For most leading sports, entertainment and hospitality companies, like Topgolf Entertainment Group, operations were curtailed throughout spring and early summer in the interest of public safety. Now the comeback is featuring a new breed of visual communications technology. Whether they’re for entertainment, health protocols, wayfinding or some other form of digital messaging smart new automated, networked displays can help hospitality brands reconnect with customers, keep guests safe and build lasting relationships.
“The digital signage in our venues is completely adaptable,” says Scott Shultz, Director of Technology Innovation for Topgolf, which operates more than 60 locations internationally serving food, drinks and sports entertainment. “We leverage our in-venue digital screens to highlight safety information, as well as new protocols we’ve put in place for our guests.”
Even before the pandemic, Topgolf had begun a digital transformation that more restaurants, sports bars and other entertainment venues are now looking at adopting to better support visual communications, customer engagement and streamlined operations. Digital display technology is already a staple from movie theaters to casinos, but Topgolf took the solution several steps further, discovering along the way how automating its extensive display network could have multiple benefits.
“Our focus as a technology innovation team is to make technology seamless — for our Associates and our Guests,” Shultz says. “Doing that allows our Associates to focus on creating unique and memorable experiences for Guests.”
Shultz recently joined partners from technology integrator Diem Digital, controls systems developer Savi and display provider LG Business Solutions to discuss the deployment of 10,000 automated display solutions at Topgolf venues. Here’s what the team learned:
Commercial displays should be the norm.“We actually started off with consumer TVs,” says Diem Digital President Derek Wilson. “You’re always up against budgets in the early stages, but you don’t think about a few years later, when they’re just not built for commercial applications.” For Topgolf, where displays could be operating 18 to 24 hours a day — indoors and outdoors — consumer TVs would start to fail within 18 months, so the project team decided to only use commercial displays. In certain spaces, Topgolf opted for hybrid outdoor displays for an added measure of reliability. “Once we started migrating everything to commercial displays, it completely changed our world,” Wilson says. “Service calls went way down, and failure rates went from between 60 percent and 80 percent all the way down to 1 percent.”
‘Smart’ commercial displays are easier to manage. The 10,000 LG displays that Topgolf rolled out have built-in processors, the LGwebOSSignageoperating system and Savi control software. And because they’re networked, they can be easily and centrally managed. “The software helps manage the content on the screen, but it also gives back-of-house capabilities so the integrator can manage and monitor the displays and adjust settings,” explains Byron Baird, Vice President of Sales for Savi Controls. “They can get statistics on all the displays, remote diagnose them, update software and more.” For Topgolf, where a uniform customer experience is important, the smart displays are adjusted remotely to appear the same throughout a venue. “You don’t want one display at half brightness and another one at 60% with different contrast levels,” says Wilson. “With the smart displays and integrated control software, you can just flip on a switch and make everything look consistent throughout a venue.”
A smart display can do the work of multiple standard screens.Topgolf used to have three screens in each hitting bay to display different media content. With the new smart displays and embedded web OSSignage operating system, they were able to turn one screen into three. “With the displays’ webOS Signage platform, we could write an app that would work with the control software to deliver all the different Topgolf content to each screen over a single network cable,” Baird says. The solution was to hang each display in portrait mode and create three content “panes,” with a DirecTV feed in one pane, the Toptracer program for tracking the flight of golf balls in another, and advertising in the third. “The fact that we can do all that with just one Cat-5 cable to the display is amazing,” Wilson says.
Entertainment evolves — so should the technology that delivers it. Modern smart displays, which function more like all-in-one content delivery endpoints, make it easier for hospitality brands to change and offer new services without costly upgrades. “Our ability to expand the platform itself — whether it’s bringing Toptracer to the display or giving guests a new virtual game — has definitely impacted the overall experience,” Shultz says. Already, Topgolf customers can easily change the DirecTV feeds in their hitting bays. And when not in tri-pane mode, the displays go into “attract mode,” essentially communicating as digital billboards and making new and different connections with visitors. Says Shultz, “As a brand with experiences that extend beyond our physical venue locations through business platforms: World Golf Tour by Topgolf, Toptracer, Swing Suite and Topgolf Media, we are constantly looking for ways to engage with our guests and enhance their experience.
As Topgolf moves ahead with its digital transformation, it continues to collaborate with its technology partners so it can continually innovate. For example, says Shultz, the company is exploring how to develop contactless technology experiences, something display providers and their partners are already beginning to deliver through innovative health protocol solutions.
Topgolf thrives on creating unique customer experiences. They’re constantly thinking through how to bring better functionality, better user experience, more graphics, enhanced colors, and all of that energy and excitement to the table. We’re proud to say that leveraging smart automated, networked displays accomplishes all of those goals and so much more.