Digital Signage: Cooking up revenue for restaurants

September 21, 2015


Photos courtesy NEC Display Solutions

By Richard Ventura
Digital signage has offered restaurant owners a new way to leverage their display advertising and increase revenue. While this is not to say digital displays will eventually replace TV advertising, place-based media and other forms of display advertising have certainly gained momentum in recent years and are on track to dominate the industry in the future. According to a 2014 report from Forrester Research, an independent technology and market research company, spending on digital advertising in the U.S.—including search, display, social and e-mail—will top $103 billion in 2019, with display advertising alone representing $37.6 billion.

Further, a Digital Place-based Advertising Association (DPAA) survey shows 64 per cent of strategic media planners have advised their commercial clients to shift funding away from traditional out-of-home (OOH), 
41 per cent away from TV and 40 per cent away from online, all to better fund digital place-based marketing channels. As such, this distinctly modern platform for display advertising is seeing its market presence continue to grow at a steady pace.

The restaurant industry, in particular, is well-poised to reap the benefits of digital place-based media, including a highly targeted demographic reach based on time and location, plus immediate and lasting access to a constantly replenished audience in high-traffic, protected-brand environments. Restaurants are also a perfect fit for this type of advertising because many are already using digital screens to entertain patrons and reinforce the benefits of their branded products.

Bringing advertising to the table
Active consumers tend to spend more money while they are out and about than at home. Marketers have a significant degree of power in this scenario, as restaurant customers are highly receptive to relevant branded messages that convey a sense of immediacy.

As mentioned, many restaurant owners grasped this advantage years ago, investing in digital screens both to communicate better with their patrons and to favourably position their branded products. Since then, they have become savvy at aligning customer-facing messaging across their various digital channels, including social media, smartphone apps and websites, and tying in with TV, radio and print ads.

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Indeed, the integration of social media, digital signs and websites, in particular, has improved the consistency of many restaurants’ brand messaging, streamlining the consumer’s understanding of their offerings amidst a lot of ‘noise’ in the marketplace. This in turn has helped drive foot traffic through their doors.

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Many restaurants already connect their digital menu boards, point-of-sale (POS) systems and order confirmation platforms to aggregate data for analysis by managers.

Another digital place-based marketing opportunity has arisen with the increased use of tablet computers. Some restaurants are installing tablets in their dining areas to allow tableside ordering and entertainment. At Toronto Pearson International Airport, 
for example, customers at new bars and restaurants can check their flight status on table-mounted Apple iPads while they dine. This type of scenario opens new avenues for increased connectivity to restaurants’ omni-channel marketing strategies.

Already, digital menu boards, point-of-sale (POS) systems and order confirmation platforms are interconnected at many restaurants to aggregate data, which managers can then analyze before making new business decisions. The possibilities do not end there; some restaurants are using screens to cross-market products and complementing their digital menu boards with special ‘promo boards’ that upsell to customers while they wait in line to place their orders.

Writing a recipe for success
If restaurants are to use all aspects of such omni-channel communications in their marketing plans, they must begin with digital strategies that speak to the needs of their customers. Only then can technology truly connect with the public.

First and foremost, restaurant owners must determine what kinds of digital signage content are suitable for the audience at hand. The marketing approach should be highly targeted and relevant, whetting customers’ appetite for the brand’s products and services, or it will fall short in terms of making an impact and influencing purchasing decisions.

The digital signage network also needs to be scalable, so it can grow to support future marketing opportunities. Analytics should be taken into account, for example, as they are gradually becoming the norm for measuring the effectiveness of place-based media.

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At the end of the day, customer satisfaction is imperative to achieving business success, so it is important to address what that means in the current dining landscape. Restaurant owners can then leverage digital place-based marketing as a driving force for increasing their revenue.

Richard Ventura is vice-president (VP) of business development for NEC Display Solutions, which provides liquid crystal displays (LCDs) for digital signage networks in restaurants and other facilities. For more information, contact him via e-mail at[3].

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