In an increasingly digitised world, access to the spaces where people choose to congregate and interact is becoming highly prized by those seeking to communicate on a meaningful level with varied audiences. Arguably, in no space is this more pivotal for consumer brand communications than where people are often browsing and seeking inspiration to purchase while in a suitable mindset – the shopping mall. At the same time, malls are increasingly becoming entertainment centres with cinema facilities, restaurants (both high-end and fast food), children’s play areas, arcades and other leisure activities encouraging people to dwell and treat the space as a social nexus.
This landscape is the result of many years of development of the mall space where the UK leads the world. It is also increasingly a digitally connected space too, with malls investing heavily to connect clicks with bricks and remain relevant as a physical environment against a backdrop of the inexorable growth of e-commerce. This kind of integrated, holistic environment offered by malls is only really made possible through the clever implementation of cutting-edge digital technology within the mall space. This sea-change has been driven equally by a new, connected consumer, adopting increasing levels of digital technology. This evolution has led to the need to understand the habits, trends and key factors that have produced this change in consumer behaviour over the past few years, and which enhance the malls’ role as a social destination as well as connect them to e-commerce.
Research by Digitas LBi has found that 34% of shoppers make a purchase with a smartphone, while 88% of consumers currently undertake ROPO (research online, purchase offline). So clearly there is appetite here for a more integrated approach. However, creating a social space is one thing, but how do malls, stores and their advertisers go about effectively commercialising it?
The answer lies in the ubiquity of digital out-of-home (DOOH) media. When DOOH is layered with screen technology that provides interactivity, Near Field Communication and a host of other advanced options like geo-targeting and augmented reality, advertisers can interact and create genuine, two-way brand relationships with consumers. These truly connect the space provided by malls with commercial messaging in a manner which enhances, not interrupts, the entertainment and shopping experience.
Digital and NFC-enabled sites, and those offering free Wi-Fi, have made DOOH much more responsive. The use of interactive displays enables DOOH to tie into digital and online campaigns as well, by allowing advertisers to increase their chance of conversions by promoting the opportunity for instant interaction opportunities with the customer. A mall campaign for Volvic saw the brand implement an interactive-screen based game where players could win Volvic goodies. This was an example of a gamified activity channelled into a commercial process. So what’s next for DOOH in malls? Apart from interaction and digital displays there are many strategies being applied online that will help DOOH communication innovate once again. For example, social media platforms such as Foursquare have already begun letting customers check into displays and receive corresponding benefits in a digital update of the traditional voucher process. This allows for distribution of different deals at different locations, relating back to tight targeting. The use of interactive screens will also enable DOOH campaigns to seed further into digital and online campaigns as well. Imagine social media contests and check-ins being combined with displays in places like shopping centres where brands can directly boost spend. This cross-platform marketing would enable companies to experience a level of interaction with customers and deliver potential for conversion that’s been previously unattainable.
The quality of technology has helped boost advertisers’ capability in targeting consumers through engaging all their senses. Digital screen sites, for instance, deliver cinema-quality digital content, eye-catching physical wrap designs and full zonal sound to engage with shoppers fully through these multiple stimuli. Ensuring that the location is on the shoppers’ journey is important here too because they’ll already be in the right frame of mind.
There is often a gap between what people expect from DOOH and what they experience. Consumers now expect a dynamic experience from their smartphones and televisions but when they see a DOOH board they expect the same fixed reality delivered by traditional OOH. But this is where the DOOH market is beginning to change, surprise and engage. The landscape is the perfect one for more bespoke and creative experiences, linking advertisers with their locations for optimum effect. Fully embracing these new technologies in an age where the value of targeting consumers when their senses are open to advertising cannot be underestimated.