By investing in more economical options, digital signage can be integrated into your everyday store operations to leverage your brand.
By Pat Pape, Contributing Editor
Signage design is a vital part of any retailer’s business. It’s the first impression customers gather when entering a store location and is one of the most important sales tools c-stores can add to their promotional toolbox.
Digital signs can be eye-catching advertising, using videos, high-resolution images and moving messages to talk to potential shoppers. By either replacing or augmenting paper ads and converting traditional panels to digital, c-store retailers today can display multiple high-quality dynamic ads in the same physical space.
Loyalty increasingly is a value-added asset for retailers and more c-stores are integrating signage into their loyalty programs. Working with signage consulting firms or tackling such projects in-house, more retailers can determine what they want to promote and then create messaging.
For c-stores with multiple locations hoping to get the best return on their investment, digital signage can be a feasible marketing component. If you have yet to buy your digital signage, remember that quality has a massive impact on not only your long- and short-term costs, but your overall results as well.
With the way signage technology is advancing at a fast clip, it only makes sense that digital signage is becoming less expensive. And, it’s not just the price of signage that is decreasing, the same is true of installation costs. This means it’s easier for retailers to maximize their marketing and advertising dollars—and their investment by creating a more information-based, selling space for customers.
While there is a cost to installing a digital signage network, industry experts emphasize more than ever that there’s a price to pay in forgoing digital signage, specifically, the ongoing costs and the inefficiency associated with maintaining your current method of advertising to attract tech-savvy patrons.
In the end hardware and software costs are declining each year as competition between suppliers drives down prices.
INSIDE AND OUT
Digital signage is not limited to the curbside or the forecourt. For several years, digital signs have been used in-store by chains, such as Wawa and Cumberland Farms, to showcase menus, promotions and special offers, and as stores offer more food items, they need effective ways to let customers know what’s available inside and outside their stores.
“We’re seeing digital signs being used for menu areas in convenience stores,” said Joe Bona, president of Bona Design Lab, a New York City-based retail design and consulting firm. “A lot has to do with the increase in foodservice development. Menus are getting bigger, and there needs to be a better way to deliver messages about the offer. Digital is an easy way of facilitating that.”
Digital signs also are effective near the beverage bar or beer cave to promote a c-store’s drink options.
CountryMark, a fuel-coop with 100-plus store locations throughout Indiana, uses both exterior and interior electrical signs, including a bright 11-foot long LED display over the beer cooler in many of its locations.
“The signs are easy to run, and it doesn’t take a lot of training,” said Gary Barrett, retail development manager for CountryMark. “It’s very self-explanatory.”
Fastbreak convenience stores based in Klamath Falls, Ore., use digital signs above their hot cases that feature the Cooper’s chicken program.
“The signs flip from menu to specials to other information,” said Greg Brown, food and beverage manager for Fastbreak. “Some messages will stay up about 30 seconds and other are shorter.”
Even though the signs are eye-catching and colorful, investing in digital signage is more “a function of need than a fun thing to have,” said Bona. “It’s a more effective way of delivering extended menus.”
Scott Zaremba, president of Zarco USA in Lawrence, Kan., worked for 10 years to get local restrictions against moving-message signs reversed. His campaign was successful a year ago, and this month, he plans to install a 16-foot-tall LED electronic sign in front of his convenience outlet that houses his Stanley James Smokehouse restaurant.
“I pursued this issue because this sign is the best communication tool we have,” Zaremba said. “We sell fuel, right? The consumers are on the street driving by every day. We have social media and all the other things, but there is nothing better than being able to see what offerings are available when driving by.”
The signage available today is highly improved over what it was when Zaremba first began his push for the right to have a sign. “The pixels now available in LEDs are clear and concise, and 10 years ago we didn’t have anything like that,” he said. “Our [new] sign can change messages every three seconds, but we’ll have it sit longer than that. We’ll be promoting food and our car wash, and if the university basketball team wins a game, we can post that information the second the game’s over.”
Messages can be updated in the store’s backroom or from Zaremba’s cell phone or laptop when he’s away.
“If you look at the number of impressions you get with all the people driving down the street, you see its value,” Zaremba said. “I’m extremely excited about it.”
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Before digital signs, retailers often relied on analog video messaging on video monitors to communicate with customers, but once DVDs were created, digital signage became a reality. Retailers adopted DVD players, some with Blu-ray high-definition discs. Flat-panel displays became more affordable and sleek in the early years of the Millennium. Many operators still use flat-panel displays but have exchanged DVDs and Blu-ray for computer-driven media players with software that can update messaging in mere minutes and be programmed to perform months into the future.
Like other types of technology, digital signage continues to evolve with new advancements. Industry insiders expect digital signs to get wider and slimmer than they are now—making them easier to install—with higher resolution screens that are easier to read from greater distances. Plus, the price of displays and software will drop, making them more accessible.