As consumers become more digitally savvy, informed, and picky about where they shop, retailers need to up their game. Nowhere is this more true than in signage.
Gone are the days of formulaic signs, of the same size, dimensions, and look. Many consumers have made the decision about what they will buy long before they get to a shop. Retailers need to be smarter, more targeted with their signage.
Digital signage is becoming more ubiquitous, and provides plenty of advantages – such as more agile and relevant messaging. The days of static menus, posters and billboards will be behind us in the next five to six years, believe retail experts. These will be replaced with dynamic signage on TV screens in restaurants, malls, and public places.
So how are smart retailers using signage in new and innovative ways? If we are in this transition to digital, how are retailers responding?
Digital is king
Digital is king – whether that is LED or LCD, says Retail Dimension Ltd director Kyle Pennell. His company is a multi-faceted supplier to blue chip corporates, and has been involved in many of New Zealand’s largest signage roll-outs. Clients include Z Energy, Lotto NZ, NZ Post/Kiwibank, Michael Hill and Westpac.
“You only need to look at the US where there’s virtually no national retailer that doesn’t use digital to know that it’s a matter of time before its reasonably ubiquitous in NZ,” he says.
Retailers are gaining a greater understanding of the fact that signage can play a part in assisting the customer decision-making process about where they will shop. And that signage isn’t simply a logo, but a way of connecting the consumer to your brand personality, says Pennell.
“The proliferation of digital in-store is a key indicator that savvy retailers can communicate not just on the external face of the store, but all the way through the shopper journey and capture not only more dwell time, but sales.”
Pennell says that as consumers move to more personalised services such as Netflix or Spotify, the cut-through in radio and TV advertising diminishes.
This has an impact on in-store marketing. “Retailers have to connect more with their customers at the point of sale, and there’s no doubt digital signage can assist greatly here, if done well,” says Pennell.
In New Zealand, fast food restaurants such as McDonalds and KFC have embraced digital and it works well, he says. Digital has had less impact on supermarkets.
“It’s been tried and discarded but it will come around again, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.
Pennell thinks no one does digital signage better than Lotto NZ: “They use short messaging incredibly well, the messages are clear, concise, bright, engaging and continually different. I think many others could learn a lot from what Lotto are doing.”
Looking ahead, digital will play an increasingly vital role in the implementation of a retailer’s omnichannel strategy. Overseas, retailers are integrating social media with digital signage to create a unique experience.
Brands are using digital screens in-store to encourage real-time conversations and encouraging customers to use social media outlets to chat about their in-store experience.
While customers wait to see their comments feature on the screen in-store, they are paying attention to what’s being displayed on the screen – whatever advertising format that may be.
First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson believes we are playing catch up with the use of digital signage, and New Zealand has got to make sure that our internet networks have the capacity and speed to be support mass rollouts of digital signage.
Meanwhile, the influence of digital is starting to be seen in malls and public arenas around New Zealand.
In September, QMS Media officially switched on the ‘Britomart Towers’, a pair of digital sites in Auckland’s busy Britomart train station.
The Britomart Towers are positioned either side of the escalators that funnel commuters in and out of the station. QMS believes the digital screen offers advertisers the impact of digital outdoor, with the ability to target a previously hard to reach customer – the busy rail commuter.
Less is more
The other great trend, which is no doubt welcomed by consumers, is the ‘less is more’ view.
Retail Dimenson’s Kyle Pennell says: “Once upon a time you would enter a retail store and be bombarded with signage and POS, and the brand was thrown in your face at every possible touchpoint.”
For example, a few years ago the Vodafone brand was everywhere in their stores, whereas now it is much more pulled back and refined, he says.
Pennell thinks most retailers should follow this trend.
“A customer doesn’t need to be bombarded with the same message over and over again, they know where they are.”
Palmers Garden Centre marketing manager Janalle McMeekin concurs that less is more, but says it’s a challenge to implement using this mindset.
“We are trying to overcome two major issues at the moment; too many signs in store, and creating relevant signs that are simple yet informative,” she says.
It’s a tricky balance to get right. There are so many messages that Palmers wants to communicate to customers while they’re shopping, but too many signs can have a negative impact.
“We are reviewing all our messaging from high level, eye level to buy level,” she says.
In her experience, McMeekin says, signage that works is all about simplicity.
“Too many words and the customer won’t read the whole sign, but not enough info creates confusion and might mean they are less likely to buy that item.”
Tantalise the senses
Hypermedia advertises itself as a company that engages with consumers in unique ways, and it’s hard not to argue with that.
Director Ben Partington says one of its main clients is Countdown, and Hypermedia’s speciality in the overwhelming environment of the supermarket is to do something spectacular to grab shopper’s attention.
“In a supermarket, a shopper’s brain is flipping out, and they are trying to narrow their focus. There are too many products, colours and sounds. If you have ever been shopping while hungover, you know what I mean. You are less able to fight that fight,” he says.
It’s a fact that one of our most powerful senses is smell. Hypermedia works with a local New Zealand company to match the smell of products, and incorporate that into a sign.
For instance, with Persil washing powder, Hypermedia has distilled the powder’s scent into a liquid in which the price tags can be soaked.
“Our whole focus is on taking the sensory route, not only to disrupt shoppers but provide them with an experience. A lot of brands’ spend is moving away from traditional signage, to experiential,” Partington says.
Interestingly, sight is our weakest sense, or as Partington says “one of the first places to go [in a crowded environment]”. Hypermedia uses a raft of production techniques such as metallic finishes, spot overgloss – where a layer of clear gloss is applied to a particular area of the artwork to make it stand out - and lighting to entice shoppers.
Also, there is a trend towards providing examples of the product on the side of the shelf. Sanitarium offers a round clear plastic enclosure with cereal inside, which is visually stimulating and gives the shopper a sense of what they are buying, Partington says.
“When we first started six year ago, signage was very scattered, with the same format sizes, and every piece of media was formulaic. Now we are seeing trends from overseas of a way of reaching out with the customer’s senses to get a deeper connection.”
Partington says Asia is particularly ahead of the game in this area with things such as sound-activated sensor samples.
To give an idea of how digital and sensory experiential signage is being used overseas, you need to look no further than Unilever.
In 2014, the multinational consumer goods company launched a two-week campaign for new Surf laundry fragrances in shopping malls across the UK.
It encouraged shoppers to play a game of hopscotch using brightly coloured vinyl graphic flowers on the floor in front of ad panels. The six sheet units also features scent emission units, giving off a spray of the new Surf laundry fragrance at timed intervals.
The sensory experience included having the shopping mall elevators fully wrapped with scented vinyl and playing a 20-second audio file every time a shopper entered. Scented wardrobe hanger tags were distributed at points of sale and changing rooms in nearby retailers.
- This story originally appeared on The Register