The owner of Westfield shopping centres, Scentre Group, has launched a new digital ‘SmartScreen’ advertising network across five New Zealand shopping centres.
Westfield Albany was the first to receive screens last week. Including those at the Albany centre, a total of 175 screens has been installed at Auckland’s Westfield Newmarket; Westfield Manukau City; Westfield St Lukes and Westfield Riccarton in Christchurch.
SmartScreen technology has been active in Scentre Group’s Australian shopping centres for more than two years. The network now encompasses more than 1500 connected screens across 46 Australasian shopping centres.
Bill Burton, group GM brand and media experience, says New Zealand hasn’t received the screens until now because Scentre Group had an existing media supplier contract with oOh! Media. This contract ended on New Year’s Eve 2016, and Scentre Group chose to take its media in-house instead of renewing.
It removed the oOh! Media units in January, then assembled the SmartScreens and installed them last week.
The SmartScreens’ content will comprise about one third content created by Westfield, which will signal activities, promotions and other matters relevant to the shopping centres; and two thirds bespoke content created by brands.
“Really, it becomes the key community platform for us to communicate with our shoppers,” Burton says. “We’ve got a strong audience so it’s now about, ‘How do we communicate with them?’
Burton says all content on the New Zealand network has been made for New Zealanders, including that supplied by brands. Eight significant advertising brands are on board for the Kiwi launch of SmartScreens: Nespresso; Sky TV; Nivea; Holden; Fisher & Paykel and Vodafone are among them.
The majority of SmartScreen slots are for brands which currently have product available from retailers in New Zealand, says Burton. This means the screens are likely to drive sales: “Hopefully, it’s yet another avenue of momentum of shoppers into retailers.”
Brochures explaining the SmartScreens for retailers have been distributed to those operating in Westfield centres. Burton says those with further questions should visit the concierge desks, but there’s also dedicated staff answering phone inquiries.
The screens represent a significant boost in convenience for advertisers as well as retailers, says Burton. He explains that digital advertising is currently “extremely complicated” for brands because each channel requires different sizing and orientation. Some screens are landscape-oriented, some are portrait, there’s “things hanging from roofs everywhere”, and creating personalised content for each of these means putting lots of money into production.
The SmartScreens, however, are standardised. Burton is enthusiastic about the technological firepower behind the screens, which were designed and built from scratch in-house by Scentre Group. The New Zealand screens have benefited from two years’ worth of Australian testing, and this second generation is a step up from the originals.
“New Zealand’s got the very best of two years of learning,” Burton says.
Each SmartScreen comprises two 65” Samsung HD screens placed back to back inside a unit. As well as display technology, they contain Bluetooth beacons, NFC tags, WiFi connectivity, campaign viewer analytics, audio, and can support optional touchscreens.
They are capable of capturing demographic data about customers using a software programme called Quividi. Through a video sensor, Quividi’s image-processing technology counts the number of people who view the ad content, and measures their attention and dwell time.
Burton says the SmartScreens are designed to feel like they belong in Westfield centres. The New Zealand units have been made as small as possible so as to avoid obstructing retailers’ signage.
Burton says it’s time for advertising media to meet the same aesthetic requirements as retail: “We didn’t want them to be an afterthought in the corridor on the way to the toilet.”
Scentre Group has also made sure to not to install too many screens around its Kiwi shopping centres.
“There’s enough of them, but there’s not too many of them,” Burton says. “We don’t want shoppers falling over them.”
Each screen location has been hand-selected using Scentre Group’s data to make sure it maximizes the advertisers’ access to shopper journeys. Brands can choose to buy anything from a single screen in the location that suits them best to all 1500 across Australia and New Zealand.
This means brands can tailor their content to be hyper-relevant to the screen’s location, even tailoring it to tie in with nearby retailers.
Burton describes the SmartScreens project as Scentre Group investing in large pieces of infrastructure to make sure that its physical environments feel relevant in the digital age.
“It’s not a luxury anymore whether we can decide to be of the 21st century.”
Gazing into the future, Burton sees Scentre Group and its retailers drawing “really, really, really” close as they combine the group’s ‘macro’ data on customer journeys, foot traffic and demographics with the retailer’s micro data covering purchases, in-store behaviour and payments in pursuit of seamless, effortless shopping.