The Role of Digital Signage in the recovery of Retail


The idea or abstraction that many of us have when we do not engage in digital signage and listen to the concept for the first time, is that of a screen, of any dimension, showing visual content. Simplifying the term as much as possible: a television of those in stores showing promotions. To get from this exaggerated simplification to what actually happens, there is a huge technological journey invisible to the eyes of customers, and even that of the users of the digital signage system themselves. If not, digital signage could contribute only little to the recovery of retail.

Digital signage, with all the technological support, is no longer a mere projection of images in sequence on a display, which have been loaded on a pen drive and which in turn has been physically connected to that display. The pen drive is now replaced by complex platforms and content managers. These platforms can be hosted on the retailer's premises or even in the cloud, and include powerful user interfaces that bring together a wide variety of functionality. In addition, they can bring together various data sources and technologies such as Big Data or Artificial Intelligence, so that they can display any type of content in the right place, at the right time, for the right audience, in the right format and all in an automated way.

But so far, we are just talking about digital signage systems that display content. What happens if we also equip the camera system with cameras that can detect whether the people in an establishment are women or men, whether or not they wear a mask, or even how old they are? What happens if we also provide the system with sensors that allow us to control the capacity or know what the customer journey is in a store? What happens if the digital signage system incorporates touch screens available to customers on a commercial surface? And what happens if the digital signage system is integrated with an ERP or other retailer management systems? What happens is that a digital signage system becomes the medium that allows you to fully digitalize a physical space. This digitalization is no longer just a system that includes a display showing promotions, it is now a system that, as if it were a website, allows the content to adapt to the people who view it and what is even more valuable to the retailer: it allows them to measure the effectiveness of the campaigns that marketing departments can create with relative ease from their content managers.

With all this technological arsenal we can design a complete communication and interaction circuit that follows the customer journey in each space. This flow can start at the same entrance of the establishment, for example, a supermarket, from whose outdoor parking the customer can see a huge LED screen welcoming you and inviting you to enjoy the shopping experience. Already at the door, a display shows the customer the capacity in real time and tells them whether or not they can access the establishment. While on the same device you can see information about a campaign currently being offered. Once the customer enters, they will be informed from another display of the offers of the day while on the same screen you can see the shifts of the various sections available. On a touch screen or QR code, the customer will be able to book their turn for the bakery and while walking, they will receive product information in line with devices that display segmented information based on their approximate gender and age. Once the shopping cart is finished, the customer will walk to the cashier area in which, and also through the digital signage system, he is told which cashier is available to make the payment of their purchase. If cameras (complying with the GDPR have obtained information from the audience) have been used throughout this process, if the customer's requested shifts have been recorded for the various sections and this data has also been crossed with the sales tickets, we can say that the complete digital transformation of a commercial establishment has been achieved through the implementation of a digital signage system.

I want to highlight from what has been explained so far that a digital signage system integrated with the right accessories can provide metrics in the physical spaces, which until now could only be obtained through online channels. It is true that a system like the one described above may seem extremely complex and expensive, but the market is already beginning to show solutions that move in a wide range of complexity, options, modules and costs.

Many companies dedicated to traditional advertising, merchandising and/or large format printing already dedicate a small part of their portfolio of solutions to digital signage solutions, which provides their customers with a new layer of value and their business with additional revenue.

Can digital signage contribute to retail recovery? Without a doubt and not only as a supporting actor but as a real protagonist. However, it is important that when you design a digital signage system, however simple and complex, it is endowed with a coherent sense and strategy and that the people who manage it exploit as much as they can obtain from it. Without planning, strategy, or information analysis, this system will be like any other technology system: a very expensive way to generate frustration after poorly managed expectations.

What's more, digital communication manages to increase the impact and loyalty of the customer by 300%, in addition to enabling any change of promotion and / or price in real time. It generates much less environmental impact thanks to the energy efficiency of today's digital devices and saves costs on printing, transport and handling.

This is the role of digital signage in the recovery of retail: it is no longer just a monologue of the retailer towards its customers. It is not just the digital projection of an advertising promotion or communication to be read by an indeterminate audience. Communication can now be bidirectional and measurable. The monologue becomes dialogue and thanks to the dialogue, you can listen better to customers. And when a retailer listens to their customers, the path of recovery is assured.


German Talón has led and implemented technological projects in the Retail, Education and other industries for over 15 years as CIO, CTO and Program Manager. He is currently leading the development team as CTO. 

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