Eliminating menial tasks empowers us to focus on design and creation.
Over the last several years, digital-signage-software companies have integrated increasingly sophisticated data-analytics functionality into their platforms. These changes have helped businesses quickly fine-tune their content strategies in order to guarantee the highest levels of engagement from customers, employees, visitors and the general viewing public.
Given the ability to collect an increasing amount of viewer information, it has become much easier to determine what content to display, when to display
it and whom it should address. This allows organizations to optimize their efforts with regard to branding and marketing, and it serves to streamline content-management workflows and, thus, improves return on investment (ROI).
Early on, however, toolsets for digital-signage data analytics were often too sophisticated, and not user-friendly enough, for the average content manager to utilize. These professionals are most concerned with getting their messaging out quickly and effectively; they don’t want to invest hours and hours learning how to operate complex software.
The good news is that software designers and developers have finally recognized that; accordingly, they’re now offering solutions that deliver high-level functionality in a way that’s intuitive, easy to learn and easy to use. Gone are the days when this type of functionality could only be used by IT professionals and programmers. Over the past six to 12 months, this important shift has taken these types of tools from clever and noteworthy to groundbreaking and real-world ready.
Automated Content Management
Once a behind-the-scenes marvel of assembly lines and business operations, automation has become ubiquitous in our lives. In digital signage, automated content management brings enormous benefits in time savings, while also improving the effectiveness of the content being shown onscreen. Data-analytics technology can make decisions more quickly and with greater precision than humans can, allowing content to adapt to any given set of circumstances in real time. After you’ve set up some simple, rules-based criteria on which the technology should base its decisions, the system performs the day-to-day grunt work associated with targeting content; this frees up the human talent to focus on things like content design and creation.
Here’s an example of how this works: For many retailers, the weather greatly influences what people buy. A store that sells clothing and accessories, then, would be wise to set a rule within the automated content-management system (CMS) that monitors that location’s regional weather conditions. If it starts to rain, live data analytics can tell the system immediately to insert an advertisement for umbrellas into the core messaging. That removes the need for a content manager to consult his or her weather app manually to determine when clouds will appear.
Content-management automation also decreases the possibility of user error, thus minimizing the number of mistakes that occur in relation to content playback. Again, with some of the guesswork removed from the process, it decreases the chances of the wrong content being played back, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.
Live data analytics enables digital-signage software to adapt content to respond to specific circumstances in real time—much quicker than what a human content manager could ever achieve manually. For example, think about in-depth crowd analysis, followed by content triggering based on the visual data. The data is received through images captured by the cameras integrated into the digital signage. Then, software analyzes those camera feeds in real time, producing a data set that the CMS uses to trigger the most relevant content.
Think about a clothing store in which the digitalsignage software receives a real-time camera feed. That feed is instantly analyzed to determine whether someone is standing in front of the digital-signage display, as well as the gender and age of said person. Armed with that information, the automated CMS can then make on-the-spot decisions about what messaging to display. If the viewer is a man between the ages of 35 and 45, the display might run advertising focused on dress shirts, dress pants and ties, but probably not focused on children’s socks. By using the data derived from that camera feed, the system can instantly display the specific information relevant to the person who is watching the screen, while eschewing anything irrelevant.
The same technology can be leveraged for inventory management and, ultimately, the content choices associated with it. As an example, think about a content manager who works in the corporate headquarters of a national fast food chain. That person probably doesn’t know what products sell the most on any given day or week at a specific location. When integrated with that restaurant’s point-of-sale system, however, the digital-signage software knows which products are bestsellers, how much of each item is left in stock and what is out of stock. Then, the CMS can determine what content to display on that screen that day, that week and that month, automatically removing out-of-stock items. The result is improved efficiency and better communication between customers and businesses.
The camera feeds powered by computer vision and sensors integrated into digital-signage systems can also streamline the flow of in-store foot traffic. If the line at one checkout station is getting too long, the system can notify employees that they have to open another lane, while simultaneously displaying messaging to customers that another checkout lane is now available.
During the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this same technology has been used for things like density monitoring to limit the number of on-premise customers at any given time, as well as for temperature monitoring and detecting whether people are wearing masks, capturing details right down to fabric type, color and pattern.
The digital-signage community has learned to leverage its technology to respond to the pandemic (and the new health-and-safety regulations associated with it), but facilities such as colleges and corporate campuses have always had to find an effective way to deliver alerts and warnings in the event of a fire, a natural disaster or an emergency. When tied into monitoring systems, digital-signage systems can be configured to display necessary information about the situation as it is unfolding, instructing building occupants on how to proceed. And, once the situation has cleared, the displays can resume regularly scheduled programming. With the
right setup, all this happens automatically, with no user intervention needed.
Today, reputable digital-signage-software companies recognize that privacy is top of mind for everyone; accordingly, they design their systems to address those concerns. These days, software is capable of collecting information such as a viewer’s gender, age and other demographic details through facial detection; however, it does not collect personally identifiable information (PII), such as name or address, about that specific individual.
Most reputable software providers are well aware of the legalities associated with data collection. Not only is collecting PII without consent illegal, but it’s also a bad practice that can result in serious brand and reputational damage.
Many of the applications discussed in this piece involve some sort of integration with third-party systems, such as point-of-sale (POS), radio-frequency identification (RFID) or security-monitoring systems. Because of this, it’s important to consider an open-architecture digital-signage platform that is built on industry-wide standards, as opposed to a proprietary solution that locks users into the developer’s ecosystem. Your software provider should offer the choice of how you collect your data, rather than dictating how it will be done. As these systems evolve and provide an increasing amount of functionality, users must have the flexibility to integrate with whatever system they prefer, using whatever approach they prefer.
Although we have discussed the importance of effective data collection, analysis and application for a long time, current events have underlined just how important it is to communicate relevant, meaningful information at the right time, in the right place. Digital signage will continue to play a crucial role by offering users the flexibility, scalability and sophistication they require, with simple, intuitive tools that boost engagement while keeping customers, employees and visitors safe. With so much functionality being automated, users can let the technology take care of the menial tasks related to delivering the message; that way, they can focus more on creating content that contributes to a valuable, worthwhile experience.
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