March Madness

Displays with multiple-touch capabilities will become the frontrunners of interactive in-store focal point
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Posted May 5, 2015

Digital Signage Expo (DSE), the world’s largest international trade show and educational conference dedicated to digital displays, interactive technology and digital communications networks, showcased the latest equipment March 10-13 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

This year, the show reported a record number of nearly 4100 attendees, of which, more than 42 percent were end-users (e.g. department, big box, specialty stores, etc.). International executives represented more than 1000 attendees from 60 countries, with large groups visiting from Mexico and Brazil. Sixty-five of the 200 exhibitors showed for the first time, including tech giant Google.

When filtering through technology, including the products on display at DSE, I constantly ask myself: Why does this matter to store designers? As reported in my March column, in VMSD’s Digital Retail Design supplement, which reviewed the NRF Big Show, design firms must be acutely aware of digital engagement types as the demand increases.

The presence of companies like Google at DSE should signal a path that warrants the immediate attention of the design and branding communities. Why? Because our clients are paying attention and beginning to ask smarter questions about digital strategy. With advertising agencies and brand marketers keen to own the conversation, we must continue to invest in mastering the subject at hand.

TRENDING TOPICS

Thanks to the consumer-driven market, you can soon expect to see the more vibrant picture quality of HD and UHD displays defining the visual experience. This means that “king content” continues to be imperative to the shopping experience and coincides with the need for a strong content strategy and asset-management system.

While crystal-clear graphic display innovations are at the forefront, the price of LCDs is shrinking, creating a wider variety of screen size options. In-store content is simply more impactful on larger screens, which enables developers to add more content into a single display, and allows customers to look at the display in a zonal manner. Greater screen real estate can also create the opportunity for mixing animation, product photos and other branding elements that fuse a powerful attraction.

A stable, intuitive multi-touch content interface is now a favorite element with the shopper, if done correctly. The catch? Interactive displays need to be immediately intuitive, or the customer simply walks away. If the user can’t understand the content or interface, you’ve lost them. Until now, this has been a looming issue in the world of touchscreen interaction.

Past infrared standards were complicated and often overwhelmed systems that interpreted the event inaccurately. With new technology, we can now have 80 simultaneous touches resolved. This is a big deal in a busy environment, where multiple users can now engage with content in tandem. This interface moves the customer even closer to their already-adopted tablet and mobile interactions.

Beyond changing the way consumers interact with technology, tablet and mobile devices have pushed industrial designers to up their game in displays, creating new aesthetics that hadn’t previously existed. Curved displays and “zero-bezel” screens open the door to edge-to-edge, high-resolution panels and give us current-day solutions that wow the consumer and expand in-store technology design possibilities. 

Ultra-thin displays bring full HD content to high-traffic, public areas. New dual-sided displays have also allowed wayfinding to take a leap forward. Featuring 700 nits of high brightness, only 25 millimeters thick and support for portrait and landscape modes, the screens offer flexible setup options directly on walls, ceilings or moveable stands. Designed to broadcast continuous content for up to 50,000 hours, the 55-inch displays provide reliable content delivery via surprisingly long life cycles that can create more cost-effective campaigns.

To enhance flexibility even further, these displays can utilize new, wire-type ceiling mounts to hang dual-sided screens mid-air, on wall mounts, to show content above passing viewers, or on a stand mount that lets users roll the dual-sided screens to the desired area.

SIMPLIFYING THE SOLUTIONS

Targeted, timely messages are key to engaging consumers in today’s digital realm. Although timeliness has always been an important factor in brand messaging, digital signage allows for dynamic messaging to align with a brand’s target strategy.

Platforms in the marketplace need to deliver scalable solutions that support digitally-driven experiences, including kiosks, interactive displays and mobile outreach. They need to integrate with web, social or mobile strategies to create consistent brand messaging across all consumer-facing touchpoints. 

Content management systems (CMS) should be reliable and solid, yet provide an interface that can be understood by even the most tech-challenged user. Interfaces must be accessible from almost any computer, making it easier for brands to import assets to the system, assign media to a playlist and monitor the hardware. Viewing and analyzing metrics created by these systems provides a greater understanding of the impact of digital in-store interactions.

Simplified, “ready-to-go” software solutions, versus custom alternatives, are still required for some brand approaches. The move toward a better interface is making implementation smoother at all points, therefore, the ongoing, necessary maintenance required by the end-user is much simpler. Software providers aren’t the only ones making simplification the new mantra: Hardware manufacturers are also onboard.

One manufacturer has a new, 10-touchpoint interactive display wherein users can easily broadcast dynamic content by way of a built-in multimedia player, with USB plug-and-play capabilities and the ability to manage multiple interfaces at once. On the administrative side, panel operations and maintenance can be performed and content can be scheduled remotely.

Software and hardware integration, coupled with friendlier interfaces, is a trend to keep an eye on. As screen counts increase and programs advance, the easier it will be to make the “next store” an experience that’s in line with today’s standards.

Brian Dyches is partner and director, digital strategy & experience design at OpenEye Global, a strategy, design and consulting studio headquartered in South Amboy, N.J.