Doug Bannister's blog

Digital Transformation of Business and Communications - Part 4

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part four of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about the future and where digital transformation will lead us. Doug: Things are changing so fast. Do you think if organizations can tie a business process into that exponential growth to increase revenue or decrease cost they will be in a position to reap those benefits for years to come? Jean-Pierre: It's an opportunity to leverage consumer behaviour to your advantage. We're so connected to our phone. The first thing people do when they get up in the morning is check their phone. The last thing they do when they go to bed is check their phone. They check their phone every three to four minutes. When they go to the bank, when they're in the branch, they're checking their phone. They're not connecting with the digital signs because they're looking at their phone. So, there's a real opportunity to disrupt that behaviour and engage that consumer through digital signage - through large-scale digital signage and geo-fencing, things that connect to their phone. Those are the real opportunities that we see in the near future. Geo-fencing makes sense, so if you walk into a bank you would receive a message through their app. You get it now with Starbucks. You're close to this restaurant, that restaurant. But there's been this huge reluctance by retailers and manufacturers to leverage geo-fencing, and I just scratch my head. There is huge impact. In the petroleum business, there's a company that did a test and they increased sales at their store by 30 percent through geo-fencing and just reminding the customer of an offer or "Hey, come in and have a coffee." We're so busy in our lifestyle, we have so much on our mind every day. We have not just complexity of choice, I call it complexity of tasks. You get up in the morning, you have 20 things to do, and heaven forbid if your kids go to soccer or hockey, and you got another 30 things to do. We don't have time to think about anything else. Being able to offer it as a valued service, as a reminder about something you may have forgotten or something you may need - to me, that just makes sense. Doug: Where do you see things 25 years from now when you and I sit down to have this chat again? Jean-Pierre: There are couple of factors that are going to have a huge impact on our behaviour as consumers: how we buy, how we think of things. One is artificial intelligence. We have so much data and we don't know what to do with it. Artificial intelligence eliminates the human factor and through algorithms and learning processes, takes that information and customizes it to every individual. Today the consumer wants personalized service. They don't want mail that's been sent to everyone; they want an email that talks specifically to their needs. Reminders, services and offers based on their buying patterns and their behaviours. Artificial intelligence is going to provide that in spades. It's going to free up time. Look at the auto industry as an example. They are predicting that by 2025, half of the cars sold in the world will be self-driving cars, driven by artificial intelligence. So, you're going to see that movement impacting everything we do, the way we buy, the way we shop, the way we enjoy life. To me that is a pivotal technology. The second technology is what I'll call invisible technology. I believe that innovation happens when you eliminate steps and friction points in the way consumers live their lives. Think of Apple Pay, you don't need to carry your wallet anymore if you have your phone. Google Maps allows you to travel and never get lost. Eliminating these friction points or these steps is where innovation has succeeded at bringing value to consumers. One of those steps is how we absorb visual information. Now the technology is hanging a digital sign on the wall and building a network, but I believe all of that's going to go away. I don't know if you're aware of this but in Sweden, I believe, they will paint a wall and the wall will become an LCD screen. So the physical restrictions of digital signage will go away and it'll be whatever you want it to be. That will open up all kinds of great avenues for experiential and immersive experiences. We think of virtual reality and augmented reality as being kind of trailblazing. I view those as interim steps because you have to wear this clunky thing on your head. To me, immersive experiences are going to be real, they're going to be 3D - 3D and 4D projection screens where you're going to be in that space. We're just at the cusp of that technology. Doug: The best way to get information to a person is through their eyes and we have the ability to help our customers combine data with a visual experience. What do you think the future looks like for our companies? Jean-Pierre: It's a very exciting era for designers. When you start creating virtual experiences, you're no longer restricted by the power of gravity, the laws of gravity, and you don't need to be an architect to build a building now because you can build it virtually. You just need to have the right aesthetics and understanding of consumer behaviour, but you don't need to be an architect. So, you'll see a designer designing a building, see architects creating identity programs. You're going to see the tiers of design professions collapse. That will have a huge impact, and already has had a huge impact on our industry. If you go back 20 years we had typesetters. Overnight, that disappeared. Companies making packaging, that's gone away. Even printing now is going. Now it is customized printing, digital printing, the big print runs have changed to customized print runs. You're seeing a big shift from efficiencies of mass to efficiencies of personalization. I think that's going to play a really important role in how we deliver communication marketing materials. It'll all have to be personalized. It'll all be about, back to my original comment, what's the right content. What's the story we're telling to our customers, and how relevant is that story at that moment of purchase? How do we intertwine that story with the way they live their lives? How different is that story from their neighbour's story or their daughter's story or their spouse's story? That is where the real battleground will be won. It's about content and content management.

Digital Transformation Of Business And Communications - Part 3

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part 3 of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about what industries are at the forefront of digital transformation. Doug: Do you see particular industries or areas where digital transformation has more of an impact, more of a benefit? Jean-Pierre: That's a great question. I would say there is a balancing act happening between being disrupted and leveraging digital technology. Industries that are the most prone to being disrupted, who are vulnerable to new technologies or new business models are also the firms that need to, but not necessarily have, embrace digital more effectively. I'll use banking as a great example. Talk to any banker today, it's not about omnichannel -- that's 10 years old. They were one of the first to develop banking platforms to create a digital online experience for their customers because they knew customers liked doing banking online. Now Fintech start-ups have developed technologies that allow you to transfer money and bypass filling out forms, eliminating friction for the customer in the banking industry. I think the banking industry is awake. They're not going to let themselves be disrupted by Fintech, instead they are embracing Fintech technology and it has a huge play in what happens in the branches. Less and less consumers are going into the branches. Those branches need to change their meaning and their value to their customers. It's not about transactions; it's about knowledge and empowerment. You are seeing the banks, the smart ones, slowly shifting their attention from transaction to knowledge and to empowerment. Where the teller now is enabled and empowered to talk about retirement plans, investment plans, and the financial security of the customer. This is a great example of an industry that has embraced digital, not because it's a nice thing to have but because it's a necessity for avoiding being disrupted. I would say general merchandise retailers, such as Canadian Tire and Walmart, that are selling commoditized items is another industry that needs to wake up when it comes to digital technology since they are all about the transaction. They are about selling to the consumer. It's about basket size and increasing the amount of products customers buy when they visit their stores. Digital can play a really important role at reminding them about things. "Miss Consumer, you know you bought toilet paper the last time you were here. That was a month ago. You may want to replenish." "I didn't think of it." Most consumers who go to a supermarket don't have a shopping list, so there's a great opportunity to drive in pull sales for stores like Walmart and Canadian Tire, but they are not there. If you go to those stores that shelf activation using digital technology is still not there. They still haven't figured out that basket size value, but the smart ones will. Now, it's all about big screens. It's not about shelf. It's about big screens creating a lot of excitement, which is great as it reinforces the brand is relevant. However, at the end of the day in that split second purchase decision -- digital plays a very minimal role, and it shouldn't. Doug: So, what you're talking about is a move from the large screens down to almost a personal experience at the shelf. Shelf displays can drive personalizing things and making things relevant to a particular consumer. Jean-Pierre: I'm back to my reference to advertising. You can spend trillions of dollars building an image of the consumer, and then in the last split second the consumer switches to another brand. To me, the model's upside down and the money needs to be spent in the store experience. It needs to be spent when the consumer is making their buying decision. Not online, not on the radio. Those are great to build brand awareness but when most consumers can be switched at the shelf level, that's where the real battleground is and that's where the money should be spent. That's where big data plays an important role: the connection between mobile devices and all shelf communication. This is where the real battle can be won and where the smart retailers are going to invest their money. It reminds me of a little story from about four years ago. We were hired to do the reinvention of OfficeMax. Online sales had huge impact on the performance of the stores. The stores were an average 25 to 27 thousand square feet. Our mandate was to create urban microstores, stores that were 17 to 20 thousand, even smaller than that. When we looked at digital signage, shelf signage, and we looked at the electronic ink -- sign elements -- and we costed it out. The client was very interested in having digital signage because it allowed them to change their pricing by zone, and then move very quickly at a competitive response. It was going to cost $300,000 for that in one store, so, imagine the multiple. The challenge still remains today and it is a huge nut financially for retailers to embrace digital. Those platforms today would be $100,000. I think it's more of a mindset by retailers. To say that flyers are their most effective marketing vehicle when, really, it is their stores that are the most effective marketing vehicle. Effectively communicating to the consumer at the shelf level is going to drive more revenue and more sales for them than advertising, radio, promotions and billboards. It's just a mindset. I think what digital has done is force organizations to rethink their business model. The business model before was "build it and they will come." What digital is providing is a platform for people to re-evaluate their business model. So, you look at Loblaws, a market leader in the supermarket category in Canada. They're smart. They're digital. They spent their money on a loyalty program that rewards behaviour. Not just purchase, but behaviour -- that is very smart. They're now exploring order on your phone and pickup at a drive through. They're exploring eliminating these anxiety points. I think most organizations now are being challenged through digital to re-evaluate their business model. If you're not re-evaluating your business based on digital and you're a retailer or a packaged goods company or a corporation, the odds are you're not going to be around long-term.

Digital Transformation Of Business And Communications - Part 2

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In part 2 of this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about what is driving digital transformation in businesses and the potential ROI from it. Doug: What do you think is really driving the digital transformation within businesses? Is it primarily the customer focus - "let's provide this better experience for our customers?" Is it more internal-facing - "we want to improve productivity of employees?" Or is it reducing cost? There do seem to be several. Jean-Pierre: I would say all of the above. It depends on the industry or category you're competing in. It's about being relevant to your customers, and if your customers are digitally-enabled and digitally-focused, then having a digital platform, whether it is mobile, web, or a tablet, enables them to be smarter on their feet with customers who have done all the research ahead of time. How do you leverage big data? Today most large organizations have spent billions and billions in establishing and building infrastructure for big data. The problem is that the last foot in the sales process between big data and the customer experience is lacking. It's about finding that link. This is where mobile and digital technology are playing a pivotal role. It is enabling the salesforce to provide things like just-in-time inventory analysis. If a customer is looking for a TV, they can tell immediately if that TV is in stock, they can tell if it isn't, which store is closest, and they can actually capture that sale by having the TV sold and delivered to the home on the same day. So you're seeing organizations asking, "How do we build relevancy for brands when the consumers' focus is digitally-oriented?" Doug: How have you seen digital transformation affect your business? Jean-Pierre: Well, the reality is designing has always been digital. When I started the business, we had markers, and we had this thing called Paste Up, and we had typesetters. Then, some guy with a computer that was called an Apple really disrupted the industry. I believe we were the first industry to go digital because we replaced typesetters with Mac computers and software like Adobe InDesign. So, we were always digitally-enabled as an industry. However, the connection between our digital enablement and our clients focus on digital only happened about 10 years ago. It's much more of a transformation of how we look at business opportunities and business challenges. Now, we have a whole component to solving our clients' problems by looking with a digital lens at what that customer's digital path to purchase is. How does that link to the conventional path to purchase and what are those key moments of truth that digital can play a pivotal role? Yes, it's transformed our business, but we've been on this journey for about 20 years. Doug: It is often difficult to show a pure ROI because things change slowly or so dramatically that now we're doing things a completely different way - so how do you show an ROI on it? What are the benefits and advantages that you're showing to customers to say, "Here's what you can do differently, here's what the digital solutions will allow you to do"? Jean-Pierre: Let's turn it around, I would say one of the benefits to the organization is the ability to communicate effectively at the moment of purchase. Consumers buy emotionally; they don't buy functionally, they don't buy rationally. Consumers are irrational, and we all know that. The beauty of digital technology is that ability of connecting emotionally. Pictures connect to our hearts, visuals connect to our hearts. Not words, not sound. Pictures. So, there's a real opportunity for brands to connect with consumers emotionally when they're making their purchase decision. For consumers, it's simple. They're looking for knowledge or answers and they're looking for cues and clues that will help them make the right buying decision. Today, the big challenge for consumers is complexity of choice. We have too many choices. Our stores are too big. Look at the average supermarket: When I grew up it was 20,000 square feet. Now they are 100,000 square feet. The average supermarket back then had maybe 12,000 products. Now they have 100,000 products. Shopping has become a challenge because we have too much choice, and digital provides an opportunity to cut through clutter and help that consumer to make that buying decision either before they visit the store or during their shopping in the store. It also helps make the staff better educated and better enabled to answer the questions consumers have when they're trying to make that buying decision. We see that being a true ROI. Maybe it's not a return on investment, but then I would challenge--look at where the money is being spent today. It's being spent in advertising. Trillions of dollars every year spent on advertising, in social media. They haven't proven an ROI for both those models but they're spending billions and trillions of dollars hopefully connecting with a consumer, hopefully making it work, and the reality is the place to connect with consumers is at the moment of purchase. If we know the consumer's making irrational decisions and they're impulsive in those decisions, we know that it's emotionally-driven. That last split second in that buying decision is the most pivotal. It's not the TV commercial. It's not even the online platform. It's that moment of purchase, and that's where digital plays a very critical role.

Digital transformation of business and communications – Part 1

As a business owner and communications industry veteran, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President of Shikatani Lacroix, a Toronto-based branding and design agency, has seen a massive evolution in technology and customer/employee expectations over the last two decades. In this multi-part executive Q&A series I will chat with Jean-Pierre about how digital technologies are transforming businesses in every sector and what shifts he expects to see amongst these key stakeholders. Doug: How has the technological and digital transformation over the last 25 years impacted your business? Jean-Pierre: It has a huge impact. Everything we do now, even if it’s consumer packaging or retail environment or corporate identity and branding programs, digital is a core element of that experience. It’s obvious. Consumers today use their mobile phones to connect with most brands. Most retail environments are being challenged to engage with customers, competing with online, and so digital plays a really important role in being that link between online consumer behaviour and the physical environment. So every project has a digital experience component. It’s at the core of what we do. Doug: One of the things I find in our business is that as we move through these technological changes the core values of our company stay the same. Do you see similar kind of things? Jean-Pierre: We’ve seen a major shift. It’s a mindset. Clients put value on where they spend their money and where they allocate their capital. For many years, the capital allocation was on hardware: screens and media players. Very little attention was given to the content or the software driving that content. I would say it’s only in the last five years that we’ve noticed a shift in focus by our clients for many reasons. One of which is that they’ve already deployed a digital platform and they’re looking at how to get a better ROI on this investment. It’s not about saving money on hardware. It’s about engaging with customers and driving more sales that’s going to deliver that ROI. So our clients are shifting their attention towards effective content management. And it’s about time because to us, content management is really the core of the value that digital provides for the retail environment and for corporations. Content is the element that’s actually going to change behaviour. It’s not the size of the screen or how many lumens go through that screen. It’s really what message are you communicating with that content, and we’re seeing that re-focus towards content management. Doug: How well do you find your customers are implementing digital? Jean-Pierre: I was just reading a quote this morning by Cisco ex-president Mr. John Chambers, and he was saying that 70% of companies have embarked on a digital transformation. However, only 30% will actually achieve effectiveness in that transformation. I think that’s really representative of our work with our clients. Every single assignment that we do, specifically in retail brand transformations, has an important digital component. That client clearly identifies the need to develop that digital component and is willing to make an investment until they need to sign the cheque and deploy the digital platform. We have worked with banks that did a Request for Proposal 10 years ago and they’re still trying to justify the investment for the hardware. The great news is the cost of hardware is coming down dramatically. As well, its intrusiveness in the retail environment is disappearing. With the cost of digital technology dropping we’re seeing more and more eagerness to invest, but it’s still a challenge. It is still a heart attack, “Wow, I didn’t realize it was going to cost this much and I didn’t realize the national deployment was going be in the millions.” I think to a certain degree that those who haven’t stuck their toe in the water, that ticket shock is enormous, but for those clients that have actually embarked on digital technology and the immersion of mobile and digital and online, they see a huge benefit to their business. They know that consumers shop online, and if they can make that connection from an online experience to mobile experience in the stores, they’re going to retain that customer in their shopping, and, so, it’s just a matter of time. The number one question that clients ask us every time is, “Can you demonstrate an ROI on the investment we’re going to make?” The good news is with much more deployments in the marketplace and the establishment of benchmarks, we’re getting closer to being able to justify numerically the ROI of an investment in digital.

Optimizing transit data for digital communications

Many transit organizations today are collecting large volumes of data at an increasing rate. Whether it is arrival/departure information, GPS, news & weather, or emergency notifications – this data can be optimized to create a personalized experience for visitors or passengers. Gone are the days of paper signs and delays in getting updated information out to travelers. We live in a real-time world and transit travelers expect real-time, relevant information at their fingertips. Digital communications, using devices like digital signs and interactive kiosks, can enhance passenger travel experience by helping people get to where they need to go safely, efficiently, and effectively. Equipping your passengers with the right information, at the right time can ensure a positive experience in an environment that demands real-time sensitive information. By optimizing data and using digital communications transportation organizations can: Alleviate perceived wait times Enhance travel experiences Engage passengers with news, weather, and other interesting programming Deliver real-time location-based information, such as arrival/departure times, cancellations and delays, or service stoppages Improve operations by reducing the workload of employees Keep passengers safe; emergency notifications can interrupt regularly scheduled content Be a “travel guide” through interactive wayfinding kiosks Wayfinding has evolved over the last couple of decades from static paper signage to electronic wayfinding to interactive wayfinding. This transition in large part has been the result of new technologies becoming available for airports, train stations and bus terminals to leverage. With digital signs transit organizations are able to quickly and easily update signage providing travelers with more accurate and timely arrival/departure times, cancellations, and delays. The advent of digital signage has also led to significant improvements in wayfinding in facilities like airports where there are often multiple terminals and large volumes of people need to be move through the space quickly. In airports, wayfinding encompasses a number of areas including moving travelers across terminals, to and from gates, through security, and to popular destinations in the airport like restaurants and shops. These same screens are often also used to provide not only wayfinding information but also for advertising and to provide news and weather updates. Interactive wayfinding takes traditional wayfinding to an entirely new level integrating technologies like RFID, and barcode scanners. Touchscreens have enabled a whole new level of self-service allowing travelers to independently select a destination from a map or list and the system creates a map to the end point factoring things such as multiple floors, multiple regions, and multiple buildings. Additionally, some software solutions that power interactive wayfinding kiosks use conditional formatting and are able to react to things such as elevator operation times, making the system choose an appropriate route based on current conditions. By utilizing existing data, organizations are able to create intelligent and actionable digital signage to create a safer and positive experience.  

The new era of communication

Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn brings together the “world’s leading professional cloud and network.”  With a common mission to empower people and organizations, Microsoft and LinkedIn intend to break down the silos of information that currently exist for professionals and “create more connected, intelligent and productive experiences.”  At Omnivex we have been on the forefront of digital communication for over 25 years. We believe when you connect people with information you improve productivity, unlock ROI and break down silos. At Omnivex we see information as being fundamental to empowering people and organizations.  Providing access to information, while a seemingly simple task, is not always easy or straightforward.  To empower, information must be available at the right time on the right device.  Imagine an important announcement like Microsoft and LinkedIn made yesterday being read by employees hours after it was published in the media.  Or the executive heading to the airport to catch a flight that has been delayed, to travel to a meeting that has moved locations and they are unaware of either change.  How about the line manager in a manufacturing plant getting notified the next day or week of important KPIs like inventory shortages or product defects?  In all of these situations communication is key. Being able to push information in real-time to individuals regardless of where they are or to the device that makes the most sense, provides not only empowerment but enables intelligent decision making and creates a new level of connection. At Omnivex we see a future that includes a vibrant communication infrastructure where organizations and professionals have access to the right information at the right time on the right device.  This eliminates the information silos that have developed over the last few decades.  A communications platform like Omnivex provides organizations with the ability to improve productivity and create intelligent and interactive experiences every day.

4 Ways Digital Signage Makes the Public Sector Run Better

It wasn't that long ago that digital signage was considered expensive and out of reach for most organizations. However, the technology has matured and costs have come down making it useful for all organizations. Public sector organizations are turning to digital signage to help operate and use tax dollars more efficiently. In fact, the public sector may prove to be one business type that benefits disproportionately from digital signage. Here are 4 ways digital signage can make the public sector run better. 1. Improve Internal Communications In the public sector digital signage doesn't have to be public-facing to be a good investment. Sometimes organizations need to get information out quickly, and strategically placed digital signs can accomplish this better than email, social media, or PA system. Employee-facing digital signage can be used to post metrics, share reminders and updates, provide scheduling information, and wayfinding. 2. Assist the Public with Common Needs Public sector entities and administrative processes go together naturally. You can free up staff to more valuable activities by using digital signage to assist citizens with common tasks. Including signing in at the DMV for their driving test, or where to pay property taxes, get a marriage license, or register to vote. This can save a public sector organization significant money long term, by allowing staff members to put their time to its most productive use. 3. Share Emergency Information Quickly Suppose visitors or employees in a particular building are in the path of severe weather. Historically, the only way to trigger a widespread notification was an audio alarm such as a siren or an urgent email. Now warnings or evacuation instructions can be transmitted instantly via digital signs, reaching more people and spreading the word rapidly. Digital signage enables organizations to not only notify people of the emergency situation but provide important evacuation details. Broadcasting emergency information on digital signs ensures more people see the information right away and can react quickly. 4. Ensure Everyone Gets the Message Suppose visitors or employees in a particular building are in the path of severe weather. Historically, the only way to trigger a widespread notification was an audio alarm such as a siren or an urgent email. Now warnings or evacuation instructions can be transmitted instantly via digital signs, reaching more people and spreading the word rapidly. Digital signage enables organizations to not only notify people of the emergency situation but provide important evacuation details. Broadcasting emergency information on digital signs ensures more people see the information right away and can react quickly. With advancements in technology and digital signage not only provides high quality visuals it is more affordable than it has ever been. Today's digital signage platforms offer businesses and public sector organizations flexibility, speed, and clarity in delivering important information, whether to members of the public who seek services, or to employees who must be kept apprised of organizational information. With well-planned and executed digital signage, public sector organizations can improve communications in an engaging manner, while at the same time saving on labor and making the best possible use of tax dollars.    

Leverage Digital Menu Boards to be FDA Compliant

In any food service environment, increasing sales is of the utmost importance for business owners. However, with recent FDA changes food service organizations must also be concerned about government compliance. With the use of digital menu boards comes the ability to segment on-screen content to allow for space to list menu items and pricing, as well as in-house promotions and external advertising, and nutritional information.  In the past, static signage was used to feature menu items and promotional specials, but keeping this information up to date was an issue. With pricing and in-store specials changing regularly, it was nearly impossible to constantly ensure static displays were relevant. With the introduction of digital signage menu boards comes the ability to integrate real-time data, and use it to drive the content on the screen. By tying into companies existing data systems, such as a POS system, digital signage can reflect these changes instantaneously. The same functionality comes into play when dealing with quick service restaurants that have varying menus depending on the time of day. Digital menu boards can dynamically alter to showcase either a breakfast, lunch or dinner menu depending on the time of day. Gone are the days when staff would need to manually replace traditional signage; now they can focus on their key job function: servicing customers.            update nutrional info in real-time Good Looking and Intelligent Aesthetic appeal and creating compelling brand messaging are always important factors when creating customer facing content. In the case of menu boards, there's only a short window to catch the viewer's attention and entice them to make a purchase. Digital menu boards allow food service providers to customize their on-screen content in order to create rich, compelling graphics  yet still provide nutritional guidelines without having to sacrifice visual appeal. It is often difficult for food service providers to maintain consistent brand imagery across multiple store locations, such as in the case of a franchise. It is critical for these retailers to adhere to companywide brand standards while still retaining the flexibility to make changes to local content such as business hours and in-store specials and ingredient changes. By utilizing digital signage and its user permissioning capabilities, individual franchisees can have the ability to make changes to certain content on the screens while corporate maintains control of key brand elements. With this functionality, businesses can maintain a consistent brand message while still allowing franchise locations to provide the local information relevant to a customer's needs.  Get Engaged Digital menu boards provide the ability to create a more interactive experience for viewers. Food services providers are now able to use their displays as a way to engage with their customers through the use of dynamic, real-time content. Unlike with static displays, digital signage will never look tired or old. While posters may fade or yellow, digital content is always vibrant and fresh. Having an interactive self-serve kiosk is another way to allow consumers to make their selections based on nutritional information that is important to them, for a personalized experience. Video content is a much more appealing way to showcase signature items and specials. With digital signage you can easily cycle through video content to ensure that customers in line are seeing as much advertising content as possible, while simultaneously reducing their perceived wait time. The promotions being showcased are always timely and relevant because the data driving the content is being updated in real-time, taking the burden off staff who no longer need to manually update it themselves. It's All About Data A key differentiator between the use of traditional static signage and digital signage is the ability to incorporate data. By using data to drive content you can ensure that your message is delivered to the right people at the right time, which helps drive the customer to the desired outcome: making a purchase. Time is money in the food service industry, and creating clear and impactful content is a key success factor in driving up sales. At the same time, businesses are working with tight budgets , tight timelines, and now even tighter regulations, so increasing productivity and improving efficiency represents another top priority. Digital menu boards satisfy all of these criteria by enabling companies to eliminate nearly all of the redundancies and manual effort required to maintain static displays. Digital signage is changing the way businesses manage content and communicate with customers, allowing them to make informed choices for themselves and their families.

The Self-Service Movement of Interactive Kiosks

Consumers today are more self-directed than ever. Few are bothered by self-checkout lanes in supermarkets or fast food restaurants, and the trial and adoption of these self-serve kiosks is growing rapidly. The growth in popularity and usage is partly due to companies getting better at implementing self-service technologies but is also due to the average consumer being more technologically savvy. Kiosks with Interactive Displays Prompt In-Store Purchases Self-service kiosks are becoming increasingly common in retail stores and fast food chains. They provide shoppers with the opportunity to direct their own experience, which makes it more enjoyable and efficient. These self-service kiosks are powered by interactive touch screens and are often combined with additional digital signs which provides businesses with an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell their products and services. A recent survey by InReality on the Reality of Retail found that 69% of customers would be more likely to make in-store purchases if they had access to kiosks or interactive displays. As well, the survey found 78% would be more likely to visit a store that offered self-service for finding products or brands and a self-service solution for product or price comparison would increase the likelihood of 75% of customers making a purchase. The online shopping experience has changed the in-store experience for customers, and to remain competitive, bricks-and-mortar retailers are having to become smarter, more data-driven, and more technology-forward. Self-service kiosks can be an important aspect of technological sophistication. Self-Service Ticketing Can Be a New Profit Center Self-service kiosks for ticketing are proving to be valuable profit generators for many businesses. Not only can most of the headaches of paper-based ticketing systems be avoided with these self-service solutions, they generate profits due to the fact they reduce the amount of staff required and often can process business faster. For example, a sports or entertainment venue, or a transportation hub can use self-service kiosks to quickly and easily dispense tickets and process payments, as well as promote complimentary products, services or events. Integration with sales and inventory systems and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies also provides numerous opportunities for making self-serve kiosks even more valuable to both businesses and customers. Putting the Customer in Charge When a customer interacts with a well-implemented self-service kiosk, they feel as if they have more control over their shopping experience. Advertising delivered through interactive digital signage that is part of the self-service kiosk can find a receptive audience as long as kiosk users have that feeling of contentment with the technology and control of the event. Self-service options that are consistent from location to location offer customers a sense of familiarity that can reduce the anxiety of shopping in a new setting and set the stage for successfully presenting offers and discounts.    

Internet of Things (IOT) & Food Services

Some of you might not remember this but when I was a kid and you walked into a fast food chain the menu boards were simple basic plastic signs that you either never changed or had to get up on a ladder to change. Similarly, grocery stores were full of printed posters and paper shelf labels. There were no digital signs, self-service kiosks or any of the technology we see today. Fast forward to  now where it is common to see digital menu boards and digital signs in most fast food restaurants and grocery retailers. This change has been driven both by advances in technology, such as IOT but also by business needs and customer demands. Technology Changes The last couple of decades have seen numerous advances in technology with screens, memory and computing power, and the Internet of Things (IOT). It is the sensors and devices that make up the Internet of Things that  hold the most promise in food service organizations. These IoT devices are enabling a whole new level of connectivity, personalization and customer experience, and the potential applications are unlimited. Sensors on appliances such as fridges or stoves can monitor status of appliance and send updates to digital screens or mobile phones. This not only extends the life of appliance by keeping it from overheating or breaking down, but more importantly ensures food safety and quality. Business Advantages Leverage existing systems – Forward thinking food service organizations are tying their digital menu boards into their backend systems such as inventory. This allows them to not only remove items when they are out of stock but promote items when inventory is high. Similarly, in grocery stores digital shelf tags are becoming popular and these can easily be updated in real-time as inventory changes. Meet regulatory requirements – The need to show nutritional and dietary information about menu items is quickly moving from being a nice to have to mandatory. Information from calories to nutritional content can easily be integrated into digital menus and tied into backend systems or websites so it updates in real-time. Improve customer experience – By using IoT devices such as sensors and digital screens the experience in food service organizations can be dramatically improved. Whether it is offering self-serve ordering kiosks, alternative payment methods such as the Apple Pay, or pushing coupons and other promotional notifications to an individual’s mobile the possibilities are endless. There is no question the Internet of Things (IoT) holds great promise for food service organizations and grocery retailers. A lot of organizations are already leveraging these technologies to some extent. What will separate the leaders from the rest of the pack is a cohesive strategy for customer interaction and experience from pre through to post purchase and a plan for where and how technologies such as IoT can be integrated.


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