August 4, 2022
Businesses have used signs to help direct customers to (and through) their doors for hundreds of years for a reason. No matter the culture or time period, outdoor displays have proven to be an effective way to grab attention and inspire action. For those looking to understand the power of this essential promotional tactic, this article provides an in-depth exploration of outdoor retail signage, including recent ROI statistics, the latest advances in signage tech, and so much more.
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Outdoor retail signage is a public, open-air display used by consumer brands to advertise their goods and services. From roadside billboards to augmented reality (AR) displays, outdoor signage has become a staple marketing channel for many retail businesses due to its ability to significantly influence consumer behavior. According to Statista, retail has the second-highest out-of-home (OOH) advertising spend across all sectors, dedicating over 722 million dollars to this channel in 2021 alone.
The origins of exterior retail signage go back to the Greeks, the first known civilization to use signs to facilitate trade. The Romans would pick up where the Greeks left off, introducing, among other things, the famous red and white barber pole. But this would prove to be just the beginning of many innovations to come, as usage of signs would continue to evolve and spread throughout Europe over the coming centuries.
Outdoor signage technology has taken a giant leap forward in the last few decades. First came the introduction of digital signage technology, which gave businesses far more creative control and adaptability regarding signage content. Large, durable, high-resolution displays and centralized content management systems enable brands to continually refresh their outdoor advertising creative.
More recently, augmented reality (AR) and mobile device adoption have brought on another paradigm shift, as this technology empowers brands to reach unprecedented levels of customer engagement. AR enables retailers to create dynamic and engaging outdoor signage that they can use for everything from testing promotions to providing immersive brand experiences.
CVS combined the power of mobile with tech-forward signage for its award-willing Beauty Mark campaign. In response to growing awareness of the detrimental effects unrealistic beauty standards have on the health and happiness of many women, the retail giant decided to launch a campaign that pushed the beauty industry towards “healthier representations of women.”
The campaign's goal was to inspire women to share unedited photos of themselves on social media with the #BeautyUnaltered to normalize the celebration of authentic female beauty in American culture. These images were then proudly displayed on massive digital signage in Times Square that refreshed every few seconds — sending a clear message to thousands of onlookers that CVS stood for a new kind of beauty standard.
The campaign’s results were remarkable. In total, Beauty Mark generated 3.6B impressions, over 15M in shared social content reach, and 1700 earned media placements. It also prompted 11 major beauty brands to increase transparency in their marketing, boosted CVS’s average daily sales, and increased shopping frequency among aware consumers by 50%. Overall, the initiative was a massive success, providing an example of how tech-forward outdoor signage (combined with the right message) can more than move the needle for retail businesses.
The first goal of any advertising strategy is to increase awareness of a business among its target audience, and that’s exactly what tech-forward outdoor signage does. A 2022 Yodeck survey of 100 US retailer business owners found that 90% believe digital signage enhances retail brand recognition. The study also indicated that nearly half of that 90% strongly affirm digital signage's impact on consumer brand awareness.
As for cost, outdoor signage stacks up well against all other alternatives. A 2022 report by Solomon Partners and OAAA found that outdoor signage outperformed all other major advertising categories on a cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) basis, including online, television, radio, and print. CPMs for across outdoor signage types ranged from $2 to $9. The CPM rates for the other categories were far more expensive: Online advertising ranged from $0.80 to $40; television from $10 to $45; radio from $4 to $25; and print from $9 to $54. Outdoor signage also had a significantly lower average CPM than these channels.
Perhaps the single greatest impact outdoor displays can have on a retail business is the traffic they can generate. The Yodeck survey revealed that 75% of retail business owners believe that street-facing signage increases in-store foot traffic significantly. Respondents also believed that the use of this tactic translates to bottom-line growth, as nearly 90% of those surveyed reported that digital signage boosts the ratio of shoppers who make a purchase. In other words, digital signage lifts both the total volume of visitors and the number of visitors that convert.
Although physical signage will probably always play a role in retail marketing, new technologies like AR have opened up entirely new worlds of possibility in this space. Retailers can now use AR signage to rapidly test-drive promotional strategies, create interactive experiences, diversify their revenue streams, boost sales, and more.
To learn more about this brave new world of retail signage, download Resonai’s new Ebook: A Guide to the New Digital Infrastructure for Malls & Retail Properties. Or start your AR signage journey today by contacting our team and setting up your free demonstration.
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