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Introduction to Digital Signage Systems

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OK, so maybe you’re doing your job a little too well.

After years of elevating customers’ multi-channel experience with digital technology andonline techniques, marketers may have inadvertently raised something else in the process: shoppers’
in-store expectations.

We’re talking about a fast-growing segment of digitally savvy patrons who expect to be engaged, entertained, educated and enticed when visiting (even smallish) brick-and-mortar establishments.

To meet such expectations, many businesses are considering adding digital signage to complement existing posters, banners, and other traditional retail signage. We describe the benefits of digital signage in a previous post, and even show how it might be deployed in a quick-serve restaurant (QSR) setting.

Here, we get a little more ‘hands-on’ by introducing you to key components of a digital signage system, summarized from an informative article penned by veteran AV-industry exec, consultant and author, Alan Brawn.

Begin at the Beginning

Brawn asserts that fully leveraging the impact and investment in digital signage first requires an understanding of its major system components, some of which include:

  • Hardware–physical nuts-and-bolts components, such as displays, mounts, cables and connectors
  • Software–the brains of the system, which may come bundled with the display or be purchased as an SaaS (software-as-a-service) subscription; can also include discrete modules for content creation, distribution, scheduling and other tasks.
  • Content–this refers to the “creation of the media to be displayed on the screen and may also include advertising and marketing components…it is an art form specific to digital signage, and usually involves more than reformatting media [previously] purposed for broadcast or print,” says Brawn.
  • Connectivity–choices are cloud-based or internet, and wired or wireless. Wired connections are extremely reliable but present cabling and other cost considerations. Wireless connectivity is more flexible but susceptible to signal reception and bandwidth issues.

Other components covered in Brawn’s article include: sign operation (which encompasses sign/network maintenance, service and support); content design and creation; and business considerations, such as ROI, revenue generation and analytics.

Adoption is Coming…Quickly

Research company Frost & Sullivan forecasts strong growth for digital signage.
“Brands, marketers and retailers are actively exploring synergies between digital signage and cross-platform tools, such as mobile phones, tablets, kiosks and touchscreen displays, in order to rebrand stores and influence customer decisions,” explains one analyst.

To learn more about this fascinating and fast-growing tactic, contact your current signage provider or other reputable supplier of innovative in-store signage. You can also pick up insightful tips and best practices in our popular archive of sign-related posts.

Better hurry, though. Customers are waiting.

Using Facebook Live Video For Business, Without Buying Any New Gear

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Maybe you’ve already tried a Google hangout, or dipped your toe in the live-video pool with Periscope or Meerkat. Now that Facebook has launched its own live-video application, there’s really no excuse not to try live video for your business.

Facebook Live offers users a built-in audience, whether live-streaming from your personal profile or company page. There’s no need to download anything to use Facebook Live on your profile.

Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner interviewed Facebook expert Mari Smithabout Facebook’s new live-video tool. Here are some of the ways integrated marketers can apply it to their businesses.

Ready For Your Close-Up?

Once you go live, the video goes out in Facebook notifications along with the news feed, delivering strong organic reach. For marketers, Mari contends that Facebook Live helps create a closer connection with your audience by personalizing your brand.

Two Ways To Use Facebook Live:

1) Personal: When you use Facebook Live through your personal profile, you get to choose the audience. You can broadcast to the public, friends only, a specific friends list, or just a few friends.

2) Business: Marketers who want to broadcast live, then share it to your Business Page, just choose a “public broadcast.” Once you share it on your Page, you can sponsor the post for greater exposure and reach.

Who Is Using Live and How?

Mari Smith cited examples such as Guy Kawasaki, who uses Live to show equipment or report on his travels and activities, and Technology columnist Robert Scoble, who uses Live to broadcast timely tech reports.

Businesses of any size can use Facebook Live as the basis for a podcast show that links to iTunes. You can also showcase your product or tech experts during Live interactive instructional classes or Q&A sessions.

Use Live to share a regular message such as a daily or weekly update, Q&A sessions, or timely news. Mari’s tip for Live broadcasters is to remember that your camera can film two different things: you or what you’re watching.

One of the many Facebook algorithm factors that marketers should consider, according to Mari, is “the speed at which people engage and interact with content,” so remember to encourage people to subscribe to your Live broadcasts. When subscribers are notified of a broadcast, they all join at once and start commenting, which helps to push your Live broadcast higher in the news feed.

How Call-Only Ads Can Make Cash Registers Ring

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Businesses that use pay-per-click marketing now have a powerful new tool at their disposal: Google’s Call-Only PPC ad format.

Google introduced Call-Only ads earlier this year after calculating that some 70 percent of mobile searchers call a business directly from mobile search results.

Naturally, the Call-Only format is simple: short copy, call button and, of course, big blue phone number at the top. Your URL is also shown, but inactive, as the format only allows for calling. One quick tap dials your company directly, sans the traditional splash page side-trip.

Search Engine Watch considers the new option an ‘upgrade’ for marketers who want more phone traffic. “While call extensions are an effective way to promote your business phone number in an ad, Call-Only campaigns have taken it a step further… [they’re] specifically targeted for businesses whose focus is phone calls.”

Once caveat: when running Call-Only ads, make sure your support staff is aware and onboard; remind them to put their best foot forward with every incoming call. Courtesy is king. And nothing will torpedo your efforts (and your ROI) faster than a rushed, rude or cavalier team member answering your phone.

Who Should Use Call-Only Ads?

Many businesses already use PPC ads in their integrated marketing mix. A previous Marketing Tango post covers PPC basics, including benefits and terminology. If you’re not using paid advertising, Google’s AdWords Center offers everything you need to set up and manage an account.

But are Call-Only ads really right for your type of company? If direct calls deliver higher ROI than a visit to your website, then yes, Call-Only ads are certainly worth a try.

Companies in the ‘Urgency’ Business

The obvious candidates for Call-Only ads include businesses that cater to busy mobile consumers searching for food, drinks or entertainment. Restaurants, for example, that offer takeout or accept phone-in orders and table reservations can surely benefit from Call-Only advertising.

But the new format might also favor companies whose business centers on handling more urgent situations, such as those that require a rapid response or professional intervention. Examples include:

  • Plumbers: It’s easy to imagine a panicky homeowner grabbing a cell phone and searching for help repairing a broken water pipe, clogged toilet or leaky bathtub.
  • Walk-In/Urgent Care Centers: Most people will call 911 for life-threatening matters but may search local listings for care and treatment for minor accidents and mishaps.
  • Pet Emergencies: We all love our pets and want immediate care when something unexpected happens to them; Call-Only ads put vet/care center numbers right at pet owners’ fingertips.
  • Locksmith: who hasn’t had the helpless, sinking feeling of being locked out (and willing to pay almost anything to get back in)? And who hasn’t immediately reached for their cell phone, hoping against hope that the local locksmith will answer the call?

Call-Only ads aren’t for everyone. They aren’t particularly good for brand or image building, for example. But with a little planning and a modest budget they can make the phone–and maybe even your cash registers–ring more often.