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.