Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Knowlan`s Installs Pricer Electronic Shelf Labels

I read this cool article at Internet Retailer about electronic shelf labels - a technology that's both compelling and terrifying at once, depending on how they're used :) From the article:

Knowlan`s operates six Festival Foods and two Knowlan`s stores and in recent months has installed StoreNext`s Pricer® Infrared Electronic Shelf Labeling system for pricing management and accuracy at three of its existing Festival Foods stores. The seventh Festival Foods store will open this Fall with the Pricer ESL.

The independent retailer also uses StoreNext`s ISS45 point-of-sale (POS) software and Fujitsu TeamPoS 2000 POS hardware. "We were interested in upgrading our ESL system and wanted to replace it with the most competitive system available. We were looking for two things: pricing accuracy and efficiency. We shopped around and StoreNext`s Pricer solution impressed us the most," said Ed Doud, director of retail technology, Knowlan`s Super Markets Inc. "It offered us the best in-store ESL system - with extremely aesthetic display tags, easy-to-use, swift price changes and accurate pricing. As promised, the installation and functioning of the system has been very smooth with quick acceptance by customers and staff."
What I'm particularly curious about is whether they plan to use this newfound efficiency to change prices more frequently than they currently do. After all, with all-electronic price channels, it would be trivial to change the cost of different items at different times of day (which seems like it should be illegal, but I don't know if it is).

AdSpace grows digital signage presence

AdSpace Networks, a digital signage company that operates networks in a number of shopping malls across the US, has announced that it will be expanding its operations in seven new markets. According to this article in MediaWeek, the group:
announced Monday it had expanded its mall network to seven new markets, in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Tampa. Including its existing mall displays in malls in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., AdSpace offers 460 screens in 41 malls reaching more than 47 million consumers each month.
Most interestingly, they think that their success has been based on a program they call "Today's Top Ten," where they basically showcase the 10 best deals that can be found in the mall each week. Basically, participating retailers submit their deals to AdSpace every week, and AdSpace then selects which deals to feature. The 10 selected spots, which each run for about 12 seconds, are then encorporated into the company's six minute loops played on signs throughout the mall.

It just goes to show you that sometimes the best solutions are the most simple ones. While a number of networks are turning towards entirely data-driven models that automate the application of content based entirely on heuristics, AdSpace is finding success by adding a human element to pick content that will appear to shoppers.

EZ Show may have a deal to start deploying digital signs

EZ Show, who confidently stated a few months ago that they were on target to deploy 10,000 screens (which itself was just a stepping stone to 100,000 deployed by the end of 2007, I believe), released this press release indicating that they may have started an actual deployment. Word on the street was that the company had had little success getting screens out during the first half of 06, which may temper their optimistic predictions a bit, though I have no evidence as to whether this was really the case.

Supposedly, the firm is on contract to deploy 453 screens to 393 locations inside of Follett Higher Education Group’s on-campus retail bookstores. The on-campus market is an interesting one to attack with digital signage. One wonders if the typical audience for the screens will be spurred to make impulse purchases, since their intent seems to be to "inform customers about goods, services, and in-store specials instead of traditional paper signs that are flat, expensive and quickly outdated." And while access to the 18-27 year old demographic is quite interesting, the socioeconomic status of the average student leaves me thinking that it might make more sense to try and find a way to appeal to an audience with slightly more spending money.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Planar to acquire Clarity

A few months ago, a number of us in the digital signage space received calls from folks at Planar. If I recall, the conversation went something like this:

Planar: Hi there! We'd like to buy somebody. Know anybody good?
Us: Um, not really.
Planar: Oh, c'mon. Do you want to sell to us?
Us: No, thanks.
Planar: Really? Well, we want to buy somebody.
Us: Yes, we gathered as much. Please go bother some of our competitors. There are about 8,000 to choose from.

Well, it looks like they were finally able to complete a deal, and to my surprise, they chose Clarity Visual Systems. Best known for their screen hardware (especially their zero-mullion projection screens), Clarity is also known for having acquired the software formerly known as CoolSign last year. According to this article at Kiosk Marketplace, the acquisition price was only $46M, which seems low to me. Then again, the hardware business is known to come with some capital risks, so that may have tempered the price some.

It will be quite interesting to see what becomes of Clarity's hardware and software lines. I could see Planar trying to make inroads with the software and management end of things, but as I alluded to above, they'd be playing in quite a crowded market. On the other hand, they could focus on Clarity's screen technology, which is also a challenging route given the number of options available to us from the major screen manufacturers. Clarity does have a good hold in banks/credit unions and command and control centers, though, so that might be a foothold that Planar has been looking for.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Remote Media to deploy digital signage in UK lottery venues

I don't have a URL to link to, but somebody sent me a press release regarding UK digital signage company Remote Media. From the press release:
Remote Media has been appointed by Camelot Group Plc to supply, install and manage its Digital Screen network in 1,450 National Lottery retailers across the UK.

400 existing trial screens will be replaced and a further 1,050 new Digital Screens will be added to the network - making it the largest of its kind in Europe.

The screens, which will be installed above National Lottery Scratchcard dispensers, will enable players and retailers to tune into the latest news about National Lottery games (including up to date jackpot amounts), promotions and events.
More interesting is this description of the bidding process:
Camelot completed an extended pilot of 400 Digital Screens (with a different supplier) to measure their impact on sales of various National Lottery games. The results of the trial showed that the screens helped to boost ticket sales in participating retailers – helping to maximise returns to the Good Causes – and offering a viable return on investment. Camelot approached 8 potential suppliers for the additional roll-out of the network and after an extensive competitive tender process awarded the contract to Remote Media.
It's unusual for the incumbant to lose a deal of that size, especially given the scope of the trial. They must have really screwed something up along the way...