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Blazing a New Trail


Looking to engage the consumer during each shopping trip, chains are exploring new in-store marketing initiatives. Athletic and lifestyle apparel and accessories chain Roots Canada hopes to blaze this trail by leveraging its existing digital- signage network to create a more interactive, customized and unique store-level experience. The retailer was an early adopter of digital signage.

“We never considered it a mere marketing vehicle. We approached it as a way to enhance the store environment and build a topline consumer experience,” said James Connell, Roots’ director of e-commerce, digital marketing and new media, Roots Canada, Toronto. The privately held company, which operates 120 locations across North America and 20 in Asia, reported estimated annual sales of $81.3 million in 2006.

In 2000, Roots positioned digital plasma screens in the cashwrap area of three flagship locations. Wired to DVD players located in each store’s back office, the screens displayed content burned on prerecorded DVDs.

But this initial installation had limitations. It was difficult to update data or keep content current. “Simultaneously, the cost of the plasma screens was starting to drop. This prompted us to evaluate other options,” Connell said.

Roots explored satellite communications, but the technology was not costeffective. Next, it looked at Internetbased solutions, which promised the immediacy and reliability of satellite at an affordable price, according to Connell.

After some investigation, the retailer became sold on the idea. In 2002, the retailer traded in its obsolete DVD network for a digital Internet-based solution from ADFLOW Networks, Ontario, in 2002. (ADFLOW is a sponsor and exhibitor at next month’s Digital Signage Expo in Chicago.)

ADFLOW’s Dynamic Messaging System enables Roots to internally create content and centrally manage and deliver media. Using Flash multimedia technology, the chain’s Web team creates clips of new products, animated logos and media campaigns, as well as messages about Roots’ environmental commitments. The solution also allows Roots to emphasize its affiliations with sporting events, such as the Olympics.

These tailored messages are stored in a centralized Web server provided and managed by ADFLOW. Files are downloaded to digital players that reside in the back office of each store location.

“The players poll the central server every 20 minutes for new content,” he noted.

Besides making the shopper’s perceived wait time at the checkout seem shorter, the solution impacts sales.

“We have a custom bag program that enables shoppers to customize the color, stitching or their initials on leather bags,” Connell said. “During past holiday seasons, we added small LCD screens in our leather departments to educate shoppers about the process and different options.”

Stores using these displays have yielded between 12% and 15% higher sales than locations without the technology.

“Most stores have screens at the front end, but a couple of locations position the plasmas near their entrances to lure in shoppers,” Connell added. “The maximum number of screens any store has is eight.”

Currently, Roots is exploring how to take its network to the next level.

“We want to further integrate it into our store experience,” Connell said. “For example, we are evaluating how to integrate a digital touchscreen application into a mirror.”

This would enable Roots to customize messages as a shopper passes by and could also enable shoppers to take a photo of themselves wearing Roots merchandise and send it to their cell phone, a friend or post it on a socializing Web site, such as

“Digital signage has evolved beyond an entertainment tool into an engagement tool,” Connell said. “We know the network can do more than just present content, so we want to learn how it can further engage our customers.”

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