Buddy Can You Spare a Sign

Guest Contributor, Terry Scannell

It is always important to talk to the Vegas cabbies…they always know what is going on. My cabbie tells me that Vegas trade shows are down…a lot. The builder show one of the larger shows each year (and those folks used to spend money) instead of having 60,000 attendees has 20,000. The Consumer Electronic Show which is the largest was also down.

However large the DSE show is this year…it’s doing great! I hit the convention center. While not exactly the center of the known universe it is moving right along. I get my badge and it’s off to where I will find something to write about.

First stop…the Digital Sign Association meeting. Not sure I was invited but…what the heck. The association Executive Director shows slides that the association has grown in membership to nearly 200. One of main focuses of the association is building its website and bringing traffic to members.

The DSA has produced a software comparison guide of many digital sign software products on the market. The guide is interactive and allows you to put in various “needs” and it will present options to you. Non member cost is USD 399. This would be a good investment to narrow your options if you are thinking about build a system and do not have the time to sort it all out yourself and are not inclined to use a consultant. If you have a software that you want considered it might be a good idea to get it on the next release which they are working on.

The questions in the group indicate that they are feeling cost pressures from their clients and prospects. It appears that many of the members are facing cost questions not on the CapEx costs (which is the norm) but rather the costs of installation labor.

This is an area that does not get a lot of attention. One theory is as the installation companies get more experience with these projects it appears that the costs may be going up not down. This is likely the result of these companies finding out just how many “small things” can happen when doing installations. On the other hand one industry pro said, “it’s just too high.” But, it could also be that the installation labor costs are not going down as did the costs of the hardware and software.

Quick. to the mobile marketing session. This was very interesting and is worth a focused piece. Stay tuned.

Lunch, one thing to notice is that the Las Vegas Convention Center is filled with digital signs. They provide directions, information and there is an interactive system for way finding system. These were not in place five years ago…maybe not even two years ago. This is a good thing.

Finally, off to the content break out. It is very well attended. The presenter is Paul Flanagan from Best Buy. Best Buy operates its own in-store network in three areas of the store. He gives an animated and interesting presentation. He tells the audience that Best Buy is focused on the “people in the blue shirts.” For those few who have never been in a Best Buy store these are the store personnel.

The company has setup and uses feedback on the company intranet from store employees about the quality of the content and how customers are responding. Currently, they use a one hour loop that has about 50 to 60 “clips” in it. He also said, whenever he goes into the stores he asks employees for feedback

He tells us that Best Buy has found that spending more money on content does not necessarily make for better results. He gives several examples of where they spent hundreds of thousands on content and got less than spectacular results and where they spent zero and got great results. Not exactly what all the content production companies wanted to hear. He also shows a very impressive list of “partners” who provide free content. Well…they are Best Buy.

One of the most important pieces of information he shares other than the fact that suppliers pay for spots on the system (no surprise there) is that the system is moving product. In addition, in response to a question he says that while the system started off being a project for the merchandisers (product buyers) it has transitioned and is more of a collaborative project with marketing.

Probably the most important comment Flanagan makes is that as the importance of the in-store system has grown and as the company itself has focused more on what happens in the store there has been more and more integration between all the disparate parts of Best Buys marketing program. To some degree he offers that to some degree the in-store system has helped bring this about as much as it has been a part of it. Recently, Best Buy initiated a formal integrated marketing committee where all the various “channels” be it web, tv or in-store are coordinated. If there is one best practice that has been demonstrated over and over again…this is it.

It’s getting late… time for some warm milk and cookies here in Vegas….nah! I think I will do something else.

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