Birgit Poppke: An interactive digital signage system pays off starting at an approximate sales floor area of 10,000 square meters and a wide range of goods.
Interview with Birgit Poppke, product manager at dimedis, Cologne, Germany
In October the digital signage system by dimedis was awarded the “Best Practice Award“ at the viscom 2011 in the “guiding signage” category. Since March 2011 the software has been at work in the “Schlosshöfe“ shopping center in Oldenburg, operated by ECE. In our interview, Master of Science in Computer Science Birgit Poppke presents numbers on the use by customers. She explains why Smartphones and kiosk terminals are not in competition with each other and how you can combine digital signage with coupons.
Why are info terminals and advertising monitors only slowly taking a hold in stores? Does Germany lag behind?
I consider the prospects to be very good, as long as the providers manage to entirely cover the needs of target groups. Compared with the last couple of years, prospective buyers are clearly better informed; the bid invitations are more competent. All in all the digital signage market is in the process of “normalizing“ – the commercial advantages of the medium are being identified. I don’t get the impression at all that Germany is lagging behind.
How can you sensibly join guiding signage with digital signage?
Guiding signage and digital signage are a successful combination when it comes to info terminals. This is how the point of interest is being ideally used: a digital signage monitor attracts interested parties from afar and supplements its range of products with interactive digital signage. Conversely, down times in the guiding signage system can be nicely used to inform guests or to implement a marketing campaign.
There are more and more location based offers for Smartphones. What is the benefit of kiosk terminals that sit in one location?
Both technologies will continue to grow together. They are not in competition with each other, but will increasingly complement each other. Currently – despite its popularity and availability – not everybody has a Smartphone. Besides, updating the contents of a kiosk terminal is far more flexible, since this happens quickly and without any problems via the Web user interface. Changes in a Smartphone app on the other hand still require some time and effort. In addition the usage quality of a 22 inch display is of course much higher than on a cell phone. And last but not least, a Smartphone is not able to print out any coupons.
Signage shows the way. Whether the customers actually follow the directions remains to be seen. Coupons are said to create incentives and help to monitor performance. But what does IT have to provide in the background?
The terminal needs to be equipped with a printer and the Web user interface needs to be enhanced with features to manage campaigns and to create coupons. Coupons should be presented in a way to where the guest can redeem them promptly and within a few minutes at the respective store. One challenge here is to adapt the cash register system of the respective store, so the store can include the discounted products in its inventory management. It is crucial that the number of coupons must be limited for every store and sales campaign. In addition, a guest should also not be able to print out all available coupons at once. At the end of the sales promotion, an obligatory reconciliation between issued and redeemed coupons is necessary.
The info terminal by dimedis is meant to attract attention from afar. It shows a cloud instead of a text menu.
You don’t offer users the traditional text menu, but a cloud-based system. Why is that?
Our “LogoCloud“ is a real eye catcher; customers are lured in even from several feet away and are curious. The recognition value of some popular logos amplifies this effect even more. The logos thus offer an intuitive access to the user interface. In addition, the guest is offered several different ways to access available information, since next to the “LogoCloud“ you can also simply enter any keyword into the search field. All relevant keywords are assigned to specific stores within the shopping center. What’s more, the most common search terms are displayed on custom “quick access“ buttons. This way, facilities like the First Aid station, the pharmacy or restrooms are directly displayed without the need for a search. This approach during a search allows the customer to find their way visually as well as also by entering his/her own keywords.
You were awarded for your digital signage system in Oldenburg at the viscom. What was being installed?
We won this award for our fully developed overall concept. Since a shopping mall appeals to a very heterogeneous audience, it was especially important to develop a visually appealing and intuitive user interface at the info terminals. Multiple languages are a must for a shopping center in a border area. Aside from German and English, the setup in Oldenburg also “speaks“ Dutch. A lot of attention was also paid to the overall setup. The terminal can be identified from afar as a service point and makes access to information easier this way.
How often per hour are the terminals being questioned?
Hourly in Oldenburg on average about 50 stores are being found and 36 times people ask for directions. When the shopping center is well frequented, up to 400 users enter 700 keywords daily and are shown up to 1,100 shops. Directions to the located stores are being retrieved up to 700 times.
What do the utilization rates depend on?
The utilization rate directly depends on the total number of guests at the shopping center. If there are many shoppers, the utilization rate for the terminals is also high. This way the digital signage system has carved out its own place in the shopping center.
The user can directly start his/her search via the cloud with company logos or keywords.
What search terms do users enter? Store names, brands or product types?
Of all the terms, the word “food“ is the most popular. “Ice-cream“ is also often searched. After these terms of course it’s all stores and brands. Worth mentioning is the fact that the frequency of hits correlates a lot with the number of keywords the shop is being linked to. This way, stores that invest a lot in relevant keywords, are more often found via this system.
Who services the content? How is the software being controlled?
All contents can be serviced by the customer himself via an intuitive user interface. Common administrative tasks, like for instance establishing a new store in the system, are done via a Web user interface. Lease areas are assigned to shops and furnished with keywords. Logos can also be uploaded via this user interface. There are statistical evaluations on usage patterns and consumer behavior. The status of each individual terminal can be centrally monitored. Software updates and changes in master data are centrally rolled out to all terminals.
So far guiding signage in retail has been particularly available in shopping centers. When does it also pay off for department stores and specialty shops?
An interactive digital signage system pays off if a sales floor area of approximately 10,000 square meters is populated with a wide range of goods or information. The system can not only be used for guiding signage, but also implicitly conducts constant user surveys at very favorable conditions.
What do you imagine digital signage to look like in five or ten years?
Digital signage systems will become even more intuitive and they will be linked to visitor management and information systems. An increasing connection to marketing measures at the point of sale is also going to happen. And just like in the entire area of digital media, cross-channel usage of information will play an ever more important role.
René Schellbach, EuroShop.de