Can your store benefit from digital signage?

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If you ask Chris Beatty, digital signs are “sexy.”

And in a way, the business development manager for Vital Media has a point. Far more sophisticated than the markers-and-cardboard variety, one can see how the sleek form of signage attracts attention. Just stand in line at any supermarket checkout equipped with a flat screen, and see for yourself how the moving images and messages are easier on the eyes (and more interesting) than the stationary ads that surround it.

“One of the major advantages is that digital advertising is seamless,” Beatty says. “You’re providing a ton of content, with the ability to change up the content with rotating scenes. It’s animated and compelling, and it feels far less cluttered.”

Vital Media is currently branching into the powersports market after gaining popularity in the automotive world. (One of its larger partners is Michelin tires.) The company works with both brands and dealers to develop programs and content tailored to match the specific needs of each client.

“Content is huge in the digital side,” Beatty says. “It makes or breaks the program. A winning program is primarily content-based.” Content can include anything from text and images to video.

Aside from being more streamlined than traditional advertising, digital media is easy to update, and changes in content can be made anywhere from instantaneously to up to 48 hours after the change is requested. This makes it easier on dealers who want to feature short sales, or spur-of-the-moment sales, like a flash sale on oil changes or apparel.

“One of the most popular ways we do an update is send out an email with a checklist,” Beatty says. “[Dealers] can go in and preview the content that’s going to be on the screen.” There also are applications available that allow dealers to change content themselves, in a powerpoint-esque style.

In terms of placement, the no-brainer notion is to have signs visible in high-traffic areas. Beatty recommends evaluating how exactly your retail environment works. Are there long wait times for customers in service lounges? Is there an obvious flow of customer traffic? If so, placing digital signs in these areas could prove most effective. Mounting a screen near a POS station is always a good move.

“If it’s about accessories, saddlebags, you’re going to want to place it in that area [of your store],” Beatty says.

One of the drawbacks to digital signage, Beatty says, is that initially, it’s not cheap. Upfront costs include the purchase of commercial-grade monitors and equipment. Consumer-grade equipment just won’t cut it, he explains. “There is a huge difference from a display you buy at Walmart versus a commercial-grade display,” he says. “With a TV at home, you flip it on, and flip it off after a couple of hours. In a retail environment, you’re looking at a constant runtime. An average 12-hour runtime is definitely going to be stressing the hardware.

The good news is, however, that once you’re up and running, the cost of maintenance is very little. “Once they have the signage in there, and there’s a ROI, there’s very little expense in keeping it running and updating the content,” Beatty says.

For thrifty dealers, Beatty recommends contacting their OEMs to inquire about co-op dollars available for digital sign programs. (You also can contact Vital Media for more information.) Smaller stores, and those interested in digital signage who don’t have co-op dollars to work with, can contact Vital Media for other cost-saving tips — like going through a dealer network.

“Mom-and-pop retailers are the backbone of America,” he says. “With these smaller stores, it seems dealer networks are actually buying in and leading the way more so than larger retailers.”

To learn more about Vital Media’s digital signage program, visit its motorsports-specific website at www.vitalmedia.com/motorcycle.

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews October 2011 issue.