It’s been awhile since we’ve posted in this space…

but the pause has been caused by much exciting growth, change, and grounding. As the retail industry continues to evolve, so too do the suppliers, retailers, and brands that make it up.

We’re all on a collective journey to do retail differently, to do it better.

Recently, we took a trip to DSE 2019 to check out what our digital signage counterparts have been up to.

As a fixture/display provider that also does end-to-end store design and visual merchandising, it is so valuable for us to seek out the latest and greatest in hardware (LED, OLED, 4K, touch screens, etc.), software, content/messaging platforms, and emerging trends affecting the interactive signage industry.

In the dance between digital and physical, we’ve learned how important it is to USE TECHNOLOGY WISELY. Sometimes, that means it won’t exist in a space at all. Other times (most times), its integration is paramount to a successful customer experience.

The mark of a great retail design company is understanding this balance, and knowing how to scale technology to support, rather than detract, from a company’s overall mission.

Keeping that premise in mind, we ventured onto the DSE show floor with the intention of finding solution providers designing for ease of use for the end user.

As shoppers are faced with more and more channels to get their goods, the physical store experience must be created with sensible simplicity.

If it’s not – if it doesn’t make sense to the person’s natural tendencies or provide some sort of a valuable benefit (be it physical, social, or emotional) – chances are they’re going to continue to opt for the path of least resistance…which, let’s be honest, is online in many scenarios.

Digital signage provides retailers and brands with another tool to create opportunities for shoppers that ease their journeys and inspire their motives in entertaining, yet easy-to-digest ways. Once again proving the value and significance of in-store retail.

The signage of tomorrow, is signage that is active, intelligent, supporting, and seamless.

Here are a few themes we identified at DSE that bring this statement to life:

Signage to Attract

We know how fleeting consumer attention is. They can’t help it. They’re exposed to upwards of 10,000 messages per day after all.

So, when a store needs to get passerby into their space, it can be challenging. Especially if that space is part of competitive real estate environment, or is a store-within-a-store concept.

Strategically balancing ambient lighting with bright, artful signage or implementing a network of subtle wayfinding cues are two examples of how signage can act as a tool to invite, situate, and immerse shoppers into the store’s ecosystem.

Signage used in this way can create moments of contrast, beauty, and allure – all important elements to design for when the goal is to increase foot traffic and raise brand awareness.

See a beautiful example of this (plus much more) from LED Display provider, NanoLumens, and creative technology company, Creative Realities, here.

Photo Credit: NanoLumens

Photo Credit: NanoLumens

Additionally, outdoor signage can garner Smart signage technologies to develop content for a variety of applications that change with the weather, type of event in town, or day of the week – providing another opportunity to make the store relevant to the passerby right NOW.

Signage to Emote

Digital signage is frequently used to communicate product and brand messaging, but it can also be used to evoke emotion and create a sense of place, too.

One of the most powerful connections between the body and the brain is through touch.

When we feel different textures, receive vibrational feedback (like the shaking of a video game controller), or simply accept a well-intentioned hug, the emotional centers of our brain light up, affecting everything from memory to reason and rationale.

Touch screens are nothing new to the digital signage world. In fact, we interviewed many companies focused on refining touch technology to be hyper-responsive, yet simple to use and maintain - much like the very technologies in our smartphones.

But one company in particular unveiled a very interesting touch technology known as Haptic Touch. According to David Anderson, President and CEO of Mimo Monitors, haptics “is the science of stimulating touch receptors.” Working with Chicago-based haptic tech company, Tanvas, Mimo introduced a brand new touch screen product capable of differentiating texture (such as scales, corduroy, leather, etc.) through the use of electric fields used to modulate the friction between fingertip and surface.

The result?

For the first time ever, a new dimension of signage is possible – one that uses distinctly different touch textures as a multi-sensorial display component to stimulate emotional connection, raise product recall, improve engagement, and increase purchasing. Further, this touch technology has the opportunity to assist the visually impaired and help retailers and brands develop stores that are more ADA compliant.

As this technology continues to evolve, it is something you will want to stay updated on.

See a use-case video for Gillette below (video credit: ACW Grey, Tel-Aviv, Israel for Gillette).

Signage to Educate

What would a digital signage show be without a conversation about data? We identified two key areas for signage as an educational tool: one for the retailer and one for the shopper.

As signage technology continues to progress, there is a growing need to understand how shoppers engage with interactive programs, not just to prove ROI, but to guide and inform the development of smart, personalized, and responsive content. This is true for every market vertical, not just retail.

Many tech companies, such as Quividi, ComQi, and Samsung Nexshop (just to name a few), demonstrated platforms for audience measurement and triggered event analytics. This is valuable for retailers and brands because it:

  • provides a backend tool to quantify active users (helpful in measuring conversion rates – especially if the same program runs in different parts of a store or in different locations altogether)

  • helps to better understand viewer dwell time and active vs. passive interaction

  • measures basic demographic markers (such as gender, age, wearing of glasses/a hat, etc., as well as some sentiment -happiness, anger)

This data can be collected on single campaign programs and used to report performance, or it can be used on displays featuring smart content – those that change messaging and graphics depending on user identification data. Either way, user data is collected and dissected to better customize solutions for future digital experiences.

For consumers, especially digital-natives, screens are part of everyday life. So much so that “Digital Detox Retreats” have become a real thing. Sometimes, we just don’t need any more screens!

As retailers and brands continue to experiment with visual storytelling in their spaces, digital signage can be both a tool and a barrier to authentically reaching and connecting with shoppers. Quite simply, in order to be a tool, the interactive display needs to serve a purpose – above and beyond what a shopper could gather tangibly on their own.

For example, some interactive displays are built to help shoppers navigate product lines as a means to streamline and personalize – especially when a store associate is not immediately available to answer questions and provide guidance.

Others take on the role of educating through inspiration, and focus more on a brand’s mission and values – elements that have the ability to cement connection and build community.

At the Elo booth, we saw a great use of the former in a four-sided standing fixture kiosk comprised of four connected vertical touch screens running a content program developed by Creative Realities. The program was designed to help men select the perfect pant and accompanying outfit in the Perry Ellis section of Macy’s.

The kiosk invited shoppers to select a style category (Date, Office, Beach, etc.), and then featured a particular style of staple pant. Next, it showcased accompanying items (shirts, belts, ties, and so on) that would complete the look. Brand messaging, product information, and interactive lifestyle graphics rotated about the other screens as the viewer interacted with the Style Finder.

This fixture was not intended to be a POS, but rather a fun way to help shoppers narrow down seemingly endless product combinations in a trusted way, with or without the assistance of an associate.

In addition to today’s applications, many emerging markets (like luxury recreational cannabis dispensaries and digital-first retailers entering the B&M space), are adopting digital signage as an integral element of store design because of its powerful ability to:

  • direct customer attention and focus

  • offer a platform for independent learning and exploration

  • reduce customer confusion

  • increase customer confidence

In the future, we will likely see educational digital signage incorporated into more sophisticated technologies, including 5G, so displays become points of interaction for AR and VR – either at the signage itself or through its interaction with a shopper’s mobile device. This will open an entirely new market for immersive shopping experiences that are readily accessible and financially feasible no matter the size or scape of a project.

As a company committed to delivering great retail, we hope this summary got you thinking about the possibilities that lie within digital signage. But we also challenge you to think about the extraordinary possibilities within each and EVERY aspect of your retail right now – both tangible and intangible.

As our industry continues to progress, a radically different model for retail is being birthed – one that requires us to be inventive, resourceful, partner-focused, and entrepreneurial.

Rather than overhauling what’s already been done, we use opportunities like the Digital Signage Show and many others to inspire us to get back to the drawing board, activate our right brains, and think about how we can revamp some already killer retail programs. We hope you feel inspired to do the same.