It’s a given in today’s retail space consumers are looking for trust in relationships with retailers. They have changed their shopping paradigm and are being more selective in how and where they purchase. This is forcing retailers to respond with more targeted and individual appropriate marketing strategies.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ The New Consumer Behaviour Paradigm: Permanent or Fleeting found retailers must leverage their marketing, merchandising and positioning to push their offerings that are ‘need to haves’ to ‘must haves’. This goal is attainable when retailers employ a variety of digital media, kiosks and innovative in-store merchandising to create an element of experiential shopping experience.

Mary Giugni, exhibition manager at Diversified Exhibitions who organised Integrate 2012, an exhibition which displayed the latest in audio visual and digital signage, says the trend of digital signage is about creating a brighter, clearer, thinner and – most importantly in today’s retail space – interactive and agile solution.

“Digital signage is there to grab the customer’s attention and enhance the whole retail experience. It’s very competitive in the retail landscape so to have an offering of a very high quality digital signage product gives the retailer a competitive advantage,” she says.

Targeted engagement
Previously, the creativity of digital signage was restricted to looped video content but now it’s about giving retailers a platform where they can utilise new technology to deliver targeted messages to their customers.

NEC Live from NEC is a solution that provides retailers the opportunity to create, distribute and display content across network display panels. The elements that make up NEC Live are NEC Live Artist, Communicate, Update, Player and Enterprise.

Michael Oltmanns, NEC display solutions division product and technical manager, said core to marketing is getting people’s attention and the real focus now is figuring out how to harness new technologies as they arise and deploy them seamlessly.

“What we’ve seen over the years is that people’s expectations have changed. Once upon a time, there’d be a light box, a screen and a call to action video playing. Now, digital signage solutions are all about touch interaction. They are becoming more common with display technologies now hooked up with barcode readers, for instance, through QR codes and NFC,” he says.

But key to creating targeted content means understanding who your customers are in terms of demographic, their needs and wants, as well as dwell times.

The NEC Field Analyst Biometric application enables retailers to monitor audience data through facial image detection and will classify customers by age and gender into groups. The system collects and processes this information for marketing analysis or real-time effective advertising for digital signage.

“Traditionally any type of advertising or marketing team wants metrics and historically that data was not available before. This technology is a real switch to deliver information to marketers,” Oltmanns says.

“The other thing retailers will also be able to measure is engagement by their audience with their displays. All of that information is available in one central location including dwell times, where people are directly engaged and for what period of time.

“Information like this becomes important because then marketers can pivot and change their direction and messages. This way they’ll know and clearly understand how long people have spent looking at the message and that’s partially about understanding how the consumer journey all works.”

Enhancing the customer service
Often consumers enter a store with an intention to purchase. But one of the biggest challenges retailers face is knowing how to help customers enough so they are convinced they should complete a transaction in your store. This is one purpose digital signage has in-store; it can enhance the shopping experience through providing further product information for customers.

Retail Systems Research’s The Customer-Centric Store 2010 study found the number one opportunity in the current market is to refine the customer’s in-store experience. The report also said the number one use of in-store technology, identified by 76 per cent of retailers, was to “maintain and/or improve the customer experience”.

Gary Reynolds, i-Touch Digital owner, says digital in-store engagement and interactivity is a key contributor to satisfying and delighting consumers, which will help convert shoppers into loyal buyers.

“Customers are increasingly demanding an interactive shopping experience. By offering this through interactive digital signage, it allows the customer to feel like they’re in control when they navigate the flow of information and come to the buying decision at their own tempo. The outcome and result is confirmed by the purchase,” he says.

This goal is attainable with the instalment of creative devices like shelf-ad players, digital banners, touch tablets or digital posters that can be embedded into existing store fixtures.

“A message is more powerful when it’s relevant and timely. Standing in a store with a product in front of you, on the shelf or in your hand, is the most crucial and influential moment of the purchasing decision,” Reynolds says.

“With these interactive digital displays, the message and information comes to life with a touch of the customer’s hand.  Pick a product and be instantly greeted with pertinent information and insights delivered through digital screens and intelligent triggers.”

The transparent LCD showcase from Ozibadge is another technology which supports the product knowledge trend.  The technology is an implementation of Samsung’s see-through video screen technology and has been designed specifically for the high-end retail market.

“This will be the way retailers can catch the eye of customers as they walk by the display. They can engage with their customers and show them a video or Flash presentations at the same time that the physical products are on display,” Ajan Khanna, Ozibadge owner, says.

“Particularly in the retail climate of today, it’s essential retailers look for new ways to promote products and engage with their customers.”

Similarly, ‘Holly’ the holographic greeter from Nicholls Technologies addresses the gap in product knowledge that sales assistants may often lack. The technology, which takes shape of a life-size cut out of a person, acts as a branding and promotional messaging medium to provide in-store information, directions, personal greetings and/or branding impressions.

“The key thing to the retailer is it’s in a form of digital signage that is non-threatening. A sales assistant would never be able to stand in front a customer, look them in the eye and talk about a series of offers because it’s just too confronting,” Greg Nicholls, Nicholls Technologies marketing and sales director, says.

“This is a revenue generator and not there to replace sales staff. It enhances the existing offering of the store and highlights special offers in a way that is more cost effective than print or any other form of digital signage. It will also not become a commoditised form of in-store advertising.”

The two way communication
Con Hatzigiannis, Vizi New Media managing director, agrees saying digital signage nowadays is about creating a two way communication path.

“A retail space breeds contempt if customers can’t find the service they’re after. Instead, it should breed satisfaction and that can be done by using smart technology which will help keep them there long enough – either by entertaining them or providing further information – to have them open their wallets and spend with you,” he says.

“This means any possibility of increasing dwell time means you’ll increase your chances of converting that into sales.”

Vizi New Media’s The Cube is an interactive projection that can be gestured or touch controlled, turning any floor, table or wall into a dynamic interactive touchpoint.

Similarly, its video kiosk and booths allow customers to send and share video messages with branded video postcards to their e-mail or mobile phone or to online galleries and social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Bebo.

“The shop of the future is about knowing how to make your store different with gestures and capturing data through excitement. It’s about taking interaction to a whole other level of creating a ‘phygital’ – physical and digital – space,” Hatzigiannis says.

“Retailers are looking at the paradigm from their point of view but they should see it from the customers’ point of view of ‘why should I go in there?’ so that’s why retailers need to give as much information as they can. But they also have to remember to stop racing to the bottom and trying to deliver the message the same way as everyone else.

“This is why ‘gamification’ of retail is another way you can deliver your message by putting the message into a game.”