Canadian sporting goods and apparel retailer SportChek has large footprint shopping mall and standalone stores across the country and has, for many years now, been an early and enthusiastic adopter of digital signage technology.
On one hand, it has been great to see a retailer making a big investment in screens and related hardware and software. But here’s the problem – I’ve rarely seen a hint of real strategy in what the stores are doing with screens everywhere, and every time I walk into one, I see stuff that’s not working, underperforming or set up in the wrong place or way.
I made a rare trip this weekend to the local mall, and the parking lot section I used got me into the mall through a SportChek. So I walked around a bit, to have a look, as digital signage nerds tend to do.
The one at the Halifax Shopping Centre in guess where, Nova Scotia is utterly crammed with whiz-bang screen stuff – from a big video wall at checkout to a little Realfiction hologram-ish micro-display on a pedestal.
Two of the screens in the video wall had lost a signal and the others were not calibrated properly. It looked like hell.
The Realfiction device is nicely done, but where it was, in a vast, crowded store, was all wrong. People walked by, not seeing it or getting it.
There was an athletic shoe tabletop screen thing that may have been touch (though it didn’t work). But the bigger problem were bulky stools pushed up against it that kept shoppers from even reaching the screen. I sensed the stools were pushed up tight, otherwise shoppers would trip on them, as it was along a main aisle.
Nearby, a projector threw a dim video on semi-transparent film. Deeper into the store, the other projector was out.
You get the idea. I’ve seen SportCheks in other cities. Same issues.
Retailers! Or really any end-user! Here is some basic advice …
1 – Don’t even do this unless there is a strategy, and littering a store with every cool thing the merchandising team saw at InfoComm or DSE is not a strategy.
2 – Don’t even take a meeting with a software company unless the platform has really, really solid remote device management capabilities.
2A – If the platform has good device management and it’s not being used, change that!
3 – Experience has shown, endlessly, that retail store staff don’t normally care about the state of the screens, if they even notice them. And the manager has 500 other things to do first. I know a guy, who runs a creative agency, who had to fly from New York to Indianapolis to reboot a PC at a sporting goods retailer there, because the store manager couldn’t wrap his head around the task. Expensive all-day trip for two minute fix.
If you do screens in stores, outsource their management, monitoring and maintenance to a company that knows what to do, and cares.
4 – Experience also shows the stores with the most screens don’t win, and most new build or reno’d stores I see these days have limited numbers of screens. What gets put in are visual focal points, like big statement video walls, or smaller screens with really well-defined purposes.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.