Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Harley-Davidson, Brookstone chime in on the role of digital signage

It's still somewhat rare to see VPs of marketing, merchandising and store design publish their thoughts on digital signage and retail media in general, so it was somewhat surprising to see this article/interview published by VM+SD last week, which featured veterns from Harley-Davidson, Brookstone, design organization the Design Forum, and an unnamed fashion retailer get together to discuss the pros and cons of in-store networks.

All four agreed that while digital signage system can improve the in-store environment, they don't necessarily have to. Some combination of physical design integration (e.g. embedding screens into existing retail fixtures), merchandising considerations, and of course, great content is necessary to make sure that the screens add to the overall ambience of the store, instead of just adding more clutter to an already busy visual environment.

When it came to listing the current problems with digital signage systems, it's clear that each interviewee had had his or her own experiences, and none of them were quite pain-free. However, the most informative quote came from Harley's Visual Merchandising Program Manager, Lynn Knutson, who noted that, "creating content for the screens [was] the biggest challenge. The amount of content needed to keep a program fresh and relevant to customers and sales staff is tremendous. The time and resources needed to manage a program can be difficult to justify when you cannot tie ROI directly to the program."

It's just amazing to see the number of companies -- and I'm talking established media companies with some considerable successes under their belts -- who still don't realize how challenging/important/necessary it is to keep fresh, compelling content on those screens at all times. At WireSpring, we call it "feeding the beast," since it's the hidden monster that can shred an ambitious digital signage project to bits unless it is planned for starting from day 1.

But for all those who read the last paragraph and are thinking "if it's so much work, maybe I shouldn't bother," Knutsun has a response for you as well: "You need to look beyond the metrics to see how the program improves the overall shopping experience for customers. If you can put your customers into an emotional state of mind when shopping versus an analytical state, then you will sell more product. As the saying goes, when in Rome...!"

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1 comment:

manolo said...

I agree, - in the end, content will either make or break any 1st class digital signage deployments. The biggest challenges are, 1. the content strategy has to be in place before they flip the switch and fire up the screens, - if the strategy is wrong from the begining, it will be an uphill battle to win back the viewers that were turned off by the initial content. 2. Making sure that the content retains relevance and sophistication. It has to "give something back" in return for the attention they gave up to look at the screen or kiosk.