Multimedia at Point of Sale: ‘Digital Signage Plaza’ at the Euroshop 2008

A hot topic at the coming Euroshop (23 – 27 February 2008) in Duesseldorf is digital in-store media, which is proving itself on a large scale in the retail trade.

Over 20 international exhibitors will present a bundled overview of the latest developments and cutting edge POS-media in the special show area ‘Digital Signage Plaza’ in Hall 5.

The advantages for utilising POS media are clear: more turnover, an improved image of the retailer, optimised information for the customers and a strengthening of the brands. These are the performance measures that modern POS media can offer industry and consumers. Digital in-store media, also known as ‘Digital Signage’, have not only optimised the language with the customer but also opened up new ways of communicating. The more innovative applications contain, for example, interactive information systems. Here the client can retrieve the requested information through activation of certain contents on the POS media, with help of radio-frequency indentification systems (RFID). This is no longer Utopia but has become reality with its first applications, outgrowing the sole application spectrum of retail. Digital Signage is used where people need to be reached and targeted information spread. This is true within administrative bodies, as well as airports, main stations, travel agencies, medical practices and public buildings.

The digital media spectrum covers everything from big flatscreen displays, customer displays at tills, to the interactive kiosk systems and touch-screen PCs on the shopping carts. Behind this are very complex infrastructures, steering technologies and production of information. While hardware has proven itself to be tried and tested, the development of contents in this media is still in its infancy. Retail experts stress that Digital Signage has to perform way more than just product advertising on the monitors. Information useful to the customer is especially needed. The first promising approaches are, for example, kiosk systems at supermarkets that serve as allergy consultants. Here the customer scans a product at the kiosk terminal and is shown if any and which allergic substances are contained in the product. Another much used Digital Signage solution in a grocery store is the display of product information and recipes on the scale monitors of meat and dairy product service counters. Some grocery retailers transmit the preparation of their meat ‘live’ on big screens at these service counters, thus showing consumers a trusting, transparent production process, underlining the concept of freshness.
Which different applications already are reality in retail outlets today is seen in the example of a leading German consumer electronics market. Numerous Plasma screens, which are distributed over the complete trading area and across several floors, inform the customer not only about the product offering but also about the special service benefits. For example: delivery and financing options, features in the current market like in-house bank facilities or the in-store coffee shop. Again, on other monitors in specific departments, clients can watch trailers or image films of the manufacturers or inform themselves about the special offers of the week. Besides that, there are kiosk systems available in the music department that, thanks to the programmed software, analyse customer’s personal tastes and pass on targeted purchasing recommendations similar to the Amazon principle.

There are no limits to the variety of contents available. General news, product-focused information, animated advertising, promotions and specific entertainment can be bundled and presented on all or on a single LCD or Plasma screen. And admittedly, in contrast to the usual rapidly revolving posters, a lot less effort is required. The signal distribution follows with help of the most modern transfer technologies like DSL or UMTS.
One of the new functions developed by the digital POS media providers is the listening of audio data via mobile phone. The monitor will show the usual information about a product or service. On request you can save all advertising messages as audio files. The viewer, who has informed himself/herself visually, decides if he/she wants to receive the informaton audibly. This is done by using the mobile phone to dial into the system and fetch the required information directly. Clients are not inconvenienced as audio is not transmitted publicly. Telephone costs are carried by the retailer or can be passed on to the user.

To these promising future solutions belongs the activation of targeted information with help of RFID chips on products. This possibility is available today through barcodes, which are used on all products in retail. Should the Digital-Signage-System replace the scanner, then customers can request the stored information through the scanning of barcodes which widely surpasses the information seen on packaging.