Retail Digital Signs: Worth the Investment

EPISODE 95 | Guest: Jason Cain, region sales manager – South Central for Visix

From shops to restaurants, campus bookstores to zoos, hotels and casinos to car dealerships – retail digital signs are being used to improve the customer experience, motivate staff and increase sales.

In this episode, Jason Cain talks through how lots of different retailers are using digital signage to engage their audiences, whether it’s with a single screen or across a worldwide chain. We’ll explore popular content for each environment, and some of his best real-world examples.

  • Learn the benefits of investing in retail digital signs for CX
  • Explore how interactivity can engage customers and boost revenues
  • Hear how retailers handle internal vs. public-facing communications
  • Understand the benefits of CAP-compliant alerts and analytics
  • Discover cool real-world digital signage applications and get tips

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Read our blog: 8 Benefits of Digital Signage for Retailers


Derek DeWitt: Digital signage is a very comprehensive and multifaceted communications tool, which we talk about all the time. And I can’t think of a market that more exemplifies that than what we call the retail market, because retail can be just about anything that the public goes to. So, we’re gonna talk about some of the ins and outs of retail digital signs today with Jason Cain, region sales manager for the south central area of the United States for Visix. Hi, Jason, how are you?

Jason Cain: Good. How are you today?

Derek DeWitt: Excellent. I’d like to thank everybody for listening to this episode of Digital Signage Done Right. Don’t forget you can subscribe to this podcast and you can follow along with a full transcript of our conversation on the Visix website. Just go to Visix/Resources/Podcasts.

So, as I said, the retail space is, it’s a big one, right? It kind of covers all sorts of stuff. Like you say the word retail, my first thought is, you know, like a, like a shop, like a clothing shop or a bookstore or something like that. But it’s way more than just that.

Jason Cain: Yeah. I think just like you do, when you hear the word retail, you immediately think of a department store. However, retail is anything that the public has access to. So it can be a bank, it can be a credit union. It can be a car dealership, a grocery store. I mean, it’s just endless,

Derek DeWitt: Right. Museums, you know, amusement parks, anything.

Jason Cain: Yeah, exactly. Zoos, casinos. I guess the word retail would be a stretch for a casino, but it still is a public place.

Derek DeWitt: There, there is money changing hands <laugh>.

Jason Cain: Yeah, it’s usually just one way.

Derek DeWitt: <laugh> That’s true. Obviously we’re talking about places where people are visitors and they’re also customers to some extent. They’re, they’re buying admission perhaps. And obviously in a museum, they’re there to see the exhibits. But in most retail spaces, they’re there to get either goods or services. And it seems to me that really digital signage really helps focus that sort of customer-centric communications that I think a lot of organizations and companies and venues want to do these days.

Jason Cain: Yes, absolutely. The nice thing about digital signage, not only can it be engaging to the customers that are visiting whatever the location is, but it can do dual purpose. So, you can have non-public-facing digital signage that helps communicate things to the employees.

And then you can also of course have the public-facing digital signage that showcases things, displays things, talks about things. I mean, there’s just a, an array of things that it can do.

Derek DeWitt: It almost bridges, the in-store experience and the online shopping experience. You know what I mean? Like, it’s a ridiculous statistic. It’s something like well over 85% of American adults shop online semi-regularly. So they’re already used to thinking about some sort of digital interface when they shop. And so now they’re in a store and it just seems like a natural extension and a way to sort of marry those two experiences into, into one.

Jason Cain: Yeah. So I mean, it absolutely is a seamless transition, you know, if you will. So everyone is on their computers probably 90% of the day anyway. So when they go into a retail location, seeing something on a screen, it’s just quite natural.

Derek DeWitt: And so, what are people using the digital signs for? Obviously promotions, I should think. Like, hey, here’s some of our stock or here’s a sale that’s going on and stuff like that. What else have you seen in the way of types of messages?

Jason Cain: Yeah, so I’ve seen a lot of different things. So if you look at banking institutions, they’ll put, you know, credit card rates or mortgage rates. They’ll put any kind of promotions that they have to include, you know, new member incentives, et cetera. You know, so if you think of a banking institution, you’re there in person. And if you’re there in person, you may be waiting. So that gives them an opportunity to advertise.

But I’ve also seen, you know, a different perspective such as at a zoo. You know, zoos will use the digital signage to become interactive or explain what an animal is or, or what, you know, their native habitat is.

I’ve got grocery stores that use it for a menu. So inside the grocery store, a very popular chain is using the grocery store experience and they have restaurants inside of the grocery store. So, you can eat there or you can get a meal that’s already prepared for you and they use the digital signage for menus.

Derek DeWitt: Wow. So it’s like a, is it interactive or is it static?

Jason Cain: It’s not interactive per se for the customer to interact with it, but it has really good-looking pictures of the food that, you know, really promotes how good the food looks and you know, how it’s gonna be. It’s really enticing.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. There’s nothing that gets me hungrier than seeing a really good image of food. I always, now I want that thing that I just saw. If it’s pizza, now all I can think about is pizza.

Jason Cain: Yeah. That’s exactly how I am.

Derek DeWitt: Now, there are interactive menu boards as well, I think, aren’t there? Like food courts and things like that will sometimes add a bit more information, maybe nutritional information, or. Do they even tie into like current stock, like, hey, we have, you know, this many muffins left at the cafe?

Jason Cain: I actually have a casino that they have several restaurants, as most casinos do. And you can actually interact with the screen and see the different restaurants. You can see the menu. You can even make a reservation. And the cool thing about that is, especially from the casino’s perspective, is the interactive wayfinding is on the casino floor, which is where they want you. So you can make your dinner reservation and still keep your money in the slot machine while you’re waiting to eat.

Derek DeWitt: Now, it’s interesting you said wayfinding. I would imagine obviously a small, you know, a gas station or, a mom and pop shop doesn’t really need to have wayfinding, you know <laugh>. But a, but a place like a zoo, for example, I should think wayfinding would be incredibly useful. Or even, you know, a university campus or something like that. You get these places that are spread out and people do need to figure out how to get places.

Jason Cain: Yeah, absolutely. Zoos, museums, larger corporate offices that are, you know, public access to them. Wayfinding is a very, very, critical piece of the deployment. I mean, if you think about a zoo, the last thing you want is for somebody to end up in the lions cage so wayfinding can keep them on their way to the souvenir shop.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Well, you know, or you’ve got the kid, who’s like, look, I wanna see the gorillas. Where are the gorillas? Mom and dad are thinking, I have no idea, but if we don’t get this guy gorillas in the next 10 minutes, it’s gonna be chaos. Oh, thank god. Interactive wayfinding, gorillas, thank you.

Jason Cain: Yes, exactly. If the gorillas are awake, that’s a bonus, but yes.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah. Right. Exactly. And I know sometimes interactivity is also stuck into a digital sign in a kiosk. So like, somebody was telling me not long ago, like even some car rental places will they’ll advertise their rates. And then you have buttons there where you can sift through and decide, ooh, that car, that car, not that car, change the dates and actually make a tentative reservation right there at the screen.

Jason Cain: Yeah. Absolutely. The things that you can do is really endless. This is a little different, but it just reminded me. So I had a shopping district that they wanted to cater more to their clientele. So not only is it digital signage, but it’s also wayfinding. The cool thing is, is the wayfinding is in English, Mandarin and Spanish, and you’re in control of which language you need to use.

Derek DeWitt: That’s great. ‘Cause, that’s one of those things, I think, that really just adds to that visitor customer experience. Like yeah, you know, you did your research. You found out Mandarin and Spanish are the next most common languages in the area. Like it would be stupid to do Mandarin if there are no Mandarin speakers, obviously.

Jason Cain: Yeah. Correct. And this is a very large destination shopping district that they, you know, just like you said, they know their clientele based on the brands and the, the offerings that they offer at the shopping district. And they know that it meets those demographics.

Derek DeWitt:

So like a big shopping district absolutely makes sense. Do you see smaller retail venues also going for digital signage? Maybe just one or two screens up?

Jason Cain: Yeah, absolutely. Anytime, you know, it doesn’t matter whether you’d be a small you know, mom and pop retail thrift store or a very large, you know, corporate style retail location. It doesn’t really matter the size. It’s all about engaging with your potential customers that have come in to do business with you. So whether it be one screen or 50 screens, it’s all about that extra interaction.

And, you know, and if you think about it, there’s a lot of places that you go to nowadays that the customer service isn’t like it was, you know, back in the eighties and nineties before, you know, things went to the way they are, where it’s kind of more web-based shopping. So what a great way to bridge that kind of lack of customer service with at least having an informational display, telling you things that you may have questions for that you just can’t find somebody to answer.

Derek DeWitt: Yeah, sure. Plus, you know, it kind of almost acts as an FAQ. Look, these are the most common questions we get asked. We stick the answers up here on the displays and then the staff that we do have can then spend their time sort of dealing with more outlier-type situations or personalize their interactions a bit more.

Jason Cain: Yeah, exactly. I mean, I’ve seen retailers who now, if they don’t have the price of the item that you want to get, you know, displayed on the actual item, they’ve got scanners, so you can scan and find out what the price is without having to, you know, locate somebody or go pay for it blindly. So, same thing with the screens. You know, the most common, you know, questions or, you know, you’re there to look at something, whatever that something is, doesn’t matter, but the screen can be used to highlight more about it.

So, you know, if you picture it car dealerships, they used to, and I don’t know if they still do, but car dealerships used to have lots and lots of literature, just literature everywhere. And so if you were there to look at the new, whatever it is you’re looking at, you know, you would scroll through a magazine or a brochure about the different colors, features, et cetera. Well, that’s all gone. Now that’s all gone, you know, digital. So what a great application, a car dealership to just have all the different options for all the different vehicles on screens.

Derek DeWitt: Right. And you know, I know some companies are sort of marrying the physical and the digital into a seamless whole. Like I’ve seen a couple of, um, I think they’re prototype test machines, but like, so it’s for shoes, sport shoes. You go up and you, they have their whole catalog there, and you choose your shoe and choose the color and choose the size all using the interactive screens. And then you wait and I guess the order goes back into the warehouse. Those shoes are fetched, stuck on a conveyor belt and they come out right there at a little hatch attached to the digital sign and you’ve got your shoes.

Jason Cain: Wow. That’s, uh, that’s really neat. I’ve, I’ve actually not seen or heard of that.

Derek DeWitt: I read an article recently that said that, especially when we get into 3D printed materials, this is something that’s probably really going to become much more commonplace. I mean, I hate to say it, but you won’t need a cashier. You won’t need someone stuck in sort of this, um, minimum wage job. You’ll in fact still have people on staff, but they’ll be able to be more of almost like a personal shopper to help make the experience better for people. But the, the nitty gritty of, I want that, here’s my money, let me have it will all be taken care of using this kind of technology.

Jason Cain: Wow. Yeah, absolutely. There’s some pretty large furniture stores that have started to do something very similar. So, you walk in and, you know, they still have the showroom, they still have the furniture that’s displayed on the showroom, but then they have screens that you can see, you know, if you’re looking at a couch and it’s gray, what does it look like in red or yellow or blue. Then it shows you if it’s in stock or not, and then you can actually do the whole procedure on the screen. So you can apply for financing. You can get approved or you can put in your credit card. And it literally just tells you what bay to drive your vehicle into if you’re not gonna do delivery, and all of a sudden they show up, they put it in your car and away you go.

Derek DeWitt: Wow. That’s uh, that’s, that’s pretty cool. Come on. That’s, that’s the future we were promised when we were kids.

Jason Cain: Yeah. I mean, the Jetsons were almost right, but, uh, no flying cars yet.

Derek DeWitt: I’ve seen some drivers. I’m kind of glad that we don’t have flying cars, frankly.

Jason Cain: <laugh> Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Derek DeWitt: <laugh> I just don’t know that they need another dimension to operate in.

Jason Cain: Yeah. Well, those same drivers actually have flying cars, they just weren’t designed to be up in the air like they make ’em.

Derek DeWitt: Yes, true. I’ll get my car in the air anyway I can. <laugh>

Jason Cain: Right. <laugh>

Derek DeWitt: You also mentioned that larger retailers are using it for like staff communications as well. So like, what?

Jason Cain: If you’ve got any type of, you know, events that are coming up, you can put that on there. You can talk about any kind of benefits sign up or any type of policy. I mean, just anything that you can imagine you can put on there.

 A lot of retail places are very competitive with their staff because obviously their staff’s goal is to sell whatever that product is. So what great way to, you know, ramp up the competitiveness than to display how people are doing right on a screen. You know, they, the old saying is winners keep score. Well, if you’ve got some sort of a metric on all of your screens, showing who the top salesperson is for the day, the hour, the week, the month, it just breeds, you know, competitiveness and can increase your sales.

Derek DeWitt: Oh, sure. That makes absolute sense. And speaking of increasing sales, you know, there’ve been now numerous studies. This technology has been coming into the retail space, uh, for a few years now. And we’re starting to see some real studies. And it’s really just kind of astonishing how much they affect people’s buying habits even.

People tend – and it’s a ridiculous number, it’s well, over 70% or something – people who are in, let’s say a shop with digital signage, they see something on the screens and they, it’s kind of like an electronic end-of-aisle display. They, they, they very often buy it. And something like 45% of people in this one survey said that they changed… They’re in line with what they’re gonna buy. They see a similar item advertised on the screen and it looks better there, ’cause it’s a really nice picture. And then they get outta line and they go change it to what they saw on the screen.

Jason Cain: Oh yeah, absolutely. Each retail location has a different, you know, thing that they can do to promote whatever it is they wanna promote. As you mentioned before, when you see pizza, now you want to eat pizza. So, if you think of a restaurant, whatever they really, really wanna sell, if they have that playing on the display over and over again, by the time you get ready to place your order, you’re gonna order that.

Or, if you’re in a casino and they show somebody winning a big jackpot on their screens, you know. And casinos do this a lot. They’ll have somebody hit, you know, the big jackpot and they’ll take a picture of them holding the big check. And so now all of a sudden, I need to go play slot machines because you just got me enticed.

Or you walk into a bank, and they’ve got a picture of, you know, somebody’s sitting in Cancun, Mexico on the beach. And right behind that, they say, you know, use your, whatever the bank name is credit card to earn rewards to go on this vacation.

Derek DeWitt: So, in addition to promoting goods and services, communicating with staff and employees and keeping them up to date on what’s happening and maybe fostering a little, uh, good natured competition, of course digital signs can do even more than that. I mean, you can, the thing I’m thinking of is like alert messaging.

You know, these are physical locations, shopping center, you know, an airport, a hotel, any, anything, taxi stand. You know, hey, there’s a storm coming. It would be nice to know and they can, they. Do a lot of these places include some sort of alert messaging that’s CAP-compliant and, and ties into everything so that if they need it, they have it.

Jason Cain: Yeah, absolutely. And so the, you know, the nice thing is, is they can have it segregated. So let’s just say that it’s, you know, a very big retail type of operation and they’ve got multiple locations. They can all be using the same CAP-compliant alert notifications. But if you know, the tornado is coming to Manhattan, you don’t need to maybe, you know, alarm the people in long island. Um, I’m not a big person of New York, so I just made that up, but you get what I’m saying. So yeah, you can absolutely do that.

And then you can also do a manual trigger, meaning that if there’s something happening you can manually go in and have all your screens letting the public know what’s going on.

Derek DeWitt: Right. Like you find out, oh, hey, um, guess what? We’re, we’re uh, we’re closing because this thing is happening. We can just override the screens and tell everybody, hey, uh, you know, this is, this is the deal.

Jason Cain: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Absolutely.

Derek DeWitt: Do you find retail venues and companies use analytics very much? Like, you know, tracking how many times a message was played, content submissions, who logged onto the CMS, the system, things like that?

Jason Cain: Yeah. It’s becoming more and more popular in a lot of places. They’re, they’re really, you know, getting involved with doing things such as, you know, putting in your phone number and we’ll text you something. You know, it could be directions, it could be a coupon, it could be information. And then, of course, they’d like to know that data, like, you know, how many people per day were actually interacting with the sign. Or what was the most viewed piece of content on the screen? You know, those type of things, retail locations are always trying to determine what’s working and what’s not working.

Derek DeWitt: Sure. That makes sense. And you know, it also occurs to me some places, like, I don’t know, say a shopping center or, or even a, um, student union maybe, like they could sell ad space to nearby local businesses and then give them that data and say, look, we showed your message, you know, X number of times. Did you see an increase in sales?

Jason Cain: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s really popular in student unions, you know, with whatever the local places that you know, would really like to get more students to come there, whether it be a coffee shop or a, you know, a little sandwich shop or something like that.

You know, when we were talking about the zoo and the museum, they oftentimes put a lot of advertising focus on the souvenir or gift shop because that’s an extra, you know, realm of revenue they can make. The casino, the ones that I, you know, that I’ve interacted with, they’re constantly updating and putting whatever the drink specials are, whatever the dinner specials are, you know, things like that.

Derek DeWitt: Plus, you know, activities. Like you get some, sometimes you’ll get a resort that has, yeah, you can do whatever you want. We’ve got three swimming pools and six restaurants, but also, hey, we’re having, whatever, water aerobics, or we’re doing a hike or we’re all gonna go to the donkey rescue or something like that as well. And that stuff can also get promoted that way.

Jason Cain: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I don’t wanna go on a hike or donkey rescue on my vacation, but I’m sure that, uh, somebody does.

Derek DeWitt: <laugh> I say that because I actually went to a donkey rescue on vacation and it was, it was actually, it was, it was a little bit sad, but also kind of fun.

Jason Cain: Yeah. I mean, you know, anytime you can rescue a donkey, it’s uh, nice to give back. <laugh>

Derek DeWitt: To the donkey community. Yeah. So, like you said, you’re seeing more and more this kind of like a way to get sort of immediate ROI and immediate analytics with this like, hey, put your phone number in here and we’ll text the information. Do you see also people publishing their message playlists of the messages that are rotating through on the digital signs to other locations like webpages? Or, if it’s for employees, internets and things like this? Or is it really just focusing on the screens themselves?

Jason Cain: No, I’ve seen both. You know, obviously, you want to do whatever you can to maximize whatever it is you’re trying to promote, whatever you’ve invested in. So I’ve seen, you know, screens that have QR codes and you scan the QR code and it takes you to their website, or it takes you to something different than what you’re experiencing, perhaps inside the actual retail location. You know, just, the thing is just limitless.

You can, you know, scan a code and then be part of their rewards program. Which, see, that’s a really key, you know, component to retail because the reason why everybody has the reward program is because now they have your information. They have your, you know, your traits, your shopping style, your likes, your dislikes, et cetera. But most importantly, they’ve got your email and your phone number and your address so they can continue to be in contact with you.

Derek DeWitt: Do you see, what about like people using smaller screens? Like, um, do you see people using like E Ink room signs and things like this if they don’t have a, a whole bunch of space? They, they just need, they wanna put the information up. They don’t care if it’s color or not, and they just, they just need something small to be able to message people.

Jason Cain: Sure. Yeah. The, uh, you know, it’s all about just being able to help communicate better. So whether that be, you know, a small screen, an E Ink screen, you know, a 10-inch monitor or, you know. However large the monitor or the screen, it doesn’t necessarily matter. I mean, the space management does matter as far as, you know, if you had a great big, huge space, picture a big box store, and you had a little small seven-inch screen, then it’s not gonna get the attention and you know, the, the audience that you would want. But that being said, your audience is gonna be right in front of it. So the size of it, you know, could be any shape or size. It’s just a matter of what are you trying to communicate and to how many people?

Derek DeWitt: So digital signage is immensely scalable from one shop and one small sign to a whole bunch of digital signs spread out over a large area. Lots of different kinds of things can be put on there. And it’s just honestly a great solution for any kind of retail business. And not just for the public, but for keeping your employees active and engaged and informed as well. Anything from an international hotel chain to a corner grocery store can benefit from retail digital signs. And everything in between, I would say.

I’d like to thank Jason Cain for talking to me today. He is the region sales manager for south central in the United States. Thank you, Jason.

Jason Cain: Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Derek DeWitt: Absolutely. And thank you everybody once again for listening.