Digital Sign of the Times

Modern technologies underpin many aspects of hardware store operations – from advanced pricing scanners to unseen surveillance systems…so why do some storeowners still use preschool-style blackboards and butcher paper for front-of-store advertisements?

Some habits die hard. Even the largest hardware store chains in Australia cling to century-old methods of promoting daily specials and discounts by scribbling messages on large sheets of paper or blackboards. This original artwork is then presented on a front window or inside an entrance foyer for customers to view, with little attention given to the wording, colour, calligraphy, layout or even appropriateness of the messages.

Notwithstanding the fact that poorly crafted notices of this kind may work well in some outlets – an unprofessional format may add olde-worlde authenticity and immediacy to a sale offer – there are numerous technologies now available that can raise the quality of in-store signage to the standards of other POS operations.

Numerous up-to-date signage systems for the Australian market were profiled at the Retail Business Technology Exhibition and Shopfit Display & Design Exhibition in Melbourne on 28–30 July. The majority of these systems have clear applications in the retail hardware industry, and the benefits include a range of “extra” functions that go well beyond the simplicity of one-off signs or posters.

Most digital signs these days can be programmed to portray fresh and updated pages automatically; others have video and sound capacities; and some can even offer interactivity through touch-screen sensors.

Large stores and groups of stores can also be equipped with systems that have monitors spaced strategically throughout a floorplan, with all sign contents controlled from a central point.

“Dynamic”
The Queensland-based company Communitech Pty Ltd, for instance (www.communitech.com.au), used the Exhibitions to showcase new LCD, plasma and POP display panels for “dynamic” video and image in-store broadcasts. Existing clients include ABC, Department of Defence, Bakers Delight and many Australian universities. According to the company, “Research shows a sales lift of 15% or more with point-of-decision promotion…Implemented effectively, digital signage attracts, educates and maintains the intended audience’s attention, and ultimately [generates] increased sales.”

Victorian company Mirraden (www.mirraden.com.au) presented a range of signage and video devices from the Digital View Group, which now has 20,000 POS video systems in operation worldwide. Digital View clients include Toys ‘R’ Us, Swatch Group, Kraft and L’Oréal. Products include Video Flyers, which are self-contained digital video players and monitors designed for looping video displays and optional touch-screen control. “Remote Transfer” technology allows for the central content management of large numbers of units.

One of the most novel devices on show at the Exhibitions was Touch Glass from the Sydney company Command Digital Signage (www.commandaustralia.com.au). This technology can transform an existing window – or any other hard surface – into a touch-screen interactive display unit, more like a two-dimensional information kiosk than a computerised poster. Applications could include instructive displays for individual hardware departments.

Most digital signage companies admit that the true potential of this technology is still to be harnessed, with more sophisticated uses being implemented all the time as marketing techniques and formats are refined.

The one certainty is that digital signage systems, regardless of their configurations, have thoroughly supplanted blackboards and butcher paper as promotional tools in the modern age.

By John Power