Bin those ban­ners and­standees: It’s time to go dig­i­tal

Shopping Center News - - CONTENTS - By Zainab S Kazi

Shop­ping Cen­tre News spoke with mall de­vel­op­ers who have adopted dig­i­tal sig­nages and found out what their ex­pe­ri­ences have been so far.

Dig­i­tal. That’s the word that has qui­etly and sure­foot­edly crept into our lives. Every­thing around us is ‘dig­i­tal’. The speedome­ter in our car, the weigh­ing scale and even the wall clock! Dig­i­ti­za­tion is tak­ing over every­thing that’s tra­di­tional in life and that ap­plies to in-mall ad­ver­tis­ing and sig­nages as well. In­dia may be a late en­trant to this new tech­nol­ogy and not many malls have adopted dig­i­ti­za­tion, but we are slowly but surely get­ting there. Shop­ping Cen­tre News spoke with mall de­vel­op­ers who have adopted dig­i­tal sig­nages and found out what their ex­pe­ri­ences have been so far.

Puneet Varma, As­so­ciate Vice Pres­i­dent, Mar­ket­ing & Cor­po­rate Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Inor­bit Malls sets the con­text of the story, say­ing, “The on­go­ing dig­i­ti­za­tion has changed the re­tail sce­nario in the coun­try. The dig­i­tal trend that has seeped in malls and re­tail stores is en­hanc­ing the con­sumer’s shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence with LED dis­plays, touch-en­abled in­for­ma­tion dis­play sys­tems and ser­vices like dig­i­tal shop­ping as­sis­tant and the magic mir­ror.”

The Game Changer

Standees around the mall are a com­mon sight when there is an an­nounce­ment to be made and so are those drop-down ban­ners from the rooftop of the mall in bright bold col­ors conveying the open­ing of a new store or an of­fer to tempt in the shop­per. But the world is be­com­ing a screen ad­dict and it is only nat­u­ral that malls pull up their socks and take note of this.

Any­thing that is on the screen is what goes into the mind. So, a huge screen with mov­ing images and con­tent to con­vey the mes­sage is go­ing to gen­er­ate a bet­ter re­sponse than the tra­di­tional mean. Nav­i­ga­tion kiosks add to the amuse­ment within the mall as much as they help the shop­per know the lo­ca­tion of his fa­vorite store / cof­fee shop.

In fact, keep­ing in the mind the gi­gan­tic size of malls that are in ex­is­tence to­day and the very fact that there are mul­ti­ple en­try points from the park­ing lot to the floor the shop­per wants to go to, it is only nat­u­ral that there be a nav­i­ga­tion kiosk on each floor rather than hav­ing one just on the ground floor.

Ac­cen­tu­at­ing the need for dig­i­tal sig­nages at malls, Gau­rang Agrawal, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer, West Pioneer Prop­er­ties (In­dia) Pvt. Ltd. says, “To­day, cus­tomers need crisp and sim­pli­fied mes­sages con­veyed through at­trac­tive, invit­ing and en­ter­tain­ing sig­nages. The Aug­mented Re­al­ity, en­hanced in­ter­ac­tiv­ity and video con­tent has the po­ten­tial to en­hance the re­tail cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Talk­ing about his fa­vorites, he says, “The dis­play and in­for­ma­tive sig­nage at in­ter­na­tional air­ports like Sin­ga­pore, Dubai and Heathrow are re­ally vis­ually ap­peal­ing.” Meanwhile, Pa­cific Mall, too takes pride in be­ing a to­tally standee-free mall. Ab­hishek Bansal,

Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Pa­cific In­dia Group states, “We have in­vested in Ver­ti­cal Dig­i­tal LED screens for pro­mo­tions to dis­cour­age the use of roll-up standees or easel stands. We en­cour­age ex­ist­ing and new brands to bring in in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal sig­nage sys­tems for their stores to make them look more ad­vanced and next gen.”

He adds, “We are now a com­pletely standee free mall and we do not put up any standees in our com­mon ar­eas. The ver­ti­cal

LED screens placed at prom­i­nent lo­ca­tions are used for pro­mo­tions. These have store directory as well as schemes and loy­alty pro­grams info for cus­tomer for easy ref­er­ence. Be­ing an LED screen, it has the flex­i­bil­ity to run mini-ad­ver­tise­ments for brands and prod­ucts. A lot of our stores have dig­i­tal screens in­stalled on the store front façade and within prom­i­nent ar­eas of their store high­light­ing the lat­est of­fer­ings of the store. Our Pa­cific logo in­stalled on the mall fa­cia is a multi-coloured one that re­mains black dur­ing the day time and turns white at night.”

Mum­bai’s In­finiti Mall is per­haps one of the most suc­cess­ful malls in the city. At any given day, the mall re­mains abuzz with shop­pers. It is only nat­u­ral for the mall to keep up with the chang­ing dy­nam­ics and of­fer what their shop­pers want.

Mukesh Ku­mar, Sr. VP, In­finiti Mall states, “We have changed all our sig­nages from sun board dis­plays to re­flec­tive elec­tronic dig­i­tal sig­nages. We are also in the process of de­vel­op­ing an app to help vis­i­tors nav­i­gate in the mall.”

Elab­o­rat­ing on the sys­tems in place, he adds, “We have four sig­nages on each floor of the mall be­sides in­ter­ac­tive kiosks. An in­ter­ac­tive kiosk helps cus­tomers ac­cess the re­quired in­for­ma­tion. Cus­tomers can view floor maps on in­ter­ac­tive kiosks apart from the lo­ca­tion map of stores. It is an ex­cel­lent in­for­ma­tion point (for pro­mo­tions, sales, cam­paigns).”

The in-house engi­neer­ing/ mar­ket­ing and op­er­a­tions team at In­finiti man­ages the dig­i­tal sig­nage sys­tem op­er­a­tional at their malls.

Dig­i­tal sig­nages across DLF malls have been in­stalled since their in­cep­tion and that is in­deed com­mend­able. Pushpa Bec­tor, Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent & Head – DLF Shop­ping Malls says, “DLF Prom­e­nade, started with big screens seven years ago in the hub. In due course, we in­tro­duced LED pan­els and screens, which add to the beauty of the mall and keep the mall ahead of the times. Each mall also has dig­i­tal mall di­rec­to­ries. We make it easy for a cus­tomer to find what they are look­ing for. Across our prop­er­ties, we work with agen­cies and ser­vice providers from In­dia it­self.”

Bec­tor is of the opin­ion that in­ter­na­tion­ally, malls have em­braced tech­nol­ogy fairly quickly and at DLF they are look­ing to do the same in In­dia. She says, “We are not that far be­hind, but need to en­sure we con­stantly in­no­vate and see what’s work­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally and how we can get it here.”

At DLF Prom­e­nade, the big screen in the hub show­cases cricket and foot­ball matches to cap­ture con­sumer at­ten­tion. They also make it a point to dis­play con­tent from fash­ion events.

Delhi’s Am­bi­ence Mall is a per­fect ex­am­ple of how dig­i­tal sig­nage can en­liven the en­vi­ron­ment. The mall has ef­fec­tively made use of dig­i­ti­za­tion across the mall to con­vey their mes­sage to the shop­pers with re­gards to either brand pro­mo­tions, of­fers, new launches, events and ac­tiv­i­ties etc.

Benu Se­h­gal, Head of Re­tail & Mar­ket­ing for Am­bi­ence Malls says, “Ini­tially, the pres­ence of dig­i­tal sig­nage was very lim­ited in the mall in the form of tele­vi­sion screens and pan­els but the ded­i­cated in­stal­la­tion of dig­i­tal sig­nages and up­dat­ing it with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy has helped us to cre­ate the best in best visual ex­pe­ri­ence for our cus­tomers. The dis­play tech­nol­ogy in In­dia has evolved to new lev­els and with our 4k LED dis­play we have been able to cre­ate im­mer­sive Aug­mented Re­al­ity ex­pe­ri­ences and much more. It has def­i­nitely evolved from tele­vi­sion pan­els to 4K touch screens now. Am­bi­ence Malls have tied up with LG and HSad for their sig­nage sys­tem.”

On the sys­tem op­er­a­tional at the Metro Junc­tion Mall, Agar­wal says, “The mall has been suc­cess­fully op­er­a­tional for nine years now, with a sig­nif­i­cant year on year cen­ter sales growth. We had started off with reg­u­lar sig­nages and evolved along with time to back-lit, trans-lit and front-lit sig­nages across the mall. We have con­tin­u­ously fo­cused on pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion / di­rec­tional sig­nages to guide cus­tomers along with mall di­rec­to­ries placed in lifts, park­ing lots and en­try points. Ma­jor an­chors have in­cor­po­rated in­no­va­tive sig­nages to at­tract and in­vite the prospects about their brands, on­go­ing mar­ket­ing cam­paigns / of­fers.”

He adds, “We are in the process of re­vamp­ing the mall and we will be part­ner­ing with a re­puted agency for the dig­i­tal sig­nage re­quire­ment. The dig­i­tal sig­nage sys­tem will be in­cor­po­rated ex­ten­sively and in line with trend­ing con­cepts.”

Re­tail Ren­dezvous

Re­tail brands have been mak­ing use of screens within their stores since quite some time now. It isn’t un­com­mon to see brands hav­ing their col­lec­tion be­ing dis­played on huge screen within their stores but with dig­i­ti­za­tion in malls, brands can use the malls dig­i­tal screens to run pro­mo­tions and ad­ver­tise­ments more ef­fi­ciently.

Agrawal shares “Through a styl­ized ex­pe­ri­ence, re­tail­ers can unify their images, signs, and lo­gos with in­for­ma­tion on dig­i­tal kiosks

to cre­ate greater im­pact and more en­gage­ment with the viewer’s ex­pe­ri­ence. This also al­lows re­tail­ers to use their lo­gos as a ref­er­ence that will help con­sumers find what they are look­ing for thus bring­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence to a full cir­cle, while re­in­forc­ing brand aware­ness and loy­alty.”

But then this has to be done in synch with the de­sign story be­ing fol­lowed by the mall to en­sure the con­tent / com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t out of place. Agrawal adds, “In or­der to main­tain a syn­ergy of a stan­dard­ized com­mu­ni­ca­tion for­mat across the mall, we have de­sign guide­lines for all re­tail­ers and the sig­nage sys­tem is ap­proved by the mall man­age­ment.”

At In­finiti, re­tail­ers ben­e­fit from in­ter­ac­tive kiosk placed at the mall. Ku­mar shares, “We have an “of­fer” tab on our kiosk. Re­tail­ers can dis­play “of­fers” on the kiosk. Re­tail­ers have their sig­nage in place, they have to fol­low the guide­lines set by mall op­er­a­tions team. Sig­nages should be of a spe­cific size, should have spe­cific vis­i­bil­ity and should also fol­low cer­tain ma­te­rial guide­lines.”

Elab­o­rat­ing on the re­sponse and pro-ac­tive­ness from re­tail­ers in the use of dig­i­tal sig­nage, Bec­tor says, “Re­tail­ers have em­braced the con­cept of dig­i­tal sig­nage and mod­ify it as per the need of the hour from cus­tomer’s point of view. Some re­tail­ers have dig­i­tal screens within their store space or on the façade and the con­tent dis­played is largely on their dis­cre­tion. Ad­di­tion­ally, they also avail the mall dig­i­tal screens to show­case their brand videos/ad­ver­tise­ments to max­i­mize im­pact. The brands are just as dig­i­tally smart as us. At our malls, most brands in­tro­duced their lat­est fit-out look and feel mar­ried with dig­i­tal cat­a­logue in­ter­faces.”

Se­h­gal talks about the rap­port with re­tail­ers, “We have al­ways be­lieved in work­ing with our re­tail­ers closely and brand pro­mo­tions have al­ways been a part of it. We are flex­i­ble as the needs of ev­ery re­tailer are dif­fer­ent and we try to of­fer them tai­lor made so­lu­tions. Dig­i­tal sig­nage, in the end, is in­stalled for user ex­pe­ri­ence but it def­i­nitely helps busi­nesses and brands to bring their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns to life us­ing mo­tion graph­ics.”

“Re­tail­ers are very ex­cited about new tech­nol­ogy be­ing brought in. They are sup­port­ive of our en­deav­ors and help us in pro­vid­ing con­tent that does jus­tice to the dis­plays,” she adds.

Com­bat­ing Chal­lenges

On the chal­lenges that need to be tack­led, Agrawal talks about the need to con­stantly have con­tent that en­gages the cus­tomer. He says, “We have to con­tin­u­ously and proac­tively evolve our­selves with dy­namic cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions.”

High­light­ing a chal­lenge that would per­haps take time to be re­solved, Bec­tor states, “A lot of the con­tent on these screens comes from brands present at the malls. The chal­lenge is the timely con­tent up­da­tion as these videos come from their global head of­fices. Ad­di­tion­ally, we are con­stantly chang­ing the con­tent of the mall events so that cus­tomers are aware of what’s hap­pen­ing and what’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

For Se­h­gal, the chal­lenge is to fine tune the con­tent as per the sys­tem in place. She says, “4K con­tent is tough to find as of now and peo­ple are slowly tran­si­tion­ing to­wards it. New tech means new chal­lenges for even bet­ter con­tent. Chal­lenges are al­ways a part of any plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion. We keep on ex­per­i­ment­ing with the con­tent for us­ing brand pro­mo­tions, mall up­dates, ser­vices or cel­e­bra­tions. LG and HSad also help us by pro­vid­ing us the reg­u­lar con­tent to build dif­fer­ent visual ex­pe­ri­ence.

Nav­i­ga­tion

When the nav­i­ga­tion kiosks were in­tro­duced at a few malls, it was a happy sight to see kids flock­ing to them to just have a touch and feel ex­pe­ri­ence of the screen put up within their reach. As for the adult shop­pers, the nav­i­ga­tion kiosks have not been able to catch their fancy as yet though we are sure to see a change here with the sizes of malls in­creas­ing by the day.

Agrawal says, “To­day cus­tomers want more in­ter­ac­tiv­ity so nav­i­ga­tion kiosks play an im­por­tant role. We are look­ing at com­pletely re­vamp­ing our nav­i­ga­tion kiosks in line with lat­est up­com­ing trends in the in­dus­try.”

Bec­tor talks about the use of dig­i­tal di­rec­to­ries at their malls say­ing, “At all DLF pre­mium malls, cus­tomers rely ex­ten­sively on the dig­i­tal di­rec­to­ries, as the malls are spread over a vast area. Cus­tomers love this ser­vice, which also helps them to share pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive feed­back with the mall man­age­ment.”

On their main­te­nance bit, Bec­tor adds, “Kiosks are fairly low main­te­nance. There are mul­ti­ple guards within the mall who un­der­take pe­ri­odic rounds dur­ing the day to as­cer­tain the ap­pro­pri­ate func­tion­ing of kiosks and other ac­tiv­i­ties, hence in­di­vid­ual guards are not re­quired for ev­ery kiosk. The kind of sys­tem in­stalled in our mall al­lows soft­ware de­tails to be up­dated re­motely.”

Se­h­gal talks about the chal­lenge faced in main­tain­ing the kiosks, say­ing, “Dig­i­tal kiosk works on the in­ter­net, con­nec­tiv­ity can be­come an is­sue some­times but there is noth­ing which can­not be taken care of. New tech­nol­ogy al­ways comes with its own set of chal­lenges and lim­i­ta­tions. These screens are hard to main­tain as there can be an is­sue of ex­ter­nal el­e­ments en­ter­ing the screen and caus­ing a prob­lem. How­ever, peo­ple are well versed with touch screen sys­tems and they do take care of new tech­nol­ogy when they see it.”

Dig­i­tal sig­nages have of­fered malls in In­dia a new medium to en­gage, en­ter­tain and even earn. The very fact that dig­i­ti­za­tion is just a trans­fer of a file from one end to the other saves on time for the re­tail in­dus­try. It’s eas­ier than get­ting that ban­ners / standee in place. And it’s not just sav­ing of time and re­sources. One also saves on bin­ning an en­tire standee or cre­ative over one tiny typo. Meanwhile, when it comes to dig­i­tal sig­nages and screens, cor­rec­tion is not a task as such.

A lot of malls we spoke with haven’t adopted dig­i­ti­za­tion of their sig­nages and screens but they as­sured us that they are mov­ing with the times, ready to make the leap into a new tech­no­log­i­cally en­hanced world.

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