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When creating in-store digital marketing and promotion campaigns, inspiring context can be found everywhere — local events, the day’s weather, shopper proximity to, or interactivity with on-shelf product. By leveraging this context, retailers and brands can engage shoppers on a more relevant, personal level. These connected campaigns leave a lasting impression on consumers beyond what static printed signage and broadcast messaging can affect.

While marketers and merchandisers might be more familiar with merchandising communication techniques such as traditional static printed signage, and more recently, broadcast digital messaging, these one-size-fits-all approaches to communication have their limitations. Digital merchandising displays afford marketers the opportunity to create more narrowly targeted interactions with consumers that pursue the gold standard of marketing communication: a one-to-one conversation.

Broadcast vs. Narrowcast in Digital Merchandising Terms

As digital merchandising becomes more ubiquitous, in-store broadcast and narrowcast messaging each has a role to play. Together they are two of the largest opportunities retailers and brands have to build meaningful interactions with their customers at the point of sale.


Broadcast digital merchandising could be thought of as an animated sign. Whereas static printed in-store signage remains the same until it is refreshed, broadcast messaging is much the same. It looks something like this:

A retailer installs digital screens in their stores, or a brand integrates digital signage into a display, and then the same animation, video or series of videos promoting a brand’s product or a retailer’s promotion plays on a loop for a day, week or for months until the content is refreshed.


Narrowcast digital merchandising leverages the same digital display screens that broadcast messaging does. Instead of a fixed message, Narrowcast leverages context from the displays’ surroundings and applies logic to determine the appropriate messaging mix to respond to those inputs. It looks something like this:

A pharmacy retailer installs digital screens in their stores, and on days when a store or region’s pollen count is high, it automatically triggers a promotion for allergy medication across their network of in-store digital displays for the affected locations.

A brand integrates digital signage into their merchandising displays that also includes proximity sensors. As a consumer moves closer to the display, the messaging on the display shifts from attraction to engagement to promote content to draw the shopper in.

Narrowing the Gap to 1:1 Marketing Conversations

Achieving true personalization is the dream of most marketers. While creating a completely personalized interaction is significantly easier to achieve in the digital and e-commerce realm, it’s not out of the question for brick and mortar merchandisers to expect to be able to have more targeted, relevant interactions with their in-store consumers.

Narrowcast moves the needle of what is possible with today’s in-store digital merchandising. While it does not achieve a truly personalized interaction, is does allow marketers to create connected, smart campaigns that excite and engage consumers on a more relevant level.

Beyond environmental Narrowcast context, an added layer of consumer-specific context can be overlaid into a digital merchandising content management system’s logic to hyper-personalize the consumer’s experience. Here is an example of what that looks like:

    • A convenience store chain installs digital displays at each pump
    • The store’s CCTV feed captures the license plate of the customer as they drive up to the pump
    • ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) identifies the vehicle’s license plate and returns additional details about the vehicle, including that the vehicle’s model has a high-performance engine
    • The rules-based content management system prompts the digital display at the pump to show content that educates the vehicle’s owner on the need to select premium fuel to optimize their engine’s performance

As consumer privacy laws continue to evolve, the extent that hyper-personalized messaging is possible may be limited to application to those consumers who have explicitly opted into the brand’s marketing campaigns.

Considerations for Utilizing Narrowcast for In-Store Digital Merchandising Campaigns

While Narrowcast digital merchandising can be displayed across the same digital screens that retailers and brands may already have in place, there are several other considerations marketers need to explore to create successful connected campaigns.

  • Contextual Capture – what data feeds and additional technology do you need to feed context into your campaigns?
  • Content Management System – which CMS should you choose, and how do you establish rules-based logic for content distribution triggered by contextual inputs?
  • Content Development – what is the right mix and cadence of content development to adequately support your connected campaigns?
  • Reporting – how do you develop robust reporting dashboards that not only monitor campaign performance (uptime, accuracy) but also include metrics around campaign content performance?
  • Integration – how do you connect all the pieces to build an automated, connected system that also interfaces with your traditional marketing execution efforts?

IMS continues to guide our retailer and brand clients through the above considerations and more when it comes to deploying digital merchandising campaigns at the point of sale. If you would like to speak to an IMS MerchTechTM expert about your organization’s digital or traditional merchandising execution, please contact us today.

Article Author: Nick Fearnley

Nick Fearnley is SVP of Technology at IMS. Nick works with IMS’ F500 clients to design in-store digital experiences for both brands and retailers, merchandising measurement, and execution technology. Previously, Nick was founder and managing director of a global SaaS digital signage company based in the UK. Nick is also a founding member of the Path to Purchase Institute’s SM2 Commission to Standardize the Measurement of Shopper Marketing.