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It's Not About the Screen
16 April 2009

Multiple ScreensSpice Temple, Bligh St Sydney

It's Not About the Screen

Does anyone remember the Granny Mays stores?

In the late 1990’s they sold gift merchandise based on the Simpsons, South Park and Nickelodeon shows. Their showpiece in each store was a 3x3 grid of TV screens, known back in the last century as a “video wall.” This would have been a huge investment for the franchisee but was a unique feature and had perfect content - they were showing exactly what they were selling.

Now the digital equivalent is commonplace and affordable but does it really add value? Plasmas and LCDs are so affordable, everyone has one or more at home. Many people sit in front of one all day for a living. So it’s not enough just to have one in store. It must be used engagingly.

Content is everything. Playing your ads in store is not good content. The customer has already seen your ads, they have come to your store. LCD screens shouldn’t be a self-service substitute for a salesperson. Touch screen product selectors should be thought of as an opportunity for sales people to engage with customers and guide them in their choices.

To really engage customers with digital screens you have to get creative. Recently I went to Neil Perry’s new restaurant, Spice Temple, which is in a basement off Bligh Street in Sydney. Embedded in the heavy front door is a huge LCD screen, literally the size of the door, showing nothing but a studded Chinese wood door with a fluttering red curtain in front of it. Just a beautiful, simple idea that grabs attention but also sums up the entire essence of the restaurant- Chinese, romantic, experimental. That striking image crystallises my memory of the experience.

Size is important. Very big or very small gets noticed. Placement is also crucial. Ted Baker Endurance has huge plasma screens taking up a whole wall of each of their dressing rooms, just showing old Hollywood actors wearing great suits. We once did an optical store where we had tiny LCD screens with a circular frame showing an eye winking. And an Italian restaurant that showed vintage Italian movies in small screens embedded in the floor of the ladies room. These are the kind of applications that the customer notices, remembers, and associates with the brand.

Sure there are pragmatic uses for LCD screens in price pointing, menu boards and tactical offers but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about the intangible, the feeling a customer has when they walk out of your store and place you’ve created in their heart that makes them want to come back.

What you need to think about is not the screen but the message. How do you want to engage your customer, how do want them to feel? Then think about what’s the best way to convey that message. There’s a whole world of creativity available to you. Maybe it’s not about screens at all……

16 April 2009
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