As an experience design agency, we often discuss the need for a strategic approach to reaching audiences. To us, that means understanding that the user experience of a brand happens in a million of interactions both big and small throughout each day, and the best brands provide ways to meaningfully connect and build relationships with consumers every step of the way across multiple touch points. In this Internet of Things era where consumers expect everything to be digital, physical spaces are an integral part of building that overall brand experience, and brands that understand this get ahead while others try to play catch-up.
According to a dated but still-relevant 2010 article “Of Digital Signage: Integrated, Interactive Intelligent Networks” in the Wall Street Journal’s Media Planet Supplement, author Jose Avalos, says, “Building brands and relationships with customers can only happen when you add value to their experiences—whether banking, retail or hospitality. Digital signage is the perfect way to achieve this, because it bridges traditional and online mediums: it can be not only informational, but interactive, communicating with customers where they are, in the manner they want to be reached.” While this experience can be something simple like tailored suggestions a la Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” feature, digital deployment can also be a personalized “Happy Birthday” message on an ATM display or large-screen video displays like the ones that college football teams are implementing, which allows brands to take digital brand meaning and deploy them across physical spaces.
Implementing digital in physical environments helps brands reaffirm their brand messaging and positioning in a way that static options like brochures, posters, and packaging often can’t. That’s because digital can be modified, updated, localized and customized, then deployed across multiple digital platforms much more easily and seamlessly. As we discussed in It’s Not Your Brand, It’s Your Customers, the most successful brands focus not on what they want to communicate, but on how their customer experiences their brand. There is no more intimate and immediate experience with a brand than in-person interaction at a store, bank or restaurant, where consumer expectation meets brand delivery. So why do some brands struggle with the ideal digital deployment into their physical spaces?
When brands think of digital presence in their physical locations, the immediate assumption is high-cost and ongoing expense, but according to the article “Digital signage can work for the ‘Joes’ and not just the ‘Pros’” in Digital Signage Today, there is a digital solution for any sized business. Data from Nielsen backs up that digital can have a real impact on a brands’ bottom line, resulting in sales increases as much as 60 percent for brands who implement digital signage into physical locations. Further, implementing digital allows brands to achieve efficiencies of scale, in that they don’t have to continually reproduce physical collateral with new brand campaigns, updated information or new services.
Digital deployment into the physical space as a way of knitting together all of the consumer brand touchpoints into a cohesive brand experience. When consulting with clients, there is often a common need for communication between a brand’s overarching marketing team and the on-the-ground, customer-facing team to be on the same page, delivering the same brand message and value to the consumer. The last thing anyone wants is a disjointed customer experience. Digital deployment actually helps bridge that gap.
“Digital deployment bridges the gap between all consumer brand touchpoints.”
Brands today have an ongoing need to create fresh, engaging content. In today’s uber-competitive environment, brands are always looking for ways to develop and enhance consumer relationships. To that end, creating meaningful content that allows brands to truly engage with consumers is crucial and like cable news, is a 24/7 proposition. Consumers today expect to get the latest at the touch of a button; they literally have the world – or at least the worldwide web – at their fingertips. This means brands have to do everything they can to provide value and information that is relevant to consumer demands. The responsiveness of digital allows for brands to drive engagement by providing content that is new, relevant and customized.
In the article “Digital Signage Influences Retail Advertising in a Big Way” Displays2Go describes the power and flexibility of the digital medium, outlining how brands can deliver content that can be implemented as quickly as a viewer can change a TV channel. Using digital signage allows brands to effectively deploy consumer messages and ensure that brand conversations taking place in multiple locales are in alignment across all channels. Once digital content has been developed, companies now have the capability to distribute that content across multiple platforms simultaneously. With less logistical demand, brands have found digital presence, particularly digital signage, facilitates getting information to consumers with less time, budget and effort.
With so many channels available for marketing messages, brand communicators are working overtime to fill up the marketing pipeline with relevant information. For brands, the workload demands stretch marketing’s capacity and oftentimes limit their output. Employing a digital strategy can help streamline the process and maximize efficiency. In fact, brands who have fully embraced digital have found that their costs are often lower because they create content that can be modified and updated as needed, implemented quickly across all brand channels, and are not hamstrung by outdated static collateral, like brochures, pamphlets and the like.
According to Gina Bleedorn, Adrenaline’s Executive Director, “Let’s say a company pays $5,000 for developing marketing content, but only deploys that content in their Tier-1 store locations versus their Tier 1, 2 and 3 store locations. That company has now lost the value of the initial investment on the production of the content, because they haven’t maximized all of the touch points where that branded content could be seen, heard and engaged with. It shortchanges both the local store and the brand. What’s more, the Tier-2 and 3 stores can’t just go without; they still have customers too, so they’ll need some static marketing – brochures, signage, etc. – that will have to be developed in addition to the digital content that was already developed.”
“Ultimately, if the company had invested in digital strategy across all locations, they would have lower cost of maintenance and labor costs spent on developing marketing content.”
Today’s brands have a myriad of competing challenges to creating sustainable relationships with consumers. With information, ideas and stories on every channel in the consumers’ lives, it stands to reason that this level of volume and complexity would mean that some messages get cast aside and others go unread and unseen. In that cluttered environment, the consumer is squarely in the driver’s seat today, deciding which brands to engage and which ones to push aside, and the landscape is constantly changing, meaning brands really have their work cut out for them to stay relevant. So what is a brand to do? While technology has created many of these challenges for brands, it’s that same technology that can provide solutions.
For brands that have fully deployed digital, the ability to localize and personalize content in these channels has proven to be a winning approach. Today’s best brands are focused on developing relationships and enhancing engagement with the consumer. The best way to do that is to provide real value and a sense that the brand understands what is important to real people. It is crucial for brands to not only be able to connect to their customers, but personalize the relationship with each individual, and when done well, digital can provide that winning formula.
So how much should a brand promote their brand message versus their local connection, allowing for that personalization? Many successful companies employ digital signage that using a 85:15 brand-to-local ratio. Using content on digital signage permits brands to accomplish several goals: promoting their brand messaging and voice, providing an opportunity for educational information on products or services, and making a personalized connection with a consumer, which brands can do in a number of ways, including localizing information. Localized content shows that the brand understands that the consumer wants information from brands to be relevant to their own lives and provide useful links to local, community events and concerns.
However, it’s not just the in-store digital deployment in the form of digital signage that matters; it’s all of the digital touch points that allow brands to engage, both in-person and virtually, while the customer is in the store or later when they’re at home. Gina Bleedorn says “Intuitive, instantly engaging messaging on the walls of bank lobbies or in local stores or restaurants can pique customer interest by showing how products and services might benefit their lives. Moreover, by connecting with the customer’s own device – the most valuable technology in the brand – the experience becomes immediately relevant to the customer’s lives, which in turn enhances brand engagement, trust and advocacy.”
So, is your brand ready for digital deployment? In our next article, we’ll take a look at brands that are embracing the in-person digital revolution.