Today, it’s not uncommon to walk through a museum, college campus, retail environment or corporate lobby and see digital content vying for your attention. This is because businesses across industries are deploying digital signage solutions to engage consumers, attract new customers and drive results. And, indeed, increased adoption is leading to significant market growth: The market is expected to increase from $20.74 billion in 2017 to $31.62 billion in 2023. However, not all digital signage solutions are successful at meeting customer-engagement goals.
From Bluetooth beaconing to touchscreens, digital signage technology is no longer just about high-end TVs on which businesses can display ads and information. Because of that, it’s important for companies to weed out the solutions that aren’t up to snuff and focus on those that will “wow” audiences in a noisy landscape.
Bluetooth Beacons & QR Codes
Bluetooth beacons are one popular solution that some businesses are deploying as a means to grab potential customers’ attention. With Bluetooth beacons, people can walk near digital signage and have an alert pop up on their phones, regardless of whether the passersby have the business’ mobile app open. That kind of communication is attractive to some businesses because their message is automatically delivered to the potential customer. For consumers who welcome information of that sort, Bluetooth beacons can be a useful tool. Yet, because it amounts to a “forced communication,” rather than one that allows users to choose to opt in, it might result in disgruntled consumers who choose to uninstall the mobile app to avoid receiving such unrequested alerts.
Apart from being potentially invasive, Bluetooth beacons often have difficulty delivering messages properly due to issues related to proximity. For example, if a shopper is browsing in a clothing store that’s right next to a luggage retailer, the consumer might have an ad pop up for luggage, as opposed to clothing (or vice versa). That can be distracting because it doesn’t take the shopper’s goals, interests or habits into account; rather, it simply targets the potential customer based on proximity. On balance, this isn’t quite as effective as some other methods are.
Another strategy that has the potential to miss the mark is including QR codes in digital signage content. QR codes can be scanned using a smartphone. Their purpose is to prompt an action from a consumer—for example, to send him or her to a website or to have him or her download a piece of content like a coupon. Unlike Bluetooth beacons, QR codes are not forced onto the consumer; instead, the person has to take action to scan it. Although they aren’t as aggressive, QR codes are another technology that can be considered overhyped. Because they are blocky and difficult to integrate into digital signage content seamlessly, QR codes might ruin the look and feel of the images and messages being displayed.
That being said, when businesses do decide to incorporate QR codes into digital signage, there is the potential to surprise and delight customers with “Easter eggs” that are only available to people who interact with the QR code. Examples might include exclusive coupons. Admittedly, though, because users are required to take multiple steps to interact with QR codes—scan them, view a webpage, download content, etc.—they are often considered a hassle.
To recap, Bluetooth beacons require no action from potential customers, whereas QR codes require too many actions. Are there solutions that offer a happy medium?
This is where interactive digital signage comes to the fore, and some businesses are beginning to deploy it to engage customers in new and exciting ways. One popular example is using the ground as a digital signage backdrop. By projecting images onto the ground, users can step on different areas of the content, prompting an array of new information to be displayed. In a museum setting, this approach to digital signage is an engaging way to immerse visitors in an exhibit, while also sharing useful information. For example, if a room is designed to mirror an underwater experience, stepping on a projected reef or fish might prompt associated information about it to pop up. Similarly, an interactive floor display might be useful for sharing directions or information on different areas of the museum—even something as basic as its operating hours.
Touchscreen displays are similar to interactive floor signage. By deploying touchscreen technology, users are engaging directly with content and driving their own experience by clicking on the information in which they’re actually interested. Whether users want information on the weather, the best route to get to their favorite store in the mall or details about an item on a restaurant menu, using touchscreens can enable them to access the information they want, when they want it.
Other solutions that businesses should consider deploying based on their needs are emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR); doing so can create a mixed-reality experience for users. One significant downside to AR right now is the amount of work and expertise required to create good content. However, some major upsides to AR indicate increased adoption is on the horizon. For one, AR puts contextual placements into real life, literally disrupting reality with the message—ideally, in a way that is positive and fun. Second, it elicits a strong emotional connection by creating an experience, powering the engines of experience marketing.
Similarly, as VR becomes increasingly mainstream, companies are using it to create fully immersive experiences. Retailers are already deploying virtual mirrors to create a mixed-reality experience for customers. For example, when looking into a virtual mirror, you might see prompts pop up on what makeup products work for your skin tone or facial structure.
If you can draw in people using digital signage and cool content in a limited space, you can engage an audience who’s interested in learning more. Ultimately, that will help drive awareness or sales— or both, depending on your goals.
As digital signage becomes increasingly commonplace, it’s up to solution providers to continue to bring disruptive technologies to market, and it’s up to brands to develop engaging content that will create an appealing experience for users. With innovative solutions like interactive floors and screens, or AR and VR, consumers can choose how they interact with content; this can drive return on investment (ROI) for the business. On the other hand, inundating users with information that they haven’t requested, or forcing them to jump through too many hoops to get the information they do want, only leads to fatigue, frustration, and a failure to attract and retain customers.
At the end of the day, it’s important to find the right digital signage technology by evaluating your goals before jumping on the bandwagon of a technology that ultimately might not be worth the investment.