Digital Signage: Not Always About Technology

TinersTakeDS-featuredMany of you have just returned from Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. I have written in past columns about how amazing and exciting it is that the digital signage industry has become its own entity outside of AV. Some fear this, as they see large IT companies moving into the digital signage realm. If you look at digital signage as strictly a technical matter, than you probably should fear IT companies stealing your business. After all, technology (and in particular selling it) is what they are really good at. But what about making technology useful? I don’t think you can beat a good AV integration firm when it comes to making technology work well for users.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what I mean by this. Recently, I was in my local grocery store. This is a large, New England-based firm with about 130 stores — not mom and pop by any means. As I was in the 10 items and under checkout line, waiting for the person in front of me to unload their FULL cart, I was looking around the front of the store. That is when I spotted it. A cute, little, digital sign. A picture is included. You can get a sense from this picture that the sign is located on the front wall of the store, in the middle of all the checkout lanes. The first thing that struck me was the size of the monitor. I can’t say for sure, but my experience tells me that monitor was no larger than 52″ — in other words, completely undersized for where it was located. The second thing that struck me was that it did not matter that it was undersized because it was so poorly placed that no one would ever see it anywhere. After all, why would any store be doing marketing for people ALREADY standing in line. Even if I saw something really interesting, I am surely not going to get out of line and go get it. Then, the third thing struck me, it didn’t matter where in the store they placed the sign, because it had absolutely nothing useful on it. The sign simply rotated through four or five slides, one for each department in the store. I am not sure if you can quite make it out in the picture, but the slide on the monitor at the time I took the picture was for the bakery department. It showed me some pictures of cupcakes, and told me the name of the manager of the bakery department.

ds-sign2-0315 I am sure hoping that an AV integrator did not install or sell this sign. There are just too many problems with it. I can only hope that a well meaning employee thought, “Hey, other places have digital monitors, we need one too.” I like to believe that an AV integrator would have sat down with the manager (or preferably marketing people) and talked about where the sign (or signs) would best be used. The salesperson would have talked to the customer about what they hoped to get out of the sign. Were they looking for any metrics that may help them calculate a return on investment in the sign? Did they have any thoughts about what times of day they may want to have certain content? I, for example, was in the store on my way home for work, desperately trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I can imagine that several other customers were in the same predicament. Perhaps, a strategically located sign that advertised something in the deli, or the rotisserie chickens, or whatever they wanted to sell me that day, would have drawn my attention (and therefore my dollars).

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ds-sign1-0315A second situation, this time in even a larger firm, drew my attention. The sign, also pictured here, was immediately on display as I walked into the store. It could not be missed. It was appropriately sized and appropriately placed. As you walked into the store, it caught your attention, but was placed far enough into the store that you had time to read it. In fact, I had time to grab my phone and snap a picture of it (much to my children’s chagrin) without stopping. Ahh, perfect, right?

Well, not exactly, and this one confuses me. I am talking about a MAJOR company here. A company with very well known marketing, business and store layout knowledge. Yet, as you can see in the picture, there was a message about yogurt (no brand in particular) — at 7 p.m. in the evening. Oh, and they had the current weather and temperature, just in case you forgot what it was like outside from when you walked in 1 minute ago. So, unless 7 p.m. is a hot time to sell yogurt, or perhaps they had a surplus of every brand of yogurt, there was something going on that I don’t understand.

So, fellow AV colleagues: As you can see, this is where you can excel. At trade shows like DSE, don’t only focus on the technology. Focus on what the digital signs can do for your specific customers.There are all kinds of UX designers in the AV industry. Connect with some of them. Take courses on how different market segments will use digital signage. Most importantly, when you are thinking about digital signage, don’t think of the technology, think of the application!