Then and Now
Digital signage has become an increasingly important aspect in many of today's business environments. In a world where rapid change and adaptability are critical to success, digital signage represents an effective solution for managing complex, or time sensitive information. The key here is the power of automation. By empowering employees with the right technology, otherwise onerous tasks can be made instant, saving businesses time and money. This value has since been applied in the food service industry, where the presence of digital menu boards has grown substantially, as companies recognize the revenue and cost cutting benefits of moving away from traditional static displays, such as posters and back-lit signs. From stadiums and quick service restaurants, to universities and amusement parks, businesses in a variety of industries are turning to digital signage to help improve efficiency and drive sales revenue, while subsequently improving brand messaging.
Show Me the Money
In any food service environment, increasing sales is of the utmost importance for business owners. 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.
Using playlists within the software, companies can effectively manage their content and create rules regarding when and where content should or should not be shown. For example, a sports arena may want to showcase a menu item during a particular time period, but stop promoting it after a set point. In the case of beer, they may be required to stop serving after a certain period or inning has ended. With digital signage, it is easy to create a rule that removes this ad from the screen and replaces it with new content. Similarly, if a product is selling well and crosses a particular threshold, the software can have that item displayed more prominently on screen. Digital signage eliminates the need to create multiple complex playlists; instead, the system manages itself through the meta-data and rule building functionality.
External advertising is a key revenue generator for many food service providers such as stadiums and arenas. They can only operate within a short, designated window, so making effective use of this time is critical. In addition to food and beverage sales, merchandising and sponsorship revenues are a key part of their business. Ad placement is tied to products and events, which dictate what content is shown. For example, a particular player's jersey may be promoted when he has a great game or hits a personal milestone. Ad space is looked at as inventory that can be sold to cover expenses and typically generates over $500,000 each year at a 20,000 person facility. This added revenue alone can more than justify the cost of implementing a digital signage system.
Making the Cut
In today's business environment, reducing costs and streamlining processes is key in delivering on the bottom line. Budgets are tight and expectations are high when it comes to planning new business projects and implementing new systems. While digital menu boards may require a more sizeable investment upfront, the long term payoffs are substantial. Unlike traditional static displays, digital signage allows food service providers to reduce the demands on their employees' time with centrally managed content creation and distribution. A single employee can develop and distribute content to hundreds of individual locations, reducing the need for local systems management. Large scale changes such as updates to caloric information, as required by law in some states, can be made instantly, saving time and substantially driving down labor costs.
The same logic can be applied to marketing and promotional activities. In the past, new content would need to be created, distributed to various franchise locations, reported on, and then discarded. Not only does this require a significant amount of time and effort, but there are also costs associated with developing and printing posters or back-lit signs. If they are late getting to a particular location, or are not posted on time, there is even greater loss in terms of opportunity cost. With the advent of digital menu boards comes the ability to create and distribute new advertising content instantaneously, without the need for shipping or disposing of physical property. Businesses can even test market a particular menu item or promotion at various locations with ease. For instance, a fast food chain may promote curly fries with one stadium vendor and regular fries at another to see which customers are more receptive to. This can be done with no additional costs or time required aside from creating the new content. The head office can then retrieve and analyze the results immediately.
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 weekly, and even daily, it was nearly impossible to constantly ensure static displays were relevant. By the time a particular franchise location is notified of a menu change, receives new artwork, and replaces the stale content, they have lost valuable time in which they could have been promoting the new feature. 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.
Franchises can also have varying menu layouts depending on the location and configuration of the displays. Developing each individual menu with slight variations for each franchisee can be extremely labor intensive, but by breaking the content down into multiple components and building up the menu as a combination of reusable parts, it's possible to generate a large number of variations with significantly less work. A good example of this can be seen in developing in-store vs drive through content. The outdoor menus may need to be positioned differently due to restrictions in space, requiring the information to be spread across one or two narrow screens that alternate between content. Rather than designing the same content twice, modern content management systems allow you to develop the core parts of a layout once, but reuse them in various configurations.
Improved inventory management is another benefit of utilizing digital menu boards. If an item has sold out, the software can automatically remove that product from the display. Similarly, if sales on a particular menu item are down, the software can be programmed to display that product more prominently to help boost sales.
Looks to Kill
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 that do just that.
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. 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.
Creating a unique experience for the customer is another equally important piece of the equation. In the case of a sports stadium or arena, ambience is a key part in making a customer's visit truly memorable. At the Air Canada Centre, owned by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), creating striking content was an integral part of their decision to implement a facility wide digital signage network. External brands pay top dollar to feature their products on busy game nights, and MLSE wanted to provide them with a more effective medium for presenting this message. Beer provider Molson Coors uses digital signage to catch fans attention by having the mountains on their displays change colour based on temperature. This is reflective of their recent marketing campaign whereby the mountains on their product labels change colour when the drink reaches ideal temperature. For companies like Molson Coors who invest heavily in their brand, the ability to create a unique customer experience such as this presents a strong incentive to advertise.
A compelling argument for the use of digital menu boards is its 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.
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.
Merchandising sales benefit significantly from the use of digital menu boards as well. For instance, when a player scores a goal in an arena, a segment of the screen may showcase that player's jersey, giving the stadium venue an opportunity to push the sale of player merchandise in addition to food and beverage items. Similarly, a quick service restaurant may promote a particular kids meal which comes with a toy relating to a current movie.
Businesses may even choose to incorporate both mobile and social media elements into their digital signage strategy. By encouraging viewers to tweet for their chance to win free game tickets for instance, companies can better engage with their viewers and encourage them to take action beyond just looking at the screen. Similarly, companies can use mobile technologies to effectively test new products. For example an arena may want to test market three different flavors of wings at various vendor stations throughout their facility. By placing a 2D barcode on the screen, viewers can scan it and cast their vote for their favorite flavor. This not only encourages engagement and helps to boost sales, but it also provides quick and easy access to a large pool of sample data for marketers.
It's all About the 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 and even tighter deadlines, 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.