Apple’s use of iPads for merchandising displays big moment for digital signage sector

When the original Apple iPad was first announced in early 2010, lots of people in the digital signage sector were intrigued by the idea of these little all-in-one players and screens being parked at the shelf-edge in retail.

After all, the units offered connectivity, thin footprint, gorgeous screen and full interactivity in something that cost just $500. Nothing offered as an all-in-one setup for digital signage in retail came close in terms of capability and price.

But we’ve yet to see iPads or other tablets used much in retail as displays – though their application as a sales associate’s portable tool is certainly growing in retail.

That may all start to change with news and images today of Apple’s makeover of its stores, which are using iPads as interactive product education tools, associated directly with the products on the merchandising/demo tables. The iPads are placed on some sort of clear acrylic, angled base and, from what I had quickly read, have a protective cover over the screen.

What Apple does have is a big influence on design and application, so I see this as a pretty big moment for digital signage in retail. Lots of people have talked endlessly about putting digital screens right at the shelf-edge. But when the biggest brand in the world does it, that gets attention, and fully endorses the concept.

I am not at all wild about the actual implementation because of the cords that you’d think could have easily been hidden, but maybe there is some rationale there that I am missing. But the overall concept is entirely sound – provide an interactive tool right at the product to deliver detail far more extensive than what’s possible on a sheet of paper. In a busy Apple store, where it might take a while to free up a sales associate, this keeps browsing shoppers occupied and increasingly informed – keeping them in store and probably accelerating the buying decision.

Cords aside, I like.

The only thing, by the way, that I have seen in the field that is a little bit like this are MicroSigns, a little Montreal company that has far smaller screens, with interactive features, installed by handsets in wireless retailers. The screens are replacing the little sheets of paper – fact tags – that are typically used to provide basic product features.

(Disclaimer: MicroSigns is a client, but I’d mention this anyway).

I am not convinced iPads will be the tablet of choice used by retails because the cost is still a bit high when compared to all these other tablets that will coming on the market, and because developing to an Android device will be far easier than working under Apple’s software restrictions.

But this news will likely spur a lot of new activity and questions around getting 7 and 10 inch tablets into retail, as effective tools to relay product features and attributes.

Image from Macstories


4 thoughts on “Apple’s use of iPads for merchandising displays big moment for digital signage sector”

  1. Add in something like Ayuda Media Systems recent announcement of their Splash player running on iOS and Android (and the ease of doing this yourself with Opensplash) and you really have something.

  2. I saw the new Apple concept at Cambridge UK on Sunday and it works well.

    I have also had the chance to review several new Android based display devices that are coming to market this year that do-away with menu buttons and enable applications to auto-start on boot-up, these devices are built for commercial use and will be priced at the $200 to $300 mark.

    When combined with OpenSplash or our Virtual Player and hooked up to a Cloud based CMS, this could very well unlock some great opportunities in Retail and other sectors in the near future.

  3. Thanks for comments. Jason’s points are more where I am going with this. I think Apple’s decision will be a catalyst for other retailers to seriously look at changing their product fact tags from sheets of paper to digital, but I have my doubts the iPad will be the unit of choice because of its external controls and price.

    The iPads are also bigger than they need to be for this sort of application. Using more space for the facts display means less space for product, so the $200 Android-driven tablets is where I think this is going. Lower rez screens won’t matter as much as size and price (and reliability).

    This post in DailyDOOH provides an idea of what they might look like:

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