Migration from standard video playback loops to the Visix AxisTV Signage Suite amplifies customer and employee engagement at 10 stores, while enabling new creative freedom.
The Vermeer brand offers a direct correlation to the unique challenges of outdoor work. Rugged and durable with industrial-level strength, Vermeer’s heavy equipment is used on jobsites and farm fields worldwide to feed and fuel the world, and connect people to the necessities of life.
Based in the U.S. heartland of Iowa, the third-generation family company relies on an extensive 600-location global dealer network to sell and support Vermeer bale processors, brush chippers, forestry tractors, mini skid steers and pile drivers among a multitude of other products and vehicles. In the end, each dealer is responsible for the local marketing and promotion of Vermeer equipment and services.
The corporate office of Vermeer Manufacturing assists by providing content to its dealers for in-store use. This includes graphics, text and video for dealers that leverage digital signage. Vermeer Southeast, with 10 locations in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, is one such dealer that has embraced digital signage as a communications tool to customers and employees alike, with very positive results.
“We have long had screens in our stores running videos, but there was no real strategy with the content,” said Jon Hutson, marketing and communications director, Vermeer Southeast. “The guys working behind the parts counter had been watching the same playlists for several years. It wasn’t really digital signage; it was simply repetitive playback loops on television screens.”
Hutson’s background as a marketer and graphic designer – which included some freelance work with Vermeer Southeast – made him a perfect candidate to help reset their promotional strategy. Upon joining the company last year, he caught wind of what a Vermeer dealer in Texas was achieving with digital media.
“We flew to Dallas to get a read on how they were using digital media to communicate, and the system they were using made sense for what they were trying to achieve,” said Hutson. “It was a winning strategy that also helped us better understand our direction, which was more in the area of pure digital signage software. And, we needed something that was frankly more affordable.”
Those roads led Hutson to Visix and its AxisTV Signage Suite, which is now in operation at all 10 stores.
“Vermeer has always been great about providing videos and other content,” said Hutson. “From my first day, I was mining their photography and video catalog, which dates to at least 2012. Over the years, the quality of that content has improved. With my graphic design background, I had all this content at my fingertips that I could use to create something special, and on short notice. My mindset quickly shifted to, ‘How can I effectively use all this content’?”
Hutson operates out of the Vermeer Southeast’s Marietta, Georgia flagship store, where he is responsible for maintaining the network. This includes the creation, upload and scheduling of all content. Hutson’s goals have been modest in the early days of the network, with an emphasis on ensuring that content is refreshed on a regular basis.
One clear benefit is that, with Visix’s digital signage software, Hutson finally has a platform that can take advantage of Vermeer’s content, new and old.
“We’re going to scale to a point where we are building and managing unique playlists for each store, which this platform gives us the flexibility to achieve,” said Hutson. “Vermeer’s equipment crosses several different business segments across agricultural and industrial equipment. Our customers in South Florida will typically have product needs that differ from those in Alabama. But just getting to this stage where we are now is a remarkable improvement as to how we communicate with our customers.”
Each Vermeer Southeast store has one very large display. The Marietta store, for example, has an 82-inch screen prominently positioned behind the parts and service counter. This ensures that every customer in the showroom will have an opportunity to engage with the content. The Marietta store also added a screen to the front entrance, which Hutson believes will allow him to add another unique twist from a content perspective.
“The entrance display in Marietta is focused on the history of the company, with old photos and a historical timeline,” said Hutson. “Moving forward, the flexibility of the Visix software will allow me to target historical content to this screen, and at other locations if we add entrance screens.”
For now, Hutson is focused on developing content for the showrooms. The AxisTV Signage Suite gives him a flexible platform to develop three playlists of content for each showroom screen. This includes a main content zone with videos and promotions of Vermeer products and services, and two secondary zones: One focused on used Vermeer equipment for sale, and another that promotes upcoming events and employee news, including birthdays and work anniversaries.
The learning curve was quick for Hutson, who is currently the sole network operator. He emphasizes that the content creation process is intuitive, which allows him to work quickly yet maintain creative freedom from a design standpoint.
“I can very quickly crank out templates with the Visix platform,” said Hutson. “From the beginning, we saw the benefit of how this software would allow us to divide screens into different zones. This would clearly enhance the overall creativity of our presentation, but also allow us to communicate with customers and employees in one shot. My designs remain fairly similar for the sake of consistency, but we can do a lot in that general template, including on-the-fly updates with fresh content.”
Hutson points to several examples, including monthly promotions from SHERRILLtree, a Vermeer supplier of specialized tree care gear. The company provides a monthly flyer in a PDF format, which Hutson pulls into Adobe Illustrator with relevant photography. Once finalized, the content is plugged into his AxisTV Signage Suite template.
This is, generally speaking, the standard operating procedure for the main zone. The flexibility of the Visix software allows him to focus on building out from there, including the secondary zones.
“We typically have 20 to 25 different pieces of used equipment on our website,” he said. “I’ll export those files, all at once, as JPG images and upload them to AxisTV. It’s a quick and painless process.”
Occasionally, Vermeer Southeast will produce their own videos, or add videos from other Vermeer partners.
“We produced a 50th anniversary video last year, and traveled to each store to generate content using cameras and overhead drones,” he said. “I have also had a few vendors come in asking if they can provide video on their products. I can quickly upload those videos to Visix, often within a one-hour window, and schedule it to repeat four times over the course of a playlist.
“There is peace of mind in having everything scheduled and ready to go in advance. We really have no limitations in how we work with content,” he continued.
Cloud and IP Efficiencies
That peace of mind extends to comprehensive content and network management from remote locations. As Vermeer Southeast is using Visix’s cloud-based CMS, Hutson has the flexibility to upload content from any location, and schedule it to play out on any date and over any daypart.
“The beauty of Visix in the cloud is that I can log in from anywhere to manage the content and the network,” said Hutson. “I can manage the entire operation from my laptop offsite. That has brought enormous value and efficiency to how I work.”
Playlists are distributed over Vermeer Southeast’s IP network to all 10 locations, where Visix digital signage media players are installed at each store. The players, installed behind each screen, operate in a store-and-forward configuration to preserve network bandwidth, with all software living on the network. The player architecture was simple enough for local Vermeer Southeast staff to install, removing any need for outside systems integration work.
“The players mostly download the playlists via the Wi-Fi network, with hardwired Ethernet connections in some locations to accelerate the download speed for larger videos, which can sometime reach 300MB in size,” said Hutson. “The Visix players are software-defined and extremely reliable, mainly operating uninterrupted and with exceptional image quality on the output. “
At the stores, screen engagement has dramatically increased with customers and employees alike.
“The migration to Visix and digital signage has allowed us to develop a captive audience at each store,” said Hutson. “Our employees enjoy the recognition of birthdays and work anniversaries of their colleagues, even if from a different store. Our customers are watching the screens and taking in everything from product and vendor promotions to weather information, with much longer dwell times reported.
“Digital signage is a very compelling and effective means of disseminating useful information, products, promotions, services and events, and just overall strengthening your brand,” he continued. “We see plenty of opportunity to build on all of this with Visix moving forward.”