Whether you work in retail, restaurants or radiology, you’re not going to make it through a day without coming across digital signage. And while the near-universal integration of digital messaging is something we’re excited about, it comes with a caveat: Many of those displays showcase suboptimal content, ultimately undermining the entire purpose of their existence.
That’s a conversation well-suited for Sprinklr Display, which houses one of the world’s foremost digital signage design teams. For our latest Business Impact Workshop, we sat down with Justin Garrity, Sprinklr’s VP of User Research and Display, to talk about the state of digital signage and where it’s headed.
Now that retailers have grown comfortable with bringing digital signage into their businesses, the next step is maximizing the impact of those displays. There’s a lot of misunderstanding of what truly resonates with consumers, and there’s a big disconnect between what’s cool and what people actually use.
New software technology can be installed on huge interactive displays, and while marketing heads love that idea, few “see themselves as that kind of shopper” -- in other words, they picture other people using the touchscreens, not themselves.
Although large, interactive screens can certainly be effective, many spend much of the day dormant, with few people opting to engage. Why? Because no matter how much trendy software goes into a display, it ultimately needs to provide a necessary function -- and many of them don’t.
Another issue, Justin pointed out, is that massive interactive screens are “collaborative”: Everybody can see what the user is up to, and some people don’t want onlookers to know they’re scouring a map for the nearest bathroom.
On top of that, “with a shared screen, someone standing in front of it and blocking it from everyone else is not a great experience.” Overall, he summed up the touchscreen hype quite well: “Everyone gets very excited about touchscreens, and it’s like, ATMs are touchscreens and nobody’s talking about them.”
Let’s quickly break down that point. The ATM serves a clear purpose: I need it to complete a task. Interactive displays, even with all the integrations available to make them super-smart, ultimately need to provide that same sense of utility. Otherwise, they’re just distractions, and that’s not the desired result of impactful marketing: The displays should enhance the customer experience, not distract from it.
So where do interactive displays make the most impact? Sprinklr has seen them resonate in more private settings, such is in dressing rooms, where shoppers can tap individual tablets to ask for different sizes or digitally see 360-degree views of themselves in a particular item. There’s definitely a place -- an important one -- for interactivity, but it must be fine-tuned to really serve the needs of the customer.
One of the most important developments of the past decade is the tidal wave of self-created content. Customers are more than happy to market your product for you: They eagerly post pictures of their favorite restaurant meals, hotel rooms, clothes, jewelry, home decor -- you name it, consumers are sharing it. When people spend money, they want to turn around and reveal all the details of that purchase with their friends and family.
It makes sense, then, that so many retailers love the idea of showcasing photos snapped by their own customers. But, Justin notes, many are misguided in how they display those images. While social media teams are inclined to showcase volume -- “Look how many people are talking about our product!” -- it’s incredibly important to carefully cultivate that content. Quality, not quantity, is critical.
When customers glance at a screen and see a dizzying assortment of tweets and photos, they aren’t going to genuinely absorb any of those messages. Attention spans are short. Nobody has the time or interest to watch an endless stream of text and images scroll along.
It’s also crucial for retailers to think honestly about how their product comes across in amateur photography. Justin used the example of a fast-food chain: Dim fluorescent lighting and an iPhone camera angle simply aren’t going to make a burger look appetizing. Social media can still be an asset, but don’t make the mistake of letting customers inadvertently discourage people from coming back.
In figuring out how to optimize social media for digital displays, Justin’s team analyzed all the components of your typical social post. The key elements: Photo, caption, username. They’re arranged in a phone-friendly way, but those elements are, in fact, the same ones that traditional advertisements have used for years.
Picture your standard billboard ad. It shows you three things: A great image (photo), a snappy tagline (caption), and a company name or logo (who said it). It’s no exaggeration when we call social media a form of “personal branding”; each user is, in essence, selling something to his or her online viewers.
“If we deconstruct the social media post -- tagline, image, logo, who said it -- and reconstruct it in the same format as a traditional ad, it’s going to work in the same way emotionally,” Justin said. “That was the formula we came up with: It’s hitting you in the same way a traditional ad does,” but it’s modernized to make use of social content.
Remember those PowerPoint presentations from a decade back -- the ones where every slide transitioned to the next by doing something goofy, like rolling up into a ball and bouncing away?
Eventually, we all realized that just because we can create certain animations doesn’t mean we should. But that message has been slow to resonate with digital signage content creators: “We did get obsessed with animation for awhile and had to back off,” Justin admitted.
The Sprinklr team realized that while some subtle motion can enhance the product, going too gung-ho on animation detracts from the impact of the content. One good way to determine whether motion is problematic is to simply snap one still photo. “If you can take a picture with a screen in the background -- at a store, or an event -- and it makes a good photo, you know you have the screen right,” he said.
Think about it: How often have you seen a giant digital screen that totally distracts from the environment around it? Many screens are eyesores. Retailers put relentless time and effort into perfecting their printed materials, and that same careful eye should be applied to digital displays.
Justin presented this scenario: Let’s say you’re rolling out a new product in five different colors. Before they hit the stores, you’ll have to create marketing materials, and one of those five colors is going to have to be center stage.
Your team might do early tests and have a decent indication of which color is going to be the biggest hit, but the truth is, there’s no way to predict with certainty. That’s especially true in the influencer age: One prominent YouTuber who loves the red model might completely derail your expectation that silver would go fastest.
That’s why the Sprinklr team is really into new programs that enable the ability to monitor social media reactions in real-time -- and adjust marketing materials accordingly. Instead of being stuck with massive displays showcasing the silver model, the software can analyze positive social media feedback from customers to determine that red is the way to go.
This is a major development in the ad space: It’s both proactive and reactive. This is a really cool time to be in the digital signage space, and retailers are starting to realize just how many opportunities exist to get their products out there in an impactful, 2019-approved way.
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