Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lloyds TSB - window displays

Whilst we are cleaning out the inbox prior to New Year's, we may as well provide some quick coverage for Lloyds TSB's other forray into digital signage--the primary one, we're told, being its award-winning work with Immedia, covered here--its limited deployment digital window displays in about a dozen high-street locations throughout London.

The displays, which are powered by LCD projectors illuminating window-mounted 3M vikuti film, feature focused product advertisements and the occasional branding spot. Network management software is also provided by 3M (the FRED platform).

HSBC France / SMC - Network Rollout

I was recently informed that HSBC, and its subsidiary Societe Marseillaise de Credit, have embarked on a networked digital signage rollout to their 160+ offices across France. HSBC's premier banking offices in Paris will be the first to receive the networked solution, and the remainder of the network will receive treatment as branches are built and/or renovated.
SMC has long maintained an in-branch TV network, distributing bank advertising content via dvd's to screens located behind the teller counter. According to an SMC marketing manager, the decision to move forward with a networked solution was made based on the continued reduction in technology costs, the need to simplify distribution, and the desire to feature more time-sensitive information such as branch events.
Network management software will be provided by GL Trade (the product is called "GL TV"), a relative newcomer to digital signage but long a global leader in supplying financial markets data and trading platforms to financial institutions.

Charles Schwab - Network Rollout

Five years ago Charles Schwab, one of the largest retail brokerage firms in the US, would not have been considered a bank by most standards. However, the firm recently made a bid to attract core deposits through a high-yield online checking account linked to its internet brokerage platform, and is making significant headway in the mass affluent segment (among the most valuable to banks). One of the prototypical clicks-and-mortar success stories, Schwab operates a network of more than 300 full-service branches and, along with them, a nifty little digital signage network.

Installed in roughly 125 high-visibility street-level locations concentrated in the largest urban markets across the US, Schwab's digital signage network includes window-mounted and interior facing lcd "posters," and a interactive kiosks positioned a few paces after the entry to the lobby. Schwab clearly went all-out on the integration of the screens--even in their existing retail locations--as they blend seamlessly into the overall retail environment, often surrounded by back-lit acryllic panels or built directly into the woodwork.

The window displays are typically made up of multi-screen arrays (either 2 x 1 in portrait format or 4 x 1 banners) and broadcast content consistent with Scwab's mass-media advertising campaigns. Of particular interest are the "Ask Chuck" spots, picking up a theme developed in Schwab's TV and print media, which provide answers to common questions asked by Schwab customers via the firm's web portal.

The internal screens are generally single-screen "posters," which provide information on new product features, investment advice, and current stock market updates, and one of which can be used to make powerpoint presentations to customers during lunch or after hours. Given the strength of the content for the other applications, the interactive kiosks are a bit of a letdown, but they do provide nice functionality to search upcoming branch events and seminars throughout the regional area, and the ability to print out information otherwise stored in paper brochures.
The overall retail environment was designed by Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, and content is developed by Schwab's internal team along with support from its interactive agency. According to my sources, the network is managed using a proprietary system Schwab developed internally--a first for the digital signage industry given the size of this installation?--which appears to run smoothly.
(Photos taken from Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill website)

Bank of America - latest network failure (bsod)

Much has been written here about the disappointing execution of Bank of America's digital signage network--poor screen placement, primitive TV/bank content mix, etc.--but the feared black-screen-of-death ("BSOD") captured across at least nine screens in a high-profile location during rush hour is without doubt a new low. Network operators, this is a lesson on why local cache-ing of content ("store and forward"), PC redundancy and/or local service should be non-negotiable criteria for your digital signage technology.

Maybe the "no sync" message on the screen is meant to signify that the bank and Creative Realities, its digital signage provider, just "don't get it"...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Commerce Bank - Network Rollout

Virtually since it began its aggressive branch expansion, Commerce Bank has relied on digital media to communicate to its customers. The bank, whose 450+ branch network spans the Atlantic coast including the key markets of Boston, Philadelphia, New York City, New Jersey, Washington DC, and Florida, is well known for its commitment to service excellence and differentiated branch experience. It has been well-documented that Commerce was the pioneer of extended hours, having branches open seven days a week, and including customer-friendly ammenities such as coin counters and bowls of water for accompanying dogs; what is less-commonly identified is that Commerce can be largely credited for the inclusion of flat-screen monitors behind the teller counter in the thousands of denovo bank branches that have been built in major markets across the US in the past few years.

The Commerce network is simple and focused in its strategy and execution. All branches receive 40"-42" monitors behind the teller counter showing Commerce promotions, educational pieces on financial needs and banking products in general, and some general community information. Additionally, branches located in areas where there is substantial pedestrian foot traffic also receive a large-screen installation of either a 64" plasma, or an array of rear-projection screens, which is designed to operate like a rotating billboard. Where content on the screens on the teller wall is clearly oriented toward cross-sell or retention, the "billboard" screens focus entirely on brief, focused acquisition messaging, with common themes including the number of branches Commerce is opening or has open in a given community, or enticements to visit the branch like the coin counting machines or events. The simplicity and clarity of purpose of the network has enabled Commerce to operate it seamlessly for years in the absence of a large media production budget or high-speed network bandwidth (or, in some cases, any network connectivity at all).

Given the level of integration with the overall branch design and the low-cost of ownership, imagine my surprise when a few years ago I heard Jeff Porter of Scala identify Commerce in his annual 10-worst digital media installations for being able to manage some updates using a cd-rom, rather than the internet...a classic case of a misguided technologist (and in this case with an agenda to peddle network software) forgetting that what really matters is the impact of an installation, not the means to achieve it.

It will be interesting to see the fate of Commerce Bank's digital signage network with their recent acquisition by Toronto Dominion, who have experimented with digital signage using Canadian service providers but have never rolled it out. For the time-being content, network management, and site installation/maintenance is provided by New Jersey's Diversified Media Group (a small gem of a network service provider who I was not aware of until recently, but who manage digital signage networks for Nike and JC Decaux, among others). Software for networked sites is provided by C-nario.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Lloyds TSB - 2007 POPAI award winner

POPAI, the largest point-of-purchase industry association, recently announced the winners of its awards for excellence in the global POP market. Gold, silver, and bronze medals are awarded annually in categories ranging from cosmetics to telecommunications, with the notable omission of retail financial services (no surprise when one considers the generally poor management of branch environments). This year, however, Lloyds TSB and its in-store digital media partner, Immedia, were the recipients of not one but two gold medals in the digital content and digital network categories, the first time in my memory that a financial institution has received such an honor!

Until recently little was known about Lloyds TSB's digital marketing program, with the exception of a highly publicized but relatively unsuccessful deployment of 3M's vikuti screens in the windows of certain high visibility locations, but in conjunction with Immedia they certainly seem to be getting it right. The branches outfitted with Immedia's proprietary "RadioVision" network broadcast an integrated audio-video programme where the audio track, which features music and news updates in addition to Lloyds adverts, is timed to trigger relevant digital content on strategically placed plasma screens. The network has been in place for the better part of two years at this stage, and judging from the responses of POPAI's panel and the customers and staff canvassed in the video on Immedia's website (obviously biased), it has been quite well-received. The testimonial video may be accessed by clicking on the screen capture below:

It is unclear at this juncture how many of Lloyds TSB's branches have been outfitted with the technology, or what future plans may be, but I would be keen for an update if any reader can provide it. Immedia, as mentioned, provides the proprietary software platform, integration, and audio/video content development services.

(Photos taken from the POPAI and Immedia websites)

Monday, December 10, 2007

PNC Bank - Network Rollout

A reliable source from PNC Financial Services, who offer banking, lending, insurance, and wealth management services through nearly 1,100 branches on the Atlantic seabord, has confirmed that the bank is in the process of rolling out digital signage as part of a comprehensive merchandising program to its entire branch network.

PNC, which began experimenting with digital media in its flagship branches as early as 2002-3, made the decision to move forward with the new program after a lengthy pilot test earlier this year, which produced impressive results. While the exact figures were not provided, key decisioning metrics included lifts in awareness and recall (~2x better than the current merchandising system), as well as a noted lift in the percentage of customers asking questions about promotions they saw while in queue. The new merchandising system has since been expanded to the bank's ~200 Washington, DC-area branches, recent denovos, and flagship locations already outfitted with plasma screens, with plans to extend the program to the remainder of the branch network over the next 1-2 years.

One notable element of PNC's program is that the digital screens are but a single element in a broader, fully integrated merchandising program. Other elements include a variety of environmental elements, a promotional fixture which holds 3-dimensional graphics to attract attention to the bank's most important current promotion, and a clever queue fixture that houses product brochures, flyers detailing community events, and other branch-related information. According to the source, each of these elements is reinforced by messaging on the digital screens (the ubiquitous behind-the-teller-counter and waiting-area varieties), and localized to fit each branch's surrounding community. This mutually-reinforcing approach--rather than the "fish out of water" screen which shows information unrelated to other branch promotional material--is exactly how all institutions should be including digital media in their retail communications mix.
Gensler provided the new environmental branch design for the PNC program, but the merchandising system and digital signage network are being handled by John Ryan, using its ScreenRed software platform.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Permanent TSB - Network Rollout

As reported initially on Adrian Cotterill's "Daily DOOH," Permanent TSB, the retail banking arm of insurance giant Irish Life and Permanent PLC, has announced a nationwide rollout of digital signage to their 106 retail branches. Impressively the deployment, which had been rumored for some time and commenced near the end of September, will be completed by the end of this month.

Scant information has been shared with regard to Permanent's intent for the network, other than using the screens to communicate product information to customers on-hours, and to provide training to staff off-hours. Interestingly, however, the network will also extend beyond branches to Permanent's corporate offices and call centers, so training information and corporate communications content can be shared there as well.

Radiant Ireland will supply the bank with Ryarc's CampaignManager software platform, and the network will be operated by long-standing Irish print merchandising supplier SL Graphics.

Amazing to think we're at a point where a 100-branch network barely cracks the rollouts honor roll, isn't it?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Content Worst-Practice #4

Your loop is 1-2 spots long.

Look, this is just inexcusable, but it happens all the time. The Wachovia branches in New York, for example, show a loop of 2 rotating spots. No news. Coincidentally or otherwise (both Wachovia and BofA use the same vendor for digital signage in New York), Bank of America shows 2-3 spots over and over again, albeit interspersed with news. So as not to discriminate unfairly, Charles Schwab, Chase, Scotiabank, Lloyd's TSB, and many, many others deserve to be called out, too...

Content Worst-Practice #3

3. You've split the screen into multiple content windows
This is likely a controversial addition to the list, given that so many digital signage networks partake in it, but splitting the screen into multiple content windows—generally in the form of a main panel, a side-bar, and a news/stock ticker or two—is an unabashedly bad practice. For a moment, let’s explore two most common reasons for doing so…

The big television news networks do it. Yes, the networks do, but they don’t have anything invested in what particular bit of content their viewers are watching on their screen. Banks, on the other hand, are generally footing the cost of the network in hopes of selling additional products to their customers…why would they want to provide an alternative to watching their ads while they are running? Given the choice between reading a news ticker, watching the weather, or watching an ad for home equity, which would you choose?

The news material keeps customers entertained, and alleviates wait-line fatigue. Yes, news, weather, and sports material does keep customers entertained, but there’s no need to provide it all at once. In fact, exit interviews conducted during a pilot test for one of the US’ largest retail banks indicated that customers preferred when syndicated content was provided one bit at a time (ie. separate spots for news, weather, and sports sprinkled throughout the loop), finding it easier to read. And on the wait-time point, branches whose screens displayed multiple content windows faired no better than those in which the entire screen was dedicated to one spot at a time.

It helps keep the content fresh. Bosh. XML feeds can be incorporated into other content just as easily as they can into a ticker. If anything, keeping content in four panes fresh should be more difficult, because there are more “mouths” to feed.

In all, just a bad idea.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Content Worst-Practice #2

2. Your digital content changes out less frequently than your print

Two of the most frequently cited benefits of digital signage are the ease and low-cost of message change-out, but don’t tell that to a number of banks, who change their print materials more frequently than they do their digital content.

This actually occurs pretty frequently in cases where there is either a sub-scale network or stalled pilot program (Citi here in New York, ABN Amro in Chicago, or US Bank and Fifth Third in Cincinnati come to mind) and frankly it’s understandable. Given limited time and capital, resources should always be concentrated on the programs reaching the largest audience, ie. existing print. However, in a number of scale bank digital signage networks, print is still changed out more frequently than digital content….in a word, inexplicable.

Take Wachovia’s 30 branches here in New York, which are equipped with digital screens located above tellers and in the windows, along with some fantastic, large-scale print campaign fixtures (disclosure: Wachovia is my bank, and they’re fantastic from a service perspective). In the last six months, I can remember the print campaigns changing at least four times (high-rate money market account, $100 bonus checking offer, student checking, and co-op equity line). During that same period, I think the digital content has changed once. Let’s explore the economics, based the following assumptions:

  • 3 print merchandising fixtures per branch
  • 2 campaign graphics per fixture (2-sided) @ $ 50 per graphic
  • $ 20 shipping and $15 installation per campaign, per branch
  • $ 20,000 agency and print production fees per campaign

Using these figures, and assuming the Wachovia NY branches receive unique material (believable, given that the offers are different here than elsewhere in the network), the cost to produce and install every print campaign is $ 30,050, or $ 120,200 for the four campaigns I saw over the past six months. Let’s assume, generously, that Wachovia spent $20k for the 2 new spots they produced for their digital signs during the same period (likely overstated given the low production value).

If you believe those figures, in an environment where all branches have both print and digital campaign capabilities, Wachovia is allocating its branch marketing budget 85/15 in favor of print materials, spending 6x the dollars on print, and changing campaigns 4x as frequently. If you believe the statistics on media effectiveness, which skew heavily in favor of digital…what gives?

(Final note: my personal opinion is that large-scale print graphics are more effective than digital when it comes to windows-based messaging, but it still doesn’t justify the change-out frequency skew)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Content Worst-Practice #1

Your screens show competitors' ads

The last 2-3 years have seen a boom in banks installing flat-screen televisions in their teller areas, most often playing CNN, MSNBC, or another broadcast news station to entertain customers while they wait for service.  While seemingly innocuous, in reality these banks are exposing their customers to thousands of their competitors' advertisements...while they wait in their own branches! 

If we assume banks show 2,250 broadcast hours per year (9 hours/day x 5 days/week x 50 weeks/year), and that there are 15 minutes of advertising per hour at 30 seconds per ad (network averages), it means branch visitors are exposed to 67,500 ads on a yearly basis.  Having watched CNN for more than a few hours in my lifetime, I think it fair to assume 1 in 5 ads are financial services oriented, meaning 13,500 competitor ads grace screens in bank branches annually.

The TV epidemic is visible in many different banks here--Citi and Signature Bank are two examples--but perhaps worse yet is Bank of America's network, as I wrote earlier in the week.  BofA, who have the mechanism already in place to deliver their own content, is mixing their material seemingly randomly with broadcast TV, which is what led to E*Trade's high-rate savings ad to be played (while BofA advertised an inferior rate on their print materials!) while I walked by the branch the other day.

Come on, guys.  Seriously.

The Top-7 Content Worst-Practices Countdown

My hatred for the phrase "Content is King," well-known among my close associates, is due largely to the fact that it has been hackneyed to the point of meaninglessness. But if in fact "Content is King," then there are a number of pretenders to the throne among financial services networks.

Although banks using digital signage deserve a tremendous amount of credit in other capacities--the industry, afterall, has probably been the quickest to adopt the new medium--when it comes to content a great number of them deserve a bit of scolding. At some level this probably shouldn't be that surprising, given that the industry's traditional lack of humor and (more likely) rigorous compliance requirements gave birth to that timeless slogan "Great Rate, Ask Us How." Some institutions, such as Harris Bank, Synovus, Citizens-Charter One, Chase, and SunTrust, are definitely getting it right, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Over the next week or so we'll be counting down the "7 Content Worst-Practices" perpetrated by FS digital media marketers, many of which can be seen every day here in New York. More detail will be provided for each worst-practice in an individual post, but without further adieu...

The "7 Content Worst-Practices"

7. You're using your web or broadcast content in-branch
6. You're using (or not using) audio
5. You're showing local the wrong locality!
4. Your loop is 1-2 spots long
3. You've split the screen into multiple content windows
2. Your digital content changes out less frequently than your print
1. Your screens show competitors' ads

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rumor: Commonwealth Bank Network Rollout

Ring the bell! Rumor has it that another market leader has adopted digital signage as its primary form of branch communications, and if true then we have our next entrant in the rapidly expanding 1,000-site network category.

Commonwealth Bank, the largest of Australia's "Four Pillars," is said to have begun network-wide digital signage deployment to its more than 1,000 retail branches. Although details are sparse at the moment, the bank is said to have made the decision after a lengthy pilot process, and that Fujitsu Australia (long a player in the Aussie digital signage market) is the lead supplier, which suggests that TelEntice could be the software engine behind the network.

More information as it becomes available--please email it if you have it!--and hopefully I'll be able to come upon some photos while in I am in Australia later this month.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Bank Hapoalim - Network Rollout

The Middle East has been a hotbed for financial services digital signage networks lately (albeit mostly on a small scale) but Bank Hapoalim, Israel's largest consumer bank, maintains the largest. Starting nearly two years ago, the bank began a rollout of a comprehensive digital communications system to its 250 branches. According to a press release at the time, each location is now equipped with digital signs in four different zones--the teller counter, the business banking zone, the retail lending zone, and the personal banker zone--each showing a unique "channel." Content consists of 30% entertainment and 70% advertisements, as well as displaying customers' positions in queue (a clever "now serving" application), and a permanent Reuters information ticker on the bottom of the screen. Ad targeting is done generally on a regional basis, but also using attributes such as branch size, services available, and customer mix.

Note to bank marketers: Including news/stock price tickers on the bottom of the screen is a bizarre obsession of many network operators and, according to at least one test, an absolutely dismal idea. Results from a pilot I conducted on content effectiveness showed across-the-board declines in standard media measures (awareness, recall, etc.) for the "main" content displayed when tickers were present, likely a by-product of the increased visual clutter and distraction of customers who read the news instead of watching ads. Even forgetting the test for a moment, intuitively, if you want customers to watch your ads, why would you provide them with a competing alternative?!

As well as its use as a marketing vehicle, Hapoalim also uses its network to communicate to its staff before- and after-hours. Content is developed by the bank's internal marketing department, and the network is managed using C-nario's software application.

(Photos taken from C-nario website)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hey, Hey BofA... something about your content in New York, and stop mixing it with a live broadcast feed!

This article deserves to be expanded more broadly to encompass the general "crisis of content" plaguing so many bank digital signage networks today (well documented here, as well), but I couldn't help but comment on the Bank of America branch in Grand Central this morning, which includes at least a dozen screens of different shapes and sizes.

There, broadcasting on all screens during the morning subway rush, I watched a fanastic advertisement for E*Trade's new high-yield checking account. Not a bad idea, Bank of America...maybe I'll close my account with you and open one up there.

Friday, September 14, 2007

E*Trade Financial - Flagship Stores

E*Trade made a pretty big splash a few years back, when they announced they were moving from "clicks to bricks" by building flagship retail trading locations in San Francisco and New York. If you never had the opportunity to visit one, they were literally littered with plasma screens, LED tickets, and big-boards flashing stock quotes and providing E*Trade's own closed circuit television feed. As quoted by the San Francisco Chronicle back in 2000, someone close to E*Trade said about the stores,

This is anything but a branch strategy...this creates a concept store that presents the brand. (Full article: here)

Are these high-concept retail financial services "branded experience" stores worth the money? Not to me, and apparently not to E*Trade.

While E*Trade has continued to open branches across the US--undoubtedly buoyed by their burgeoning deposit business, as well as the core trading offer--the Manhattan flagship location (pictured above), has long since been shuttered and is now a Wachovia or a Chase branch (can't remember which). The San Francisco flagship on Market Street is still operational, but I suspect that has more to do with closing an office in your hometown in a location with landmark status than it does with any sort of break-even.

The lesson for all of us? The "branded experiences" not linked to any tangible service or communications functionality just don't cut it for customers, and don't cut it as ROI justification long-term. (One potential exception: ING Direct's coffee shops, which we'll address in an upcoming article)

(Photos taken from E*Trade Annual Report)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Washington Mutual - Occasio Branches

Washington Mutual's digital signage network spans roughly 250 of the bank's 1,700+ branches. Referred to internally as "WM TV," the network is another of the industry's earliest and most well-publicized (at least within digital media and A/V circles).

Installation began in 2001-2 with a lengthy pilot, and has continued in earnest, albeit very slowly and most in denovo locations, ever since. WaMu has cited a number of reasons why they adopted digital signage as a component of their Occasio branches (more on them in a minute), but most accounts include:

  1. The pilot proved that the medium greatly reduced wait-line fatigue, increased product awareness, and was consist with WaMu's "un-bank" brand image.
  2. By at least one account, published in a local business journal at the time of the test, WaMu believed they had statistical evidence that customers were switching their primary service activities to branches with screens because they were so much more pleasant to visit.
  3. Quicker time to market or, per Les Gruner, the bank's VP of media and production, "the beauty of (the) system is that we can craft messages...that speak to products we may be featuring this month."
The bank has utilized a number of different (read: inconsistent) display formats and placements, including 42" plasmas behind the teller podiums/area, a "what's new" information wall, 3-wide banner displays above product walls, and short-lived above-ATM screens. With the exception of the banners, which run a substantially shorter loop, all the other screens I've seen run a roughly 20-minute show, half of which is daily-updated syndicated news and the rest of which is devoted to brand-building or soft promotion.

It's unclear why WaMu hasn't opted to deploy the system beyond a few core locations in Seattle and its denovo builds, but at least one explanation is the fact that the network seems inextricably linked to the overall "Occasio" retail format, which the bank launched as part of its national branching push in 2001. This is in many ways very unfortunate since, despite the silly show the bank made of patenting the format and the press it received in industry rags, anyone who has visited an Occasio branch knows they've been a pretty blatant failure.

Developed to be unlike any other branch format, Occasio, or "favorable opportunity," promised to eliminate lines, provide more personal service, and improve efficiency. Tactically, this manifested itself in a rotunda shaped interior where no staff are hidden behind desks or walls, the installation of free-standing service "podiums" rather than a teller counter, and cash dispensers along the wall, all wrapped in a garish color palette and dropped by the dozens in the bank's new markets across the US. A link to a virtual tour of an Occasio is available here: Link.

In practice, which is readily observable during any lunch hour here in New York, the design (completed by retail agency Design Forum) actually created two lines--one for the teller podiums and one for the cash dispensers--and a massive amount of confusion, as customers figure out where to wait. It's telling, by the way, that the three executives responsible for the concept are no longer with the bank (two are at Barclays plc...enjoy, my English bretheren), and many of the branches have since been shuttered. But I digress...

Impart provides software, network management, and syndicated news services for WaMu and, as I understand it, most of the content is handled largely in-house these days. Design Forum designed the Occasio branch format.

(Photos taken from Impart, Washington Mutual websites, Digital Signage Quarterly magazine)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sovereign Bank - New York Branches

They're not terribly memorable, but for the sake of completeness a quick entry on the digital signage installations in Sovereign Bank's 15 or-so NYC branches. Frankly, while the screens themselves are attractively integrated into the surrounding millwork, due to their placement within the branch--on the back of greeter station, facing a tiny, never-occupied waiting area--I doubt that the vast majority of customers who visit many of these branches have no idea they even exist!

Note to any/all bank marketers considering (or consultants recommending) deploying a digital signage system: Spend a day monitoring traffic patterns in one of your busy branches, and you'll find that 85-90% of visitors head from the door right to the teller counter. Of the remaining 10-15% customers who come to see a CSR, whether to buy a product or for service, only 2-3% will be required to wait (generally during the lunch hour, or late in the day). That means of the 300 or-so customers who enter a busy branch, 6-9 per day will spend so much as a minute in the waiting area. In other words, from a marketing standpoint, this is not exactly valuable real estate...

It's unclear who made the recommendation to install these displays where they are, nor is it clear that Sovereign has deployed digital signage elsewhere in its 800+ branch network (these were inherited in the Independence Community Bank acquisition). OpenEye Displays manages the network using software from 3M Digital Signage, and content is likely created by Sovereign's in-house ad-agency, 601.

(Photo taken from OpenEye website)

Citizens-Charter One - Network Rollout

With "video merchandising" deployed in roughly 850 of its 1,600 total branches, until recently Citizens-Charter One maintained the world's largest financial services digital signage network. While the network has been profiled in a couple of different industry publications over the years, it origins have often been confused. It also merits re-visiting due to its sheer breadth, both in terms of size and usage, and the number of learnings that have come from it over the years.

The network as it exists today consists of two separate digital signage initiatives, assembled when Royal Bank of Scotland purchased Citizens Financial Group (RI), and later Charter One Financial (OH). Citizens had begun to deploy digital signage in their "NICE" concept branches and had built a network of roughly 75 locations, less than 10% of the total footprint. Charter One, on the other hand, had made the decision to use their "digital communications network" (DCN) as their primary branch communications medium, and had deployed it to their entire network of 650 locations.

Screens (generally 42") were located above the teller counter and on kiosks in the branch lobbies of Citizens' branches, whereas they were located behind the teller counter in most Charter locations, as well as in a large "feature wall" dioramma facing the waiting area and the lobby. Both banks, and especially Charter, also maintained in-store locations, where larger screens (up to 84") were frequently mounted on the exterior wall facing the checkout counter or toward co-located Starbucks locations. In both cases, the bank's conducted a number of tests in select pilot branches, with results indicating that:
  1. Improved the impact of promotional messaging (increased recall)
  2. Improved customer perception of key brand attributes
  3. Increased the number of products which could be put on display
  4. Reduced perceived wait-time and improved satisfaction

In terms of content strategy, in a recent interview, Bill Harrison, director of branch marketing for Citizens-Charter One, commented that the network is aimed at making a three-tiered impression on customers,

It starts with the brand. The first impression when people walk in is 'This is a nice branch.' Their second impression is 'This bank has everything I'm looking for today.' And their third impression is 'I need to go and check that out now.' This exhibits itself through brand spots, spots that show product breadth and spots that tell you what to do next. you need to give consumers enough content that it's...entertaining and worthwhile.

Based on a few select branch visits over the past few years, Citizens-Charter uses a roughly 15-20 minute playlist of 20-30 second spots, although the timing of the loop is deceiving as a number of key spots are repeated more than once. News, weather, and sports updates for 21 unique regions appear prominently in the mix, and I would say that brand interstitials are featured more prominently than in other, more promotional networks. In addition to customer communications, the bank also uses the network to reach its employees , delivering training videos, product launches, and other corporate communications before- and after-hours. Sound does not seem to factor prominently in the multimedia experience, although ambient music does play in the "NICE" branches, and I can remember seeing content in the old Charter One branches that included an audio track.

The Citizens "NICE" branches were originally designed by Lippincott, and employed Impart software and content services to manage the network. Charter One's branches were designed by John Ryan and managed using the company's ScreenRed software and content services.

(Photos taken from ScreenRed, Impart, and Lippincott websites, ABA Bank Marketing article)

Monday, September 10, 2007

TCF Bank - Network Rollout

TCF Bank ("Twin Cities Federal"), whose network spans Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Colorado, may be the possessor of the least well-known large digital signage networks--by now implemented in the majority of the bank's 400+ branch locations. According to a press release from 2005, the bank made the decision to move forward with a network rollout after piloting screen-based communications in some of its largest and most patronized locations. Reasons for adoption cited by Mark Foster, then the bank's SVP of Marketing, included that the medium was "unique" and capable of "targeting messaging down to the individual branch level," thereby increasing the relevance of the bank's communications to the local market and the likelihood of reaching customers who may be in the market for a given product.

As deployed, TCF's digital communications network consists largely of screens mounted behind the teller counter in traditional and in-store branch formats, although in some cases displays have also been installed in windows (I've seen 2-3 branches like that in Chicago) or on promotional kiosks in branch lobbies. The content loop appears to be roughly 3-4 minutes long, and alternates between general branding spots (open 7 days, etc.), product/category awareness (solutions for students), and specific product promotions (rates, etc.), interspersed with local news, weather, sports, and financial markets updates. Most of the content appears to be video-based, but the syndicated news spots, at a minimum, must have a flash overlay component, as they seem to site- or city-specific, and updated regularly. According to the release, the bank uses John Ryan's network management software and content services.

(Photo taken from Business Wire press release)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bank of America - Collated Pilots & Rollouts

With nearly 6,000 locations, Bank of America possesses by far the largest retail network of any US retail bank. While the bank, which prides itself on technological innovation, has been making waves in the digital signage industry for years now--including this 2004 article in Business Week, which many at the time believed (incorrectly, it turns out) was the bellwhether moment for the digital signage industry--but has yet to make any large-scale commitment to date.

That said, over the past 2-3 years a number of "small scale" rollouts have occurred among within the bank's network (the largest of which was inherited in the acquisition of FleetBoston), and many of these would dwarf a full rollout for almost any other client. The bank is notoriously tight-lipped about results from any of its pilot tests, but rumor has it that customer satisfaction improved dramatically in RBSi branches, where Teller Zone Media was originally tested, and that branches with the interactive mortgage fixtures witnessed a 10-15% increase in applications during a limiting pilot test (if that's true, it's shocking the bank didn't deploy those babies everywhere, as 6-12 additional mortgage sales per year would easily cover the cost of ownership).

Rather than detail them individually over time, I have attempted to provide a comprehensive list below:

  • Teller Zone Media (400-500 sites) - 19"-42" screens located above or behind teller counters, displaying live news feeds interspersed with bank content, primarily in New York, Washington, DC, and in denovo (RBSi) locations from the past 3-4 years
  • Lobby/Media Wall (300-400 sites) - a 42" screen located in the waiting area of denovo (RBSi) branches, playing the same mix of news and bank content as the teller area
  • External LED Signage (<10>sites))- massive LED banners and walls serving as external signage, primarily in high-visibility locations in New York
  • Digital Windows (10-20 sites?) - 19"-60" Screens located in windows of high-traffic New York locations, some in 'portrait' mode and some in 'landscape' mode, primarily playing the same news/content mix as the interior screens (where they're even working these days)
  • Investor Centers (40-50 sites) - 1-2 42" screens located in the Banc of America Securities offices, mostly in California and Texas, showing financial news almost exclusively
  • ATM Vestibule (~50 sites) - primarily small screens in New York branches, frequently incorporated into the ATM surround itself
  • Interactive Web Kiosks (~300 sites?) - all over in New York, DC, and Boston (although rarely being used and with less pomp than those displayed in the photo below), touchscreen kiosks enabling customers to access account information, print out information, and use various "tools" available on the Bank of America homepage
  • Interactive Mortgage Centers (15-20 sites) - a very cool application, which since may have been de-installed, the interactive versions of the ubiquitous "Mortgage Center" fixtures allowed customers to learn about mortgage products or watch informational videos, and were located primarily in Las Vegas and Florida
  • Interactive Window (1 site) - an ersewhile pilot test in Chicago, probably designed to generate buzz (which it did: link), which played primarily the same content used on the mortgage fixtures

As you would imagine, this many projects takes a small village of suppliers to manage and complete, including Prism Technologies, Creative Realities, Planar/CoolSign, R/GA, GestureTek, Convergent, and Sony, among others I'm sure.

The Provident Bank (NJ) - Jersey City Flagship

Not much to say about this installation, other than to say its a nice looking branch, to add another to the talley of 3-wide banner display installations, and to encourage The Provident Bank (the one in New Jersey, not the one in DC) to update its content more frequently than once every two years.
The installation consists of two 3-wide digital signage banners, one of which is positioned behind the teller counter, and the other of which serves as the center-piece for a "financial solutions" center, visible from the street and the nearby Manhattan-New Jersey ferry terminal. For more, I'll quote from the BrandPartners case study:

The “Provident Hub” communications strategy came to life with six 40-inch LCD displays, fitted together to create two sets of seamless banners, each hung in designated zones. The new Digital Signage Network projects financial facts, brand positioning, product offerings and local news....the solution improves the customer experience as it promotes brand recognition and communicates product campaigns and financial services information. As a result, The Provident has been able to transition from a traditional, transaction-oriented bank to a full-service provider of expert financial solutions.
Branch design services and content are supplied by BrandPartners, and local integrator OpenEye Displays manages the network using 3M Digital Signage software.

(Photos taken from BrandPartners website)

Cover stories: digital signage in banks

I'm late in posting this, but it's worth noting that two financial services indusry rags, ABA Bank Marketing magazine and The American Banker daily newspaper, have recently published cover stories on the use of in-branch digital signage. It's nice to see articles on the topic not penned by the same 2-3 digital signage publications, for a change. The June ABA Banking Marketing cover story, "TV or Not TV," is a must-read for any bank considering or using in-branch digital signage. It provides a nice overview of the factors bank marketers should consider when evaluating or selecting vendor partners, as well as a few case studies and a number of successful content strategies. A pdf of the article can be found here: Link. The American Banker article is less essential in my mind and requires site registration, but can be located here for those interested (Link).

Bank of New York - Park Avenue Flagship

Another 3-wide LCD digital signage banner installation, this time in the ATM vestibule at Bank of New York's flagship Park Avenue location. B0NY's 400+ retail branches were recently acquired by JP Morgan Chase and are in the process of being re-branded, but this branch (a one-off in the BoNY network) should fit nicely with the ones Chase has been building or renovating elsewhere in the city.

To be honest, I'm not sure what the architect's or marketer's intent was with this sign originally, as it's positioned well to be visible from the street--where employing need some sort of short flashy 'attract' sequence with 3-5 second content bursts would make the most sense--yet too high to be seen as you wait to use the ATM, where devoting 45 minutes or so of every hour to talking-head style Bloomberg financial news (does anyone other than a banker, stock analyst, broker, or trader actually choose to watch that on their free time? Granted, those guys were probably BoNY's target market) might otherwise make a modicum of sense.

The screen is broken up into multiple quadrants, one showing a live Bloomberg feed, one a ticker, one a separate text-based news panel, and one with an ad, but cuts to Bank of New York advertising whenever the telecast cuts to a commercial break. This solves one major problem faced by the myrriad of banks here in New York who have installed televisions in their denovo branches, only to broadcast thousands of their competitors' ads to their own customers as they wait for service (read: dumb). I'm assuming that Chase, who I'll profile at some point in the future, has since replaced this feed with the same content they run in their own legacy branches, but I'm guessing content/software was originally provided by Bloomberg Financial Network and The Affinity Group.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Harris Bank - Network Rollout

Harris Bank (owned by Bank of Montreal) is one of Chicago's oldest community banks and, with roughly 200 branches in the metropolitan area, one of its largest. Starting in 2001, the bank began experimenting with digital signs in its branches, first in high-traffic urban areas, and eventually made the decision to roll out to its entire network.

The bank adopted digital signage to address two key recurring issues: 1) long teller queues in its urban locations, cited as a primary source of customer dissatisfaction, and 2) generally low awareness of its broader (non-DDA) product portfolio, which was inhibiting cross-sell opportunities. The bank's branch communications weren't helping either problem--in fact, in one audit only 39% of customers could recall seeing a marketing message during their visit. In 2001, the bank initiated a pilot test, where it installed an LCD screen behind the teller counter in 13 urban locations, and eliminated all other print communications from the branch. The screens showed a mix of brand, promotional, and community relations/sponsorship content spots, interspersed with local news, weather, and sports updates.

At the end of three months, 89% of customers surveyed could recall a message they saw during their visit (compared to 39% in cohorts), and more than half indicated the screens improved their branch experience. The bank has also hinted that it observed a lift in cross-sell ratios during the pilot, but has yet to publish the results. In a Chain Store Age article, Joseph Teller, VP of Marketing Services, said the bank had finally found a medium that "successfully intermingles the product and services messages in a format that attracts and retains customer attention."

While there is certainly nothing revolutionary about the screen-behind-teller installations, to my knowledge Harris was one of the first to begin customized content (community events and news) on a branch location basis. Marketforward provides network management software and content services for the network.

(photos taken from Marketforward website, and digital retailing expo conference presentation)

Friday, August 31, 2007

HSBC - 5th Avenue Flagship

These photos come from HSBC's flagship branch/brokerage center here in New York. As retail formats go it's certainly not among my favorites, but it is one of the earliest branches to employ digital signage and proto-interactive applications (circa 2000?) here in the city. The branch, to my knowledge, remains unique among HSBC's 400+ retail locations in the US.

There are three core electronic communications elements in the branch: 1) the three 2 x 2 arrays of plasma monitors in the windows, which glow by night but are exceedingly difficult to see during the day, 2) an LED stock ticker that weaves its way throughout the interior of the branch (the rotating barbershop pole of brokerage centers here in New York), and 3) a forrest of interactive "web terminal" totems for customers to check their account balances and make trades in the lobby.

The branch cuts a striking figure at night, when the entire lobby and the digital windows glow from the street, but due to glare--a factor known and accounted for today--the leigibility of the plasma screens is maligned substantially during the day, to the point where I've never actually seen someone stop to read them. The content probably also has something to do with alternates between network news (without sound, what's the point in watching a talking head?) and the same sequence of 4-5 content spots that has been playing since the signs were installed. Nor have I ever seen more than 1-2 people checking their account balance at the preponderance of interactive banking terminals. Perhaps their value is more strongly brand-oriented; when the facility was built I suspect offering internet banking and account access still seemed like the vanguard of retail banking and brokerage. I would like to see the bank come up with some more inventive ways of using the fixtures, however, as they send a different, unintended message ("nobody banks here") today.

In summary, HSBC and its design agency, BrandPartners, are to be applauded for their early adoption of electronic communications media, and for the ambition displayed in the variety of applications employed. It's time for a refresh, though, guys...even if it's just a few new content spots! Retail format design was supplied by BrandPartners, content is produced by DDC, and the signs are managed using software from 3M Digital Signage.

(Photos taken from BrandParnters, DDC websites)

Citibank & US Bank - Award-Winning Content

The inaugural "Fourth Screen Awards," honoring the best creative content in brand, promotional, interactive, and public service announcement dynamic media campaigns, were announced by the Strategy Institute during their digital signage conference in Las Vegas this past February. Per the official announcement,
"The Fourth Screen Awards 2007 was an opportunity to congratulate and learn from the most innovative, creative and effective content developers the out-of-home digital media industry has to offer," says Adam Remson, Publisher of Other Advertising Magazine. Adding “it’s a way to foster innovation and growth in content production. The Fourth Screen Awards celebrate those groups who have raised the bar for everyone in alternative out-of-home digital media.”
Two banks were among the award winners--US Bank took home a bronze medal in the interactive category for its in-branch Health Savings Account promotion, and Citibank won bronze in the public service announcement category for its Syndicated News, Weather, and Sports spots. Agency services were in both cases provided by John Ryan Performance.

It's nice to see financial institutions honored alongside such illustrious brands such as Nike, Nokia, Toyota, and Ralph Lauren. If at all possible we're going to try to locate and post screenshots of these two spots in the blog. If you have an inside line on them, please drop us a line.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Umpqua Bank - Neighborhood Store

The photos above showcase Umpqua Bank's new "neighborhood store" concept, a high-design, low-cost retail format meant to "integrate into established neighborhoods like cafes," according to a bank press release. Despite the fact that the footprint of these stores (as Umpqua refers to all its branches) averages 750 sq. ft., cafe service, internet access, and merchandise from distinctive local business will be available in addition to full-service banking.

How did Umpqua pull this off and still find space to conduct banking sales conversations, given that these branches are no larger than your run-of-the-mill in-store branch? Through the use of what they refer to as a "Discovery Wall," a choreographed, interactive, multi-screen experience that allows customers (or staff assisting them) to access a wide array of information on banking products, or lifestage-specific topics. Content is triggered when a customer picks up one of a number of RFID-tagged objects--the colored, upside-down coffee cups seen in the picture above--and includes a video presentation as well as the offer to print out relevant information on a nearby printer.

Having played with one of these the last time I visited Portland, I can say it presents a pretty seamless, and totally differentiated experience, but then again it's hard not to be seduced by the design-chic Umpqua aesthetic in the first place. Given the errand mentality most customers have when they enter a bank branch, it's hard to believe that many stop to "browse" the Discovery Wall on a regular basis. One can imagine, however, that in those rare moments when customers actually do consider purchasing an additional product, an application such as this would be an invaluable sales tool (especially since the average branch employee can often only describe the value of 10-12% of a bank's products).

Unless I am mistaken, Umpqua worked with Portland-based Ziba Design on the overall branch concept, and uses software from Nanonation to drive the interactive and digital signage elements.

Well done.

(Photos taken from Nanonation website)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

SunTrust - Retail lobby and in-store branches

I thought these were particularly nice photos of installations at SunTrust. This 3-wide format seems to be increasingly popular (largely a by-product of the steep price reductions in lcd displays?), as I've seen it recently employed in Chase's New York branches as well.

From a "showings" perspective, the Chase screens are nearly impossible to miss as you walk by their branches on the street. While I can't comment specifically on SunTrust's branches having never visited them, you'd think the retail-frontage concept of "showings" would apply there as well. Based on the published information, SunTrust has deployed these babies to 98 of more than 1,700 branches across the Southeast US.

SunTrust worked with BrandPartners on the development of the branch concept, and employs software from 3M Digital Signage to manage its network.

(Photos taken from 3M Digital Signage and BrandPartners websites)

Jyske Bank - video of branch environments

Customer-experience-crowers take notice (that means you, US banks): Jyske Bank of Denmark is doing some remarkable things with their branch environments, including the use of a number of interesting retail technologies. Jyske has provided a three-minute video of their new branch formats to provide customers with a sense of what to expect when they visit these new facilities, which you can find here. Definitely worth a look...

Jyske Bank uses Planar's CoolSign software to drive its digital signage network.

Work in progress...

Disclaimer: This blog is an earnest effort to document and occasionally annotate the publicly available information regarding the use and effectiveness of retail digital signage in the context of a retail bank branch.

Having spent more years than I care to mention in the world of financial services adverstising and retail communications, I have witnessed the Lazarian rise, fall, and subsequent return of retail digital signage as the "next great" advance in retail signage and merchandising. While a great deal has been written or said on the topic, including some enlightening articles and interesting conference presentations, I find myself frustrated that the overwhelming body of information is hyperbolized and fragmented across component vendor websites. I do not pretend to be complete in my efforts, nor do I endorse any one lexicon: digital merchandising, digital communications networks (DCN), retail digital signage (RDS), electronic signage, in-store digital media, interactive kiosks, or otherwise...a sign by any other name is still as significant. I will, however, be diligent in my efforts to provide an un-biased, non-commercialized representation of the "state of the industry," and regular profiles of interesting applications as I find them (or when it is provided by you, the reader).

I appreciate your time and interest.