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