Episode 27 – Digital Signage – What? I didn’t know you could do that!!

Connection
Connection

Digital Signage is everywhere!  What is it and how is it transforming business from employee engagement to customer experience?  Engage and Amaze!  We also discover the interesting use of AI within digital signage.  

Host: Penny Conway

Guest: Toby Mackey: Sr. Product Manager for Digital Signage Practice

Guest: Pat McCusker: Business Development Manager for Digital Signage Practice.

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This is the Transcript of the Techsperience – Episode 27

Penny Conway:

Welcome to another episode of Connection TechSperience. I’m your host, Penny Conway, Senior Program Manager for Workplace Transformation. And today we’re going to be talking about the digital signage phenomenon. You may see when you walk into your favorite Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts in the morning that your maybe more traditional signage, menu signage has been transformed into a digital screen. Or maybe when you’re pumping gas you’re being constantly advertised to today. We are going to dig into exactly what digital signage is from an organizational transformation point of view.

But also, how advertisers and retailers are using it as part of their omnichannel strategy. Today we have with us Toby Mackey and Patrick McCusker who are Connection’s real experts on the digital signage industry and our programs. So Toby, why don’t we start with you. A little bit of an introduction around what you do here at Connection and what brings you to the podcast today.

Toby Mackey:

Thanks Penny. I am a Senior Product Manager and Digital Signage Practice Manager. So at Connection, been here for a few years, came up on 26 this year.

Penny Conway:

Just a few.

Toby Mackey:

Just a few.

Penny Conway:

(laughs).

Toby Mackey:

Might say I’ve grown up here, well gotten older, let’s put it that way. Basically, I manage the practice that oversees all of our digital signage strategy. We have people out in the street, Patrick’s one of them. He works on our enterprise side of the house and we go out and help people develop strategies around digital signage and produce a solution so that they can move forward and deploy signage.

Penny Conway:

Awesome. Patrick.

Pat McCusker:

So I’m Pat McCusker. I’ve been with Connection for about 10 years now. I like to tell people the easy way to think of what I do is if you’re looking for a monitor and it’s not going on a desktop, I cover that monitor and all the stuff that goes with it. Not just the monitor itself, but how to make it work. How to make it useful to your organization.

Penny Conway:

Like I said in the intro, I feel digital signage has been one of those things that is popping up that maybe we’re not even noticing really where it is. Like I see a menu board that’s been replaced with an LCD TV. I see elevators have TVs in them, gas stations have TVs in them. But you know, outside of the things that are more blatantly in our face, what are some of the uses that are popping up for digital signage that maybe people haven’t really thought that that’s where a screen would go?

Pat McCusker:

I think it’s not so much thinking of where a screen might or might not go. It’s, it’s what goes behind making that screen work. You take the coffee shops that are around for instance, and today it’s miserably cold and rainy and awful. Taking those screens and using the data of it’s really cold out today and knowing product A, B, and C, hot coffee, a bagel, what have you tend to sell better on a cold and rainy miserable day. That’s really what they’re doing. Is they’re taking these screens, printing up these ads and then making them dependent on that piece of information.

So, that data that it’s cold and rainy and makes it run ad A as opposed to ad B and they sell more of that during that time. It’s really not so much the screens popping up in interesting places. It’s the interesting use cases that have popped up around them. You really just don’t see.

Related: The 5 R’s of Digital Signage

Penny Conway:

That’s taking one of my favorite topics ever is focusing a little bit around artificial intelligence analytics. Not only giving information to help a consumer make a decision, but almost lead them to a certain decision with the data that you have. So, I think that’s a small example of taking the, what the weather is. If it’s 90 degrees, you’re advertising ice coffee. If it’s 30 degrees, you’re advertising hot coffee. But are you seeing organizations sort of take the analytics and I might be getting like way too into this for just starting (laughs).

But I think the whole point of digital signage is that it’s a flow and it can be changed easily, and it can be directly marketed to someone in a certain place to accomplish a single goal. Are you seeing sort of analytics behind the screen that are helping people create content and lead to better decision making or purchasing?

Toby Mackey:

That’s sort of a key to digital signage remaining successful. The ones you see, you mentioned earlier, Starbucks coffee shops, Dunkin’ Donuts here in New England. Yay! But the ones you don’t see or you don’t think about are the ones that are like in a manufacturing facility or healthcare or education, high ed. All of those are areas that they’re using data integration to create either dashboards or information. So, for example, we have a lumber facility, if you will, or a lumber company out in the Midwest there’s a case study out there about it.

They integrated digital signage as a communication tool to one help educate their employees to show what they were doing to actually utilize it. They’ve got their whole yard mapped when the logs come in based on zones. Almost like a shipping yard. The way they map out our shipping air to know which container has what they do. The same thing with wood. So they know what needs to be replaced, what needs to be replanted, what needs to be used, what they pulled out of it. Um, and then they’re using that and, a NOC or a network operating center. So, they’re running the lumberyard, you think-

Penny Conway:

Whoever would have thought a lumberyard is being run by a NOC.

Toby Mackey:

Right. So, at the end of the day, by that they’re one of the greener lumber producing facilities out there. They’re one of America’s largest. They’re using digital signage to communicate with their employees, to communicate safety. And at the same time they’re also using it in the yard to increase their efficiencies and actually be greener company.

Healthcare can use it in wayfinding or administration information to the clinical side of the house or patient care. It’s, some of the things that we don’t see and don’t use as what makes signage for me, exciting.

In the sense that it’s a communication tool. It’s an engagement tool. It should be part of your digital communication strategy. Everybody has them, whether you’re a small business or an enterprise level company. You have to communicate to your external facing people or audience. Whether it be a customer, or you have to communicate to your inside, your employees.

Penny Conway:

I never really think of that and you know, we have digital signage around our own office. And you get to see, who’s made certain accomplishments, upcoming events, and things like that. But I never truly took a step back and realize that it’s more than just a, “Oh look, so and so did a good job or we have this event coming up.” But typically, there is a… or I should say historically there is sort of not as much communication coming from an executive level down to a floor.

Like the lumber yard is a perfect example. Those guys that are in the lumber yard probably don’t have a strong stream of communication from the owners of the lumber yard. So it’s being used inside of an organization to kind of have more of that executive voice and like bringing groups together or do you think it’s more of a like, “Oh, pick up your turkeys next Thursday for Thanksgiving or we have an event this spring, things like that.” The more menial that is just replacing an email. So how, I guess, how is it different from an email communication? How is it being leveraged?

Pat McCusker:

Sure. Yeah, that’s a great example actually. I mean, we’re in the middle of a job down in Florida right now where we just started helping the VP and C level executives communicate down to the 200 some odd branches that they have in… it’s not necessarily retail. It’s sort of somewhere between healthcare and retail. But that does exactly what they do. They take their messaging to say, “Hey, we need, sales to increase on X, Y, or Z. Here are the locations that are hitting it. Here’s the location that’s not. And when they have that sort of broad communication that they want to send out either via video or audio, we’re integrating that into the system.

So, the folks come in early, they sit for half an hour and watch the sealable executives talk. The end goal of that system is to communicate on a day to day basis, but it allows that C level communication to happen as needed as well. And that’s, for us that starting in the back of the house, we’re not even approaching the front of the house in that application yet.

Penny Conway:

So how are, I know sometimes like on an executive level, there is sometimes a resistance to creating content to… especially video, don’t you find a lot of executives like are really hesitant to get on video and record something and how their words like set in stone forever. That’s why they do like company emails. Like from the desk of things like that. But, how are executives and the kind of the communications strategists that are working this, building content? Like is it, I guess that’s always my question. You see all these screens, how is all the content actually getting on there and how is it updated and how is it fresh? Is it all through the cloud? Is it USB based? How are companies doing that?

Pat McCusker:

It’s probably the biggest question I think we have an answer for. It’s a lot of things. The trend is towards the cloud. There are still some more secure organizations who use premise-based servers. We’ve been walking away from what we call sneaker net, that USB concept for the past 10 years pretty effectively. The challenge is when you get down to that level where someone can interact with it, it tends to get interacted with in a way you wouldn’t like. So when we start putting that content in the cloud and managing it in the cloud, not only does it get simpler to manage larger deployments, but you have a broader control over the content that goes in there.

And generally, the ability to run more complicated control. But a lot of that goes back to the analytics that we talk about in the data that we talked about before, because while the management platform is an essential component of it, the industry is trending towards that data and analytics almost running the system on its own. So, tying the content that you’ve built in your system to a live data source to change it. An example would be in a retail organization, having the a point of sale system say we’re out of item X, stop running a sale on it. Go back to our evergreen content. That’s the sort of thing that that used to be hand done and is now done automatically by data triggers within that system.

Penny Conway:

Retail, I find really fascinating from that point of view is because retail, obviously we’re all compelled to buy. That’s the goal of all the advertising. That’s the goal of every single shopping mall of every single store. And I think stores are, retail specifically is starting to use it, not only to say we have this product, but we have this product for you and we know it’s for you and this is how we know it’s for you. And that goes back to the analytics piece and the art of, sort of big brother artificial intelligence. But what kind of, um, what kind of data is being pulled to really customize the retail experience for a consumer?

I watch black mirror on Netflix. I’ll give a little advertisement to Netflix. They had an episode where this girl’s entire life was based on likes. And she basically had to like back. And you could move into this condominium if you had this many likes or if you had no likes this is where you had to live. And there was a part of the episode where she’s walking through a shopping mall and the advertisement is literally changing as she walks through and it’s all tailored to what her like bank was in that moment.

So, if she’s a loser, it’s telling her how to not be a loser anymore. If she’s a winner, it’s telling her that she can move to this condominium or she can have this or own that. How far away are we actually from that kind of real time advertising to us as consumers on a retail level?

Pat McCusker:

Yeah, that’s here. That specific example, I think we talked about it before, but there’s monitoring software in China that if we had access to that data, we could do exactly that. Because for us, the content triggering the content that we have is just dependent on the data that we’re pulling. So, the more access we have to it, the better targeted the advertisement is going to be. What you may not know when you walk into stores and I’ll give everybody an exercise for next time to do is when you walk in the store, look up. You’ll see something visible white or black box with a couple of cameras on it. It’s called a people counter. It’s how they know you’re there.

Their Wi-Fi will ping your phone and say, “Hey, I’m here.” And your phone will respond whether you have their app or whether you’re looking for it or not. And at that point they know two things. They know you’ve been in the store and they know exactly where you’ve been and they know how many times you’ve been there. The Wi-Fi routers are recording your Mac address. They’re recording where you’ve been in the store. They generally know how long you’ve been there. And they can sometimes tell if you’ve purchased it. That’s without an application. That’s what’s out actively doing anything.

So, without engaging with the store’s application at all. If you have the correct equipment, the store can target ads to you in general as opposed to specifics. If you start downloading their applications and leaving Bluetooth on, then boy do they have everything on you. If you’re shopping online and you leave something in your cart and you’re walking into a store and you’ve got their application, they can say, “Hey, you were looking at these shoes, how about 10% off? Do you want to take them with you today?” There’s a whole lot they can do once you’re in their ecosystem. But make no mistake outside of their ecosystem. There’s tons of information they have on you without really even trying.

Penny Conway:

Just going to have a moment of silence (laughing) because I am, I’m literally thinking back to… I was at Target-

Toby Mackey:

Welcome Penny (laughing).

Penny Conway:

You know, all of this it’s impossible to not know that all of this is being collected and being used. Everyone’s goal is to sell you something. It’s no surprise that they’re using data to sell more things. But I was actually at Target a couple of months ago and I don’t have the Target app. Mostly because I forget about it and I forget to use it and scanning things with my phone just as like a giant hassle. But I was walking through the store, I had things in my cart. I bought a couple of things. I got home, I check my email like later on that night. And it’s like, “Hey, did you leave something in your cart?” I’m like, did I? (laughs) did I leave something in my cart?

They had a list of items that I had actually like picked up and considered buying. And I think I bought most of them. I actually think that night I went and looked at my receipt to see if I had left anything in my cart. But it didn’t even dawn on me, and I’m wondering how, how did they like, how they know? How they see, I don’t have the app. But that’s exactly how they know. There’s cameras all around. It’s pinging my phone; it knows my email address. I’m somehow in Target’s ecosystem even when I’m not sitting in their ecosystem. Um, but that is wicked creepy, right?

Pat McCusker:

Yeah.

Toby Mackey:

Let me tell you there’s a next level when you’re standing there in front, I pretend I like to cook. Um, or pretend I can cook.

Penny Conway:

I was going to say, you do like to cook. It just may not be good.

Toby Mackey:

Yeah, exactly. Looking at an Instapot or something. And just coincidentally as you’re sitting there, you pop up, there’s a digital sign there and all of a sudden you start seeing social media influencers. “Bob! Hey, you know, this is great. I can cook all day, and I don’t have to touch a thing. Dah, dah, dah, dah, you know, cut my cooking time in half.” And you’re like, “Wow, everybody really likes this.” And I mean, they’ve done studies and, and we’re a society today that when we make purchases, most everybody’s going to look at reviews.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Toby Mackey:

They want to see, “Oh, it’s a four and half star or it’s a 4.7 star. Oh, this person liked it for this use. That’s the same thing I’m doing. Great, I’m going to buy it.” And that wasn’t coincidental (laughs).

Penny Conway:

Right, right. Exactly. So, I mean in a way we always like this is the, we’d say black mirror is, this could be what happens, but in reality, it’s happening around us. When you guys are working with different clients specifically around retail, I’m sure that this whole concept is extremely exciting to them. Like it’s, it’s part of their strategy. I was reading up on a big retailer or designer, Burberry. They were like one of the first stores to really implement like a massive digital signage strategy. And their headquarters is in London.

Which I was fascinated by, but they had put 60% of their marketing budget into social media channels in the year, I think it was 2006 or so. Yeah, so it was a while ago. But they, they were seeing the industry was growing. For those of you who are listening that don’t know what Burberry is, think of the trench coats you see that you open up and it’s got that really pretty plaid in it. That’s who Burberry is. But, their competitors, we’re seeing a 12% to 13% increase in the industry. And they were only growing at 1% to 2%.

So, they had a new CEO come in. Her entire strategy was digital transformation. Like she knew she had to set herself apart. She needed to really up the ante. Equip the whole store with signage and speakers. I think she said she put like a hundred screens and 500 speakers in their London headquarters. And 60% of our marketing budget into social media because she thought just that. Like what you were saying, Pat is if I can get my product in front of them, if I can have them interact with my product, have them talk about my product, look at my product when they step foot in my store, I can now go back and see what they were actually interested in buying and my sales staff can target them for what they’re buying.

That is fascinating. So, what are retailers that you’re working with today thinking really strategically on it being part of their digital transformation or are you seeing some go, “Oh, we’ll just put up a few screens and promote a product?” Like are you seeing both ends of the spectrum and how fast are you seeing it sort of move towards that AI side of the house?

Toby Mackey:

I’d say there’s definitely some earlier adopters, but yeah, you’re still seeing a gamut whether you’re talking full-blown C-stores or whether you’re tagging retail and cap in the malls. Or you’re just talking about a small boutique. The strategy runs the gamut and what they can do. We haven’t, um, one of our partners probably five, six years ago now, they had some of the early um, interaction based, um, they worked with a shoe retailer, uh, sporting goods. And you walked in as a giant digital splay.

Toby Mackey:

It’s interactive, but at the same time, once you picked up the sneaker off the rack, it would all of a sudden pop up the, the actual sneaker. And they’d have a little video and then you could interact with it to find out more about it. Oh, this is a running shoe, you know, duh, duh duh, duh, duh, negative degree, whatever.

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Toby Mackey:

And, and move on. And from five or six years ago, the capabilities are just mind blowing.

Pat McCusker:

Yeah, I think it’s hard to get that, that’s the longest more difficult conversation you’ll have with a retailer or anybody for that matter is it’s not just a screen that goes on the wall. Yeah, we can give you some stats on motion and video and stuff like that increasing sales and you can do that. You’re perfectly happy to do that. But if you really want to take advantage of the investment, digging into data sources, analytics. Using the information that you have trapped within your organization to make that messaging more effective, relevant and really remembered is powerful if we can get there.

Penny Conway:

Yeah.

Toby Mackey:

It’s almost like tribal knowledge but real time.

Penny Conway:

Tribal knowledge, but real time.

Toby Mackey:

Yeah. If you’ve run out of one particular product in a particular region, you can narrow it down to a store or a region. Then the system can go in and automatically do the analytics on, “Okay, well when we run out of this, we sell more of this.” And you can read on the right on the flush shift to what are you going to do, wait until the next truck shows up in a week or two.

Pat McCusker:

To build on that though, I think the thing that’s really important to note is we don’t have to sell anybody that information. Most retailers, most organizations they have that. Whether they’re crunching the numbers in a more old-fashioned fashion on Excel spreadsheets or whether they’ve got, you know, to an automated way to do it. If you’re a retailer with more than a couple locations, we know when X is out, Y sells. When it rains, this sells. When you know it’s sunshine or we’re in the middle of the summer, this sells. And there’s two ways you can go about that.

You can either manually do it, which is going to take significantly larger amounts of manpower, significantly larger amounts of cash, just an overall larger investment. Or you can take the data you have, find a way to tie that into a messaging system and automate it. And that’s, that’s really where the industry needs to head or where as a customer, yeah, there’s a little bit of cost upfront, but man can that pay off on the back end by not having to invest that time and effort into doing something that your organization inherently knows.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Toby Mackey:

And then you’ve got to build on paths. You’ve also got compliance. Just because you’ve got somebody in corporate running, “Okay, quick, let’s get these posters done or whatever end cap displays and get them out to the stores.” How long is it sitting in the back?

Penny Conway:

Oh, forever. I worked in retail in high school. Yeah. That stuff sat in boxes forever because we didn’t want to put it out.

Toby Mackey:

By the time it goes out it’s over.

Penny Conway:

Right.

Pat McCusker:

I managed a higher end retailer in the Northeast a long while ago. And it goes to customer satisfaction too, especially if you’ve got content, or not content or advertisement or anything that’s up on the screen that’s no longer relevant. If you think about the last time you were in a store buying something and you picked it up and it was on sale based on the tag. Then you get up there and they said, “Oh no, it’s not on sale anymore.” Nine out of 10 times they’re going to give it to you because it’s a customer satisfaction thing.

But you’ve already had that sort of experience of, well it didn’t seem to know, and they had to. That is solved with this type of application because you’re able to say this ends December 5th at 12:01 and it’s going to do that. There’s a lot less of that. Well, we have to solve the problem with customer service afterwards. It’s just a more organic, easy customer experience. And again, we talk about it in terms of retail, but that really goes for organizations. Even like us, we just got through our open enrollment period. I didn’t know that we had until five o’clock yesterday, not really Friday, which was the date that they were telling everybody that they could fill that out.

And you know, in an organization as big as us with as many buildings as we have, all HR has to do is push a button to make that messaging go out in a timely fashion and really hit the goals that they’ve been telling everybody in email that, you know, frankly, we probably all ignored.

Right. I actually, I went in, but since we’re talking about this, I went in at like two o’clock on Friday because I was like, “Oh my God, I’m going to forget to do this and I have to do it because I went a whole year without putting childcare expense like tell me about it. Toby has given me a look. Well Toby, you have like eight kids, right (laughing)? I for some reason last year just didn’t even, I have a two-year-old. I, I didn’t even think about it last year, but being able to set $5,000 aside for dependent care, whatever at daycare. I logged in and then it said, “Oh, you’ll have until, you know, Monday at five o’clock.” And I’m like, “Monday, I’m all stressed out.” If I had just known that I had till Monday, but we know why they do that because people like me at two o’clock on the Friday, not getting it in.

Toby Mackey:

Could have been 3:30 maybe on Friday, you know.

Penny Conway:

Maybe (laughing).

Toby Mackey:

Not that I’m speaking for myself.

Penny Conway:

I reminded a few people. So, you’re welcome. Those of you who are listening. I want to talk about, when we look at it from an organizational perspective or even a retail communication, like an advertising perspective. When you guys first start working with somebody, what’s the first question you’re asking them? How do you identify what their goals are to know what the most effective digital signage strategy actually is?

Toby Mackey:

I think most conversations start with, “Hey, we’re looking at digital signage.” A lot of times they come in and they start talking about tech and we’ll try to put the brakes on them instantly.

Penny Conway:

Like what kind of screens they want and apps.

Toby Mackey:

I was at Costco this weekend and I saw this great 85 inch and if I put that in my showroom or I put that in my lobby or whatever. And then, you know, we stop them right there and say, “What’s your goal? what are you trying to do?”

“Oh, well I just want to put up digital signage and if I do that, then my business will grow and dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.” And it’s like, “No, what’s your, tell me, what do you do? What’s your pain point?” Do you have people sitting in your lobby for 15 to 20 minutes getting bored? Some people walk out. Do you have a retailer where you’re trying to focus in on what’s current, what’s hip, whatever? Are you retailing and you need to educate your associates? You know the bulletin board in the back room make it electronic. Make it so-

Penny Conway:

Yeah. They updated employee rights and that poster from 1995.

Toby Mackey:

The latest training guide. It can be all electronic, you can track your compliance, you can tie into the beta analytics in the front of the store. See heat mapping. Hey wow. We talked about how you can walk around the store and be able to be tracked without even having an app. Well, if you set it up correctly in the back office, you can actually have it set up so somebody could just hit a button and look at it in the store at an associate level and go, “Huh, nobody ever goes over into the ski glove section or everybody lingers over in the sweater section, whatever.” So, the concepts of the data that you’re going to integrate is just huge.

Pat McCusker:

And I have to come because I was in the operations part of the retail organization that I worked for, for a long time. And that data in particular, if you’re retail operations people that is your world — heat maps. Where does it, where do they live? How do people get in? How do you know, did they take a left or right when they come in? And that is all available now. Deciding how to flow the store, where to put signage, where to put those things, all comes from that same place. It’s magic to see that now. Kind of makes me disappointed I’m not in retail except around Christmas.

Penny Conway:

(laughs) You mean July.

Toby Mackey:

Exactly. But back to your point, if you’re not solving a pain point, the signage strategy in general is going to fail. It needs to have a goal. It needs to be set up with clear measurable guidelines and end results. And then probably just as often that the two next most important things are the software. How are you going to control it? And logistics. Two of those, if they’re not appropriately looked at, considered an obviously applied, it’s going to fail. You’re going to walk into a building, whether it be retail or otherwise. And you’re going to see a giant display on the wall and it’s going to be black, or it’s going to say window corruption. And it’s all about how you control the content that you’ve created.

That you spent the time to strategize about, to do it correctly. And then deploy and set it up so that it plays back in a measurable way during the right times a day and things like that. And if you don’t do that, it’s not going to work. It’s going to become, I mean, we have some examples, even here, where we just have basically a slideshow set up. And it’s the content that needs to be communicated.

Penny Conway:

Oh, Toby way to throw us under the bus (laughs).

Toby Mackey:

Not everybody’s perfect. If you don’t create the content correctly to create the engagement, you’re going to not gain anything out of it. That’s going to end up being just another thing that’s ignored. There’s so much you can do with it that we have to start with, what do they want to do, what do they need to do around their pain points? That’s how they’re going to get their ROI. That’s how they’re going to get their engagement and then move on. How are they going to control it? And then the logistics of deploying it.

Penny Conway:

So, in the retail setting, I’m fascinated by the heat map concept. In retail operations that I worked for a small retail chain right out of college and their whole obsession was store flow. When a customer walks in, I mean they had some bigger issues. Like not having the right product where it needed to be or what customers were looking for. But heat mapping, I think from a retail perspective and knowing where people are going and where they’re not going is, you say the tech, so the screen. But when you’re building a solution, is that on a cloud software side? Is that a camera side? How does that all, if I’m a retailer and I want to know where my customers are going and where they’re not going without looking through camera footage, how does that integrate together to get me that data with a digital signage solution?

Pat McCusker:

Well, there’s a whole bunch of ways to do that. The heat mapping stuff is generally Wi-Fi equipment. Most of the major manufacturers will have that built in. It’s typically a feature you have to kind of activate, because not everybody’s a retailer. Not everybody cares. But the general data that you pull like that, it’s all Wi-Fi based. How many times you’ve been in, whether you have an application or not. Because again, it’s collecting your Mac address. You ping the router to say, here’s my Mac address. Do you have Wi-Fi? Yes, I do. They’re collecting that. You’ve been in five times; you’ve never logged into their Wi-Fi. They know you’ve been there five times. And they could tell roughly where you’ve been in the store. So that’s how most of that basic data is collected is through a Wi-Fi router. Which was, which is why every retailer now offers Wi-Fi.

Penny Conway:

I thought they were just being nice Pat (laughs).

Pat McCusker:

Sadly no.

Penny Conway:

It would download my coupon.

Pat McCusker:

Yeah. But to get deeper than that, I mean quite a few retailers, QSRs or quick serve restaurants, you’re ducking donors to pull these other worlds, are adding cameras in. And behind that are facial recognition and it’s very basic. It’s not as invasive as probably we want to believe it is. But it knows roughly how old you are, whether you’re male or female. It has the data, some of the other data correlated with it. So again, whether, you know, date, time of year, that sort of thing. That can be used to say, “Okay, on this side of the store, men and women age 40 tend to stop here but not age 20.”

And then you go over there and it’s like a KitchenAid mixer or something like that. Something specific to an age group. It gives you some information of who is stopping where. And again, that’s before we download the application, before we get into your personal data. That’s just you’ve walked into our store. We have cameras everywhere. One of the best test cases I think I ever saw, and I don’t know if they implemented it, was Intel was working with Levi’s. And they put a store app at one of the… and this was actually at NRF.

And they built it so that you would walk into the store and they could show you the backend while someone was running through this. Okay, well we know this is Pat McCusker. He’s 38, and he is about five foot 10. And they had metrics like that on you. So, when you go over and you pick up a pair of jeans inside of the tag for the jeans, they had an RFID tag embedded. If you take that pair of jeans, you go over to the dressing room, you try them on, put them back. You didn’t like it. They know who you are. They know roughly how old you are, roughly your height and weight.

But if that didn’t fit, what’s the next type you tried on? They’re able to then go back and check the product and say, “Okay, for people who have this height and size, did we get it wrong?” And they’ll know if you bought it because they’re tracking that product through the store using that tag. And again, no application required. When you download the application, that’s when it gets crazy.

Penny Conway:

I can be honest with you. As a consumer, it doesn’t bother me. Like I’m (laughing), and as a woman who has to buy jeans, it equally doesn’t bother me. Like, because they have got it wrong (laughing). But I see the fear of it, the information being collected. But at the same time, I think we’re a society that so freely gives our information. And we have not had a single issue with, I’m looking at the table and on the window cell here, we all have our phones out. I’m sure we’re all going to be getting advertisements about digital signage when we finish up here (laughs). But it doesn’t bother me on a consumer level.

I think the only thing that, because it’s enhancing, it’s making my life easier. It’s enhancing my shopping experience. It’s letting retailers know when they do have it wrong and why we’re not buying their things. It’s kind of mutually beneficial for both the retailer and the consumer. I think where I get kind of nervous about it is all of the data that is being collected and Target was infamous for this. Is when your financial information starts to be breached and starts to get into the hands of other people. And so that’s the only thing that I see from a personally a worrisome aspect is with all of this data through Wi-Fi and pinging your phone and collecting, how vulnerable we are to maybe other threats that we’re not thinking about. Is that part of the conversation you have with customers, or they just don’t care because they want all the data and do as much as they want with it?

Pat McCusker:

Not as much. I mean, inside of this type of application, we don’t tend to have a lot of sensitive data for signage. If you were talking POS, point of sale, maybe because then you’re talking credit card numbers and stuff like that. But where we live is sort of outside of that system. Most of the data that’s collected is either a freely given through an application and it’s really designed to target advertisements. Not to pay for things or personal information, that sort of thing. It’s not, not a concern, but it’s less of a concern with our area simply because of the nature of what we’re doing. We’re advertising, we’re not really selling. When it gets to the POS pieces of it, you know, you’ve got all sorts of manners of compliance.

Like PCI compliance that you are required to have to take those credit cards so that you have that level of security. And we do have partners that do that. It boils down to the software and how you interact with it. We find that a lot of our partners are very security focused and we’ll have those certifications regardless of whether they even need them. Just so people can say it has that it has the word on the box so I can trust it.

Penny Conway:

Yeah. Because we just finished up not too long ago. A whole security series on an endpoint devices is was a huge topic. When a customer says I’m looking to have tech come in, because I saw this big giant smart TV. That smart TV is an IOT device and those Apple devices are IOT devices. They’re able to ping data, get in. Is that an entry? I guess that’s my question. Is that an entry point that is a topic of concern?

Pat McCusker:

I don’t know how forceful I should be on this point. But any business that’s putting consumer tech in their business is asking for trouble. If you’re putting a smart TV made for your home in your business, you are asking to be hacked. You can pull up an article for Roku, and I don’t want to mention any partners specifically, but pretty much every TV manufacturer has had their smart system hacked in one way or another. Whether it’s they have access to your network through it or whether they have access to change your screens on it. You’ve paid for that investment. That’s something that sounds very simple.

But if you walk around and all your screens are dark, how much is that costing you for those screens being black? An an example that someone gave me at CDA, which is a consumer electronics show a few weeks ago. They’re a remote-control company and he handed me a remote control about the size of the key fob of your car. And you can walk around with it and just cycle through all the remote codes and shut off any consumer TV. There’s no way to stop it. I did not test it out in Hard Rock cafe the other day. It works perfectly.

Penny Conway:

(laughing).

Pat McCusker:

You’ve got these investments again, I mean if you, when I started doing the math on how much they paid for those displays, it’s a few thousand dollars. And then the people that paid for the ads on them that are no longer running, that’s a few hundred dollars. Add that up and it just gets crazy not counting the security problem with it. When we design these systems, we do not use consumer gear. It’s just not, it’s not worth the trouble that is inherent in that system. They’re made to be connected to you. They’re made to be in your house. They want connections from your personal devices, from your network. So-

Toby Mackey:

They’re completely open. I mean, their designs, from the manufacturers so that anybody from any device can hit it. You don’t have to be Mr. Robot to do it.

Penny Conway:

That’s why I can just log into Roku on my TV and it’s immediately connected to my device. I think that’s a great thing to clarify. Especially as we’re talking about retail and healthcare and education and all of those areas is that federal government. You’re not, you might’ve seen a nice pretty big screen sitting in Costco last week, but that is not the same screen that will go into your overall digital signage solution and strategy.

Toby Mackey:

Security issues. You’ve got issues with they’re just not designed to be in that application. I mean, most businesses are going to be open at least 10 hours a day, probably 16, depending on workforce and things like that. Could be 24. Commercial displays are designed to be, they have heat sinks, they can dissipate the heat. Everything about a consumer TV, especially the really, I listened to the podcast recently. I know sexy is appropriate for these.

Penny Conway:

Yes.

Toby Mackey:

Um, they’re really sexy TVs that are super thin and look like glass and something out of a sci-fi flick or something. They have like zero heat dissipation. They’re not designed to be sitting there running 16 hours a day ready to cook an egg. They’re just going to fail. Over time you’re going to get colors. We’ve got examples of deployments that were done with consumer televisions. I mean all of us are geeks because we walk around the whole team, all six of us and we’re always on Instagram. Sorry, texting images of failed deployments, “Hey, check this out.” and you walk in and it’s got the screens are all five different colors and it looks like they’ve got some sort of camera photo sepia filter on them or something. And it’s just because it was the wrong tech.

Penny Conway:

The wrong tech. Right. It’s a good segue. You guys have a great team here at Connection, to look at the technology that’s being used. The strategy behind where that technology is going, how it integrates with the data. Um, specifically in retail. We’ve talked a lot about next steps for someone who’s interested in kind of having this strategy conversation. How do they get ahold of you and what’s the first step?

Toby Mackey:

One of the easiest ways, pop on the website. Look under solutions. It’s the second tab and from the left over from products. You will find the digital signage practice. From there we’ve got a basic information or, he’s trying to update it. Keep it fresh. There’s also a contact form. So, you go up there and fill it out or you can call any of our subsidiaries and ask to speak to one of the digital signage experts.

Penny Conway:

Excellent. So, if you’re out there and you are want to get more information on how to build out your strategy, like Toby said, visit www.connection.com and head on over to our digital signage page or reach out to your account manager or account executive. And we will get you in touch with Toby and Pat’s team. Toby and Pat, thank you so much for joining the podcast today. I am super intrigued by the whole data artificial intelligence analytics piece of this and how our retail specific customers can really start leveraging more of this solution and strategy to grow their business. Thanks, so much for joining me today!

Toby Mackey:

Thank you.

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