Can digital signage make wait times less annoying?

Discussion
Apr 26, 2016

While reducing actual wait times at checkout is an ongoing struggle for retailers, a new survey shows that digital signage can perhaps at least make the wait feel shorter for consumers.

According to the survey conducted by Millward Brown and commissioned by digital POS provider Impax Media, 84 percent of shoppers indicate that watching content on digital displays helps the time pass more quickly. About 70 percent of respondents agree they would watch the screens when in the checkout line. Another 15.7 percent aren’t sure, according to VentureBeat, which reported the study.

Asked about content they were interested in, the top response was information on sale items, 76 percent; followed by weather, 75 percent; upcoming special in-store events, 69 percent; new services in the store, 65 percent; local community events, 64 percent; and recipe ideas, 63 percent.

Other research, often funded by digital ad specialists, finds that digital signage offers better recall rates than TV and other mediums. In-store signage has an advantage in targeting messages at the right place and time.

Despite the rosy reviews in the Impax Media study, only 40 percent said they would be more likely shop at a grocery store with digital signage near the checkout line. And in-store signage near cash registers or anywhere else at retail is still rare.

Beyond the expense, the adoption of in-store digital signage is being hampered by a lack of proficiency in creating compelling content. A survey last year of marketers at 200 major retailers by Zmags, a digital marketing concern, found 49 percent indicating content — creating rich media experiences — was the most critical factor in getting consumer attention.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
Do you see digital signage helping reduce the annoyance over checkout wait times at supermarkets? What do you think is the biggest reason digital signage hasn’t taken off at retail?

Braintrust
"My take has always been, "This joint had to put TVs at the cash registers? How long do they expect me to be here?!""
"Digital signage to help reduce annoyance at checkout sounds like a good idea until you think about the content: Ads for an item you may have missed? Then you can get out of the checkout line and go and get it?"
"The reduction of perceived wait times has been used as a rationale for investing in digital signage for years. This has been a popular reason (excuse!?) for implementing digital signage in retail banking for years."

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23 Comments on "Can digital signage make wait times less annoying?"

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Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Screens have been trying to entertain shoppers for years at the POS. Rarely any compelling content to view. However, my take has always been, “This joint had to put TVs at the cash registers? How long do they expect me to be here?!” It’s a bad precedent to set, I believe.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

I feel this one could go either way. I can see how some digital signage would help keep customers occupied while waiting in line. However, if there becomes an onslaught of digital signage, I can see that becoming problematic and more of an annoyance. Lately, in New York, it seems like more and more previous blank spaces are becoming advertising space with digital signage. I often wonder when it will become too much.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Smartphones … tailored content at your fingertips.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

There was research done on this issue decades ago in banks, DMVs and supermarkets. It was quite simple. People in a queue with and without signage to look at were asked to estimate their waiting time. Those in the queue without digital signage or TV screens overestimated their waiting time versus actual by about 65 percent. Those in the queue with digital signage or TV screens underestimated their actual waiting time by about 35 percent.

So yes, any distraction, being it digital signage or magazines at the checkout will help the time seem to go faster than it actually is and will reduce annoyance.

Back then, it did take off in banks and DMVs, but not supermarkets. The reason was cost. The supermarkets did not want to invest in the technology. Or maybe, the supermarket did not want the customer to be distracted by the screens with the hope that they would buy those products displayed at the checkout.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Being a big fan of digital signage, my ready answer is a resounding yes. And the reason is that customers are often subjected to longer than tolerable queues, and digital signage can deliver entertaining and even meaningful content (such as a how-to or recipe video).

The desire to implement digital signage is influenced by being able to properly locate the screens and by the cost of production of quality content. Luxury retailers have adopted it. Their video loops are of a high quality and probably cost a significant amount of money to produce, which they can afford. Supermarkets work on very low margins albeit high volumes and possibly they don’t feel they can afford costly production. The answer to why it is not more widely implemented is not clear because even a news feed or cooking channel feed would not be expensive.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Anything that distracts a waiting shopper in a positive way will reduce annoyance and be more persuasive — there is reams of data from the 1950s/1960s on distraction and persuasion.

Why hasn’t it taken off is pretty obvious — there’s no ROI for it. Telling me about store specials while I’m waiting to check out is useless. I’m not giving my position up. If a store persistently has a long checkout line then they need to fix that problem, not try to make it more palatable. That’s the sustainable solution at minimum cost.

Naomi K. Shapiro
Guest
Naomi K. Shapiro
10 months 26 days ago

Digital signage to help reduce annoyance at checkout sounds like a good idea until you think about the content: Ads for an item you may have missed? Then you can get out of the checkout line and go and get it? All other suggestions for content were weak and nonsensical. And if someone is absorbed by the content, they will slow down the checkout with which you were annoyed to start with? And the digital signage will take away from impulse purchases at the checkout points? And … these are all negatives, so I decided that digital signage at checkout might not be such a great idea.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Digital signage simply promoting other specials (many of which won’t appeal to the shoppers in line) may simply be too little, too late.

Instead, I would suggest focus be placed on personalized messaging delivered via smartphone to attract attention and prompt potential additional purchases. Of course to deliver that newly-added item, the retailer has to have a runner that brings it to them while in line … few will leave the line to simply re-enter at the back of the queue.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust
The reduction of perceived wait times has been used as a rationale for investing in digital signage for years. This has been a popular reason (excuse!?) for implementing digital signage in retail banking for years. I have been involved in all aspects of digital signage since 1998 and I’ve heard them all. Among the other lame attempts to rationalize the investment in this communication medium is “return on objective” (ROO). Frankly, I’ve never heard of ANY project being funded because it has an incredibly high ROO. In short, any retailer that cares about its customer’s checkout wait times should open more checkout stations NOT install digital signage! The single biggest reason digital signage hasn’t taken off at retail has been the lack of designing and activating a sustainable business model that is valued by all of the three core stakeholders — the retailer, their vendor partners and the shopper. The retailers have been too focused upon how they can use this medium to extract more cash from their vendor partners instead of designing solutions that are truly valued and relevant to the shoppers. Digital signage is but one application that can be used to communicate effectively with shoppers in-store. Designing… Read more »
Jerry Gelsomino
BrainTrust

The only thing that can make wait times less annoying is to either shorten them or distract customers’ attention away from them. Digital signage content has to be really good to do that.

Chris Weigand
Guest
10 months 26 days ago

Two comments. I wonder if showing information on sale items would cause stress. For instance, learning about an item on sale when I’m in the checkout line is too late, right? Am I going to leave my place in line to go back and get sliced ham on sale? Secondly, it would be interesting to study the impact digital signage would have on impulse shopping in check lanes. At the grocery store, the check lane is my time to browse magazine covers, gossip, news, food ideas, home ideas — and candy. At DIY stores, I might impulsively restock on batteries during the wait.

Point is, are you cannibalizing check lane sales compounded with the added expense of yet another electronic screen vying for my attention?

In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m probably more likely to be browsing social media during my check lane wait, especially if I’m shopping alone. So is there more bang for your buck if you advertised via social media? Social media that sensed you were in a certain retailer at that moment …

Karen McNeely
Guest

Maybe I have very high standards for customer service. (Ok, there’s no maybe about that) but if a store consistently has lines long enough to warrant watching a video they need to look at better staffing their store and having cross-trained staff who can be called up front during peak periods. Invest in people, not technology.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
10 months 26 days ago

The challenge with digital signage, like so many other brand messages today, is relevance. Unless digital signage is pure brand and product imagery (mass), or unless it’s highly tailored to address specific individual customers in a store, it’s likely irrelevant. Beacons, in-store wifi and other applications can and should be employed to deliver relevant in-store messages. Increasingly there is technology that supports such tactics.

Other than a personal screen while you’re literally at the checkout stand, mass devices are nothing other than background imagery or at worst, irrelevant clutter.

Kevin Kearns
Guest
Kevin Kearns
10 months 26 days ago

Rather than attempting to distract shoppers in line, the real solution should be to effectively measure traffic, anticipate busy times and allocate enough staff to keep lines short.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

First, is the wait so long that they have to put some type of screen or monitor to keep the customer’s mind occupied? Manage the wait and you won’t need the monitor — except for advertising.

Next, the issue of annoyance will depend on what’s on the sign.

Finally, consider what Disney does when their guests have to stand in line. They have monitors (as in digital signage) that run some form of entertainment to help the guests enjoy the waiting experience. The key for retailers is to create content on their screens that enhances the wait. The way you know it’s good is when people would rather watch the screen than check-out.

Tom Redd
BrainTrust

Considering the millennial shopper — who loves screens of any size — put it on a video and they will stare at it. Heck, toss it on their mobile phone and they are happier than pigs in … well, need a better line here.

It is sad in some ways how people need to be entertained like kids just for a simple delay.
Us older people — we just stood there and talked to other people. Mills ever notice that they can communicate with human beings in other ways than only with fingers?

TRedd – Anti-Young Movement of Ohio….

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Mesdames et messieurs, today’s theme, simple fixes: want higher average sales? Close your slow stores. Overlong waits? Give them entertainment. There’s nothing new with the idea, of course — that’s why waiting rooms have magazines — and I’ve nothing against it per se. But it’s very easy to see this as a “solution” and forget about the real problem(s) of excessive wait times or mis/understaffing; and no amount of videos are going to pacify someone truly in a hurry.

William Hogben
BrainTrust
– – Full disclosure, eliminating waiting lines and personalizing messaging is my business: FutureProofRetail.com – – As fellow commenter Herb Sorenson writes people are budgeting more than money when they go shopping – they’re also budgeting time and angst. The more time and stress involved shopping at a retailer, the less money is left in their mental budget to spend there — so retailers are right to look for ways to decrease the time and angst costs. Digital signage, however, does neither. It doesn’t save you any time (you still wait in the line), and once the marketing department gets ahold of the content it often promotes more angst. It further suffers from the same problem as all in-store signage, namely the impossibility of being relevant to it’s whole audience. Retailers don’t need to distract people waiting in lines anymore. This is the age of the smartphone, 80% of your customers carry one and they’ve got way better distractions on there than the tv over the checkouts. All the information in the world, and a connection to their loved ones — it’s no contest. The real goal should be to save customers time, and the angst that goes with it, so they… Read more »
gordon arnold
Guest
10 months 26 days ago

I might try using the money to hire an additional cashier or two or three even. This is a proven way to reduce wait times. But that’s just what the customers tell me they want and what do they know?

yuichi sekiguchi
Guest
yuichi sekiguchi
10 months 26 days ago

1st, Content, 2nd, Content and 3rd, Content! Is the content really important for shoppers? Is the content is additional information which is not available on the web? Is the content fresh and often updated?

Dominick Porco
Guest
Dominick Porco
10 months 24 days ago
After reading all the above opinions, I feel the need to make the following statement: Digital signage content at retail need not be as compelling as an Oscar winning movie to have a desired effect. Bite-size messages that are particularly relevant to the given retail environment can be extremely effective. I’ve had the good fortune of sitting atop two major in-store signage companies over the past 20 years, 11 at News America Marketing and the last 9 at Adspace Networks. At both companies I saw the real life effect that properly executed messaging can have on sales and why advertisers continue to increase their investment in in-store signage. Digital signage is a substantial improvement over static signage for many reason including the fact that the eye is three times more likely to focus on something that’s moving. Don’t underestimate the power of video to attract one’s attention. Most advertising, including TV, is absorbed with a passive mindset. That is why frequency is so important to most advertising campaigns. It’s through repetition that even superficial messaging gets through. The idea that the content needs to be so compelling that it could cause the lines to be longer or distract people from… Read more »
Mike Lauber
Guest
Mike Lauber
10 months 24 days ago

Increasingly, the in-store medium that draws attention is the shopper’s mobile phone. Unless there is compelling content — and “information on sale items” when you’re already in the checkout is too late! — the screens won’t get widely adopted.

Sandra Otoole
Guest
Sandra Otoole
10 months 24 days ago

Digital signage being annoying is the sole reason. But there are some cases where the signage displays the appropriate messages without making customers irritated. One can think of the most concise way to send out the messages which will definitely improve the impression all are having at present. 

 

I’d like to believe that this is not just in the case of digital display, but also in the case of other signage like directional signs, or LED computerized signs. We actually had to redesign one of our directional signs, as the previous one really projected a bad image of our business.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"My take has always been, "This joint had to put TVs at the cash registers? How long do they expect me to be here?!""
"Digital signage to help reduce annoyance at checkout sounds like a good idea until you think about the content: Ads for an item you may have missed? Then you can get out of the checkout line and go and get it?"
"The reduction of perceived wait times has been used as a rationale for investing in digital signage for years. This has been a popular reason (excuse!?) for implementing digital signage in retail banking for years."

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