By Heidi Unruh, vice president of marketing, North America, e-Spirit Inc.
Digital signage is a booming business. According to research firm Markets and Markets, the digital signage market was valued at $16.88 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach $27.34 billion in the U.S. by 2022 – an increase of 62 percent in just seven years! This strong growth can be attributed to digital signage's effectiveness in maximizing the consumer experience – particularly when it comes to shoppers like millennials who appreciate technology-driven interactions.
The key to success is to leverage that interaction to create a "micro-moment" of influence, an epiphany that helps consumers decide what they want. According to Think with Google, "micro-moments occur when people reflexively turn to a device -- increasingly a smartphone -- to act on a need to learn something, do something, discover something, watch something, or buy something. They are intent-rich moments when decisions are made and preferences shaped. In these moments, consumers' expectations are higher than ever. The powerful computers we carry in our pockets have trained us to expect brands to immediately deliver exactly what we are looking for when we are looking. We want things right, and we want things right away."
It's up to today's modern marketer to be ready when those micro-moments occur with the right style, right content, right campaigns, right products and right type of engagement that is not only personalized, but also context-specific to that consumer's need at that moment in time. Digital signage delivers on that promise. For example, when pairing a digital sign with a beacon that talks to a mobile app, companies have a terrific opportunity to customize information based on what they know about the visitor.
Let's look at some more of today's more popular digital signage applications (such as the display and promotion of the most persuasive elements of the online experience) and their associated benefits.
User-generated content on social media in which the visitor (most likely a millennial!) has posted about their visit, such as checking in on Facebook, tagging the products they're considering or have purchased, or posting photos, selfies, and comments.
Displaying this information on a digital sign as it's posted on your channel lets your visitors know they matter to you and creates a psychological reward loop. It's literally a feel-good moment. And some companies go beyond that to actually reward the posting with physical discounts, coupons, etc. Imagine how exciting it could be from the visitor's perspective to post something like "Having a great time at XYZ restaurant – look at this ginormous burger!" and having that post flash up on a sign at the front of the restaurant with a "10 percent off their next visit coupon" delivered to their phone as a thank-you. Talk about maximizing the customer experience!
Reviews and recommendations to influence impulse shopping at the shelf edge.
In the e-commerce world, product reviews are extremely important to online purchases – they are literally the engine that drives decisions. So why not use them in digital signage to drive decisions in the physical world? If a consumer is wavering about a purchase, knowing that other buyers thought highly of the product can make all the difference between passing by and placing it in the cart. Similarly, with the enormous amount of purchasing data available, you probably know that purchasers of one product are likely to buy specific other products. Why not prompt this information at the source via digital signage to drive upsells and cross-sells?
Brand-building information, particularly as it relates to company values.
Millennials care about your stance on the environment and what kinds of social investments you are making, so don't leave that information buried in your printed annual report – proudly display those values on digital signage, paired with dynamic information about the total amount of money given to charities or invested into social and environmental causes or total amount of work hours volunteered to local charities, for example.
With just these few examples, it's clear that digital signs can be a critical link in enhancing the physical customer experience. But with multiple use cases and content types, it can be difficult for marketers to keep content relevant and compelling to the customer experience while also managing the delivery of that content. Many companies find this quickly becomes unwieldy, and many vendors are struggling to offer the full set of services needed for a complete end-to-end digital signage solution. So what can you do?
For starters, look for a decoupled content management system that separates the content from its presentation, so your back-end CMS can talk to any front-end touchpoint (like digital signage) via a built-in, industry-standard API. This vastly simplifies the delivery of content, and enables content-as-a-service (CaaS). For example, these systems give retailers the ability to influence buying behavior at the point of sale by delivering targeted content to digital signs in real time—whether in a store, bank, hotel, sports venue, etc.—for more personalized consumer experiences.
So what can you do to make the customer experience fun, engaging, and informative (and not just for millennials, but all audiences)? Explore the ways that new digital signage technologies can help optimize and improve the customer experience and secure customer loyalty.