegmann said in November's issue of Integrated Solutions for Retailers, you need to set expectations (for your client and their employees) before deploying your network. As he notes, "In too many cases, the technology users are expected to just accept the management decision. Take the time to ensure that the operations team knows the benefits of the project and its impact on their well-being and that of the company. Don't take their understanding for granted" (from "Implementation Success Requires More Than Just Hardware And Software").

What's more, don't expect the staff that you initially train to be the same staff using the system in 9-12 months. Employee turnover is a fact of life in the retail world, so making sure that your user base stays trained on your system will require ongoing retraining. Training the store and regional managers and getting your curriculum into the chain's internal training process are two solid steps that you can take to reduce the overall load on your team, as well as ensure greater cohesion between your team and your customer's key stakeholders. Companies like Staples have invested significant time and money in making sure employees understand the benefits of their in-store kiosks, and this has paid off in the long-term success of their digital merchandising projects.

Post-deployment marketing is another critical effort that needs to be maintained if your network is to be accepted by the in-store staff. When the sales team and customer service personnel understand and promote the network, it becomes much more enticing to consumers - who are often directed to the kiosk by staff members. As Lief Larson wrote in his November 2005 article "Make kiosk marketing more than afterthought", "Assuming that the mere existence of the kiosk will ensure usage is naive. A post-deployment marketing plan can help you introduce the kiosk to your users/customers and even get them to use it." He suggests (correctly, in my opinion) that the best time to plan out your post-deployment marketing is before you actually deploy. However, with a solid plan and strong execution you'll see benefits even if you start after your network has been online for a while. As to what kinds of post-deployment marketing tactics are in use right now, Lief offers these examples:
I've recently seen two major post-deployment marketing programs that appear to be effective.

First is McDonald's local spot advertising to support the rollout of its Redbox DVD kiosks, which are now in more than 400 of the quick-serve restaurants. In the television ads, the kiosk is the center of attention (as is the fact that a DVD costs only $1 for the first night). In-store, the spots are supported heavily with signage. The program is extremely impressive, both for its technology as well as the post-deployment marketing strategy.

The second post-deployment marketing program that stands out right now is that of the Automated Postal Center from the United States Postal Service. In a move to extend quick, easy and convenient access to postal products and services when and where customers want it, the Postal Service late last year introduced its new self-service kiosk. The machine lets customers weigh and send packages and letters, buy stamps and some extra services, and search for ZIP codes at times convenient to them, in some places even 24/7. Available services include express mail, priority mail, first-class mail, parcel post, delivery confirmation and stamps in self-adhesive sheets of 18.

After announcing a rollout of some 2,500 APCs around the country, the Postal Service supported rollouts with a postcard sent to residents in ZIP codes where terminals were available.
Both of these strategies are straightforward, and I think it's easy to understand their purposes and goals. In the case of McDonald's, the TV commercials use the kiosk as a convenient way of driving traffic into stores, and as a new service offering to encourage those who would likely visit anyway to spend more money in the restaurant (yes, each McDonald's is technically a "restaurant"). The in-store signage helps point out the kiosk to customers who might otherwise head straight for the food ordering area. In the case of the US Postal Service, the kiosk is a time and work saver whose values are obvious, so the postcards are a simple, cheap (how much can it possibly cost the USPS to deliver a post card?), and geographically-relevant way to announce their availability as more devices are deployed.

There are very few "sure things" in the digital merchandising world, but I consider both staff training and post-deployment marketing to be absolutely core to any in-store technology deployment that uses interactive kiosks or dynamic signage. As you might imagine, the budgeting needs for these activities vary greatly from deployment to deployment and company to company, so it's difficult to make generalizations about budgeting for a self-service kiosk deployment or estimating costs for a digital signage program. But if you're currently planning a network, or you already have one deployed and you'd like to maximize its performance, look to these two areas for a boost.

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