Digital Signage

Serving Up Retail

Mt. Kisco Farm swapped out chalkboards for digital menu boards with support from its Boar’s Head distibutor.

Summer is when retail stores start to prepare for the big holiday shopping season. Although many retail stores have been facing keen competition from online vendors, those that haven’t shuttered are ready to utilize the latest retail technologies to enhance the shopper’s experience and increase sales. New competition from the brick-and-mortar presence of dot-com vendors, such as Amazon, has also encouraged major brands to increase their presence within retail stores. Your potential retail clients or you might want to scope out co-op advertising and marketing support from these best-selling brands, and then use the money to implement an engaging, effective digital signage initiative.

Neighborhood stores represent many different industries: from clothing and mobile phones, to restaurants and grocery stores, and beyond. Each type of store has unique business goals, marketing objectives, operational processes, and relationships with manufacturers, distributors and service providers. The expanding support of digital signage marketing through distributors is a logical evolution of a co-op marketing process that’s helped to drive the growth of American retail business for more than a century.

Here’s the basic concept: I, the manufacturer’s rep or distributor, will help you, the retailer, sell more by giving you promotional items or reimbursement for your promotional activities that is equal in value to a percentage of your business with me. Icons from the past include Esso Oil’s Red Pegasus signs and Miller Beer’s neon signs in bars. As retail marketing became more sophisticated, so did the co-op subsidies. Handcrafted wooden signs with lettering were enhanced with logos in gold, and print advertising reimbursements evolved into subsidized website and email marketing initiatives. Today, distributors for many major brands use some form of co-op programs, including the deployment of digital signage, to help their brand-holders compete for shelf space and mindshare.

Earlier this year, Digital Signage Expo (DSE) reported several major brands, including Boar’s Head, were represented among its first-time attendees. More recently, my neighborhood deli and gourmet market, Mt. Kisco Farm, replaced menu chalkboards with three 55-inch JVC LCD flat panels. Both incarnations of signage featured Boar’s Head.

“It was time to upgrade and go digital,” John N. Martino of Port Chester NY-based J. Martino Provisions, a Boar’s Head distributor, said. “You can update the menu more frequently based on availability of new product and pricing changes, as well as increase the sales of promotional items.”

Mt. Kisco Farm’s Owner told me he bought the displays and mounts online, and he installed them himself. His store is the eighth in Martino’s territory to install digital menu boards and, according to Martino, three others should have digital menu boards by the end of the summer. “Store owners buy and install the displays,” he explained, “but I update the content using a PowerPoint template and give it to the stores on flash drives, which are then manually uploaded. It helps keep things consistent. We like to send a consistent branding message throughout all our accounts, whether that is on static signs, digital displays or a combination of both.”

Martino and his customers have not integrated the menu-board system with mobile or with the store’s cash register to reap the benefits of data analytics. That would take a major outlay in terms of cost, and storeowners would have to be convinced the effort would be worthwhile. As is obvious, Boar’s Head is in the process of navigating its way through the digital media ecosystem.

Doubtless, you have ideas about how you would have designed and integrated a better system for my local deli. Perhaps you realized an AV systems designer and a systems integrator were not involved. Who is eating your lunch?

Look locally to see which businesses are using outmoded forms of signage and other communications media. It might be a deli, a coffee shop, a bike shop, a clothing store, a wine seller or any other busy local business. Think of how the stores, and the brands they carry, could better communicate with their customers by using digital signage and other in-store technologies. You might also want to anticipate what their objections might be to adopting digital signage; then, prepare scenarios that turn those doubts into opportunities.

Common misperceptions of digital signage include the following: It will be too difficult to program or update; it’s too expensive; competitors don’t use digital signage; it will be too difficult to install. The challenges will vary depending on the type of business, the owner/manager’s experience and local business conditions. You can use your sales experience and technological expertise to come up with a solution that will overcome those obstacles, clearly demonstrate your added value, produce a good result for the business and be worth your while to deploy.

One excellent resource for understanding the dynamic retail industry is the Journal of Retail Analytics from Platt Retail Institute. The Q1/2017 issue feat-ures insights gleaned from a roundtable discussion regarding the state of retail analytics and the panelists’ approach to integrating analytics into their retail businesses.

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