Over the past decade, the digital signage industry has seen real innovation. Simple digital screens have paved the way for the more sophisticated digital signage systems that we recognize today, with digital no longer being installed simply to play generic, promotional content that caters to the masses.
Instead, digital signage has evolved into an interactive and personalized form of communication. It often proves to be the vital link for retailers to connect with their customers on a personal level. The technology has grown to become a vital element of a brand's strategy to position itself as forward-thinking innovators and, consequently, over the last decade we have witnessed digital signage transform from a "nice-to-have" feature to a "must-have."
In recent years, the digital signage industry has not only seen huge growth in its uses but also in the capabilities of the technology itself. In this post, we take a look at what's new in digital, in addition to how social media has helped to accelerate these trends.
One of the most important trends to emerge from the advances of digital signage is interactivity. In the digitally fueled, smartphone-led society that we live in today, consumers expect a screen to be interactive.
This shift in consumer behavior has resulted in many feeling surprised and even frustrated if nothing happens after they've reached out to touch a digital screen — indicating that the need for interactivity is greater than we could have ever predicted 10 years ago.
Touch-enabled digital screens not only allow organisations to grab their customer's attention but also to retain it. In having the capability to deliver an experience that is unique and entertaining, interactive digital signage can enhance the customer experience in ways that were difficult to achieve previously. By making use of interactive digital solutions such as virtual mirrors, fashion stores can inspire and interact with their customers by creating "look books" after a customer scans a piece of clothing, or a technology store can use interactive kiosks to recommend additional pieces of clothing that are frequently bought together with certain products.
By allowing consumers to interact with digital screens on their own terms and in their own way, interactivity directly contributes to providing a truly personalized customer experience, which is in itself another important trend.
Many consumers today expect to receive a unique experience that has been tailored specifically for them. This places significant pressure on brands and businesses to create experiences that are as seamless and personalized as possible — and digital signage solutions have a vital role to play in the implementation of a retailer's omnichannel strategy.
One of the most effective ways to ensure a customer's experience is truly personalized is to actively encourage said customer to establish a connection (or rather, a personal identification) with their favorite brand.
This is where social media can come into play. Integrated with digital signage, social media can be a powerful tool when it comes to creating unique experiences. Brands using digital screens in-store to encourage real-time conversations can increase customer engagement levels significantly. By encouraging customers to use social media outlets (such as tweeting, blogging, commenting or even uploading a YouTube video) about their in-store experience, customers are actively engaged and paying attention to what's being displayed on the screen while they wait to see their own content be displayed in real-time.
While the content itself would need to be monitored, user-generated content is generally marketing gold. It costs nothing to create and establishes a firm connection between brand and customer. As digital signage platforms become more able to support social media integration, it's likely that the utilization of social media by brands will become more and more commonplace in physical stores.
One of the most exciting new developments in the digital signage world is System-on-Chip, or "player-less" signage. The recent developments of the technology mean that digital signage can be deployed in much the same way that Netflix or iPlayers work on a Smart TV, i.e through an application.
Using mostly the same chips that can be found inside smartphones and tablets, digital signage systems can be deployed from a "smart panel," meaning there's no need for additional hardware. This means that companies investing in digital signage can have more flexible systems that can be tailored to fit the hardware they already have.
From shops to stadiums or airports to hotels and restaurants, there are a variety of industries that have successfully trialed beacon technology and are beginning to implement it in their wider marketing strategies. While the technology for beacons has been around for a few years, it's starting to gain more popularity due to the success proximity marketing campaigns.
Digital signage systems can easily be paired with beacon technology to deliver powerful, targeted advertising content that's been constructed for specific customers based on their behavior in-store (and past behavior online). Feeding into both the interactive and personalized aspects of future consumer experiences, beacons provide retailers with ample insight into the mind-set of their customers, and it is likely that their presence within digital signage systems is only going to continue growing.
Teetering on the edge of mainstream, wearable tech is on the verge of making a big impact on the digital and social industries. Although the technology is still in the early stages of widespread consumer acceptance, it's estimated that by 2018 worldwide spending on consumer wearable technology will hit $19 billion.
Wearables have the capability to serve as a natural extension of the online and mobile brand experience provided to customers, as well as the potential to deliver a new meaning to the words "seamless" and "omnichannel." Savvy retailers can use the technology to deliver alerts, notifications or time-based offers that have been specifically tailored for each individual customer, and these features can be delivered in a way that is non-intrusive.
Wearables also provide opportunity for retailers to gather masses of data, enabling them to understand browsing and buying patterns in more detail than ever before. By leveraging this information to optimize in-store operations, retailers can look to create sophisticated strategies that can be incorporated with digital signage and interactive screens to create a truly personalized customer experience.
As the technology behind digital signage systems grows and develops, so too do the possibilities for which the platforms can be used. We are beginning to enter a new era of digital displays — one where interactivity is expected rather than a novelty, and one where personalization can be efficiently accomplished by making the most out of a network of smart digital devices.
Whereas in previous years, digital signage was primarily seen as a technology for retail, the complexity of what digital signage can achieve now means that a variety of industries, including restaurants, hotels and schools, can use digital solutions in creative and effective ways to engage their respective audiences.
The potential for what digital signage can do will only continue to grow, and with it there will be a whole new scope for opportunity.
/ Libby is a Content Marketing Assistant for SignStix, an award-winning, cloud-based digital engagement platform. The solution is used by commercial and corporate enterprises to drive customer engagement and enhance in-store experiences.