How Small Businesses Can Use Televisions To Enhance The Buying Experience

By Russ Banham

Big-screen televisions are a pittance of what they cost just a few years ago, making them a potentially worthwhile investment for small businesses — not so they can catch customers up on reality television but to help with marketing.

Televisions strategically installed throughout a store can play programs that educate, interest and inform customers, spurring sales and cross-selling — a pair of shoes to go with that dress, perhaps? The challenge is to provide high-quality content that is entertaining, useful and not distracting.

“We’ve all seen great TV commercials and terrible ones,” said Anindya Ghose, Heinz Riehl chair professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, where he oversees the business analytics program. “If the music is too loud, the information doesn’t address my needs, and the program repeats every five seconds, it could be very off-putting.”

When done right, however, an implementation of television screens may allow small businesses to generate additional sales to offset the initial investment.

Inspire, Inform And Engage

While retailers have long used television screens to market in-store products, the investment value was difficult to quantify. Most programming provided basic information or simply repeated commercials seen at home. Now retailers know that content is, indeed, king.

What kind of content?

“It depends on a retailer and its customers, but generally it can be boiled down to programming that either inspires, informs or engages customers,” said Lokesh Ohri, a partner at Deloitte Consulting, where he leads the advertising, marketing and commerce practice.

Ohri provided examples of programming that inspires a consumer to buy something.

“Say you’re planning a vacation and you walk by a clothing store and see a large screen inside with a video of a man strolling on a beach in a Hawaiian shirt with relaxing ukulele music playing in the background. Or, you’re in a supermarket and there’s a video of a great-looking dish being prepared,” he said. “In both cases, the consumer wants to trade places.”

With informational content, the objective is to inform a consumer about the differentiating features of a product in an entertaining fashion. With regard to programming that engages people, the intent is to present content that matches consumers’ interests or needs, Ohri explained.

For instance, a small home renovation company can engage its customers by featuring remodeling shows next to model kitchens. And a deli or small food market can feature any of the dozens of cooking shows populating numerous networks.

A patient in a hospital likely will want more relaxing television content than patrons at a pub, whereas someone in a gym may want programming focused on exercise and nutrition.

Small and midsize businesses can provide video that benefits their customers simply by choosing cable television networks whose programs align with their marketing strategies.

As a first step, businesses should review what’s offered by local cable providers to see which package makes the most sense in terms of available content and cost.

Although the best deals on TVs happen on Black Friday, retailers offer sales throughout the year. With a wave of deals expected in the runup to the World Cup, businesses that are on the verge of investing in video may want to take advantage of May and June discounts.

Russ Banham is a Pulitzer-nominated business journalist and author of 24 books.

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