Rethinking checkout screens

May 24, 2007 by Dave Haynes

I have been traveling yet again, this time in the USA northeast.

We had time between a big meeting and the flight yesterday to pop into a regional grocer and see what they were up to. As has been the case with other such installs, the digital network in this one was pretty hopeless. There was a solo screen blaring away above a stand topped by Oreo cookies and loaded with trays of bulk olives and hot peppers. And a bunch of smaller screens, most of them working, at the checkout lanes.

The big one was running lifestyle content and the inexplicable but everpresent news crawler along the bottom of the screen (when I go to the market, I absolutely need milk, eggs and the latest news from Capitol Hill). The small ones had lifestyle content and weather forecasts along the bottom.

I have seen this stuff before and caused me to rant about the whole notion of screens at checkout, when it’s too late to drive impulse buys on anything other than what is right there.

But then I remembered a wide-ranging conversation I had last week at DSE with Jeff Dickey, the co-founder of SeeSaw Networks and a guy who has been around the ad business for a whole bunch of years.

Somehow we started talking about the checkout area as a medium and I said I didn’t get it.

Dickey said it actually makes a lot of sense these days, if done right.

He acknowledged that it is too late to drive impulse buys once people are there, but the thing about groceries is, those people will be back … maybe even the next day. Groceries are one of those places where people visit as much as daily, depending on their shopping habits.

So there is an opportunity to drive brand awareness and make people think a little about what they need to buy next time they’re in … maybe for their “big shop” of the week when they get bags and bags of stuff.

Dickey also talked about how this medium can influence and instruct a whole new generation of shoppers who have little or no idea of many of the packaged goods brands sold in supermarkets. We all grew up reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching TV — and getting hammered with spots about laundry detergent, plastic wrap, facial tissues and frozen veggies. 

For people under 25, they aren’t using conventional media the same way and so they aren’t seeing those brands, Dickey said. He probed his own kids and all they know about were the grocery’s house brands.

So for companies like Unilever and P&G, those checkout screens, and store networks in general, could be new and really important ways to get at this audience.

That said, the ones on this network I saw were doing little to help that along. 

  1. Jeff Dickey says:

    To follow onto this theme digital signage, first and foremost, must facilitate communications to its viewership. These communications will take many forms that may include advertising & promotion, appropriate news items, safety/security alerts, educational segments, hints/tips and a host of other possible content. This being said, content is a very peculiar thing in this environment. Just as “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” content is considered to be either welcomed or rejected by the viewer’s personal preferences which, as we know,are a long way from uniform. When I ran what is now PRN’s grocery network, we discovered that,in general, women would primarily view the main screen that showed cooking tips, runway fashion, etc. while men would generally view the scolling news,weather and sports text that was in the frame of the screen (actually,they watched the runway fashion too). So, we had one screen with multiple content choices viewed by different demographics simultaneously.

    Currently, advertisers are focused almost entirely on immediate sales lift as the key indicator of success – largely ignoring that fact that we are witnessing a fairly pervasive degradation of brand awareness/brand equity due to persistent refusal by many advertisers to package,position and promote their products in the media environments where their entry level consumers operate.

    When you start connecting other dots, this becomes a far more risky proposition. As an example, a recent study of wealth determined that, while the 55+ consumer has never been wealthier in the history of the country, the under 35 consumer has never been poorer. As brands are typically promoting their higher quality as a trade-off to their higher prices, the unbranded customers may well opt for lower price – especially when have never been exposed to this price/value proposition. My daughters were very clear as to what drove their purchasing behavior – price (apparently with the exception of jeans, make-up and shoes). In the long run, it will be drastically more expensive for brands to switch consumers from competing brands than to establish consumers in their early adoption years.

    It’s going to be very interesting to see who figures all of this out first. The thing is that, at this phase of the markets development, a single large brand advertiser like a P&G, Unilever, GM or Coca Cola probably has sufficient marketing dollars to dominate the entire medium and lock out their competition. Wouldn’t that make for an interesting twist?

    In the meantime, the path to decision starts well before a consumer atarts strolling around a store, a mall or an airport and advertisers need to take a far more 360 degree approach to their media strategies.

  2. Rob Gorrie says:

    Fully agree.

    In addition to the points above, we tend to forget about the boomers, who are less cynical and more susceptible to advertising “influence” than their younger counterparts.

    Ad Age had a neat little piece on this today taking a look at Unilever’s eye opening internal study.

    If the old guard has most of the cash and responds more to light and motion at Point of Purchase, then Jeff and Dave, your points are well focused in another direction as well.

    The ad age article is here

    An interesting point is made under “Community” in that article. It includes references to things like “information on scheduled community events”. And an even better quote:

    Stereotypes aside, many boomers are actually early adopters of new technology and switchers to new brands, Ms. Kozin said. “Younger people may be more excited and write about it,” she said. “But boomers have the money to spend on it.”

    And they’ll do so, she said, particularly when the communications are geared to them.

  3. […] Haynes posted an article a while ago (See: Rethinking Checkout Screens…) after he had a conversation with Jeff Dickey at […]

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