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Sometimes, inspiring customers to purchase one extra item, make pricier selections or impulsively fill their shopping carts with another article at checkout comes down to a business' nuts and bolts -- literally.
Take hardware chain Aubuchon Hardware as an example. Last spring, in partnership with BrightSign, Aubuchon conducted a study on its digital signage installation, demonstrating just how real-time incentives produce a "real life" result. After following customers' purchasing behavior over a one-month trial period, the retailer concluded that its interactive digital signs helped drastically increase sales: unit sales of interior paint improved by 23 percent, there was a 45 percent increase for smoke detectors, and an impressive 178-percent gain for air filters.
Convenience stores are also beginning to embrace digital signage adoption. Mac's Convenience Stores, a division of Laval, Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., recently measured the results of its real-time messaging solution and how it impacted shoppers' behaviors within its stores. The company's digital signage campaign ran ads for a breath freshener brand, which playfully featured a dog with a toothbrush in its mouth and speech-bubble text that read, "How's your breath?" and "We don't all have time to brush like Otis." The implied persuasion: breath fresheners work; use them.
Sales increased approximately 21 percent and the campaign saw more than 1,180 consumer impressions per location, per day, which generated more than 118,000 impressions of the breath freshener brand. The underlying message here is that technology can go a long way in powering purchases.
HOW CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT AFFECTS WALLET SHARE
The benefits of digital signage for convenience stores was a topic that took center stage at last year's NACS Show in Las Vegas. An educational workshop at the event discussed how digital signage is an ideal technology to not only drive purchases, but also persuade purchases.
Consider which is more effective: a static sign offering a discount for charcoal and lighter fluid if purchased together, or a 30-second video clip of a group of people on a sun-soaked beach, palm trees swaying, ocean surf crashing and a charcoal grill cooking hamburgers and searing steaks as music plays in the background.
Digital signage works even better when those engaging images and experiences are paired with timely and relevant offers delivered to customers' smartphones and tablets via short message service, push notification, e-mail or social media, and thanks to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
When it comes to smartphones and tablets, U.S. adoption rates are hovering around 55 percent and 30 percent, respectively, and 80 percent of shoppers expect in-store mobile-optimized product information. C-stores, like other shopping locations, will soon see more of their 58 billion annual customers using these mobile devices. Simultaneously, they will grow more familiar with how digital signage can be more effective and interactive when persuading a purchase, especially if it links and syncs with offers delivered directly to customers' devices.
Purchase persuasion also comes down to a matter of the speed of customer engagement and the number of customer metrics gathered. C-store shoppers are some of the fastest around, with typical in-store experiences lasting 3 to 4 minutes (and only 71 seconds to make their choice). From prepared food, beverages, household cleaners/toiletries, car maintenance products, lottery tickets and even over-the-counter medicine or basic hardware like light bulbs and extension cords, today's convenience store has quickly become the modern "general store."
If advertising offers can be redeemed by consumers just by tapping their mobile screen, rather than physically cutting out a coupon and waiting in line to complete a paper transaction, c-stores will be sure to see increased revenue and foot traffic.
This type of real-time advertising also means more real-time data to work with, allowing c-store operators to better tailor the customer experience while still respecting user privacy. This also means that c-stores can merge advertising, distribution channels and transactions to offer customers products and services that promote and seamlessly augment the physical store.
REAL-TIME OFFERS EQUAL REAL-TIME POTENTIAL
Of course, digital signage network startup costs aren't cheap and there's also long-term information technology maintenance considerations. But since the introduction of digital signage more than a decade ago, the costs have declined. There's also been an influx of competitors offering low-cost digital signage with wide-ranging screen sizes to meet any budget.
Plus, with digital signage's ability to link and sync with consumers' own handheld mobile devices, advertising interactions can be monitored and monetized.
The bottom line: digital signage combined with real-time offers, delivered in timely and relevant ways to today's tech-savvy consumers, is the best avenue for c-store franchises and operators to maximize return on investment, improve the customer's (albeit already fast) in-store experience, and better connect consumers to the brands they seek.
Alex Romanov is an accomplished business executive with diverse experience in a variety of industries, including consumer electronics, communication, digital imaging, video gaming and e-commerce. Romanov has been iSIGN's CEO since November 2007 and has successfully restructured the company, positioning it for rapid growth worldwide.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.