The turn of the 21st century saw retail signage step out of analogue video format into the advanced digital signage that we probably take for granted today. This change significantly reshaped how people communicate information and the kind of interaction they have with their clients. Originally framed as ‘digital signage’ in the early nineties, it now goes by other names such as ‘digital merchandising’ and ‘captive audience networks’, an indicator of how much it has become enriched with time thanks to technological advancements.
Digital signage is big business worldwide. It is currently estimated to be worth US$15 billion, and researchers predict the digital signage market will grow by 72% to reach US$24 billion by 2020. In Australia, it was valued at $133 million in 2015 and is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of almost 14% by 2020.
Forward thinking businesses now recognise the immense benefits computer graphics, broadband and flat panel displays – used in combination – can have on their advertising effectiveness. As a result they have embraced digital signage wholeheartedly. This has seen accelerated growth particularly in the financial services sector and the outdoor advertising segment.
In Australia, the retail sector has become a showcase for the fast growth of digital signage with most of the major retail chains installing one form or other of digital signage. Banks, fast food chains and telecoms have also adopted digital signage, as has the public transport sector, which has invested a lot in facilities such as train stations and airports where outdoor signs have been rolled out in a major way.
The corporate sector has also taken the cue and installed high-definition flat panels within the CBD offices and other areas such as lifts, lobbies and car parks.
Digital signage has changed the way people shop. Surveys indicate that consumers buy goods from a store because they are drawn to the digital signs or are impressed by its appealing colours. On another level, digital signage when properly harnessed has shown that it can help attract and retain customers by improving the customer’s experience of the business.
By putting vital information regarding the products in stock, promotions and special sales on display panels strategically placed outside and inside the shop businesses ensure customers stay entertained while waiting to be served, while at the same time keeping them informed on important business related developments.
Customer engagement with brands is now changing due to the ever growing power of retail kiosks and the technology they have at their disposal. Vendors can now present more personalised promotion of their goods to customers while at the same time improving on customer experience through technology such as way-finding, order entry and digital surveys which increase the level of engagement with the customer.
It has also grown from its beginnings, when content designs were created by specialised firms, to the more dynamic computer-driven signage players which centrally control audio and video images displayed on a LED, LCD or other projection equipment, giving retailers more control over the kind of advertising they do.
Clearly, technology has played a significant role in driving the growth of digital signage. Great strides have been made not just in terms of the quality of graphics, but also the way the overall content is managed. Digital signage is no longer static; content can now be updated with a lot of frequency through the use of Content Management Systems.
Retailers now have more control over their digital content thanks to the digital signage market shifting to more cost-conscious cloud-based business systems which represent a portion of the wider digital services environment.
This technology facilitates interaction between end users and the displayed digital content through real-world interfaces such as touch screens, body sensors or smartphones. Mobile phones, via text messaging or blue tooth, are able to communicate with digital signs to upload messages or photos to social media such as Facebook and Twitter, or even showing messages to the display panels themselves.
This makes activities such as online polls, gaming or any other interaction to happen in real time and that way takes advertising to a whole different level.