Is digital always better? Especially in terms of signage?
From my perspective – one that is pretty dialed into the digital signage/digital Out of Home (DOOH) industry – I often feel like there is a misguided notion that digital is always better. Yes, digital can deliver more messages and adjust based on time of day, demographic, and/or location, but more and even more targeted messages don’t necessarily translate into better. To me, it’s all about how good that message is and whether or not it enables an opportunity for the consumer to be driven deeper into the brand.
A few weeks ago, my friends Will Amos and Kyle Porter from NanoLumens sent me a link to a new table top digital signage solution intended for casual dining restaurants. It’s a decent looking product and I can imagine the network (COMMCaddy Network) is an efficient way for restaurants to deploy and change specials, offers, etc. Here’s a static shot of the CommCaddy:
I’ve also worked with and seen an interactive table top solution for the same type of restaurants. It, too, provides an efficient way to deploy and change specials, offers, etc. Patrons can even pay from this Ziosk device. Here’s a static shot of the Ziosk:
While both of these solutions – and any digital solution, for that matter – can create efficiencies, cut a whole slew of costs and ultimately help to drive more sales (by serving up images of drinks or desserts, for instance), I just wonder if they’re addressing the real need? Which, to me, is to drive loyalty, deepen the brand experience, and get patrons to come in again. From this perspective, digital has nothing to do with it. And message and connection have everything to do with it.
Last night, I saw this boring, laminated table top sign at Houlihans.
While I understand that these examples seemingly have a different purpose on the table, I’ll go back to the real need. Is it to drive sales or deeper connection?
The answer is both. I know.
But when you think about table stakes in today’s always-on, digitally-driven world, in casual dining restaurants like this – what’s most important to have? Something digital? Or something that enables connections?
I think the industry (and restaurants within) should take a look at what Houlihans does, with its non-digital, boring little laminated table top sign. They focus on staying connected. Specifically through:
- Mailing list – It’s the first thing on the sign. And you can do it just by asking your server for a “sign-up slip.”
- Mobile – The next thing on the sign. Text a short code in to receive specials. And just by signing up, get a free mini dessert.
- Social – Twitter & Facebook identities right out in front to connect with the brand in their social channels.
- Geo-location – Fourquare specials here. And it’s one of the only restaurants like this that I’ve eaten at that provide specials for checking in (it’s good, too).
I have no idea what restaurants choose to show on digital screens at the table, if in fact they have them. The ones that I’ve witnessed myself, and then seen through their own advertisements, miss this connection point completely. There is value in having such an efficient display system, for sure. But if the message is all about food, food, food (or, really, sell, sell, sell), I believe patrons aren’t going to feel one way or another about your brand, especially as it relates to your fancy digital table top solution. They might buy more food when they’re sitting there that one time. And maybe even next time, if they come in. But in the end, that’s all they’re doing. They’re not connecting to the brand, which can impact the way they feel about the brand, and ultimately drive loyalty.
There is a simple notion that cannot be misguided – people, in some way, want to be connected. So, shouldn’t table stakes in today’s casual dining restaurant world be all about those connections and not the technology?