Creative Realities [NASDAQ:CREX]: Pioneering Digital Signage 2.0

Rick Mills, CEO The realm of digital displays is deeply embedded into the fabric of today’s society with its presence almost everywhere, including elevator door signage, digital billboards, storefront kiosks, and arrival and departure boards at airports and subways. As modern consumers walk by these displays, seldom do they wonder how deeply these screens influence their day-to-day lifestyle choices and product consumption dynamics.

In reality, brewing behind every digital billboard and kiosk is a remarkable industrial legacy that has today evolved to become the new face of modern creative advertising. Banking its rapid success on present-day consumer’s appetite for on-screen content, digital signage has successfully revolutionized global customer engagement and viewership. Through impactful content management, the industry stands at the forefront of influencing a customer’s purchase decisions.

Although digital signage is relatively a new industry, it has already transitioned into phase two or digital signage 2.0. Aligning with this phase shift and spearheading the proliferation of digital signage 2.0 is Creative Realities aka CRI, a new age creative technology company that designs, develops, and deploys marketing technology experiences. In 2015, Creative Realities was acquired by Rick Mills who has vast experience in tech services and has witnessed first-hand the digital signage transformation from the time the Creative Realities brand was established in 1997.

Introducing Phase Two

Mills reminisces about digital signage in its phase one where the early adopters were significantly focused on the software, its feature sets, and technical aspects such as the display and its resolution. As the industry entered phase two, it experienced a parallel evolution of customers as well, who were now more sophisticated and astute in their approach of acquiring and deploying digital signage. The modern customers exude an increased awareness of the utilization, analytics, and the metrics of modern digital signage. They no longer care about just the software or being enamored with a specific manufacturer or display.

Today, organizations invariably seek an enterprise partner that can take on all the disparate pieces of signage and make them work holistically in one ubiquitous platform to meet the needs of end-users. “It all comes down to content, which is of the fundamental essence. Our software and approach significantly optimizes that content,” explains Mills, CEO, Creative Realities. Creative Realities has created best-of-breed content management solutions (CMS) that deliver scalable content precision at each end-point.

The proprietary 5D rule that consists of define, design, develop, deploy, and Day2 support, governs Creative Realities’ customer onboarding strategy

As an established CMS provider for digital signage , Creative Realities stands among the top three players in the U.S. With a prominent market stature, the company caters its services and products to eight specific verticals within the country including retail, automotive, convenience and gas stores, stadiums, theaters and exhibitions, and food and beverage (quick service restaurants or QSRs). Recently, the company completed its acquisition of an Atlanta-based digital signage company— Allure. As an industry leader in digital menu boards and digital signage analytics in the QSR, entertainment, and theater verticals, Allure brings a complete set of project solutions to clients while operating thousands of digital signage installations nationally, including Long John Silver's, AMC Theatres, Levy Restaurants, and Coca-Cola. With Allure, Creative Realities has significantly expanded its expertise in menu-boards for the food and beverage space. After deciphering the digital signage dynamics of the food and beverage industry, Rick explains, “Even the placement of the picture of a food item on the menu creates a huge difference. As QSRs have strong discipline in inventory management, Combo Analytics is known to drive uplift in the items that have the highest market.”

Enabling Digital Signage 2.0

Equipped with unparalleled engineering, Creative Realities’ product line includes displays of several types that range from 2 inches to 14 inches shelf displays found in a grocery store to a regular display screen placed in a corporate lobby. The company also provides signage for hotels for instructing and directing customers at each point in the hotel building, and even in branded retail environments and apparel stores. Creative Realities offers large screens with access provision on personal devices or commercial devices specific to different verticals. For each vertical, Creative Realities employs specialized subject matter experts that religiously follow the company’s 5D rule in addressing the needs of their customers. The proprietary 5D rule that consists of define, design, develop, deploy, and Day2 support, governs their bespoke customer onboarding strategy.

"It all comes down to content, which is of the fundamental essence. Our software and approach significantly optimizes that content"

Before engaging with the client, Creative Realities’ team spends a significant amount of time with them to understand the market pain points that they are trying to solve.
After analyzing the customer’s challenges, Creative Realities maps out potential solutions that fit the needs of the customer. The team then tests the potency of the solution’s content in order to define various aspects such as user experience and the user interface. With insight on the challenges and their solutions, Creative Realities engages with the client through workshops and discussions on various potential issues across the value chain of the product. Ultimately, the company develops a solution with custom code and appealing content and helps its customers in engaging their users successfully. “This is how you get digital signage in five boutique stores and throughout the burrows in New York or 500 stores in 365 shopping malls, all across America. We manage that entire process for the customer,” states Mills.

At the end of it, Creative Realities also offers Day2 support solutions for customers, which include managing and operating solutions, help desk, and cloud-based support. Continuing their record of excellence, Creative Realities created “showroom 2.0” as a franchise model for a firm named California Closets. The company devised a financing option for the client that allowed franchisees to finance the package with the corporate having to underwrite the purchase. This brought in more flexibility and lowered sign-on hurdles, enabling more franchisees to participate in the program. In another similar customer engagement, Creative Realities’ expertise proved instrumental for Circle K and the Phillips-Van Heusen portfolio. The brand was faced with a situation where they had to accelerate their digital signage installation process. Creative Realities stepped in and finished the installation in merely three to six weeks for a task that would typically require six weeks to three months to execute. With such milestones along its path, the company easily scaled up their offerings and further engaged with several other multi-brand retailers like Macy’s and hundreds of c-stores.

Strategic Growth and Beyond

Currently, Rick Mills and the leadership team at Creative Realities plans to continue on its acquisition path and acquire more entities like Allure. Following this development, the company is set to register 50 percent of its growth through acquisition and the remaining organically. Growing dynamically across the present eight verticals, Creative Realities also plans to begin acquisitions in the hospitality signage space. Given the growing traction of digital signage analytics, the company envisions investing more on developing analytics that would help their clients in understanding how content and a holistic solution can together address customer engagement with end-users on an individual level.

In terms of expanding their geographical presence, Creative Realities today has five offices across the U.S., in Louisville KY, Atlanta GA, New York Metro Area, and regional presence in Dallas and Los Angeles. The company is currently looking forward to expanding to other major markets to ensure their availability for their clients in the areas that they need them to be. “Evidently, our customers want an enterprise partner like us who can not only solve their issues on a regional level but across borders,” concludes Mills.

Creative Realities

Louisville, KY

Rick Mills, CEO

Specializes in digital signage and designs, develops, and deploys marketing technology experiences

Creative Realities