Scentre Group – the owner and operator of Westfield in Australia and New Zealand – has boosted its investment in digital out of home (OOH) by launching a new digital advertising screen network in 37 of its shopping centres across the country.
The Westfield SmartScreen Network consists of 1200 interconnected digital screens, and builds on the company's current internal media platforms including its large format 'Digital Spectacular' screens.
Scentre Group Brandspace GM Bill Burton told AdNews that the launch is part of the group's goal to revolutionise the retail marketing market.
“We think retail marketing is underdone in a very big way,” Burton said. “We think people need to think about what they're doing in other channels and divert those funds into this great environment where there is 500 million people, billions of dollars in turnover, 12,500 retailers and an extremely vibrant area.”
All the content from the screens is delivered centrally through the one database, which Burton said addresses one core component OOH has always struggled with: transparency. He said the system will mean Westfield can supply its ad partners with proof of what has been played on the screens, boosting the credibility of the medium.
The other way the group will boost the credibility of the screens for advertising is through new tech. The SmartScreen Network includes facial recognition technology meaning that over time, Westfield will build a rich knowledge on demographics that pass through the centres at certain period of time.
The new network also includes digital capabilities including NFC chips, QR codes and beacons. Burton said over the next six to 12 months Scentre Group will work with brand partners to see how that functionality can be used to boost outcomes for clients.
“We know the exciting thing is how does mobile play a role in creative, in driving to retail,” Burton said. “The challenge for us in the next two years is how does mobile play a role in this.”
The new network follows the Scentre Group's decision in August last year to move its internal signage business from Ooh!Media to its internal team, Brandspace.
Burton said the decision was the result of its partners wanting “Westfield to sell Westfield” and agencies wanting just one person to deal with to give them the national reach of retail. But he said most importantly, the decision was part of Scentre Group's belief that retail marketing needed a boost.
“We feel passionately that there is a better way to do retail, and unless we do the heavy lifting its not going to happen,” Burton said.
“Having a way to talk to our shoppers is critical for us going forward and much of our communication will now go through this owned channel,” Burton said.
According to SMI figures from March 2015, Brandspace recorded 47% year-on-year sales growth in 2014 and in responsible for 29% market share of all retail advertising spend in Australia. While Burton couldn't say where he expects that figure to be after the launch of the SmartScreen Network, he expects it to make a demonstrable impact.
But he said the key aim for the network is part of Scentre's moves to the future. The screens are just one of several digital infrastructure projects it has underway including the launch of a national Wi-Fi network this year, in partnership with Optus, which he believes will help it engage with customers.
“It takes an owner to do this,” Burton said. “It's really important to us that it delivers on the whole picture than potentially just an ad.”
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