How Five Big Business Trends Apply To Digital Signage

Guest Post: Derek DeWitt, Visix

Derek DeWitt

Back in December, Senior Business Consultant for Microsoft and co-founder of Techincon, Rashan Dixon, wrote an article for Entrepreneur listing five business trends he thought would continue to rise in 2019.

Coming up on the midpoint of the year, we can see that his predictions were pretty spot on. In this article, we look at how they apply to digital signage – whether you’re looking to buy it, already have it, or are looking to switch vendors.

As Dixon says in his introduction, it is year-on-year improvements that really make a positive impact on a business, and constantly thinking of strategies to increase the robustness of your internal communications is an important part of a culture of constant evaluation and advancement. Digital signage is a great tool for internal and customer-facing communications.

So, let’s look at the current trends and how they can affect and inspire your digital signage strategy:

1. Subscription services continue to rise

The subscription model for services and products-as-a-service has certainly become extremely successful. Adobe does it, Microsoft does it, and most likely your digital signage provider has some options available as well.

First off, you might be able to get a cloud-hosted CMS. You’ll have access all the time, but the software lives on your provider’s servers instead of your own. This often lowers the initial purchase price a bit, which can be very attractive to many organizations, and there are usually a couple of different plans to choose from. Any software updates are automatically applied, so there’s no risk of missing out on new features or improved workflows. Vendors also take care of maintenance and backups, and most providers give cloud clients priority support.

Another service you might consider is content subscriptions. These are often quite inexpensive (some are less than $1 a day) yet still provide attractive, up-to-date content that’s already designed and optimized for digital signs, and which refreshes automatically. This is a cheap, easy way to populate your digital signs with popular things your audience wants to see. Topics can include weather, news, social media, local health conditions, flight boards, sports news and standings, financial data, safety reminders, healthy lifestyle tips and much more.

Some digital signage companies also offer managed services, where they create, schedule and manage all your custom content. Basically, instead of tasking someone in your organization with doing all the work, they’ll do it for you. This is certainly a good idea for organizations that just don’t have the staff to come up with content ideas or designs on a daily basis.

Training and support are also often offered using the subscription model. Usually, software training subscriptions provide some number of licenses for an online training system, with some one-on-one sessions to get you started. Support subscriptions often include software updates and priority service in the queue.

All of these are certainly things to consider when shopping around for a digital signage provider, but it’s also possible that your current vendor, if you already have a digital signage system, either has some of these options available or is working on rolling them out in the near future. Ask them, and if they don’t offer subscription services, ask them why not. You might inspire them to start.

2. Consumers demand more control over data

Many companies were affected by the EU’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018, creating a mad scramble to either put up some sort of consent form online for European clients and consumers, or making the hard choice to simply not allow them access at all.  Many US states passed similar measures, as did some other countries (such as Brazil and Australia), and others (Canada, South Korea and Japan, for example) are probably going to pass something similar soon.

What this means is that consumers (and we are all consumers of information these days) want more say over what happens to the data that organizations collect, specifically what information can be given or sold to other parties. This is a trend that is only going to increase in the coming months and years. Dixon advises to simply stop purchasing data altogether, not only because people don’t want it and regulations are coming to hinder it, but because over 70% of what is purchased is inaccurate (according to a study by Deloitte).

It’s therefore very important that your customers know exactly what your organization does with data. Tell them in a series of connected messages on your screens. You might even give them a way to opt out of some or all of your data policies, either by using interactive touchscreens that take them right to a webpage, or by sending them there using QR codes or short URLs. This is especially important for organizations that have an international component, either with branches in different countries, or even with a large mix of international employees on site. Don’t alienate them – reassure them through your messages.

You also need to ensure that your employees are aware of your data and privacy policies – what you collect, where it’s stored, who has authorized access, and what they are and are not allowed to do with that information. Make sure your info gathering and sharing policies are up to date and easily accessible by all interested parties.

One important part of having a successful internal or customer-facing digital signage strategy is to consistently poll your audience to see what is and isn’t effective, and adjust your messages accordingly. People will be more likely to participate in short polls or fill out questionnaires if they know you handle their data responsibly.

Of course, interactive content, as Dixon points out, is increasingly popular with info-consumers. People will willingly give you information in exchange for something of value. Analyzing the data you’ve gathered can help you take advantage of the third trend he calls out.

3. Everything is becoming personalized

People aren’t just more comfortable with companies offering them a more personalized experience, they now expect it. We surf the web, then open up Facebook, and there we see ads targeted to things we were just looking at elsewhere. Companies are finding all sorts of ways to make what they offer more personally relevant, like using things like localized coupons, and communicating across multiple platforms so consumers can choose their preferred channel for interactions with the brand.

All types of organizations are taking advantage of touchscreens to offer more personalized experiences to visitors and customers. Rather than just pushing information in a playlist to static screens, hoping to grab attention as people walk past the displays, interactive digital signage essentially presents everything at once, and the user decides what to look at, and in which order. This is deeply satisfying to many people, and also allows an organization to present dense amounts of information using the same screen real estate; a single touchscreen can have hundreds of messages and data points to interact with.

A very basic form of personalization is localization. Make sure your messages and content make sense for the location where they’ll be seen. People in Des Moines don’t need to know the weather at the Boston office, and frankly, they don’t really care (even if that is where the national headquarters is). Localized data feeds such as weather forecasts, traffic info and public transportation or campus shuttle schedules are immediately relevant to that audience and, more importantly, they’re useful. If people start to see your digital signs as a reliable source of valuable, convenient information, they’ll spend more time looking at them (or using them, in the case of touchscreens), thus being exposed to more of your messages.

You can even extend the circle a little wider and include local events and news. This would be especially useful to a government office or college campus. Getting local businesses to advertise on your screens could also add a little revenue to offset the operating expenses of your digital signage system.

4. Socially irresponsible firms are in trouble

Corporate transparency is very important to the modern workforce, and organizations that continue to play things close to the chest, dribbling out information on a need-to-know basis, will find themselves spending a lot of time and money replacing employees who go elsewhere to someplace that doesn’t seem to have anything to hide.

Your digital signs are a great place to let people see what you’re up to. Make sure they know where to find your policies and mission statement. Let them know what charities you contribute to. When participating in something like a food drive across the organization, use data visualizations to show progress towards the goal. People like to know that the company they work for is trying to make the world a better place.

Environmental concerns are on a lot of people’s minds, so why not use your digital signs to push recycling initiatives? Let people know what can and cannot be recycled, and the dates and times for pick up. Keep track of how much is recycled, and promote the change on screen. You can even get people to reduce things like power and water consumption by using energy dashboards that show current usage data coupled with a reminder to turn off those lights when they leave the room – as less power is used, the dashboard shows the change immediately.

Volunteerism is something many members of the modern workforce deem important. Some organizations respond to this by volunteering for activities in the area, or for initiatives suggested by their employees. Digital signs are a great way to advertise the former and solicit the latter (again, using interactive designs, polling and/or QR codes and short URLS to let people submit their suggestions). Some companies even offer volunteer time off from the job in addition to regular PTO.

One idea is to gamify volunteerism using your digital signage. Make the reward for participating in some campaign or poll or training package (or whatever it is you’re promoting on your digital signs) volunteer time off (call it VTO). Each level a person passes gains them, say, 30 minutes of VTO. Perhaps for the big winners, the company can match the amount won – so Frederica gets the big grand prize after a week-long gamified campaign, earning 2 VTO hours for herself, and the company doubles that to 4 hours. She gets to go help out a cause she thinks is important, and others are encouraged to try to get the prize next time, increasing engagement and participation.

5. Alternative lending is on the rise

Nontraditional lending has been growing for a while now, not just for small businesses but for individual entrepreneurs, artists and more. This is sometimes called microlending or microfinance, which originated with Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. Websites abound that cover a wide range of interests – from Kickstarter to Kiva and beyond.

People who participate in microlending on the receiving end do so because they find it difficult to get a single large investor for their idea or project, but find success when asking for very small loans from many people. People who give do so because they like the project or idea, and the amount they lend is usually small, but still makes a difference.

This is another way an organization can be socially responsible itself as well as facilitating the impulse to give among employees. And you can use your digital signs to advertise lending opportunities and more. Chances are, at least some of the people working in the organization already participate in microlending. Find out which ones they use, and match their contributions. They money gets paid back usually, so it’s actually no loss on the books at all. You can even choose to relend the money to another project. Why not let your viewers decide where the money should go with a poll on screens?

Perhaps other organizations have contributed to yours. Donor boards are a great way to not only let people know who has been helping out, but to promote giving. These are often interactive, so a large amount of information can be nested inside of directory labels.

If you have a lot of employees participating in microlending, you might set up a microlending board, sort of like a donor board but with realtime data being fed in, so people can see the status of their loans and communications (like updates, thanks and pictures) from the recipients.

And like with the idea of VTO, using microfinance as the reward for gamified communications helps show that your organization is committed to helping out where it can, and is trying to improve the world around us.