The global digital signage industry looks set to hit $13.9 million (£8.5 million) by the end of the year, with retailers making up around 42 percent of the market, according to the research and analyst firm IHS. As a result, shoppers that venture into the high street this year are going to come across many more digital screens than they did in the past.
This is not surprising: to address fierce competition from online brands, traditional retailers are doing all they can to maximise the spend of every customer that walks through the door in a far more proactive way than ever before.
How can retailers who have invested in these screens receive the best return this year? Firstly, don't lose sight of the big picture. You wouldn't plan an advertising campaign without an overarching plan – but it's surprising how some retailers see their digital signage programme as something separate from their wider marketing strategy. Like conventional marketing collateral, digital signage must attract attention, keep the viewer engrossed, transfer easy-to-understand knowledge and convert interest into sales.
Customer knowledge is key. All retailers like to believe that they know who they are targeting, but a stereotyped customer profile is no longer enough: you need to know why they are there and what makes them tick. Does the store attract the kind of person that regards shopping as a leisure activity, or are they making practical purchases and want easily accessible information for a quick buying decision? All of this should affect the way your digital content is designed and delivered.
A shop in a commuter town might be full of older people and parents of young children during the week, yet packed with young professionals at the weekend, therefore it is imperative to make sure that your content is flexible and can be tweaked accordingly – and you can take advantage of the latest technology to do this. It's now possible to use embedded cameras with facial recognition technology to monitor who is looking at the screen, triggering different content according to age or gender.
You can now buy digital signage as a managed service in the cloud. This method combines the on-going support of hardware and software with the creation, management and measurement of content, working with a retailer's marketing team where appropriate. As a result, upfront costs are significantly reduced, the solution is highly scalable and retailers have access to digital signage professionals who are completely abreast of the latest ideas and developments in designing, monitoring and measuring campaigns.
At the heart of all of this, the customer must remain the central focus. It might appear obvious, but many digital signs are used as pure advertising vehicles, instead of providing information that will make customers' lives easier. Digital signage solutions need to do far more than simply convey a message; they are best used within a marketing mix that enriches the audience experience.