Digital Signage in a Mobile World

By Kate Young and Heather Ren

Consider two human traits, so common that we take them for granted:

  1. We don’t like to wait in line.
  2. We’re easily distracted by a spectacle—a shiny object, a moving picture, a human face addressing us.

Thus was born the bank branch audiovisual display board: a way to entertain captive audiences waiting in the teller line while spoon-feeding them bank marketing content. Since then, the programming possibilities have become nearly endless. Banks have used digital displays to present customers with community news, sports updates and video footage featuring volunteer events and fundraisers. They can provide short, to-the-point financial health tips and fraud alerts. And of course, they can walk customers through the bank’s products and services.

But then, somewhere along the way, the smartphone emerged. Not only does this device offer an endless supply of handheld diversions—it drastically reduces the need to visit a branch at all. When was the last time you’ve seen anyone standing in line for a bank teller?

Where does that leave branch-based digital signage?

Sharon Klocek-Ibbotson, director of content strategy for Kiosk and Display, maintains that while the goals of digital signage have evolved, the stakes have only gone up. “If anything, the changing role of branches from busy transaction centers to problem-solving relationship hubs has increased the need for digital signage and touchscreen tools,” she says. The key is to use digital displays strategically to help the bank stay relevant to customers in the branch—and to “amplify relationship building, inspire interactions and support problem solving.”

Meanwhile, Klocek-Ibbotson adds, for the sake of brand credibility, banks need to remain consistent throughout various promotional efforts. Consistency strengthens the institution’s potential for recognizable influence across all channels, whether they’re mobile, online or in person. In other words, done right, digital displays can become a crucial component of the customer experience. “If you have a digital presence,” she says, “you need a digital platform to bring that presence into your branches. Not to mention the fact that printing, distributing and confirming placement of paper posters in branch is still more expensive than digital signage.”

The question, then, is how to do it right. At the recent ABA Bank Marketing Conference in Austin, Klocek-Ibbotson and David Moore Devine, EVP and CMO at Columbia Bank in the Pacific Northwest, unpacked the do’s and taboos of digital signage. And Devine showed how his bank made digital signage a pivotal feature of its new concept branch.

What not to do

When digital signage isn’t working for the bank, it’s usually not hard to see why. In a worst-case scenario, content is stale, repetitive and relies on blocks of text. Messages are unclear, unbranded or focused too heavily on the bank—and not enough on the customer or the community. The displays are small and awkwardly (or inappropriately) located. Touch screens seem thrown in at random, challenging the customer to guess what he or she is supposed to use them for. The displays are not monitored, so when glitches show up, no one has the awareness—or maybe even the bandwidth—to fix them. And worst of all, the entire effort ignores who the customers are and what they need.

The days of time-and-temperature are over. Customers these days will barely notice a display that doesn’t show them what makes you different from your competitor down the street.

Content, context and community

If those content issues sound familiar, maybe that’s because they echo some of the challenges of participating in social media. The good news, Klocek-Ibbotson notes, is that once you’ve figured out your social media content, you can tie it into your digital displays to keep your content fresh, relevant and on brand. You can also draw on social media posts from your bank’s community partners and business partners. Working with an agency is another option for generating a fresh flow of content, she says, as long as you have a monthly budget and a specific plan. “Variety is key,” she adds. “Use the attention of one engaging message to draw attention to another.”

Devine has a warning about content: “If you cannot brand it, then don’t do it. Just don’t bother.” Investing in your own branded messages and templates will give you an edge. “Be different on screen,” he says, “and it will attract attention.” Klocek-Ibbotson adds that customers connect best with content that reflects them on a local level. As long as brand and message guardrails are in place, she says, you can even “allow staff to input the local events, interests and photography…all your team has to do is approve it.”

Displaying the branch as a good neighbor

Columbia Bank’s NeighborHub is a concept branch designed for community events, education, flexible business workspaces and personal interaction—with the idea of building community around the bank. “We amplify that on the digital displays,” Devine says, “by developing pieces of content that humanize our bankers.”

Size and placement of signage is a major consideration at the NeighborHub. The branch features a variety of displays, each calibrated to the specific function of any particular area. “They’re all designed so that folks who are sitting in the location have the best view of them,” Devine explains. Touch screens, along with tablets, are used as visual aids for the bankers as they navigate conversations with customers. This enables the branch to function as an entirely paperless entity.

One particularly “massive media display,” Devine says, can been seen by pedestrians on the sidewalk. “It fits the scale and size of the space really well. And the cool thing about this is that it also doubles as a presentation screen. So for all those events that we’re hosting in that space, there’s the opportunity for folks to show videos.”

His advice? “Go big or go home.”

Kate Young is a senior editor at the ABA Banking Journal and editor of ABA Bank Marketing. Heather Ren contributed to this story as an ABA summer intern.