Find a Vendor Who Understands Retail

While the value of a digital signage network resides in the ability to inform, educate and influence consumer behavior at the point-of-purchase, the discipline of this new industry resides in the architecture. There are a great number of vendors coming to market with opportunistic solutions leveraging technology that is neither retail-hardened, nor more importantly, optimized for digital signage. Slapping layers of software onto a low-cost PC can hardly be considered an integrated part of your in-store architecture. On the surface, those solutions seem to deliver on the promise of digital signage, since they can drive content on a digital display. However, your laptop does that, too. There is much more to consider if you view a digital signage solution as a strategic opportunity, as a network:

Does the architecture make it an IT project, or an out-of-the-box Marketing application?

Can it integrate with emerging standards and frameworks for in-store systems, or is it a dead-end “island of information”?

Can it scale to meet your chain-wide and corporate requirements as they develop, without creating a management nightmare?

One thing is certain: the applications of and requirements for digital signage solutions in retail will evolve over time. Make sure your digital signage vision is not bottlenecked by platform, cost of deployment or maintenance. Ask the various vendors where they think digital signage is going in the retail environment. If the discussion centers on content and technology be wary. If the message is that today’s media player will become tomorrow’s marketing appliance, integrated with other store and corporate systems, you may have found a vendor that understands retail and the lessons learned along the long path from cigar boxes to self-checkout. Nothing is really new about flat panels and video content. What’s new is how it can be applied to the zero-sum game of retailing.

The “perfect storm” of falling display prices, availability of broadband, fragmented mass marketing vehicles and diminishing returns on cost reduction initiatives has created an opportunity to change the way we relate to customers at the point of purchase. Dream a little, ask questions and find a model that is consistent with your goals.