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Digital Advertising Software 'Warps' Wait Times

Jun 5, 2008
Wait Warping?

Have you had your wait warped lately? Would you even know if you had?

"Wait warping" is a term that could only have been invented by the advertising industry, home to unusual jargon like "bugs", "tickers", and "pods". It refers to the creation of a perception of shorter wait times for customers. Wait warping is made possible through digital signage (a.k.a. narrowcasting - think of the arrays of LCD monitors spinning out news bites, sport scores and infomercials in retail stores, gas pumps, and office lobbies) and the increasingly sophisticated digital advertising software that shapes the messages delivered to a targeted audience influencing perceptions and behaviours. This synergy of perceptions and behaviours can create the phenomenon of wait warping and has led to the emergence of digital signage and focused narrowcasting as an effective and increasingly popular advertising medium that distracts customers and shifts their attention from clockwatching to contemplating additionally available products and or services as they wait for the checkout line or for customer service.

Catching a Captive Audience

While digital signage has many uses - branding, point-of-purchase advertising, creating ambience - it has proven ideal for locations where the audience is truly captive. Whether they are riding the train to work or waiting in the dentist's office, digital signs grab their attention and give them something to focus on besides the time they are spending or, depending on their perspective, wasting.

Consider the hallmarks of digital signage - video displays of relevant information and marketing messages designed to influence consumer behaviour, combined with entertainment, or at least presented in an entertaining manner - and it becomes obvious how this technology has spawned the concept of wait warping. The appeal for businesses is obvious - make customers happy so they will come back time and again - and the applications span all manner of retail stores and professional offices:

- We've all endured long waits for medical appointments. Doctors and dentists are using digital signage to combine short, informative blurbs about their services with creative presentation to occupy patients while they wait. Additional services can alsom be marketed generating additional revenue streams. Teeth whitening products and services can be marketed to dental patients awaiting their semi-annual cleaning, for example.

- Putting their huge screens to work for them, movie theatres have long known the advantage of narrowcasting messages. Advertisements for concessions are interspersed with Hollywood gossip and trivia to engage viewers while they wait for the feature presentation. Trailers for one film shown to an audience waiting to see another are designed to both entertain, and whet the targeted audiences cinematic taste buds, prompting a return visit to the theatre for next week's advertised blockbuster.

- Hotels use digital signage networks near the registration desk to promote hotel services, in-house dining and services as well as local attractions to guests waiting to check in.

- Public transit has gotten into the digital narrowcasting game in a big way. Subway platforms and commuter trains are now home to small screens that present useful information to passengers. News feeds, weather forecasts, and sports scores draw eyeballs to the screens and the ads that are also displayed there.

- Talking about captive (and often confused) audiences, how about an airport? Airport authorities are beginning to realize that the potential of digital signs goes way beyond departures and arrivals information. Wayfinding, promotion of restaurants and stores in the airport, boarding instructions and restrictions - all can be communicated easily and effectively with digital signage.

Warping the Wait Works Wonders

We often hear about media saturation in today's world. With ads reaching people all day every day - even on staircases and elevators - you might suspect a certain level of advertising fatigue by the time an individual reaches the doctor's office or subway platform.

In fact, the reverse is true. Because digital signage is entertaining, and because it keeps people occupied while waiting, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Instead of resenting the messages, customers actually appreciate being given something to do while they wait. This positive feeling translates into a better customer experience and a greater likelihood of repeat business and higher future sales.

Wait warping can generate direct additional revenue by spurring impulse purchases from customers, clients or patients awaiting service. Additional revenue streams can also be tapped into by providing the entertainment fill of news clips, human interest pieces, stock and sport updates that captures an audience's attention and selling marketing time and space to third party advertisers.

Much of the digital signage we see is, in fact, premised on the model of delivering a captive audience that is passively waiting as an engaged audience for additional marketing efforts by third parties. Relatively little of the marketing content in the transportation industry, for example - in airport lounges, bus terminals and on commuter trains - is necessarily related to the transportation services that passengers are accessing. A significant portion of advertising spots on transportation narrowcast networks is resold to third party marketers, such as financial institutions, wireless providers and other marketers serving the same general captive, yet affluent, audience.

Almost all of us have been wait warped, probably most of us as recently as this morning. And the key to successfully tapping into the potential of this market is mixing a captive audience's thirst for distraction with compelling entertainment and behaviour-shaping marketing, a mix made easier with the rapid progress and ever-growing sophistication of the digital advertising software that drives today's digital signage and narrowcast networks.
About the Author
For more information on digital signage, narrowcasting and digital advertising software, visit EK3 Technologies Inc. at www.EK3.com or call 1-866-353-8324 for business solutions and services that capture your audience and deliver your message.
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