Digital signage has become a major trend in the retail space. While in the early days, digital signage was relegated to simply playing a video on loop as part of a display, today’s devices are more sophisticated. Modern digital signage allows users to interact with the display, enables them to manage the content they see, provides interactivity, and even delivers video analytics through artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.
As technology advances to meet consumer demands, and as the industry strives to return to normal during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, here are some digital signage trends we can expect to see in the future.
Consumers Call the Shots
Consumers are the major driver in the retail business, and as their expectations grow and shopping habits evolve, so too must digital signage. Traditional retailers are facing huge challenges, including increased pressure to exceed customer experience expectations.
Facing the need to innovate, digital signage provides a unique opportunity for retailers to bring focus back to the individual customer and provide a unique in-store journey for each shopper. In fact, 50 percent of consumers said that digital signage influenced their purchase. This means that not only are consumers interacting with this new technology, but it’s also working and delivering ROI.
Interfacing With Mobile
Another fast-growing industry trend is mobile ordering. Customers are placing their orders in advance, so the order is ready when the customer arrives. While companies like Starbucks have been doing mobile order with in-store pickup for quite some time, the trend is following customers to other retailers.
Digital signage plays a key role, letting customers know the status of their order and where/when to pick it up. This process, known as "line busting," occurs when a customer places a mobile order and bypasses the point of service (POS) window, going straight to the pickup window instead. Orders and payment are taken in advance, allowing for a more efficient experience for the customer and giving the retailer a higher throughput, thus increasing revenue.
Convenience stores may look to this type of service, as it could increase sales while simultaneously reducing congestion in-store.
In the Wake of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has been crippling for retail. Many experts are predicting it will take one to two years for the industry to recover. It's obvious that the retail landscape has changed because of this crisis, and retailers will need to rise to the occasion and adapt to the "new consumer" we'll likely see emerge post pandemic.
In a situation with such deep and far-reaching impacts, it's likely that consumer shopping behaviors will change significantly over the long-term — well beyond the end of the pandemic.
Consumers will be reluctant to use touch kiosks. From ordering food to self-checkout at the convenience store, the touch kiosk has grown to be a large presence for digital signage in retail spaces. Consumers’ ability to use their mobile device for a touch-free purchase will be in greater demand than ever before. Or, the use of individual stylus devices might become the new normal when interfacing with touchscreen signage.
It also makes sense that drive-thru traffic, "line busting," and online or mobile ordering with window or curbside pickup will continue to be popular options, as we ease back into the new normal but consumers might choose to avoid going inside stores.
Retailers need to start thinking toward further innovation and how digital signage can facilitate and improve the new shopping experience. Could there be designated parking spots for curbside pickup with a digital display including order number and updates on when the order will be brought to the car? How can digital signage improve convenience and increase revenue?
There’s one thing that’s certain: digital signage is still on trend for the retail industry. As consumers crave more customized shopping experiences, digital signage can be tapped to both provide and track the in-store journey. Additionally, we'll see more digital signage interface with mobile devices, both for convenience and for touch-free options in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digital signage will play a key role in accelerating the effort to embrace the "new consumer" and develop ways to accommodate and encourage shopping to revitalize brick-and-mortar businesses.
Chris Tulk has more 25 years of experience working in the electronics industry, with 15 of those years being spent in the embedded technology space. As Advantech's iRetail key account manager, he focuses on finding and developing retail solutions for a multitude of different brands within the retail industry.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.