Virgin Megastores tests interactive digital signage that drives store
Virgin Megastores tests interactive
digital signage that drives store traffic
Digital signage is a fast-coming
audio-visual application that is
serving to augment a retailer's traditional means of static in-store
BY M.V. GREENE
print and display advertising and
marketing by leveraging computer technology to present dynamic
content to consumers.
ith its cadre of CDs and DVDs, apparel, electronics, games, books and other entertainment-culture products, Virgin Megastores is
where hip people want to be.
'At the Virgin store on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles several months ago, fans screamed as Mariah Carey
put in an appearance to celebrate the re-Iaunch of ''The
Emancipation of Mimi: Ultra Platinum Edition," her top-selling CD. That same week, at the Virgin store in New York's
Times Square, reality TV personality Nicole Richie held a
book signing for her first novel, "The Truth About Diamonds."
signs and change
and other objects
video onto glass and
Create digital menu
boards to feature
Run video featuring
from in-store kiosks
and corporate initiatives
VlIgin Megastores aims to be as trendy as the stars it attracts,
so to walk into its restyled, tri-Ievel Times Square location and
have the Nirvana baby "swimming" at yOur every move shouldn't seem all that unique.
Retailers - always balancing consumer whim and tight operating margins - wrestle with finding ways to spur excitement
and sales. Los Angeles-basedVirgin Entertainment Group, which
operates the global Virgin Megastores franchise within the business empire of British tycoon Richard Branson, believesit may have found that edge
in the deployment of interactive marketing through a digital signageapplication with
vendor partners Epson America and Canadian software inventor GestureTek.
STORES I JANUARY 2006
To date, the use of digital signage in retail settings has largely involved placing
video display terminals near
checkout areas to disseminate information and images as captive
customers wait in line to make
their purchases. Virgin and its
partners are taking the signage
concept to a new level of application by projecting the content
the Times Square
store and allowing customers to
interact with images.
"The key to this is interactivity
and getting the customer engaged
to stay longer in the store," says
John French, strategic business
manager for digital signage at Epson, which is providing the projection
technology via its PowerLite family of
commercial class projectors.
Virgin Entertainment Group chief
marketing officer Dave Alder, finding
that buzz around a promotion that marketers covet, says the signage has created quite the "talking point" in the store.
"It's rare today to find an entertainment store that actually entertains its
customers," he says. "Unlike many other entertainment retailers, we work hard
to add value to the shopping experience
by adding a true sense of fun. The digital signage marketing initiative is a significant part of this experience."
The baby "swimming" along the floor
of the Times Square shop is an image
from legendary grunge band Nirvana's
genre-defining "Nevermind" album,
first releasedin 1991 and re-packaged in
VincentJohn Vincent. But the idea of its
Walk this way
coming alive and being interactive realTo deploy, a video camera, projector
ly allows it to be much more attractive
and computer device are ceilingmount- and attract a lot more attention."
ed; content is programmed into the unit.
The Epson-GestureTek application alAs the camera views the projection, it is
so gives retailers the ability to display 2. able to differentiate between the person
"hanging signs" throughout the store
who is stepping into/interacting with the
and change them dynamically, project
projection and the image itself, gauging
fashions onto mannequins and other obspeed and angles. The reaction to the
jects, project full-motion video onto
projection is different for each person
glass and window displays, create digiwho walks by becauseof unique individual movements.
tal menu boards to feature daily specials,
run video featuring selected projects
"Things will move around in conjuncfrom in-store kiosks and incorporate
tion with the nature of how people actutraining and corporate initiatives.
ally interact with the graphics, as op"A lot of people are looking at digital
posed to just triggering something that's
signage to re-purpose advertisements
touched," Vincent says.
and promotions that provide some sort
GestureTek initially developed its
GroundFX system in the 1980s for use
of livelyimage to attract somebody's atin corporate promotions, entertainment,
museums and science centers where the
tention," says Barry
Wise, Epson's strate"camera would look at you, grab your
gic business managimage and put you into the graphics," he
says. "People love to interact with it. The
er on the Virgin
fact that nobody ever touches anything
"We feel that digital
is one of the better points in the retail
marketing really bespace. You can have people veryinteraccomes that last bastive and you don't have to worry about
tion within a retail
something breaking down because of
store to automate.. .
the way people are using it."
and to reach out and
French says Epson is working with retouch that customer
tail customers to measure return on inDigital
in a number of difvestment for the application, but much
of that depends on what the retailer
DVD format in 2005 as part of
wants to achieve from visual merchanVirgin customers, Alder says,
a classic album series. Virgin
have been intrigued at the sight
dising. Virgin's Alder says part of the
from the pack.
sought to make a splash to
of the image of the swimming
payback for Virgin Megastores will be
promote the DVD release,and
baby chasing the dollar bill as
measured in the impact it will have on
digital signage is the medium it chose.
depicted on the original album cover. "It
widening the Virgin brand.
"The baby featured on the [album]
certainly helps to set us apart and enRetailers increasingly are embracing
sleevemoves around in its pool and bubables us to live up to the expectation of
the concept of digital signage, and Wise
bles emerge as it does so," Alder says.
Virgin as a creative brand experience,"
believes the Virgin Megastore applica"It's a perfect use of the technology."
tion will be like a shot across the indusToronto-based GestureTek supplies
One of Virgin's objectiveswith the sigthe software and content manipulation
nage application is to drive business
"What I see retailers doing is making
through its GroundFX system,which althroughout the store. As customers
shopping more exciting by identifying
lows customers to "control" the advermove along with the baby's image, they
who the customer is and connectingthe
tising as they encounter it.
are being led toward under-visitedareas
message that's being delivered to that
where sales could use a boost.
particular place in time."
Billboara on the floor
Vincent calls the signage application a
"You're taking the same concept of a
"way-finding" system."It will sort of diM. V. Greene is an independent writer
billboard that might be up above peorect you to go in this direction to find
and editor based in Owings Mills,
ple's heads or on the wall and putting it
this particular product and move traffic
Md., who covers business, technology
and retail. .
on the floor," says GestureTekpresident
flow deeper into the store," he says.
STORES / JANUARY 2006