Coca-Cola and the businesses that sell its products can now deliver branded video, e-coupons and more through a new digital signage system that tailors content messaging to approaching shoppers based on data on their smartphones.

The plug-and-play system, which is powered by a mix of Google Cloud technologies, works on any HDMI-ready display that serve as grocery store aisle “end caps”, restaurant menu boards and even interactive cinema posters.

Greg Chambers, global group director of digital innovation for Coca-Cola, approached Google about two years ago with a challenge: to help refresh Coke’s century-old association with eye-catching signs – from painted murals to billboards – in the digital era. And they needed to do so for a fraction of the cost of existing offerings.

“We kicked off a rapid iteration process in the spring of 2015 and had our first prototype that fall,” Chambers said during a presentation at the Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, Calif.

Google Digital Signage

The end-result is a system that delivers custom content from a cloud-based CMS to any screen connected to a Google Chrome OS device and Google Chrome Kiosk App. DoubleClick ad-serving software distributes targeted messaging – which can range from brand campaigns to store-specific promotional offers or even app-guided shopping lists – and churns out inventory and sales data.

Proximity technology leverages built-in smartphone features and Google's Eddystone wireless beacon technology, allowing a store to receive and interpret a nearby user’s preferences and habits to deliver contextually relevant content in real time.

“We can understand who the consumer is and get the right content and messaging to him or her at the right time,” Chambers said. “We’re using the power of the cloud to bring a real-time, media-rich experience to shoppers in the store.”

And bring more sales to retailers. A 250-store pilot with the Albertsons grocery chain delivered a one-month return on investment. “We also significantly increased category lift,” Chambers said, “which means not only did the end-caps help sell more Coca-Cola products… everything else on the carbonated soft drink aisle, too.”

The digital signage system is scalable well beyond the retail environment. "For example can produce a digital menu board for restaurants – from mom-and-pops up to national chains – at about 20 percent of the cost of current providers," Chambers said.

Interactive digital movie posters, meanwhile, can show customized trailers and showtimes as theater-goers approach the box office and enable them to buy tickets and concessions on their phone without having to wait in line.

“We’re using the power of the cloud to bring
a real-time, media-rich experience to shoppers in the store.”

Chambers notes that the mix out of hardware and technology can be tailored for different retail environments. “We realize that at a store in Nebraska is different than a restaurant in New York, a theme park in California, cinema in Western Europe or a stadium in New Zealand,” he adds.

The platform is open to other brands, too. “This is not just Coke’s ecosystem,” Chambers concluded. “It provides a common place for brands to flight content into a common, secure repository – all verified from a single domain. It takes technology hurdles out the way and lets brands like Coke get back to engaging consumers with surprise-and-delight experiences.”