Is digital signage enough to deliver great retail experiences?

By Peter Rivera

Exec. Creative Director and General Manager of Infusion's Digital Agency

A major trend in store design has been movement toward digital signage, a catch-all term here defined as using monitors and glowing screens of various sizes and configurations (and resolutions) to convey video-powered imagery and messages as shoppers walk by. It is the billboard come to life, and a seemingly great way for brands to re-use video assets and commercials they have already paid dearly for.

It's a logical first step of course, but it doesn't go far enough to actually solve the problems of creating great retail experiences that attract, delight, and retain customers over time. Here are some trends that push beyond digital signage:

1. Give the consumer control. Just as on the Internet, by helping customers help themselves through advanced technology, brands can create environments where consumers can actually sell themselves at their own pace.

The Internet has always been about control and access, and that core philosophy is only just now getting to brick and mortar stores. Provide the ability on site for them to learn about products on the spot with touch or gesture enabled experiences, buy the products themselves, or share their opinions and you'll have tapped into the true potential of next-gen retail experience. And be sure to consider that they do not like to be limited in platform or format: let them perhaps use touchscreens to interact, but then extend those experiences to their mobile devices and tablets as well so they can control the context.

2. Scale your "experts." How often have you been shopping for a phone and the salespeople are either tied up or unknowledgeable about a product you want to buy? You wind up waiting 30 minutes for help and then not really feeling you had an enriching experience in the end.

A top consumer electronics company currently leading the smartphone market has implemented a "Virtual Host." It showed what is possible when using technology to both empower the customer and scale your experts.

The experience works like this: Pick up an actual phone in the store and you then trigger the affable and charming spokesperson who guides you in real-time through the phone features that you want to explore. The technology knows precisely where you are in the process at any time while you follow visual prompts on the smartphone. (More than 100 videos per product were previously scripted, shot and programmed. They seamlessly trigger as you move through defined flows). The responsiveness and sense of immediate feedback is a bit unexpected and magical when you first play with it.

3. Be "always on." There can be no dark or unplugged units in the corner of the store at any time. The Royal Bank of Canada recently deployed touch experiences within 100 retail stores. RBC wanted a solution that both promoted new products as well as educated clients about retail banking activities such as savings programs. Quickly realizing it was costly to update hundreds of devices and that it needed a means to know which devices were not working at any given time, we developed a custom-built SaaS solution that gives the bank ultimate control over device management, while reducing maintenance time and costs, and also ensuring maximum possible up time. This self-serve or CSR-powered interactive solution for RBC won a gold “Out of Box Retail” award at the Canadian Shopper Innovation Awards.

The consistent insight that emerges is that brands need to do more than install large and tiled televisions into their stores, they need to create experiences that interactively inform consumers, empower them to take control, and enable real transactions.

Peter Rivera is the Exec. Creative Director and General Manager of Infusion's Digital Agency and works directly with clients to help them strategize and conceive next generation brand experiences enabled through technology. (Photo by Christopher Hall.) 

Read more about digital signage in retail.

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