Thursday, August 09, 2012

Billboards To Transformers

Mr. Billboard meet the Transformers. Talk about getting someone's attention! This amazing signage rests at the Munich Airport Centre Forum and has been given the name: the 'MetaTwistTower'.

The tower was installed to mark the airport's 20th anniversary. I'd be happy with a 42" television for my birthday, but the tower stands about 35 feet (10.6 meters) high and has about a 135 square foot (41 square meter) rotating LED surface.

The tower's three layers each contain three LED screens installed on rotating mechanisms which allow it to change in format and orientation. Ultimately all three layers can combine into one spectacular screen. In addition to the hardware, the content is synchronized on all three layers which ultimately come together on one enormous screen.

Is this amazing tower the future for billboards?

Screen Placement Is Everything

I was recently in a restaurant that had a digital screen installed in the floor of the waiting area; right inside the front door. Since we were seated right away, I didn't even notice the screen until I was leaving the establishment. Luckily, someone pointed it out to me. 

The restaurant was using the screen to display a live sporting event on TV, so I can only assume that the screen is there for patrons waiting to be seated at their tables (or simply to lower the perceived wait time). But in order to watch, I had to be standing right above the screen and looking down-- which was not very comforting on the neck. Additionally, if more than one person wanted to watch, they would have to gather around the screen, forcing some people to watch it upside down. 

So, I ask: Do you think this screen is serving its intended purpose? Is it serving any purpose? 

First rule when installing a digital signage screen: People must be able to see it! If you don't follow this rule, then why even install a screen? It all goes back to knowing your objectives. What does this restaurant want to accomplish by having a digital screen? Whatever their goal, they have already limited what they can accomplish by installing the screen in the floor.

Most dine-in restaurants I've been in have the waiting area close to the host stands. Now, let's say a restaurant installs a screen either above or in the host stand. Already, they've increased what they can accomplish and given themselves a higher probability of achieving their goals. If their only goal is to lower the perceived wait time, then they just display the same content-- live TV. But, why stop there? Why not break the screen into zones and display menu items (or the entire menu) in one zone and TV in the other? Now they're entertaining and informing their customers. You could even take it a little further: Imagine that the host informs you that it's going to be a 20 minute wait because there are 5 other parties in front of you. The host could then punch your name into the system and have it pop up on the digital screen. With this arrangement, you would know exactly when you’ll be seated without bothering the employees. 

Screen placement is everything to a successful digital signage system. It can easily make or break what you want to accomplish. Remember, before you install the screen, ask 'what do we want to accomplish and where will we have the best chance to do so?'.

What are some of the worst places you’ve seen a screen installed? How did the screen placement limit what could have been accomplished? What would you have done differently?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Hidden Opportunity For QSR With New Healthcare Laws

Whether you you love or hate the newly initiated healthcare bill, one thing is for certain - things are changing and not only for doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies. What the media has dubbed as 'Obamacare' includes a major change for restaurants that will create a ripple effect into our world of Digital Signage.

Title IV of the new law states that 'Restaurants which are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name must disclose calories on the menu board and in written form.' People in the restaurant and digital signage industries have been paying close attention to the new menu label law. Now that it's passed, many restaurants are rushing for a solution to comply with the new regulations. Herein lies the opportunity for both digital signage and the restaurant industries.

In order to comply with the law, restaurants must display the caloric intake of each item on their menu boards. As new products are added or the amount of calories for items change, restaurants will be forced to update their menu boards. These changes carry a big price tag, considering all that needs to happen— designing, printing, shipping, and installing new signage several times each year can be very costly. By installing digital menu boards, restaurants can easily lighten the workload and expense of managing their menu boards and still comply with the new law.

Not only does digital signage make managing menu boards easier and more cost efficient, but restaurants can use this opportunity to really improve their menu board strategy. QSR Magazine recently published an excellent article on the strategy behind a menu board. When I was reading this article, it occurred to me that most of the strategies discussed could probably be automated if a digital menu board was integrated with the restaurant's POS system. For example: If the center of a menu board is considered the 'hot spot', then restaurants could automatically move items into the 'hot spot' based on sales numbers or other pre-defined indicators from their POS system. By leveraging the data in their POS system and displaying it on a digital menu board, restaurants turn their old, static menu board into their best sales rep; the Smart Board.

Some restaurants are worried about people choosing not to eat at their establishment based on the caloric intake displayed on the board, so another big concern is actually getting people in the door of the restaurant and keeping them there. This is another big opportunity for restaurants to benefit from digital signage, but this time, on the outside of the store. In this article, a Cleveland based Dairy Queen has seen sales rise 10-15 percent above their regional average and the owner gives most of the credit to the newly installed outdoor digital billboard. The screen allows him to keep in touch with the community, change promotions based on the weather, and saves him a ton of time and money.

The benefits are clear and the time is right for more restaurants to make their move to digital menu boards. I think the movement has already begun, but we'll start to see more pop up as restaurant owners look past the initial cost and look forward to the long term benefits. What do you think? Will 'Obamacare' affect the digital signage industry? What is the best move for restaurants as they work to comply with the new laws?

Hyper Smash