Monday, August 27, 2007

Retail digital signage: brand building, sales lifting, or both?

That's the question that Laura Davis-Taylor asks in her most recent query to RetailWire's BrainTrust panel, and as one might expect, the answers range from "brand building only!" to "sales lift only!" to a little bit of both. My opinion, you ask? Why, here it is:

I get asked this exact question all the time, and after working on both brand-building and sales-boosting projects, I've come to a conclusion that now seems pretty obvious: neither the medium nor the technology are sufficient to direct a retailer/advertiser to choose branding over sales lift, or vice versa.

If you're working with a big box retailer that uses posters and POP displays to sell product, they will expect the digital signs to do exactly the same thing. They're just dynamic posters, after all. However, take the same exact technology and put it into a high-end fashion boutique (where art photos and lifestyle shots of happy people in expensive clothing adorn the walls) and the screens will be used for branding and improving the in-store experience, because that's what the static fixtures are already doing.

Can digital signs be used to help a retailer or advertiser expand into new advertising strategies and techniques? Absolutely. But those who install digital signage networks and think they'll suddenly be able to flip their retail marketing and merchandising strategies on their heads need to realize that it's just another medium for the kinds of creative things that they've been doing all along.

We've written quite a bit about experience, branding and private label networks, private label merchandising networks and advertising-supported networks in the past, and the important thing for people to remember is that digital signs are not inexorably tied to any one business model. They're just another tool in your marketing toolbox. Thus, asking a question like "are they better for X than Y" is virtually impossible to answer, because it depends on whether the venue/advertiser/whomever is already any good at doing X and Y.

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