While technology has infiltrated most aspects of our lives, Melina Meletakos examines its impact on our shopping experience.
Digital technology is changing the way advertising is done in the retail space – be it in a bricks and mortar store, online or using smartphone and tablet devices.
Advertisers can now speak to consumers with immediacy and relevance using digital display in malls, says Bruce Burgess, Posterscope development director for sub-Saharan Africa. “They can deliver messages at the right time and the right place, which is essentially the out of home Holy Grail,” Burgess says.
Advertising messages can now be flighted on entire networks, a development that delivers scale, even if in South Africa we haven’t fully taken advantage of this yet, says Burgess. “You have to walk before you can run, though. When we get there, we will be able to deliver hi-res content to people personally.”
And in addition, digital technology can also be used at the point-of-sale (POS) in stores, which is an owned media space, meaning that it belongs to the advertiser. So, for example, if a fast food restaurant sees that they have a massive stock pile of, let’s say, fish, and they know it is going to expire soon, they can run an advert about it at the POS. This also benefits customers because they can get a better deal, explains Burgess.
Mobile devices can also be used to blend virtual and physical shopping experiences in new ways. Apps allow advertisers to, again, deliver immediacy and relevancy, according to Burgess. Advertisers can identify when consumers are approaching a shopping mall and deliver adverts that are tailored to a specific person’s wants and needs. Apps can also be paired with customer loyalty cards, which give advertisers the opportunity to mine consumer information such as shopper behaviour, history and location. “A lot of consumers are asking questions about this kind of data and want to know what is being done with it. But when you are giving them tools that benefit them, instead of trying to sell them things, they don’t mind as much,” says Burgess.
Primedia Unlimited’s Primall Media and Mallworx Media have taken their M-App units, which serve as mall directories, and developed an app around them, “enhancing our ability to speak to shoppers via our innovative advertising modules”, says Lee Curtis, executive for sales and marketing at both companies. “This ranges from catalogue ads to brands owning a certain category on all searches relating to that category, right up to instant routing of shoppers once they click on certain ads.”
Curtis says Burberry is the perfect example of a brand that has evolved to bridge the gap between virtual and physical shopping worlds by using a golden thread of consistency. “What you see on the website and across the social media platforms is exactly what you experience when you walk into the store, complete with interactive screens displaying the fashion and accessories,” he says.
Speaking of the difficulties in integrating mobile use with advertising in the mall environment, Curtis says uptake by consumers and achieving workable numbers has been a challenge. “Shoppers don’t like to be bombarded with random ads about different products or brands. Targeted advertising is key to keeping your consumer engaged. You, therefore, need to know what your shopper likes, where they are buying and how much they are spending,” he says.
South Africa may lag behind more developed markets with all these innovations but Burgess predicts we will start seeing the uptake of these kinds of technology within the next five years.
To understand where the market is heading, Grapevine Media is converting all the static branding on the side of their Podz into interactive digital signage. Grapevine has several kinds of pods, including a baby-changing station, a custom-made pod shop and a smoking pod.
“They are more visually impactful and we can flight different communications on them so end up seeing better results. They are also quick and easy to update. The cost is initially expensive but once it’s been implemented it’s actually cheaper to run,” says Grapevine media director Angus Murray-Smith.
He predicts that malls will evolve to become more like showrooms where customers don’t necessarily buy anything. “They can come into the store and engage in a digital experience, which combines digital with the traditional bricks and mortar store.
Digital technology has also changed the way activations are done in the mall space by providing yet another touch point for engaging with consumers, says Riaan Greyling of ProActive, the activations division of Provantage Media Group.
“Leveraging activations through digital media leads to better impact and memorability. If ambassadors make use of tablets, digital brochures can be shown to consumers, their details can be captured and leads can be generated,” he says.
Gaming, adds Greyling, has now also become a part of activations. “This allows people to engage with a brand through a fun, unique, interactive element designed specifically for the campaign. This creates brand memorability, talkability and generates word of mouth; converting leads into sales and consumers to loyal brand advocates,” he explains.
Social media is being used extensively with activation platforms to drive consumers to enter competitions, track behaviour and engage with the brand. For chips brand Doritos, Provantage implemented a through the line campaign in Zambia that included an activations campaign with a digital element. An original Doritos jingle was produced and choreographed for the promoters, who then engaged with the audience by showing them the dance moves. Furthermore, a drive to the Doritos Facebook page encouraged interaction and also informed fans about Doritos events. The Facebook community grew from zero to 3 600 over a two month period with fans sharing branded content on their own walls.
But digital activations don’t come without their own set of challenges. Greyling says South Africa still has a connectivity hurdle, especially in rural and township areas. “Even though most South Africans have a cell phone, there is still a large role to play in educating people on how to use social media,” he says.
Ultimately, South Africa – which we sometimes call a ‘mall nation’ – has a very specific relationship with malls as places of leisure. Inevitably, digital will grow and more media will become technology-driven to meet consumer needs in this space.
This post was first published in the February 2015 issue of The Media magazine.
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