With the fall out of the pandemic—shoppers spending less time in store, reduced foot traffic, masks and distancing—operators are looking to digital signage to close the communications gap, entice customers inside and boost sales.
On the plus side
There are many advantages to digital signage. One benefit: variety. You can advertise more content with digital media by running advertisements in a loop that promote a number of products over a set time period. “These ads can rotate every eight to ten seconds. Therefore, you can push more advertising in comparison to static print media,” says Linda Hofflander, chief strategy officer with Skykit LLC, a digital signage company based in Minneapolis, MN.
She notes that store appearance is also enhanced with digital signage. “If done properly, it can provide better aesthetics to the location that is welcoming to the customer and it also brings the store in line with modern tech.”
Digital signage also offers c-stores flexibility. Ads are easier to update and keep current. Digital media is instant, says Tim Walker, a marketing expert and partner in Revinmedia, Soapy Brushy and Midfield Interactive, in Dundas, Ont. “[It] offers the ability to change promotions in real time.”
It also helps the bottom line, he adds. In addition to being less expensive over time than traditional media, digital signage gives users the ability to generate revenue by selling ad space on the platform.
On the minus side
There are issues with digital media that c-store owners need to understand and prepare for. First, there will be costs associated with the medium. “Hardware has a shelf life, and depending on the operation of the hardware 24/7, at some point the hardware needs to be replaced,” says Markus Merrill, Vend Data Media Solutions’ general manager for Canada.
There is a cost for the hardware and software on-going, he adds. “However, if you can work with vendors, those costs can be offset.”
The digital space is changing—significantly and rapidly. Among the most recent innovations are the rise of system-on-a-chip displays, cost-effective hardware, flexible installation, and more user-friendly software that allows for a higher number of integrations. “The driving force behind all of these changes is the desire to make digital signage more accessible and easy to use,” notes Hofflander. “In that respect, mobile connectivity is also becoming more prevalent.”
Skykit, for example, has launched a mobile-ready media player that allows organizations to deploy digital signage on a secure mobile network rather than relying on access to Wi-Fi or ethernet. This extends the reach of digital signage. “Convenience stores can now easily push content to screens located on the outside of buildings, in-store vestibules, and elsewhere,” says Hofflander.
Other trends in digital media include facial recognition, store movement recognition and interaction, promotion automation and interactive screens. “Digital signage is a first step of technology bridging the gap between behaviour and offering a seamless transition where it puts the customer at the centre of it all,” says Walker.
Digital signage—inside and outside your store—enables you to promote, cross-sell, and upsell products and services. “A display or external digital signage can increase your footfall and offer a reason to return depending on the content displayed on the screens,” notes Walker.
He points out that corporate-owned c-stores have branding and messaging that is unified and can be standardized across their network. Independent c-store operators, unless they have support and content from their vendors, will most likely need to be a part of a digital media platform that relies on media agencies to sell the space and share the revenue with that retailer.
Guillaume Robert, vice president go-to-market strategies and commercialization with Nummax, a signage company based in Quebec City, has this advice for c-store owners new to digital signage.
• Determining your goal—why you want digital signage—is the first step. Once you’ve answered this question, you’ll be better able to narrow down the best location.
• Less is more. Avoid having too much digital dynamic signage. Choose your prime spot and use it wisely.
• Always buy from a company that provides documentation and resources that make you autonomous. And buy from a company that can provide you technical support in North America.
• Look at the warranty and make sure that you can have parts shipped quickly in case of a hardware issue.
• Software to manage the content of your digital display must be easy to access, easy to use, and easy to schedule.
This article originally appeared in the May/June issue of Convenience Store News Canada.