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  • Writer's pictureColin Jameson

Why go digital?

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

In our lifetimes, we’ve seen retailers dress window displays with clothed mannequins, arranged furniture and fanciful scenes — all to grab attention and ideally pull consumers through the doors. Almost every retailer, short of luxury brands, has been known to put up window posters touting price discounts, special promotions or inventory clear-outs.

The future of retail storefront advertising is the digital display. This strategy serves the same goal of bringing in traffic to a retail store, but it employs different, far simpler and more flexible tools.

We’re seeing retailers — from department store operators and brands with big, flashy flagships to local small business owners — using shopfront digital signage to drive specific goals like increased foot traffic and sales, improved shopper experience and holistic branding. And these retailers are seeing the benefits, too. Backed by integrated content management systems (CMS) and data analytics platforms, retailers can track the return on investment (ROI) of strategically placed and managed digital signage.

Paper posters and printed fabric light boxes are less costly in the short term than digital displays. Plus, with the ability to leverage programmatic ads, retailers can offset the digital signage investment by selling ad space to vendors.

Aside from creating revenue opportunities, digital signage leads to accelerated change-out speed, reduced resource and operation costs, increased inventory and higher impact when compared to paper posters. Digital displays also support a connected customer journey that retailers can control to optimize convenience, efficiency and, of course, sales.

Accelerated change-out speed

Installing a new poster in a window might take a minute or two to complete, but the planning and coordination typically take weeks. The artwork has to go through the creative development and approval processes. Then the material goes to prepress and then to a printer. Finally, the posters must be shipped to potentially thousands of sites and hung up on the windows.

All this requires complex project management and coordination, and even top retailers struggle with something called “compliance” — which is the measure of how much marketing material actually goes into the right place at the right time.

Reduced resource and operating costs

An effective shopfront display design can reduce operating costs for retailers, a critical point as companies work with a reduced workforce. Expenses are cut because there are:

  • No more shipping expenses for materials

  • No more associate hours away from the store floor to change signage materials

  • No more compliance inspections by regional managers

Say more with less

One of the primary reasons billboard companies have converted their big roadside signs to digital is they now have the ability to sell and run as many messages as they want off a single billboard “face.” The same thing applies to window displays. Retail brands can be equipped to run as many messages as they want and do things like schedule different messages for different consumer profiles by time of day or week.

A fast food operator with a printed window poster for a breakfast special gets nothing out of that messaging for much of the day, but digital signage enables the operator to tune the message as consumers’ needs change, highlighting lunch specials, drive-home specials and late-night snacks.

Higher impact

Adding digital means adding video and motion graphics and the ability to sequence messaging statements. With print, messaging needs to be short and sweet. With digital, less is still more, but one promotional spot can cycle through multiple benefits, price offers and calls to action without forcing all that information into one image.

How to calculate the ROI of digital signage

For retailers and visual merchandising teams who decide to start applying digital to their windows, there are several ways to assess the value and impact of shopfront display designs.

An increase in sales is the most obvious indicator, but sales may climb for reasons beyond window display messaging. It might be as simple as a low price that brings people in. The classic way to measure the impact of in-store marketing is to measure what happens in a set of stores that have added things like window displays against a set of stores that are similar in terms of normal sales performance, foot traffic and shopper profile, but that do not have those displays.

Retailers can also use technology like computer vision or mechanical counters to get a sense of:

  • Exposure: The number of people passing by on sidewalks or mall concourses

  • Engagement: How many people stop and look at the screens

  • Conversion: What percentage then comes inside


There are many components to a successful digital signage deployment. The choice of hardware, software and content management system, the way you connect your screens, how widely you plan to deploy, how you want to manage the ongoing creation of your content. Our experts have the knowledge and experience to develop and provide high quality signage solutions that bring the flexibility you need to convey compelling content.

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