Jan 1, 2010

Digital Out of Home (DOOH): Screens Large and Small at the Mall (and some touch interactive Coke machines!)

I was at the Southpark Mall in Charlotte yesterday and noticed that screens of all sizes were everywhere I went. I happened to have my little HD video camera with me and thought I'd share what came across my path.

Most of what I saw wasn't too innovative or interactive. Many of the smaller video displays were located on the market karts in the main traffic areas of the mall. Scattered about the mall are cozy living-room like areas, with comfy couches, WiFi access, and in on spot, a few large-screen HD televisions, perfect for watching sports or the news while other members of your social/family network do some serious shopping. I especially liked the infomercial about North Carolina's beaches around Wilmington.

I wasn't too excited about the information display about the mall, which provides what looks like a version of the Southpark Mall website, shown at :44 on the first video clip.  Located about 20 feet from a static mall directory, not a single soul looked at the screen or used the keyboard and mouse to find out more about what the stores in the mall had to offer.  The static directory, on the other hand, had groups of people looking at it all of the time as I observed.  (I added screen-shots and pictures of the keyboard-and-mouse display near the end of this post.)

At the end of the first video clip, you'll see a new interactive touch-screen Coke vending machine, but the one featured at the end of the first video is out of order.

Not to worry. I stopped to rest in another area of the mall, and in right in my line of sight was another Coke machine, just as a young man was trying to figure out how to get a Coke out of the machine. It took him 93 seconds. That might not seem like too long, but if you watch the second video, you'll see that it was almost painful to watch.

As the young man finished purchasing his soda, a family with two young children were nearby and figured out that the display wasn't just for ads. The second video clip has a few shots of the younger child playing with the touch screen, and later on, his dad.  The little guy probably would have played with the touchable spinning Coke bottle for a long time! The dad commented, "They should have something like this for the home!", and mentioned that his kids liked the SMARTboards at school.

In my opinion, the interactive Coke Machine didn't know what it wanted to be.  An eye-catching, attention grabbing infomercial?   A useful interactive information display?   A fun toy to touch and play?  A system to make it difficult to quickly reach your goal of getting your thirst quenched, better to get the ads into your brain?

Marketers, designers, and developers, listen to this:

A lot of people still do not know about larger interactive touch screens. Even if they have an iPhone!
I told the parents about touch-enabled all-in-one PC's, touch-screen netbook/laptops, and the rumor that Apple might come out with a touch-screen tablet. They'd never heard of such things. This mall is very upscale, and the families that come to shop there have money.  They still can buy shoes at Nordstrom and drink specialty coffees, and of course, crowd around in the Apple Store.

The Videos

Note:  The participants in the following two videos gave permission for me to video. The videos were not staged.

A Young Guy and an Interactive Coke Machine

A Kid and an Interactive Coke Machine

Below is a picture of the web-connected directory at the Southpark Mall from about a year ago.  No-one used it then, and at the time, the display was not working.  If you look closely, you'll see the keyboard and mouse set up.  Although this display contains a lot of information about the mall, via the web, it does not meet the needs of most shoppers, who travel in pairs, groups, families, and extended families during the holiday season. 

Below are two screen shots of the SouthPark website, which can be accessed by using the keyboard and mouse on the information display, as I previously mentioned.

In my opinion, there is enough screen space on the touch-screen Coke machine to provide interactive information about the mall.  Ripping content from the mall's website won't do, since it is text-based, boring, and oh-so WIMP-y!

Better yet, the mall should transform the large static directories into something useful, keeping in mind that most of the time it will need to support two or more people deciding where to go and what to do while they are at the mall.  Beam a mini-map of the mall to the shoppers to use on their iPhones/Smart phones, and give them a shopping advisor app while you are at it.

There are too many talking head screens in the mall.  Make them interactive, add some value, and see what might happen, especially if you want to target reluctant shoppers like myself.

For fun:
I Want the Giant iPhone! (Short Glimpse of the Apple Store)

Coca-Cola Testing Interactive Vending Machines Patricia Odell, Promo, 4/2/09:

"Shoppers will come upon the units in high traffic locations and can use the large format touch screen displays to interact with and buy Coca-Cola products. People will also be learning about specials and promotions available at the mall and will be able to purchase the beverages using Simon Giftcards.

"The flat screen is set in the vending machine doors and is divided into three sections. The machines feature functionality similar to an iPhone. For example, the mid section of the screen is where people can buy drinks. Clicking on a product lets the shopper rotate the bottle to see the label. The top and bottom sections of the screen are used for running commercials for Coke and other Coca-Cola brands and for Simon Mall promos...This is just preliminary to see how the functionality goes," Coca-Cola spokesperson Ray Crockett said. Next-gen models of the machines will offer mobile phone downloads in the form of music files, ringtones and wallpaper, along with cashless payment and more, Coca-Cola said...The machines were first Introduced at the Summer Olympics last year in Beijing and one the Simon dTour...The new machines incorporate sight, sound and motion video to take the vending experience from transaction to true interaction,” Anthony Phillips, global brand manager at Coca-Cola said in a release. “We wanted the machines to be eye-catching in a way that would turn heads and command attention.” The new venders were developed by The Coca-Cola Co. in partnership with Samsung and interactive marketing agency Sapient".

Sapient Interactive Services
Sapient Interactive Mobile Group

Update:  Some links to Bill Gerba's blog posts:

Digital Signage Screen Placement: Modeling Consumer Behavior http://bit.ly/4oXPWM
Digital Signage Screen Placement: Angle, Height and Text Size http://bit.ly/7hG6NZ
Making great digital signage content: A quick reference guide http://bit.ly/74rNL5


Anonymous said...

Interesting observations Lynn. Your comment "A lot of people still do not know about larger interactive touch screens. Even if they have an iPhone!" I think is very indicative of the market in general. Here in NZ people are becoming more aware of the interactive iPhone and it is not uncommon as a must have device, though it is far from being in every pocket. I think the key to interactive displays is the content has got to be engaging and compelling to stop people in traffic areas. Bad GUI design and broken equipment does the industry a dis-service. What has been your observation of the floor gesture systems. Immersive as they might be I wonder if they are delivering a ROI or just fun for bored kids in shopping centres. We were involved in supplying a interactive large format iPhone like you pictured using projection and thru glass touch in Singapore. People were excited to engage with the display. Kevin Andreassend

Lynn Marentette said...

Kevin, what I see everywhere I go is a combination of problems. The best-designed interactive display will have minimal use if it is not placed in the right spot.

Also, I'm finding that the "gestalt" of the user experience is ignored. When I go to the mall, I want a nice MALL experience, sort of like a pleasant collage. I want to be guided, but I also want to make my own choices. So if an interactive floor happens to be in front of me, it needs to contribute to the overall shopping experience, even though the floor application is focused on marketing things that might not interest me at first. If I'm a mom shopping with kids in tow, I'd welcome the entertainment factor.

Malls used to have playpits for young children, but I haven't seen them in years. Why not digital playpits?

At any rate, I've found Bill Gerba's blog quite helpful when thinking about DOOH. Bill has quite a bit of insight! Although his articles focus on digital signage, quite a few of the principles he outlines hold true for interactive content in larger public spaces.

Digital Signage Screen Placement: Modeling Consumer Behavior http://bit.ly/4oXPWM

Digital Signage Screen Placement: Angle, Height and Text Size http://bit.ly/7hG6NZ

Making great digital signage content: A quick reference guide http://bit.ly/74rNL5

tim warrington said...

I think until some of the larger companies start to embrace digital signage it is going to hard to get the the new products out in the line. The more big companies take this on board the better

Lynn Marentette said...

Even when the large companies DO get on board, like Coke, there still is room for improvement. It is interesting to watch things as they evolve.