Thursday, December 27, 2007

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)

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