Projects: Chico’s In-Store Digital Network Runs On Chromeboxes

WHBM_SantaMonica1

You know that argument you hear from vendors, that serious end-users with a lot of scale will never go with free software solutions and entry-level hardware?

It’s probably true in a lot of cases, but not always. And I think things are shifting, in part because of who is now working with free.

As in one of the biggest and best-known tech companies on the planet …

Here’s a post from the Google’s “Official Google For Work” blog, which talks about how a pretty significant US retailer is using a combination of $179 Chromeboxes and free Rise Vision software for its retail network.

The CIO and VP Technology of specialty retailer Chico’s write about their requirements and technology decisions:

Imagine running into your favorite clothing store in Chicago during a snowstorm and seeing a colorful digital display of cozy sweaters. Or you’re shopping in San Francisco for an outfit for a company party and the store’s display screens show cocktail dresses on sale. At Chico’s FAS stores, we will be using Chromeboxes to personalize the shopping experience by tailoring our digital signage to the city, the store, and even the specific department.

We’ve had our Chico’s Digital Retail Theater strategy in the works for some time, with plans to bring personalized content up to 5,000 screens at about 1,500 stores. I wanted to control displays down to each individual screen and swap new content as needed, without burdening our IT department or maintaining complex hardware at each store.

After reviewing and sketching out a range of approaches for solving this challenging problem, we settled on Chromebox. Alan Mariotti, our VP of Technology and Security, praised the technology for its simplicity, low cost, and scalable performance. The easier a digital signage system is to install and use, the faster we can push out unique and relevant content to screens – an imperative in retail, where merchandise and promotions always change.

Chromeboxes as a signage solution met all of our tests for affordability and ease of management. Since they’re cost-effective, we can afford to outfit more of our stores with more displays. Since they’re small, they don’t take up valuable space in stores and they are unobtrusive. With more screens, we have more places where we can tailor content that resonates with each store’s customers.

We launched our first 10 Chrome-powered screens at our redesigned White House | Black Market store in Santa Monica, California, with content management software from Rise Vision deployed by Uniguest, both of whom are Google partners. We’re testing the sales impact of changing merchandise content on the fly, compared to traditional retail channels like catalogues and print advertising. We’ll also see if shoppers respond to and interact with catalogue content that appears on store screens.

We’re also looking to Chrome to bring promotions to customers in minutes — a huge leap ahead from the printing process. The lead time for printed posters can be as long as 10 days due to the lengthy cycle of designing, printing, and delivering to stores. Not only is physical printing at this pace incredibly expensive, but we can’t react as quickly with print as we can with instant digital if new products and sales hit the stores on short notice. Chromebox for signage will eventually almost eliminate these printing and distribution costs, while shortening the time needed to bring relevant shopping news to our customers.

The impact of our Digital Retail Theater strategy with Chrome goes far beyond screens with pretty pictures. When customers come to one of our stores, we want to immerse customers in the Chico’s FAS shopping experience – sharing with them the perfect jacket for her first day at a new job, the winter coat that transforms her look, or the dream dress that makes her evening magical. 

The Rise guys shifted their focus to Google’s infrastructure and services a few years ago, and went free. It may have looked like an odd decision at the time, but it’s now paying off.

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes

Editor/Founder at Sixteen:Nine
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than a decade. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He's based near Toronto.
Dave Haynes

@sixteennine

Decade-old blog about digital signage and related tech, written by industry consultant and shit-disturber Dave Haynes.
RT @swin24: I reviewed (for journalism!) the porn videos that right-wing sites say star Alicia Machado....... They do not. https://t.co/2P7… - 5 hours ago
Dave Haynes