Bricks and mortar retail outlets are having to work harder than ever to attract consumers in the face of relentless competition from ecommerce platforms. In the battle for customers, many high street stores and shopping centres are creating engaging experiences that will encourage people to spend their cash in physical spaces rather than stay at home to surf the web.
Digital signage is playing an increasingly important role in this fight – and it works best when tailored to the retail setting and the visiting consumers. Many stores and shopping centres now have digital boards that incorporate touchscreen functionality as well the ability to display ads. This interactive technology enables marketers to link their offline and online marketing efforts while getting people interested in their brands.
Microsoft is among those to have pioneered this technology when it launched a major interactive campaign for Windows Phone last year. The company worked with out-of-home media owner JCDecaux to place 24 interactive touchscreens in shopping centres across the UK over a two-week period in December.
People were able to create personalised Windows Phone start screens by entering their name, having their photo taken and selecting their interests based on labels like ‘foodie’ and ‘news and sports junkie’. These then formed the creative for a national broadcast campaign across 450 screens, including large displays in the mall where the consumer personalised their phone and on digital screens in nearby train stations.
Windows Phone UK marketing communications lead Diane Perlman, says the interactive element behind the campaign added a new dimension to the overall marketing strategy for the phone.
“All our activities were focused on the idea that the Windows Phone is reinvented around customers and is as unique as they are,” she says. “Having options to simulate that feeling by enabling people to touch and experience it is definitely exciting.”
The touchscreen campaign also enabled Windows Phone to link to its social media activity as photos from the national billboard campaign appeared on participants’ Facebook page. They were encouraged to tag the photos featuring their personalised start screens and share them socially, as well as enter a competition for a chance to win a phone. Perlman suggests that the next step for interactive screens is Wi-Fi connectivity so that people can share their creations on social media instantly, rather than being directed to Facebook after using the screen.
Overall, Microsoft recorded 15,000 interactive sessions, with 14 per cent of those submitting their creations for use in the broadcast campaign. Perlman also reports that consumers spent an average of two and a half minutes interacting with the screens and that spontaneous awareness of Windows Phone increased by 18 per cent among people who had participated.
“There probably isn’t another media format that gives that length of interaction,” she says. “This is a really attention-grabbing and creative way of advertising. Consumers seem to love the innovation.”
Traditional high street shops are also deploying digital signage in an attempt to grab shoppers’ attention. In February, for example, H&M on London’s Oxford Street had shoppers gawping at David Beckham running through suburbia in nothing but his underpants as the retailer loop-played its TV ad starring the footballer on a giant screen in its window.
Meanwhile, Italian fashion label Benetton has taken the technology further by developing ‘live windows’ – a digital signage project consisting of huge high-definition screens that occupy the store windows in 10 of its flagship stores around the world. The software behind the project connects all of the stores in real-time with video content and interactive applications that are designed to stop consumers and entice them to engage with the shop-front.
The project is managed centrally by Fabrica, Benetton’s in-house creative agency. Content ranges from product-based communications to the more provocative social and political messages for which Benetton is known. The interactive applications include cameras that film people outside the windows and project the images in interesting and distorting ways.
Benetton has produced short films of people’s reactions to the windows to prove the project’s effectiveness. One example shows a growing crowd of shoppers and tourists gathering outside a store to take in the visuals and interact with the window. According to the brand, live windows “arose from the reflection that stores have transformed very rapidly from simply a location where a purchase takes place to a location where the more complex experience of emotional perception of brand values unfolds”.
Similarly, Burberry has deployed innovative screen technology in its stores to reflect the changing nature of its retail spaces. The best example is Burberry’s flagship store in London’s Regent Street, which was refitted last September and given the moniker Burberry World Live.
The store is intended to be a physical manifestation of Burberry.com – a combination of in-store luxury products and cutting-edge digital technology. This includes 100 screens that display Burberry-specific video content as well as synchronised takeovers at different points in the day. These feature more conceptual content such as a weather application that creates ‘digital rain’.
In-store mirrors, meanwhile, change into screens that display content relating to the product that people are trying on in front of them. This technology is activated by microchips contained in some of the clothing.
Like Benetton, the content is created and managed by Burberry’s in-house creative media team, allowing the brand to synchronise with other flagship stores around the world where it is deploying screen technology.
One of Burberry’s core intentions with the Regent Street shop is to develop the space into a venue for music events, as well as a shopping experience.
“We understand that bricks and mortar have to work harder,” says a Burberry spokeswoman. “The store is designed as an innovation hub. It’s a retail space but it’s also there to entertain.”
However, not all retailers have the luxury of being able to experiment with the overall shopping experience. Some are simply using digital signage to help them promote offers or advertise their merchandise.
Outdoor clothing specialist Rohan, for example, has used screens to inform customers about the benefits of its products and the contexts in which they are worn. Working with digitalsignage.NET by Dynamax, the retailer installed monitors in three of its high-traffic stores in order to gauge the reaction from consumers.
“The point with Rohan is that we make performance clothing in a way where the benefits are almost hidden,” explains chairman Colin Fisher.
“In relatively high-traffic stores, it doesn’t matter how well trained the staff are, they can’t see and help everybody. So it struck me when I first saw this [technology] that it was a good way for us to put together presentations of our products.”
Fisher says the screens have had a positive effect in engaging people – especially shoppers who are reluctant to ask for help but appreciate visual aids. Rohan started off displaying simple slide show presentations on the screens before moving on to create its own videos.
“There are people who want to inform themselves and don’t necessarily want to interact with staff until they are ready to buy something,” he adds. “For those people this has been invaluable. Other people will immediately engage and say ‘I’m looking for such and such’ and for them it’s less relevant. Given the nature of what we do, quite a lot of our customers are in the first group – particularly men.”
Rohan recently ended its digital signage experiment at three shops after beginning a programme to revamp its portfolio of 61 UK stores. However, Fisher says he is keen to roll out screens across more high-traffic stores as a way of enhancing the overall retail experience.
“When we revisit this, once we’ve got the store portfolio correct, the screens will be bigger and they’ll be used as much for ambience as for product proposition,” he says.
As Rohan’s experience proves, digital screens work best when they are specific to the setting and the consumers visiting that store or high street. Deodorant brand Lynx also sought to get its targeting right by focusing on UK shopping centres during its interactive screen campaign earlier this year (see Q&A, above).
The campaign promoted a worldwide competition linked to the launch of Lynx Apollo that offers people the chance to win a trip into space. In order to engage people in the contest, Lynx worked with JCDecaux to place touchscreens in UK shopping centres over a two-week period in January.
People who interacted with the screens could have their photo taken and displayed so that they appeared as an astronaut. The images were also posted to Lynx’s Facebook gallery where participants could tag themselves, share the images with friends and encourage them to vote, with the most popular going forward in the contest for the chance to win the space trip in 2014.
Out of this world
Lynx followed this shortly afterwards by hanging a 40ft, two-tonne astronaut from the atrium at Westfield London. The installation also featured a digital screen on the visor onto which people could upload a picture of their face via text or email. Brand ambassadors on the ground used iPads to take photos of shoppers, which then appeared on the astronaut.
Lynx senior brand manager David Titman says shopping centres proved to be an ideal place for the campaign. “It was about tapping into the down time that people enjoy in this kind of retail environment,” he adds.
“Westfield works well for that because it’s a more social environment. I wouldn’t expect something like this to work in a Tesco but Westfield is the sort of place where people are going to be up for social engagement with what’s around them.”
He says the interactive screens played an important role in building intrigue around the competition and notes the technology is a powerful tool for brands that want to attract consumers in physical retail settings.
“The difficulty with any kind of out-of-home or in-store marketing is getting engagement,” he suggests. “It’s very easy to put something up as a piece of education or entertainment but it’s the ability to get someone to actually respond to what you do that is going to become increasingly important for brands. The more engaged people are with brands, the easier it’s going to be for us to do our jobs.”
Senior brand manager
Marketing Week (MW): What did Lynx’s campaign to win a trip into space entail?
David Titman (DT): Initially we ran communications on screens to announce the competition and the fact that we’re sending someone into space as the prize. It wasn’t interactive at that stage because it was just a way of getting the message out there.
The next phase was to make it real because there are people who don’t believe we’re actually going to do this. So the interactive screens that we had in shopping centres allowed people to picture themselves as an astronaut. The screens took a photo of the person directly and then superimposed it onto a visor. That photo could then be shared on Facebook where people can vote on the competition.
MW: Has Lynx used this kind of screen technology before?
DT: We’ve certainly done some interesting takes on out-of-home screens before. One of the most successful things was a campaign a couple of years ago called Angel Ambush. This used the screens at Victoria Station so that if people stood on a certain spot in the station, they would see themselves on the screen surrounding by the Kelly Brook-style angels superimposed onto it.
Although we were only there for a few days and the number of people who saw it in person was limited, the reach we got online was impressive.
MW: What reaction did you get to the Apollo campaign?
DT: In a couple of weeks, we got over 30,000 interactions with the screens and just over 5,500 photos submitted. The critical thing for me is what happened to those photosafter that. In each instance people were given the option of sharing them or taking them offline and doing what they wanted with them. So although it’s going to be impossible for us to track, those photos will have made a splash on Facebook, Twitter and other social spaces.