Guest Post: Michal Lisewski, Merixstudio
Let’s imagine a family’s trip to the local shopping mall, and how web technologies and screens make that visit entertaining and worthwhile.
The family pulls up to the parking garage entry, and sensors over parking stalls are driving a dynamic screen that’s telling arriving motorists levels 1 and 2 are filled, but level 3 and 4 have open stalls.
Mr. Johnson is there with his wife, who’s on a search for a new dress, while the kids are tagging along, and generally fooling around. The mall and its tenants would, of course, like to monetize the family’s visit, and to do that, they need to create a customer-friendly environment.
First step, get the kids engaged and happy to be there. Let’s install a medium-size display in front of the toy store, and let the kids compete on a multi-player arcade game they can control using mom and dad’s smartphones. They’re having a blast and the game is drawing onlookers, and pulling people into the store.
With those two happily occupied, the couple heads over to Mrs. Johnson’s favourite store, where she finds a dress, but not one matching her size. The sales associate uses the retailer’s touchscreen to check regional inventory, and arranges for delivery and in-store pick-up in two working days. Mrs. Johnson sees a new season collection teaser ad on a promotional screen in the store, pulls out her phone and scans the QR code to grab and save the loyalty discount offer for her next visit.
With that done, the kids are agitating to go, so they head for the parking garage. But Mr. Johnson sees a special offer for an all-inclusive resort – videos showing the white sands and dynamic pricing tied to reservations systems. There’s no chance the kids will put up with sitting in the agency, so Mr. Johnson scans the QR code in the corner of that screens, and they head out and home.
Agile = empathy
This all may sound pretty fanciful, but these technologies and experiences are becoming increasingly common. That owes to the simplicity of hardware architecture (displays + PCs to manage the content) and limitless HTML5.
The technology is relatively cheap and by using simple things like QR codes, it’s possible to achieve outstanding results with limited effort.
Getting it right owes a lot to thinking, up front, about what to offer and how to put it together.
What’s needed are excellent User Experience and service design skills and a good understanding of user stories – which are usually delivered after hours of workshop sessions. A service provider responsible for the content can’t be just a tech-driven supplier, but also must display great acumen and empathy to understand specific business needs.
The best software development practices, like fast and flexible “agile design”, are the answer for how proper digital signage and DOOH content should be tailored. It works best when the design is more about individuals and interactions than the processes and tools, and when responding to change is more important than just following a plan. The agile design manifesto is important for all marketers involved in the digital signage industry.
Swiss Army Knife
Great value can be delivered with minimum cost as hardware becomes cheaper every year. By using HTML5, Web Sockets, and other modern software technologies, relatively low-cost interactive content can be developed for screens and smartphones.
Synchronization between devices happens through Web Sockets, which creates an interactive communication session between the user’s mobile devices and the NodeJs (Primus, HAPI) server. No apps and no downloads, just the browser and access to the web.
That’s how the Johnson kids played that arcade game without downloading an app, while the parents were busy picking another dress. With one single tool, you can switch the content on your screen multiple times and dedicate it to the specific groups during the day.
One of the challenges of the digital signage and DOOH industries is to attract and activate viewers, which can be really hard because large screens are commonplace and will not attract viewers just because they are there. It always makes me wonder why, with so many possibilities, marketers are still choosing passive solutions that offer no interaction.
I understand that each type of content has a role to play, like digital posters. And I know not every store wants kids playing games in front of them. But interaction offers such potential, and HTML5 and other web technologies are making it so easy now to optimize marketing opportunities.
Michal Lisewski handles research and business development for Merixstudio, a creative software agency based in Poznan, Poland. Merixstudio builds functional & super-awesome-looking web applications, websites and HTML5 games.