Published August 25, 2020 | Last Updated September 20, 2023
No matter what the news says about the drop in recent smartphone sales, the fact is an estimated 72.7% of the U.S. population owns at least one such device. What’s more, in 2020 the average users will spend well over three hours each day on their smartphone. That means no matter how great your digital signage program, it's competing for attention with the small screen your customers are already carrying when they walk into your store.
But you know the old adage, "If you can't beat ’em, join’em." Instead of competing with the beloved small screen, new technologies are going to make it possible to integrate your digital signage with the smartphone experience. And that combination will launch a new generation of interactive digital experiences,which make returning to the store irresistible—even for die-hard online shoppers.
Revving up the shopping experience with 5G and AR
Making your digital signage work in conjunction with advanced capabilities of smartphones—wouldn't that give you a competitive advantage?
As sophisticated as digital signage may be these days, there are some things it just wasn't designed for. Augmented reality (AR) is one of those things. Yet with each successive smartphone release, AR technology is becoming more and more common. And if your customer walks into your store with a new 5G-enabled smartphone, chances are good that shopper has at leastone AR application installed—or they are itching to find a reason to try it out.
The question is how do we design new content and interactive customer experiences that leverage the capabilities of both the customer’s device and your digital signage network and devices? The bandwidth of 5G wireless networks allow retailers to develop rich content and interactions between a 5G-enabled digital screen and 5G-enabled phone.
Consider the appeal of real-time, phone-to-screen games deployed into a retailer's entertainment department. After all, smartphone gamers are shoppers, too. Designed for the retailer's interactive digital signage network, the game might allow 10 or more "players" to interact with game elements, with each other, and with other types of augmented reality on an8K-definition digital screen. Or what about an app that lets the digital signage network interact with the shopper's phone, displaying 360-degree images of furniture in the shopper's own living room? At the end, the player or shopper might be invited to download and share the images, scores, or other data with friends and family while considering their purchase.
If a retailer's digital signage screens and their shopper's smart devices are both equipped with high-speed 5G connectivity, the possibilities for captivating experiences like these are endless.
Building your digital signage network for interactive customer experiences
These are just a couple of examples of interactive digital experiences that 5G connectivity will enable. However, companies considering a digital signage network for the first time have a number of factors to keep in mind.
First, 5G coverage is still rather limited. If a retailer isn't in a major metropolitan center or other area where a wireless provider is piloting and rolling out 5G, it might be "out of sight, out of mind." But that's a dangerous and limiting view. The real question for retailers with no 5G coverage today is how to ensure they aren't left out tomorrow.
That means planning ahead for wireless 5G-capable digital signage devices, even though you might not be able to immediately utilize the higher bandwidth. Most stores' existing network resources are insufficient for these kinds of interactive experiences—and that's okay, at least for today. But tomorrow, when 5G is available, if you've just heavily invested in decade-old network technology, you'll have a forklift upgrade before you can take full advantage of it.
The same is true of software. While some digital signage software today will support the types of interactive digital experiences described above, not all software does. Just plan on the fact that the software will evolve, both for the digital signage network and the smartphone.
For tomorrow's sake, select your digital signage provider carefully today
5G and other new technologies are going to enable retailers to create interactive digital experiences to engage in-store shoppers like never before. But retailers considering decisions about digital signage today have to be careful. It is important to select a provider that's not going to limit their hardware—nor their ability to create immersive experiences—in the future.
At a time when 5G and smartphones are ushering in a new era of high-speed connectivity and mobile AI and AR, hardware and software flexibility is more important than ever. How else can a retailer's digital signage hope to compete with the small-screen devices their customers already know and love?
If your digital signage network is battling the small screen for your shoppers’ attention, let’s talk about how new technologies like 5G and AR can enable digital signage to work with customers’ mobile devices for richer interactive digital experiences.