New technologies, like 5G, are changing what’s possible with digital signage. They will allow retailers to create more dynamic, truly interactive shopping experiences for in-store customers.
The prevalence of online and mobile shopping has accustomed today's customers to a more interactive digital experience. But despite the convenience of shopping from home or by phone, people still like shopping in-store. Plus, in-store shoppers spend more per visit than online shoppers. In What is the Future of Interactive Digital Signage? (Part 1), we introduced how technologies like 5G networks and 5G-enabled devices present brick-and-mortar retailers the opportunity to bring shoppers back into the stores.
Many retailers still think of digital signage in terms of hanging a display screen on a wall or in a kiosk, then downloading a series of ads or promotional videos to play on a programmed schedule. While these applications and content have their place, this view is quite limiting. Shoppers crave experiences that are more interactive and responsive to their situation. They want something they can see and engage with and control. They want a device to understand what they say, want and need, then respond with relevant video, audio, or other assistance.
The speed and bandwidth of 5G will allow physical retailers to “bridge the digital divide” between online and in-store shopping with rich interactive digital experiences. Retailers will be able to expand their digital signage networks with wireless screens and other devices, then move them around at will. They'll allow customers to view every possible option for a product—after seeing it in person—then customize and order it for home delivery. Or they’ll provide rich, new pop-up experiences anywhere, without worrying about the limitations of wired networks.
Let's look at a few more examples of how we expect the future of interactive digital experiences to unfold over the next few years.
Today’s customers are used to streaming video feeds to practically any device, wherever they happen to be. So, it’s only natural that live-streaming media via a retailer’s digital signage network would boost customer engagement in retail stores, kiosks or pop-ups. However, digital signage hasn't been able to leverage this capability, due to network bandwidth limitations.
With 5G, retailers will at last be able to incorporate the live-streaming media capabilities customers have been enjoying at home and on their smartphones. Before, retailers moved selected video files down to the signage system, then played them back on a set schedule. 5G opens the ability to stream media content and data in near real time—an essential part to providing an interactive customer experience. Whether a live event or footage selected for (or by) the customer, live streaming of content and data will become commonplace in digital signage.
Real-time content creation
Live-streaming media is only one kind of content 5G will enable retailers to provide their customers on demand. A digital signage network will now be able to leverage the processing power and information available in the cloud. That power will allow them to intelligently create and deliver unique, personalized content that’s relevant to a specific audience or location in real time. We're now talking about data visualizations and powerful multi-media experiences, in direct response to a customer’s actions and reactions.
Delivering this content to the screens and other edge devices in real time will turn a retailer's digital signage into truly interactive customer experiences. They can stop worrying about how fast they can push out the content—5G will make that almost instantaneous—and concentrate on creating content and messaging that is timely and relevant to each customer or audience.
Besides live-streaming media-on-demand or dynamic visualizations, 5G will open up use cases that have been rare in a retail store environment until now. Think how popular telemedicine has become, as it reduces costs and travel for non-critical care needs. This type of two-way video application requires reliable, high speed broadband connections. This type of "live assistance on demand" hasn't been suited to in-store retail for a number of reasons, but that will change.
With 5G-enabled digital signage devices, robust real-time two-way video assistance is possible. The wireless nature of such devices mean that retailers can deploy as many screens as they like and wherever they like. Wireless devices are easier to relocate, too, than those requiring a wired connection. 5G’s speed and bandwidth mean that two-way video chat with customer services experts will have crystal clear video and audio with minimal latency. To further enhance the interactive digital experience, the video chat feed could be integrated with visualizations or other images from the customer service rep.
5G connectivity can enable all the above video-related capabilities over a wireless network. It can also allow retailers to add another huge technology trend to their digital signage network: voice interactivity. Applications like voice processing leverage AI and the processing power of the cloud. For such interactions to happen in real time has always required—you guessed it—a high speed, high-bandwidth connection. Low latency, high-throughput networks like 5G will not only make real-time voice processing and decision possible, but they will feel very natural. And, of course, it will enable a digital signage network to deliver richer, just-in-time content in response to the customer’s inquiry.
Enter the New Age of Interactive Digital Signage
While the future is never written in stone, new technologies like 5G connectivity make the future of interactive digital signage bright with possibilities. These ideas just scratch the surface for how brick-and-mortar retailers can provide captivating interactive experiences to draw customers back into the stores. So, how will you apply the power of 5G to your future digital signage strategy?
Is your digital signage network ready for the future? We’d love to talk to you about how you can leverage new technologies like 5G to create the modern interactive digital experiences today’s customer crave.
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