Guest Post: Jeff Doud, MaxMedia
Today’s consumers expect an experience. They don’t want to be sold stuff. Instead we should offer relevant lifestyle with usable chunks of information to provide context. Customer experience is more important than offers, discounts, direct messaging or raw branding efforts.
Studying methods to engage customers with a soft touch is important. Gone are the days of assaulting our customers with billboards that interrupt their natural journey through retail and public spaces. It is better to comfortably conform to an enhanced overall experience.
New and more inventive technology is arriving all the time to help us deliver these best practices. Increasingly, we are looking to move off the 16:9 screen and into more organic and environmental installations. OLED is offering amazing color and contrast in thin, two-sided, even flexible form factors. AV is now offering interactive display and projection mapping, and soon, AI-inspired and generative customization will be delivered on-the-fly.
Digital in the public realm is a unique freedom. Online experiences are limited by devices and screen formats. The physical environment offers an opportunity to tilt the experience toward a delightful immersive theme park-style bit of wonderment that is very difficult to achieve on desktop and mobile platforms.
For instance, our content creation at the AT&T One Powell Flagship experience in San Francisco delivers visual and audio stories that are generated in real time. The technology draws from a library of original photos and graphical elements that are driven directly to the huge 48’ x 5’ screen in real time, compositing the ingredients with a ‘random seed’ that creates variation in imagery, while simultaneously ‘listening’ to the music input and animating in time. This creates a vivid, intelligent experience that customers are wowed by.
There are no rules for placing technology types in an environment. Different types of displays should be strategically selected based on location, distance, dwell times, adjacent merchandising and more. Technology, in our opinion, always follows the creation of a coherent and well-researched content strategy.
We believe that AR and mixed reality applications can have entertainment, informational, and way-finding benefits. We will be rolling out examples of this very soon.
Interactivity is a good solution in some situations. It is most productive when we tie results to physical actions from the CSRs. For instance, if I am in a dressing room and I select some related items to the piece I am trying on using an interactive look book, it would be great to have the additional pieces delivered directly to the dressing room in short order.
Many retailers find audio annoying to both customers and sales floor teams. We are enchanted by the right sounds confined to precise locations. Directional audio can have a valuable enhanced effect in any digital setting. Like a rain forest sound in the produce section, the combination of physical, digital, and auditory inputs clearly choreographed is a winning solution in many situations.
We also need to be good custodians of design. Taste and restraint are valuable practices. Visual clutter is a danger that alienates customers. Let’s understand their mood and mission relative to your product offering and respond with grace and insight. After all our goal is to improve the experience, and we need to be respectful of that. Long term loyalty and therefore ROI and is achievable when we embrace our customers’ needs first, and immediate business goals and short term sales quotas second.
To conclude, let’s just say it. Digital signage semantically implies that the medium is the domain of billboards and sign painters. We reject this notion. In many peoples’ minds, digital signage means clutter and additional disruption. We believe that digital ‘displays’ can be awesome, gorgeous, environmental, sexy, uplifting and real. We should deliver nothing less than an amazing and surprisingly pleasurable experience.
Jeff Doud is Executive Creative Director at MaxMedia, an independently-owned, Experience Design agency in Atlanta. Our work combines empathy, creativity and technology to move people at an emotional level—bonding them to places, ideas and brands.