The Digital Signage Insider

Walmart and Microsoft Talk Up Digital Signage at the NRF Show

Published on: 2011-01-14

The NRF and CES shows didn't always command the attention of us digital signage folks. But as one industry luminary mentioned to me recently, these shows may have reached the point where they represent a better use of time and resources for many of us than the "real" industry shows, like DSE and CETW. I haven't been to either show in a couple of years, so I don't know how true that is. However, I do know that this year's NRF produced some very interesting quotes and information from the likes of Walmart and Microsoft that definitely caught my attention. Want to know if digital signage really works? Want one expert's guess on how big the industry is going to get in the next few years? Then read on.

Attention, Walmart shoppers...

It was only a few short months ago that Walmart released some information pertaining to their (in)famous Smart Network. In case you missed the announcement, the company calculated the following percentage increases in store departments using the Smart Network:

Sales lift by department
  • Electronics: 7%

  • Over-the-counter: 23%

  • Food: 13%

  • Health/beauty: 28%
They also disclosed the point in a product's life cycle when the network seemed to be most effective:

Sales lift by product type
  • Mature items: 7%

  • Newly-launched items: 9%

  • Seasonal items: 18%

  • Items on rollback: 6%
While the details were admittedly a bit light, our industry was just happy to get a little love from the big box retailer, especially since we so infrequently see big companies publish anything even remotely resembling hard data. Thus, it was even more surprising to hear Smart Network General Manager James Beck, along with Bill McMullen, General Manager of media partner Studio Squared, announce some additional ROI data during a presentation at NRF. In addition to recounting the gigantic reach and frequency that the network commands due to Walmart's gigantic presence across the US (97% of the population lives within 25 miles of one, with 53% -- that's over 150M people -- living within 5 miles of one), they also discussed two case studies on how the Smart Network affects product sales (thanks to Digital Signage Today for the summaries):
In the first, a breathing-strip manufacturer purchased an endcap campaign, in which a 90- to 120-second message ran on endcap screens with product positioned around it. While the program was running, the brand saw a 100 percent sales lift on the specific product, determined by testing versus a control group.

In another campaign, the retailer wanted to increase the number of shoppers that opted in to receive discounts and offers via SMS. It staged a four-week campaign in which shoppers were told that if they'd sign up by dialing a specific code, they'd get exclusive announcements of new "Rollback" offers. During the four-week period, the retailer saw a three-fold increase in daily opt-ins.
(emphasis mine)
The future of the digital signage market? Seven meeeeeelion screens!

Since NRF is a January conference, it's only natural that some of the speakers might want to take the opportunity to make some prognostications. It's like some kind of holiday disease that peaks right around mid-month. And while I wasn't there in person to hear it, I saw tweets about a talk given by Windows Embedded Marketing honcho Barb Edson that sounded like a real doozie. According to data cited by Microsoft's Edson, there are approximately 2 million digital signs across the US right now, and that number is expected to grow to 7 million over the next 5 years. For that to happen in a nice, linear fashion, it would mean that the industry will deploy 1,000,000 screens every year for the next 5 years.

Is that possible? I suppose so. Is it realistic? Yeah, I think it is. But to see that kind of growth, we're going to have to expand our definition of what constitutes a digital sign to include much smaller displays, electronic POP units, and so on. It might even have to incorporate some commercial uses of regular TVs with only the tiniest bit of "smartness" in them, like showing CNN in the waiting room of your auto service shop and using something like Google TV to stick your logo in the corner of the screen. But by saying that any out-of-home screen that displays directed messaging information is a digital sign, that 7 million number seems well within reach, and might even be conservative.

Is an estimate of a million screens a year too high, too low, or just right? Will sales lift data from Walmart and other major networks help the industry achieve sustained growth? Leave a comment below and let us know!


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