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A better experience

altFor this edition of AVI LATINOAMÉRICA magazine, the company NEC brings us a successful case study advanced in the MGM Mirage in which the experience of visitors to Las Vegas was improved through the implementation of an effective digital signage system.

by: NEC

Hotel management invests a lot of time in planning the guest experience and implementing ways to maximize their enjoyment during conventions and meetings.

One of the keys to achieving this goal is communication, that is, presenting guests with the right information at the right time and in a format that catches their attention. In Las Vegas, notices swarm that dispute people's attention. You cannot efficiently capture the interest of visitors simply by placing static posters or flyers in the reception.

MGM Mirage properties are a great example of how to inform guests well about all the entertainment options available to them. Improving the guest experience means, above all, helping them find the right activities and the "hidden treasures" of entertainment.

The MGM Mirage consortium owns and manages some of the most prestigious hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, including the Mirage, Bellagio, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Circus Circus and the modern CityCenter. Each year, MGM Mirage employs a team of 60,000 people and serves millions of customers.

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The company has a significant stake in the gaming offering, hotel and entertainment industry. The consortium also owns and manages 16 establishments located in Nevada, Mississippi and Michigan, and has investments in others in Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois and Macau.

The challenge
In the past, MGM Mirage used static notices and formats ranging from paper posters to engraved metal plates. These options were nothing short of optimal due to printing costs, waiting time for material delivery, paper waste, and the number of employees required to keep information up to date. Over time, as communication needs increased, new notices accumulating to previous ones gave a crowded appearance. In addition, advertising made with static ads was not flexible and did not allow the rotation of ads or the modification of content at different times of the day. Also, the orientation for visitors was a challenge due to the size and particular design of the plants of the establishments.

To address these issues, management wanted to offer its guests directions and recommendations on a potentially overwhelming number of food, entertainment and meeting room options. All this information had to be provided in the right place and at the right time, using harmonious systems with the luxurious decoration of the establishments.

Randy Dearborn, vice president of multimedia at MGM Mirage, has been instrumental in developing multimedia technology for the company. During the process of identifying the communication challenges faced by the company's establishments, Dearborn studied guest patterns and conducted pilot studies on new communication concepts. It looked at guests' use of hotel and nightclub services, and assessed whether they were aware of information and evening entertainment options.

"One of the main challenges we wanted to address was making it easier for guests to view food options, give them the opportunity to examine menus, and even make reservations. This should be a simple process that invites and engages guests as they stroll through the lobbies," Dearborn said.

To cope with many entertainment options offered by the competition, MGM Mirage and Dearborn also saw the need to promote the nightclubs, bars and shows located within their facilities, through live video and personalized content that better describes the options and communicates the fun atmosphere of these destinations.

"The static posters weren't conveying to guests the feeling that our nightclubs were lively and action-packed," Dearborn said. "We wanted to use video clips to generate high expectations and showcase the unique touch of each facility to help guests choose the nightclub they enjoyed the most."

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MGM Mirage also has a large stake in the convention business and needed to make a difference from the growing number of ballrooms and event and meeting venues. Even with a good design of space for conventions, attendees of these events still had difficulty finding the next speaker or the next session.  Helping them get their bearings was critical and due to the changing list of events, static notices were not a good option as guests had to make the extra effort of correlating static maps with printed schedules.

The solution
MGM Mirage found a solution to many of its communication challenges by installing a digital signage network that makes use of flat panel LCD displays from NEC Display Solutions. Despite being familiar with several display manufacturers, Dearborn and his team chose NEC products for their high reliability, high quality, and commercial-grade designs.

In total, there are more than 400 large format LCD screens in the MGM Mirage consortium facilities, mainly 32, 40, 46, 52, 57, 65 and 82 inches. Thanks to this system, flexible content can be programmed throughout the hotel with live videos, in bright colors that capture and maintain the visitor's interest.

The consortium's Multimedia Services team is responsible for planning the uses of digital signage; to install hardware and software and to manage the daily creation and planning of content. The team uses Apple software and hardware, including the Mac Mini for gamers who connect to screens, and a special Mac version of four Winds software to program content on the network of screens.

The digital menu was one of the most valuable applications of NEC's digital signage, and MGM Mirage currently has 20 touchscreen restaurants in six of its facilities. NEC products such as the 40-inch MultiSync LCD4020 monitor are equipped with touch applications (Richardson Electronics) for the hotel.

Restaurant employees can also change online products and menu specialties in real time, using a simple Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, which automatically updates reminders without using the content management team.

The next project in the implementation is to enable customers to make reservations directly on the screen, a very useful option for guests in the mornings, for example, when nightly catering restaurants have not opened their doors. This feature allows guests to review the menu, examine the images of the interior of the restaurant and decide when they want to dine at this place.

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In the casinos, NEC digital signage was installed at the ends of the slot machine rows, so guests can see it as they walk the carpeted paths to reach their rooms. These screens promote hotel attractions and pass advertising. They also successively show the jackpot accumulated from each slot machine.

The annexes for the screens were carefully considered in order to obtain the appropriate appearance, finish and fit. At the entrance to the hotel nightclubs are 40-inch MultiSync LCD4020, 46-inch MultiSync LCD4620 and NEC MultiSync LCD5710 57-inch Monitors. These screens pass a video that shows the experience that guests will have in the nightclub so that they plan their nights in advance and choose the environment that best suits their tastes. In many cases, these displays work every day of the week, 24 hours a day, so it's critical that they're commercial-grade equipment.

Another project that MGM Mirage implemented was to streamline orientation information for guests according to the time of day, so that hotels can promote activities at the right times, for example, a dolphin show in the day and clubs or night shows at night.

In the convention facilities, NEC's digital signage also offers content to guide guests at several of the establishments. Bellagio, Luxor and other establishments have LCD systems which have touch screens that allow attendees to access information about the location of the meeting rooms or virtually navigate the facilities. Currently, attendees only have to touch the screen where they see the words "Map it!" (show map) for personalized directions on how to get to the events they are interested in.

The content is constantly updated to inform event participants where the next session will be and how to get there. The Multimedia Services team achieved this goal by designing custom software that takes the details of meetings from the Daylight software system, which MGM Mirage uses to manage its facilities. Right now, even above the doors of meeting rooms are 17-inch screens describing the meeting that is taking place and the scheduled activity next.

"In the pilot study we did on digital guidance, children were delighted while older people were less enthusiastic. But in recent months we've noticed that the comfort level has increased tremendously, and more people of all ages are using touchscreens and enjoying the convenience of our signage systems," Dearborn said.

The CityCenter uses more than 95 screens ranging from 17 to 46 inches for interactive signage. Among the screens that are located throughout CityCenter can be mentioned the MultiSync LCD3215 of 32 inches, the P401 of 40 inches and the P461 of 46 inches, all of which pass advertising on the shows and entertainment options.

Recently, the Multimedia Services team installed several huge NEC screens, the 82-inch MultiSync LCD8205, in Monte Carlo. These screens can be seen by guests when they climb the escalators, when entering from the garage. Four of these panels are aligned from side to side and advertise hotel attractions such as the Monte Carlo Brew Pub (bar). One screen shows, for example, a full beer, in the next a half-full beer, and on the third screen an empty beer, with the phrase "Going, Going, Gone!" (at one, at two... sold).

Dearborn, interested in behind-the-scenes logistics, has implemented a digital signage system specifically designed for hotel employees, which provides information to employees related to, among other things, health benefits, 401K retirement plan details, employee discounts, and events such as blood drives and book fairs. The system is known as ME-TV, or MGM Mirage Employee Television, and includes the live transmission of traffic report data and other useful information.

In the future, digital signage can be used to help employees working at events, in employee access areas, with diagrams and images transmitted on screens that show the layout of rooms for specific meetings. MGM Mirage plans to implement other NEC digital signage systems in all of its stores next year and continues to experiment with new uses for this medium.

Important Information
Facilities: MGM Mirage Establishments
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
Challenge: Help guests navigate with digital signage and captivate them with entertainment options
Solution: 32-inch MULTISYNC® LCD3215, 40-inch P401, 40-inch MultiSync LCD4020, 46-inch P461, 46-inch MultiSync LCD4620, 52-inch MultiSync LCD5220, 57-inch MultiSync LCD5710, 65-inch MultiSync LCD6520 and NEC MultiSync LCD8205 82-inch
Date: 2008 (to present)

Author: Santiago Jaramillo

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