Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Digital Signs Point to Marketing Success

Internet Evolution

It's not like the iPhone needed any extra advertisement when it debuted back in June 2007, but when AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) needed to educate and engage its consumers, they turned to seven-foot digital display kiosks for help.

Coupled with actual iPhones located near the base of the kiosk, the signs allowed users to experience the iPhone's interactive abilities and familiarize themselves with the now iconic touchscreen, at a time when such designs were not as common. Furthermore, the stores featured guided selling kiosks where salespeople and customers could explore, research, and purchase products and services.

Using digital signs is a strategy that proved successful for AT&T and one that Aberdeen Group Inc. suggests can increase brand awareness by 15 percent, and see return on investment in 9.5 months on average. The analyst group's latest research report surveyed 138 companies -- mostly in the IT consulting and services, software manufacturing, and retail. The takeaway: Companies cannot ignore the growing range of technological solutions that include hardware, software, and mobility.

"Success with digital signage comes down to people, process, and technology," says David Hatch, SVP of research and co-author of the study. "Best results occur when the right people are dedicated to the task and are supported by management. Furthermore, the ability to track customer behavior must become part of the overall marketing process."

In order to coordinate its digital signage strategy, AT&T chose to use a content  task management software system that was largely platform-agnostic. The software was Web-based and allowed AT&T to centrally manage configuration, reporting, playlist control, content scheduling, and distribution.

Scalability was also a factor as the carrier said it needed to support around 250,000 devices simultaneously.

Stop & Shop, the supermarket chain, is another enterprise banking on its digital signs for both customer engagement and revenue growth. The company says it uses its signs to enhance their weekly sales programs and coupons.

"For us, the big advantages of digital signage are the Web connectivity and the ability to operate more in real time," says Robert Anderson, director of Stop & Shop's CRM and Digital. "With the understanding and data we have on our customers, we are able to use displays and kiosks to enhance their specific shopping experience."

The company says its most engaging form of digital media is the "Scan It" handheld shopping device. This is activated with the shopper's frequent-shopper card and delivers a message that is personally relevant to them. It also allows customers to scan and bag their own items as they shop, keeping a running total and saving time through the checkout process.

"We have more than 270 stores with Scan It today and more than half of the customers who receive the targeted offers take advantage of at least one of them every week," Anderson says.

In addition to recommending digital signage, Aberdeen's report also points out that the full potential of digital signage lies in its ability to connect related products and services to the audience through data organization A successful setup may include a rules-based decision engine, content management software, media server systems, database management software, and an advertising delivery and management platform, as well as mobile device data integration and digital dashboards.

It's important to remember the backend systems, for without a method for capturing and accessing this information, a company cannot take full advantage of its shiny new digital toys, can it?