Seven pillars of DOOH wisdom from Swipestation's Sam Fresco
In January 2012, Sam Fresco began to trial Swipestation: an in-venue digital signage system that looks to solve the two-fold problem of improving customer engagement while giving businesses a clear idea of audience interaction. Two years on, the company has raised more than £250,000 in funding and is expanding rapidly. Fresco sat down to give us his thoughts on how his product fits into the digital landscape.
The big problem with existing retail systems is that, if a customer walks into a store, no one knows who that person is. On Amazon, each visitor can be identified and their behaviour tracked. We soon realised that the same problem held true for the ticketing industry. Our idea was to use digital technology to verify who does what in a given venue.
We came up with the idea for Swipestation when I was working on design and build for [digital agency] Clock. One of our clients, a pub chain, was explaining the administration problems involved in collecting customer feedback. We went away and created a box prototype using a screen, scanner, mini-printer and a poly-board box, all held together with gaffer tape. We showed it to our client and he agreed to help us conduct a trial of the system.
Pubs don't typically have scanners as it slows things down, and handing over a phone with a code on it causes insurance problems. By providing printed tickets, we not only get around this, but we provoke an emotional response with the customer. The paper aspect is important because it adds a level of tangibility to the process. It's instant gratification, almost like a fruit machine. A lot of people see a printed element as a block but we see it as one of our strengths.
Since then we've worked with several companies, including Pepsi and Red Bull. We've just started putting Swipestation units into Butlins, and we've also signed a deal with Saracens Rugby to implement a pre-paid food and drink system at the Allianz Arena. This is the first step towards the club's vision of reducing queues through cash-free bars, with spectators paying for what they want in advance, picking up a ticket and then going to the bar.
Initially I was basically running the company by myself. Nine months ago we raised £300,000 from two angel investors and now we have four full-time staff and nine people in total on the books, including a marketing consultant based in Dubai. Our product is growing along with our team – I could spend forever listing off the positions I can see us needing over the next twelve months! These are good foundations, but I want to keep a personal feel to the company as we expand.
We are in the fourth iteration of the product. For this version, we had some significant decisions to make, including iBeacon technology as standard. This element is not a core part of our offering, but it will help in the delivery of certain campaigns. We're not wedded to QR codes but it is currently the best solution for our product. We messed about with NFC but the market isn't quite ready for it; until it becomes ubiquitous [in smartphones] then there just isn't the demand for it. Additionally, we're working with Quividi to offer more to clients with regards to data and insight into audience interaction.
When it comes to DOOH, bigger doesn't necessarily mean better. More important are position and context – finding the right people at the right time, like Argos's recent 'Get Set for Bubbles' campaign, where the huge Motion screens at Euston and Waterloo were used as interactive gaming platforms.
Digital signage isn't going to keep getting bigger, but it will become smarter. One thousand views from passers-by at a train station is not the same as having a thousand viewers who engage with the content being displayed. Bar screens are an example of this – generally they tend to be viewed passively, but if it is placed at point-of-sale and users are actively looking and engaging with the message, then the promotion will be much more effective.