RBTE 2017 interview: Benetton on digital signage

Fashion business Benetton continues to innovate with its use of digital signage that is an integral feature in its flagship stores around the world and it has big plans for the future.

It is set to announce some major changes with its digital signage, which will include interactive functionality following on from its earlier initiatives that have gained it plaudits in the industry, including winning a major prize for its Live Windows project that ran from 2010 to 2013.

Ahead of speaking at RBTE 2017, Giovanni Flore, digital signage project manager at Benetton, says: "There will be some very big changes in our large stores that will be opening in the coming months in terms of a different layout of digital signage including interactive elements."


This will build on the experience the company has so far gained from its existing signage infrastructure that involves 1,000 monitors measuring 48 inches that are housed across 130 flagship stores in 18 countries. This number continues to increase as Benetton rolls-out more signage to new stores.

The video panes are hung from the ceiling and integrated into the new store design that Benetton adopted for its key stores, which involves an industrial layout named 'On Canvas'.

"The signage is totally integrated into the layout, which involves flexible modules consisting of large frames that are used to design single rooms for holding product clusters. They can be easily moved around and changed with the [video] monitors moved along the rails and the content changed in different parts of the store," explains Flore.

This content is controlled from the company's headquarters and can easily be changed as the merchandise in-store is updated: "It's distributed through the whole store and is used to illustrate in detail single product clusters. It's a mix of video and stills of the products' main features. People are interested in the characteristics of the product – of the knitwear and the colours."

This present digital signage strategy, based around in-store implementations, differs from its Live Windows project that involved interactive media walls incorporated onto the windows of 12 flagship stores including those in London, New Delhi, Moscow, Paris, Munich, Barcelona, and Shanghai.

"We filled the entire windows of these stores with the signage covering the whole surface. The size definitely was a challenge because we had no standards – all 12 windows were different. It was beautiful to experiment this way," says Flore.

New customer experiences

Experimentation was the key to the whole project in fact: "We were not tightly constrained to outcomes. Our main goal was to look at creating new customer experiences. A special factor was that we focused only on the outside of the stores."

The interactive video walls had the key objective of attracting the attention of passers-by and getting them to interact with the visuals on the screen. "We created applications through thinking about ways to engage rather than bombing people with commercial or advertising content," he explains.

The main pillars of the project were fun and playing whereby the content had no age barriers and could be understood by all nationalities around the world. And movement also played a key role because rather than just be visually-based the project adapted to the movements of the people engaging with the video wall.

This certainly added complexity because it involved the use of integrated webcams that enabled the observation of people's movements in real-time. "We could control the cameras to direct them onto the sidewalk in order to see what people were doing. For this we developed our own content management solution because with the established solution we experienced problems with the visual monitoring aspect," he says.

One of the major benefits of the project, according to Flore, was that its experimental, none-commercial focus ensured it helped deliver a "huge change in the habits of people" from which Benetton has learned a lot and continues to apply it to its present initiatives.

Here Flore speak about how virtual and augment reality is impact retail at RBTE on 9 May 14:40-15:20 in Theatre One.