Top 5 Retail Market Integrators

These market-leading integrators talk ROI, brand awareness and interactive content.>

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Edwards doesn’t believe in overselling a particular type of solution, noting, “defining what’s necessary comes from these retailers. If you can’t feed it content and manage that content, you haven’t done your job as an integrator. That’s probably the weakest part of what goes on in retail spaces right now.”

Kevin Goldsmith, director of digital media operations at PING HD, says scalability is a big focus, but to get there, “you have to be affordable.” That means looking at non-PC solid state media players and using a Software as a Service (SaaS) approach that eliminates servers on-site, with customers paying for licensing and support.

Digital signage is becoming more common in retail spaces as second-generation offerings begin to hit the market, says Goldsmith. “As more research shows positive ROI, more retailers will take a chance.”

Darrell Champagne, executive VP of operations for PlayNetwork, says the company offers “a true turnkey approach” to more than 265 brands around the world, led by Starbucks. They are involved in licensing and content procurement, 3D and animation, management of the content and network and in-house design, with no off -the-shelf solutions.

Things Leaders Have in Common

  • The companies that lead that way in the retail space are relatively small, with an average size of fewer than 70 employees, with PlayNetwork representing the only one with more than 100 people on board
  • They’re not newcomers to the business, but they don’t have the long histories of those in some other markets, either

“The last few years, we’ve seen better audio and more signage, but the biggest transformation has been from static to dynamic,” says Champagne. “We’re also seeing more in terms of touch and text-or-photo-to-screen capabilities.

“A lot of retailers want to incorporate the social experience. We have to help them understand how to stay connected in the store and after they leave,” he says. They even have an app called Now Playing that allows people to buy music they hear in a store.

PlayNetwork uses an award-winning philosophy it dubbed GIGS (Great Installations, Great Systems) that includes standards, instruction manuals and more that help achieve the goal of scalability and repeatability across a chain.

The Future Of The Market
Faville expects to see more radio frequency identification (RFID) in the retail market, but “there’s definitely room to grow there.” Facial and behavioral recognition technology, by which a screen can deliver catered advertising, is also on the rise.

Lessons from Leaders

  • Focus on what you do best. If you want to stand out from the crowd, don’t do the same thing everyone else is doing
  • Listen to what your customers want and help them understandhow you can take them there
  • Explain that return on investment will often come in non-traditional ways in the retail space

Harmala says the retail market is “continually marching down the digital road,” noting audio has been slow to make the switch from analog, but that a digital conversion brings about “more capabilities and more possibilities, often at a cheaper cost.”

He also expects Audio Video Bridging (AVB) to continue to grow, especially if version two of the standard is ratified. The initiative is starting to become more prominent in pro A/V but will only gain steam over time, says Harmala.

“You want to connect your brand to the customer,” says Edwards, who also expects more immersive technologies in brick-and-mortar retail locations to combat the increase in online sales.

“We also haven’t seen the true effect of the cloud in retail stores yet,” he says. “You can do more with less money. The stores will always be there, but they may be smaller. You need to develop more of an organized strategy that looks at everything holistically. They all have to merge together.”

Goldsmith expects more interactive information points in retail stores as well as an increase in self-service ordering and social media marketing.

“It doesn’t matter if you only have one server in one location or you’ve got stores around the world. We’re getting to the stage where you’re going
to see an explosion,” he says.

“More retailers are starting to design digital into their stores.”