In-store retail media is suddenly one of the hottest spaces around. Brands and agencies are keen to find new ways to connect with the audiences retailers have cultivated, and so forward-thinking retailers are building out robust retail media networks that enable just that, often in coordination with other offerings online. But aside from the opportunity to make some more money off of ads targeting shoppers in their stores, what’s in it for retailers? Why does this retail media revolution really matter?
There are really several reasons, but here’s one of the most critical: consumer expectations are evolving. In an era of digitization and personalization, today’s consumer expects to be served contextually relevant and engaging content—and in-store retail media has fallen behind. Promos, ads, and other messaging that make it into the brick-and-mortar environment are typically static, dull, and unresponsive. Compare that with the contextual messaging people see with digital ads each day, and you can see that in-store media is in need of a major revamp.
The solution: take that digital experience and bring it to digital screens inside retail stores / bring that digital experience inside retail stores with digital signage. Suddenly, you can access all the benefits of timeliness, relevance, and vibrance of digital ads all along the path to purchase. This means being better able to influence shopper behaviour, creating more robust offerings for buyers, and improving the in-store experience, all at once.
Let’s walk through what this looks like.
Why today’s static in-store retail media falls short
There are a few reasons why static in-store retail media misses the mark. For starters, the content needs to be purchased well in advance, which means that only fairly superficial relevance to the context in which it will eventually be displayed is possible. And relevancy matters. Research has shown that using contextually relevant media in out-of-home campaigns actually increases advertising awareness by 18%.
The delay time between content creation and its deployment in store also makes it difficult to properly adapt to changing circumstances, such as those caused by supply chain disruptions and stocking fluctuations. Imagine you just put up an end-cap display for a new soda, but then shipping delays prevent you from actually having that product in stock. Not only will you find yourself dealing with confused and potentially angry customers, but you’ll also be wasting prime in-store advertising space while you scramble to find another piece of content to take its place.
In addition to messaging inaccuracies, static content’s inherent inability to adapt quickly can result in lost revenue for retailers. In grocery stores, where pricing and promotions can change daily, there’s a ton of time-consuming manual work involved in updating static in-store signage regularly. Plus, there’s no easy way to make granular adjustments related to the best time of day, location, and environment in which to display a particular piece of content. And if you can’t feasibly implement data-backed optimizations like these across your in-store signage system, then you’re leaving potential money on the table.
With many consumers returning to in-person shopping, there’s a huge opportunity for retailers to market to their customers at the point of purchase via in-store retail media. But if the content and messaging that are being delivered aren’t timely, engaging, and relevant, then you’re missing out on the chance to make a big impact on a highly motivated buying audience.
Evolving the in-store retail experience with digital displays
Today’s consumer expects personalized digital experiences and relevant content, whether they’re shopping from their computer or mobile device or in a brick-and-mortar store. In response, the most successful retailers are fusing digital and physical shopping to create a unified, customer-centred buying experience. And one of the best ways to bridge that gap and bring the digital experience into brick-and-mortar stores is through in-store digital signage.
Digital signage can help solve for common customer pain points by doing the following:
- Quickly capturing attention
- Providing up-to-date, real-time information
- Creating a memorable in-store experience
The use of digital displays has revolutionized the way retailers communicate with their customers and has been proven to provide a wide range of benefits to businesses, from higher levels of engagement to increased profits. There’s evidence that digital signs capture 400% more views than static signs and create a 46% increase in customer satisfaction. Research has also shown that digital signage in a retail store can help increase the average purchase amount by nearly 30%. These statistics explain why many retailers are eager to try using digital screens in stores as a way to influence consumers closer and closer to the point of sale.
To truly stand out in today’s competitive retail landscape, you need digital and operational strategies that work in tandem to form a holistic, user-friendly shopping experience. Retailers must assess their current operating models, digital capabilities, and audience engagement strategies, then make bold moves to transform themselves—and digital displays for in-store retail media offer an excellent way to optimize processes and create more enduring customer experiences.
Solving retail challenges with in-store digital media
In addition to grabbing customers’ attention with more engaging formats, such as eye-catching graphics or full-motion video, digital displays can provide a wealth of data that help make operations more efficient and match the right content with the right moment and contextual environment.
The use of digital in-store retail media can help solve some of the retailers’ top challenges thanks to:
- The ability to centrally manage retail media campaigns
- More flexible content scheduling capabilities
- Seamless integration with other data sources and back-end tools
- Support for programmatic transactions
One of the key operational advantages of using digital displays in a retail setting is the ability to centrally manage campaigns from company headquarters. A big box retailer with hundreds of stores all across the country, for example, can push out a new promotional campaign to every location in just a few minutes. Faster, more flexible content scheduling can make your in-store environment a part of the current moment by allowing you to implement or change promotional campaigns at a moment’s notice. It also helps you avoid locking in campaigns for products experiencing disruption for some reason—which is especially crucial in our current post-pandemic climate.
At the same time, digital screens make it easier to tailor in-store retail media so that it’s contextually relevant. Let’s say the big box retailer’s promotional campaign includes items that might not be appropriate for certain areas; there’s not much point in promoting flip-flops and coolers in an area that’s still snowy, and Red Sox jerseys won’t sell very well in New York. Digital in-store retail media allows you to incorporate local content and in-store data to add a local flavour to national campaigns, thereby improving the customer experience and avoiding missteps that could end up hurting sales.
Digital in-store media can also be used to solve stocking challenges and maximize sales of products that are already present in a store. This can be accomplished through automation—tying your display CMS to your PoS and stocking systems so that retail media messaging automatically changes in response to stocking data—and via manual changes made on the local level. While digital signage can be centrally managed from company headquarters, you can also grant your store managers and merchandisers the ability to manually turn messaging on and off as needed to either move products faster or stop boosting products that you’re running out of in that store.
By leveraging your existing first-party data and generating a wealth of new data points that can be used to optimize content delivery and better measure its impact, digital in-store retail media opens up new possibilities for retailers to create a deeper connection with customers and drive sales.
Building an effective in-store digital content offering/strategy
It’s clear that digital signage offers several advantages over static signage in a retail setting—that’s why many retailers are rapidly taking to digital in-store retail media. But there’s more to a successful deployment than simply swapping out your static signage; to make the most of what digital in-store retail media has to offer, you need a strategy for your digital in-store content offering.
Here are some things to keep in mind when building out your digital in-store content strategy:
- Balance first-party and third-party content
- Plan for the unexpected
- Enable programmatic transactions
- Leverage first-party data
1. Balance first-party and third-party content for in-store experience
The right content is key to creating a great in-store experience for your customers. As you start planning a content schedule for your digital displays, make sure you incorporate a mix of content that balances first-party and third-party content for in-store experience.
From the customer’s POV, the best content is relevant to them and adds value—think in-store promotions that can help them save money, information about new products they may want to try, or messaging about upcoming store changes and events. Similar to the “banner blindness” seen in oversaturated online spaces, if customers feel like they’re being spammed with ads instead of being educated and informed, they’ll simply stop paying attention. That’s why it’s a good idea to limit the amount of third-party advertisements displayed in stores and ensure that display content, whether yours or a third-party’s, is relevant to the context in which it’s being shown.
2. Plan for the unexpected
From shifts in your customers’ shopping habits to sudden supply chain disruptions and everything in between, the one thing every retailer can be sure of is change. That’s why a certain level of content flexibility for in-store retail media is crucial: it ensures you’re well-positioned to adapt to unexpected changes when they happen.
One of the biggest reasons to make flexibility a cornerstone of your in-store retail media strategy is relevancy. According to Accenture, 67% of consumers believe it’s important for companies to change content based on a person’s current context. If a store is prominently displaying a promotion for popsicles in the middle of an unprecedented snowstorm, that will definitely detract from a customer’s in-store shopping experience because the content they’re being shown isn’t relevant or helpful. Retailers that have factored content flexibility into their in-store digital media strategy will be better prepared to adapt to contextual changes caused by weather, world events, and inventory levels.
Content flexibility is also key to maximizing third-party ad sales. Retailers that can easily accommodate dramatic takeover-style campaigns and other complex scheduling requests will have a leg up on the competition. And if you connect your displays to an in-store digital media campaign management tool, that content flexibility allows you to rebalance and optimize your inventory to accept bookings you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to accept.
3. Enable programmatic transactions
One of the best ways to optimize your media sales process and open your retail business up to new revenue streams is by enabling programmatic transactions.
Integrating your in-store digital displays with a supply-side platform (SSP) built for programmatic advertising for in-store media opens your retail media network up to targeted campaigns from around the world. With programmatic advertising, the sale and delivery of ad content is automated in a similar way to what you see with most online advertising. This means it’s more accessible to brands and agencies that might be new to advertising on in-store digital displays but are interested in incorporating it into their multichannel campaigns. Programmatic transactions also allow you to set specific conditions, based on external data, that will trigger the purchase of an in-store digital ad slot. This opens the door to all kinds of creative campaign opportunities and enables more granular and precise ad targeting.
While you can accomplish a lot of the same things/similar results with direct selling, the biggest difference programmatic makes is in terms of speed and efficiency; you can deliver relevant messaging much more quickly with the help of automation.
4. Leverage first-party data
With third-party cookies set to crumble, marketers are looking for new ways to deliver messaging that feels personalized and contextually relevant. As a result, retailers’ first-party data relationships have become more valuable than ever—and many of the most forward-thinking retailers have been quick to take advantage of this growing opportunity.
Retailers today are able to collect a rich set of permissions-based first-party data about their customers both online and in physical stores. This data gives them insight into what their consumers want, when they want it, and how they want to buy it, and can be used to garner paid advertisements from brands they sell in their stores or line. Of course, retailers can (and should!) also leverage this data to deliver more relevant, and thus impactful, messaging to their customers, as well.
Digital screens build on the value of retailers’ first-party data by making it easier to buy and sell retail media inside of physical stores and also by themselves acting as data sources that can be harnessed for dynamic digital campaigns. Anonymous audience analytics software, which uses built-in camera sensors and video analysis algorithms to identify distinguishing characteristics of the people passing in front of a display, can change the display content based on the user. Other options, including partnerships with consumer data specialists like Catalina, Criteo, and Inmar, can either enhance first-party data gathered by other sources or act as a substitute altogether, and offer detailed audience information that retailers can provide to buyers interested in their in-store environments. In-depth metrics from digital displays also enable more precise ad targeting capabilities and impressions-based selling.
In short, retailers with digital in-store signage are at an advantage and should leverage their first-party data to deliver highly impactful messaging that can be directly linked to an increase in sales.