Organizations are finding a variety of innovative uses for digital displays to boost revenue, build brand loyalty and enhance customer experiences.
Digital signs are becoming commonplace, as organizations in a variety of industries adopt them. Indeed, some experts predict that the global digital signage market will hit $20 billion – or even higher – as soon as 2020.
But revenue projections are far from the only factor that is creating excitement for this technology; it’s not only growing, but also maturing. IT leaders across numerous sectors are becoming more savvy about deploying digital signage solutions strategically to address business challenges and create value.
“For a long time, digital signage was the wild, wild West,” says Richard Ventura, vice president for business development and solutions at NEC Display Solutions of America. “People are starting to realize that you have to understand the analytics, you have to capture the right data and you have to figure out how to monetize. The companies that can deliver on Big Data analytics are the ones that are going to be the most successful.”
In particular, three exciting trends in digital signage are helping organizations attract new customers, drive revenue and spread their message. Kiosks and tablets are giving users personalized experiences, allowing them to seek out information, find their way through unfamiliar spaces and consume custom media. Digital displays are being used to present interactive media, which can help to capture valuable customer data. And improved technology is making outdoor digital signage an increasingly attractive option for organizations looking to attract the eyeballs of passersby.
“Before, digital signage was, ‘Let’s put a screen on the wall and see what happens,’ ” Ventura says. “Now, it has more meaning.”
The Arrival of Kiosks and Tablets
Ventura says that kiosks are “probably the No. 1 growing space” of the digital signage industry. The reason? “We are a society of engagement,” he says.
“If I walk by a screen on the wall, and it’s just showing me information, I get bored really easily,” Ventura adds. “Kiosks allow us to display and send multiple levels of information. Everybody can have a personal experience with a kiosk.”
The restaurant industry has been an early and enthusiastic adopter of these smaller, more personal digital displays. In some instances, diners can order their food, pay and even play video games on tabletop digital displays. In other use cases, restaurants employ tablet-based menus or wine lists to give customers access to more information and photographs of available options.
Kiosk and tablet use cases in other industries include directories in shopping malls, mobile pay stations in retail stores and wayfinding stations in cities and on college campuses.
Brian McClimans, vice president of sales for the Americas and Asia Pacific at Peerless-AV, stresses the importance of educating both users and customers when tablets or kiosks are introduced. “Sometimes, when a customer asks a question about a kiosk, an employee will say, ‘I don’t know, they just put that in here,’ ” McClimans says. “Those deployments are not successful. You have to train the associates and you have to train the customers.”
McClimans also says that organizations must be selective in deciding which messages to communicate to customers who engage with kiosks and tablets – being careful not to bombard them with too many offers. “You can do just about anything with a kiosk or a tablet,” he says. “But just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.”
The Power of Wall-to-Wall Pixels for Business
Organizations in sectors as varied as finance, hospitality and even the nonprofit world are taking advantage of large LED panels and video walls to create a “wow” factor and help spread their messages.
Museums are using video walls to recognize donors and allow visitors to explore different genres of artwork. Hotels use wall-sized displays to create a chic and modern vibe when guests enter their lobbies. And in the world of finance, brokers stay updated on stock prices with the help of digital displays, which in many cases must be reliable enough to ensure 24/7 runtime.
The Smart Hospital
Many healthcare facilities have already made investments in robust networks to connect medical equipment, enable employee productivity and offer Wi-Fi service to patients. Hospitals can take further advantage of these connections to support digital signage for wayfinding, donor recognition boards, cafeteria menu displays and other use cases.
Digital signage can be particularly helpful for coordination and communication among employees in a hospital setting, where doctors, nurses, therapists and others are constantly on the move. Event schedules, meeting times and other updates can be instantly broadcast to these employees via digital displays.
Digital kiosks and tablets also have healthcare applications. Both solutions can be used for patient registration, or to help patients learn more about medications, diseases and treatments.
Retailers See Dollar Signs in Digital Displays
In a retail setting, digital signage allows stores to communicate with customers in real time about everything from hot sales to the location of temporary seasonal items.
While retailers use in-store digital signage to entertain, engage and inform their customers, outdoor signage can help get those customers into the store in the first place. According to one study, more than two-thirds of consumers say that they are drawn into stores by their signs, that they’ve been inclined to purchase products or services because a sign caught their eye, and that a store’s sign is a reliable indicator of the company’s products and services.
The Connected Campus
In the education world, digital signage has wayfinding, messaging and instructional applications.
At the K-12 level, teachers are using screen-sharing to foster collaboration in the classroom, enhancing presentations with graphics and high-quality video, and using digital signage solutions to reduce reliance on printing and copying. Studies show that these solutions are also popular with students.
In higher education, digital signs are being used to communicate to community members about upcoming events, to add multimedia elements to lectures, and to help students and visitors navigate sprawling campuses. At some colleges and universities, screens are even tied into emergency alert systems, helping to spread vital messages instantly.
Connecting with Fans at Sports and Entertainment Venues
Digital signs can greatly increase flexibility for stadium operators, as messaging can be instantaneously rotated between events – or even within a single game. If a venue is hosting a basketball game, a hockey game and a concert all in the same week, advertisers can directly target each of these audiences. Digital displays might briefly show replays during a game, then direct crowds toward the exits once the event is over.
Digital menus, in particular, have helped increase revenue and enhance the fan experience at sports venues. If concession stands have too many leftover hot dogs during the last game of a home stand, for example, operators can instantly tweak the price to help sell off the surplus.
Delivering State and Local Services Digitally
State and local governments employ digital signage for a variety of use cases, including connected courts and government call centers.
Connected courts allow participants in legal proceedings to engage in activities such as arraignments and trials without having to travel to a court room. This allows state and local governments to reduce expenses for travel and lodging while saving time and improving safety for court and corrections workers.
Government agencies also gain efficiencies in using digital displays for improving communications among public servants and with constituents.
Displays such as Cisco Systems’ telepresence technology improve decision-making and foster collaboration among far-flung members of the workforce. They also boost communication between different agencies and disparate levels of government.
When digital displays present users with interactive media, a previously one-sided conversation becomes a two-way engagement. And when users engage with digital signage in this way, enterprises can collect the data that is produced during these interactions, delivering valuable insights.
Lyle Bunn, an IT analyst and adviser who specializes in digital signage, says that vendors and organizations are making headway with anonymous user analytics, which capture data about the groups of people that interact with a display, rather than tracking metrics for individual customers.
“Anonymous analytics for things like notice, presence and dwell have already been very effectively applied,” Bunn says. “Now, people are looking at capturing sentiment – knowing whether a patron is in a distressed or angry mood, rather than happy or joyful.”
For example, Bunn says, one bank in North America is using cameras at ATMs to determine the mood of its customers and then tailoring its messaging based on that data. If customers are happy, they might see ads about taking out loans to go on vacation; if they’re upset, they might instead see a message about how the bank is working to improve its customer service.
“It’s a small percentage of displays for now,” Bunn says. “But it’s definitely where the puck is going.”
Moving Signage Outdoors
The immediate and obvious advantage of digital outdoor displays over their static counterparts, says Bunn, is that they allow organizations to dramatically increase the number of messages they’re able to communicate to passersby.
“Six different messages are typically displayed in a one-minute loop,” Bunn says. “It really makes the transition from static to digital very, very attractive.”
“The opportunity for outdoor has just started, and we’re projecting that to be a large area for growth,” says McClimans, who adds that the flexibility of digital signage is valuable when circumstances change. “Say you’re a city that has 200 different bus stops, and you take out a certain number of buses for a holiday. You can update the schedule live, and then tomorrow, it’s back to the regular schedule.”
McClimans also offers the example of cities printing outdoor business directories in shopping districts. “Cities have paid through the nose to get those printed,” he says. “The problem is, businesses come and go, and they have outdated information that’s going to sit there for five to ten years.” Outdoor digital displays solve this problem.
While the technology behind outdoor digital displays has accelerated recently, Ventura stresses the importance of selecting the right equipment. “You might have the best network in the world, but if the screens are never up, you’re not going to make any revenue,” he says. “It’s really important that you have not only the right types of displays and technology, but you have to make sure you’re protecting and cooling them correctly. You don’t want your investment to go up in flames.”
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