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The Digital Signage Landscape

The Digital Signage Landscape

Discover the latest trends and insights about in-venue digital signage. Learn how AI and machine learning are driving better business outcomes with cloud-based, data-centric menu boards.

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Bradley Cooper: Welcome back everyone to the Digital Signage Today podcast. I'm Bradley Cooper, I'm the Editor of Digital Signage Today. Today, I will be speaking with Jackie Walker. She's a Senior Director of Customer Experience Strategy at Publicis Sapient. We will be discussing how digital signage end users can craft a customer experience strategy for their digital signage. Thank you for joining us.                    

Bradley Cooper: Welcome everyone to today's Digital Signage Today podcast. Today, we're going to be talking about how digital signage has operated at, for customer experience execution, and analytics insight. This podcast will, in particular, describe how brands can build a digital signage strategic frame from a customer experience lens, which could dramatically change the digital signage landscape. Today, we are speaking with Jackie Walker, a Senior Director of Customer Experience Strategy at Publicis Sapient. She will be discussing how digital signage can really impact the customer experience. How are you doing today, Jackie?

Jackie Walker: I’m doing great Bradley, really excited to talk to you this morning.

Bradley Cooper: Awesome. Thanks so much. So our first question for you today is, what does it mean to build a digital signage strategy from a customer experience lens?

Jackie Walker: Yeah, thanks for asking that. I work at Publicis Sapient. We are a large digital business transformation company. And so we work with customers across all kinds of digital touchpoints and with all kinds of technology challenges. And so I would say the first thing is that building a digital signage strategy is not different from building any other customer experience channel, right?

Bradley Cooper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jackie Walker: So we have clients that will come to us sometimes and say, we need a website, we need a mobile app, and not really know why they need a website or a mobile app. Digital signage, I think is sometimes the worst offender. Customers will think, we need digital signage. And they focus really on the what and the how and don't focus enough on the why.

Jackie Walker: Which is, what are the moments of mutual value for customers? What are the friction points that you're trying to solve for a customer with digital signage? And then, what's the problem I'm solving for the business or the value I'm creating for the business? I think when our customers are framing the problem from that place of mutual benefit, they're able to create solutions that are much more compelling and will create a lot more value for the brand over time.

Bradley Cooper: So I get the sense that you're saying that digital signage shouldn't be viewed in isolation. So keeping that in mind, what are the key initiatives, brands of intaking outside of digital signage, that will really impact how they execute digital signage?

Jackie Walker: Yeah, absolutely. There are a bunch of technology trends that I think have been happening, especially with larger companies, that are really going to shape the way that digital signage plays out over the next five to 10 years. So the first thing is, there's been just huge momentum around customer data in the last five years. And that takes a couple of different flavors. So one is integrated crosschannel analytics. So for a long time, brands have been capturing all this data from their websites, from their mobile apps, from whatever other customer touch points they have.

Jackie Walker: There's been a real move to try to break down intelligence silos and think about how all of that information and customer data comes together cohesivelyto create a better view of the customer. Loyalty has also been a huge driver, right?So better understanding the customer, their propensity to buy certain things and creating relevance. That,in turn,plays into machine learning and AI. And then I think the last thing to your point about the silo is that the last 10 years in enterprise tech have really been about consolidation and streamlining across the tech enterprise, right?

Jackie Walker: And so I think continuing to operate digital signage in a silo is really going to set back all of those efforts. So,Sapient has actually developed a digital signage accelerator, which we call Premise, which was really built to deliver API-enabled digital signage for exactly this reason, right?We think that our customers have done all this hard work to consolidate and start to expose content and data to websites, mobile apps across, consistently across their customer channels. And we really think that the time is right now to start to think about how that actually extends to digital signage as well.

Bradley Cooper: Excellent. So obviously there are lots of technological developments are happening within digital signage. You have stuff like facial recognition, better content, more dynamic content. So from your perspective, what are some of the technology developments within digital signage that will enable this shift and framed towards a more customer experience based lens and a more integrated experience?

Jackie Walker: Yeah. So I think if you look at some of the strongest players in the industry today, they've really ascended because they abstract the complexity of digital signage rollout and operationalization, right?

Bradley Cooper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jackie Walker: So I think most customers you talk to who are contemplating deploying digital signage, sort of feel like it's going to be really hard, right?

Bradley Cooper: Right.

Jackie Walker: The companies that have made it seem simplest are the ones that have really been very strong. I think the challenge is that those solutions are often black box, from front to back. So it's like, put the content in the proprietary CMS, that's going to be deployed to devices in a proprietary method. And then they're going to use different proprietary systems to monitor and maintain. I think that's going to be a challenge as brands try to more deeply integrate their own enterprise data and content sources. So I think from a hardware standpoint in particular, there have been some really meaningful developments that are going to continue to improve the way that brands are going to be able to deliver on this vision.

Jackie Walker: So the first is, open architecture solutions. Which really allow hardware management to take place transparently via APIs. That's new, right?

Bradley Cooper: Right.

Jackie Walker: Also the rise of alternative operating systems. So if you think back to the olden days, windows devices are such a pain to manage, but I think there are a lot of lighter weight operating systems that make it easier now. BrightSign is actually a really great example of the combination of both of those principles, right?

Bradley Cooper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jackie Walker: The open architecture and this purpose built operating system. The other thing is just cost, right?So hardware has come down in cost and it's improved in resilience, right?So I think the combination of those two things has allowed the conversation toshift from, what happens when it breaks to what are the potentials of what we can do in the customer experience? Which is to me the most exciting development.

Bradley Cooper: Right. And I think you brought up some interesting points about how companies can really be intimidated when they look at these huge digital signage projects. And they don't really know what sort of questions to be asking or how they can really begin to address the project. So with that in mind, what, in your opinion, are some of the questions brands should be considering as they think about adding digital signage or evolving their current capability?

Jackie Walker: Yeah. So usually I get involved in projects a little later, like the product selection might have already been made and now a brand is struggling to think about what they actually do with it. So,the first thing I would say to clients who are considering it today is, don't assume you're doing a product bake-off, right?I think that's been the go-to way of approaching digital signage is, we need to install a digital menu board, who are the five companies that do digital menu boards? Build or buy is actually becoming a much more nuanced question. And I think build is driving some increasingly compellingtotal cost of ownership models. So, that's the first thing.

Jackie Walker: The second, I would go back to the beginning and think about why is digital signage being deployed, really understanding the specific functional capabilities that are required and then understanding the overall customer experience roadmap. Right, so again, to go to the QSR example, if you're about to deploy digital menu boards and you know that as a brand developing loyalty is a critical goal, thinking through how will a drive-thruwith menu boards and customer order confirmation reinforce the objectives. If you're not thinking about that upfront, I think it can really later proved to be an impediment because you might end up with a partner who's not able to integrate deeply enough to be able to drive the kinds of customer experiences you're looking for.

Jackie Walker: The other piece is just thinking about how the solution will need to connect to the rest of the enterprise. So,for example, if you know that you're going to be pulling all of your content and assets from an enterprise CMS or an enterprise DAM, really investigating and poking how your digital signage provider is going to be able to do those integrations. Some of it does get a little bit nitty-gritty in the tech, but I think not enough scrutiny has been paid to the software around digital signage management. And it's had some disappointing outcomes for customers.

Jackie Walker: The other piece is I think are no data and decisioning. You look at McDonald's as a great example, they just acquired a dynamic yield in March of last year. And the reason for that was to drive decisioning around what products to show to customers. Now, in order for them to get the most out of that, I don't know what they're doing, but I think it's going to require over time a much more open architecture in their digital signage partners to be able to deliver on that dream. Analytics is the other piece, right?

Bradley Cooper: Right.

Jackie Walker: So I was walkingat Starbucks at the build conference last year, and they were talking about their homegrown analytics platform that they've built in-house. It's called Deep Brew. They're talking about how they're going to use that to deliver customized recommendations for customers on what they should buy. The analytics that are required to empower that level of machine learning are pretty robust, right?

Bradley Cooper: Right.

Jackie Walker: And they need to be common with the mobile application for loyalty, to be able to get the most juice from that squeeze to use some consultant speak, right?

Bradley Cooper: Right, right.

Jackie Walker: So I think understanding that connectivity is becoming more and more critical.

Bradley Cooper: Excellent. So with all that in mind, how can brands better navigate this digital signage space, to enable these customer experience strategies to succeed?

Jackie Walker: It's a great question. I think the challenge with most digital signage product companies is that they've grown to do everything by necessity, so that they can provide a turn key solution. So if you're at the Digital Signage Expo, for example, you go to any booth on the floor, you're going to get told the story about end-to-end from sourcing hardware, to installing, to deploying, and then the software that's going to run the solution. The reality is that with any product company, whether it's digital signage or otherwise, they do one thing usually really, really well. That's the core, the reason that they got into the business, but then they've grown organically to meet the needs of their customers.

Jackie Walker: So I think it's really a challenge, especially for digital signage newbies to try to understand the landscape, understand the different component parts that go into a solution and develop the right vendor selection criteria. So I think you have to learn a little bit about the different parts that go into the solution to be able to really peel back the layers of the onion, to get to what's important to you and the specific strengths of any given product solution and to drive alignment there. So I think that's one piece is like, really get to, what are your vendor selection criteria? The second thing is, avoid getting sucked into hardware nuances, right?

Bradley Cooper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jackie Walker: And I can sometimes struggle with this myself because the hardware I think is the least understood and most overwhelming piece of it. So when you start talking about media players, you start talking about screens and bezel widths and contrast ratios. I think it can be very, very overwhelming. So it's easy to think that because it's the least understood part, it's the most important problem to solve.

Jackie Walker: And I would always warn clients to resist that urge. Don't over index on the hardware. The hardware itself, and the installation services and monitoring and maintenance services are at the end of the day, mostly commodity services. If you think about it. You think about how you're going to deliver value from a digital signage installation. The cost are about doing monitoring and maintenance well and ensuring that you have good uptime and all of those things. That's important that will keep your total cost of ownership down, but it's not going to be the thing that drives that incrementality, the value from that installation.

Jackie Walker: So I think there's no reason to do those things better than good. I think going back and focusing on again, the customer experience and the capability from a functional standpoint, that's going to deliver those goals. That to me, is highly important in driving a successful installation. The other piece I think is aligning stakeholders. So I've seen many times that digital signage products are initiated almost exclusively by IT, or exclusively by store operations. In order to deliver on these installations in a way that is super compelling. I think you really need buy-in from at least a couple groups to understand and align on what's important.

Jackie Walker: And the most critical in my mind are enterprise technology, and IT, store operations and marketing, right?

Bradley Cooper: Right.

Jackie Walker: If those groups aren't aligned on what they need from a functional capability standpoint to be successful. I think a lot of times these installations can be doomed from the start, not to be dramatic. I think it's really important to drive value for the business via marketing, make sure marketing knows how they want to deliver on their objectives and what capabilities they're going to need. Avoid creating technology silos, and that's where you really need enterprise IT to be gatekeepers to a certain extent.

Jackie Walker: Understand what's feasible, where those enterprise integrations are going to take place and how they're going to take place to makesure the solution is scalable. And then make sure that it's supportable by operations, right?So some thingswill really want to have a high level of transparency into how the installation is going. Other brands want to be more hands off and say, we just want a third party to manage everything for us. I don't want to know every time that a screen goes offline. So,actually understanding those three pillars and how they're going to work together to deliver a solution end-to-end, to me is pretty critical.And then the last point, and to some extent, this is almost the most important, is future proof.

Bradley Cooper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jackie Walker: And clients always ask about future proofing, sometimes in a way that feels like bait because you don't know what you don't know.

Bradley Cooper: Right.

Jackie Walker: I think as the speed of change continues to increase dramatically, head room or future proofing is probably the most important consideration. If you look even this year at the evolution of customer experience that's been brought on by COVID, I think we're starting to see that customer expectations are very, very rapidly evolving.

Bradley Cooper: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jackie Walker: And the types of abilities that brands need to have to be able to meet those rising expectations, it's just getting quicker and quicker. So thinking about not only what you want to do today or tomorrow or next year in terms of digital signage, but what's the customer experience roadmap for the next five to seven years? I think that's the lens that brands need to start to take, right?You think about digital signage in particular, once you make that bet and start to install screens and media players in your physical locations,

Jackie Walker: whether it's a QSR or retail location, a bank, those screens and media players are going to be there for probably the next seven to tenyears,in a lot of cases. So,actually understanding what that customer experience evolution is going to look like, or at least having some guesses, right,I think is really critical to make sure that you're building in the right headroom to be able to have options down the road and not be really limited by what you have deployed.

Bradley Cooper: Excellent. Well, thanks so much, Jackie. Is there anything else you'd like to add before we jump off today?

Jackie Walker: No, it's been great to talk to you Bradley. I hope you can tell I'm really passionate about this space.

Bradley Cooper: Oh, yes.

Jackie Walker: I love helping clients to understand the intersection between business value, customer experience and technology. I've worked with a lot of clients across multiple verticals. And it's always interesting to me how every vertical thinks that their problems are really unique, but I think there are so many similarities across the industry.

Jackie Walker: And I hope that brands continue to learn from each other and think about how we, as an industry are going to drive the next evolution of these experiences. And start to do them in ways that feel really exciting and fresh for customers and in ways that are really cohesive with the rest of a customer experience strategy. So web and mobile, and we can start to deliver on this promise of omni-channel that people have been talking about for so long.

Bradley Cooper: Right. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Jackie. And it was really great talking with you.

Jackie Walker: Thanks so much, Bradley.

Bradley Cooper: Thank you.