By Alan C. Brawn CTS, DSCE, DSDE, DSNE, DCME, DSSP, ISF-C
The common denominator of AV and digital signage is that both are predicated and focused on creating an experience. By definition an experience (thanks Merriam-Webster) is “the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation: practical knowledge, skill, or practice derived from direct observation of or participation in events or in a particular activity.” The key words are “affected by”. The holy grail of creating an experience is making it an impactful and memorable event in our lives. In a day and age of sensory audio and visual overload, this is a tough hill to climb.
In some cases, an experience becomes memorable because of its shock or impact value. This can be positive or negative but keeping on the positive side of AV and digital signage the best examples on the hardware side might be massive displays, creative applications in layouts, locations, and interesting shapes. On the creative side there are elements like motion graphics, 3D content, holograms, and pixel mapping to name a few. Done with a flair these can all become a memorable experience but what about the more day-to-day experiences. Sans most of the gee whiz and ooh shiny aspects we have come to know and love, how do we make less impactful (in order of magnitude) images and messages an experience worthy of being memorable? The answer lies beyond the boundaries and constraints of a single outlet, location, or device and takes the message to where the potential and intended viewers are and on their preferred device. This is the ever-expanding role of communication (ad or information based) to any information, any time, any place, and on any device. In a sense it boggles the mind in scale, scope, and complexity.
Suffice it to say we live in the world of big data, and we have both quantity and access to information as never before. The sheer amount of information is growing exponentially each year. Compounding this is the internet of things (or IoT) where devices have chips built in to communicate with and among one another. The expanded role of communication (ad and information based) falls under the concept of growing supply and increasing demand. This begs the question of how we harness and focus the expanded capabilities of communication to our benefit.
The goal is not the universal dissemination of information but rather to put desired information on a display of any type and size where it connects directly with the intended viewers. This is a location-based and viewer profile approach with content delivery that typically uses IP addresses and real-time geodata to provide information at the user’s physical location. According to Allied Market Research data, the location-based market accounted for more than $36 billion in 2020 and is predicted to reach more than $318 billion by 2030!
The displays may be in a fixed location or information on a mobile device. It may be a huge video wall or a single large flat panel display. It also might be a smaller wall mounted display outside a room for status and room scheduling, in a kiosk or a tablet or a smart phone (even a digital watch) allowing viewers to receive the content and then take the digital message along with them. This is where omnichannel comes into the picture (pun intended).
Omnichannel in its purest form is a targeted strategy and approach that harnesses and focuses on the dissemination and receipt of information for the benefit of the practitioner (aka the sender) and the viewer (aka the recipient) respectively. It refers to establishing a company’s presence and message across multiple online channels (e.g., websites, apps, social media, email, etc.) and offline brick and mortar (e.g., retail store, event centers, campuses, service centers, etc.). Don’t confuse omnichannel and multi-channel. They both use multiple channels or platforms, but they are different. For an omnichannel strategy to succeed, it requires all online and offline systems, technology, and departments to be working in unison. The output is intended to be seamless between and among platforms.
An omnichannel approach creates a viewer experience. Deployed properly it builds a relationship with the viewer on multiple platforms and numerous levels. As one digital signage expert opines on retail omnichannel, “This relationship can be at any stage from discovery right through to buying or post-purchase. Every interaction with a customer in an omnichannel customer experience is seamless and professional, no matter what platform or channel the communication is operating on. An omnichannel approach to customer experience allows users to begin their journey with your brand on one channel and transition to another one seamlessly.”
For example, a customer may begin their journey from a social media post leading them to a company’s social media site for additional information. Then they head to their website to continue their journey and in a best-case scenario purchase the item online or go to a brick-and-mortar location for the human experience. Throughout this journey, the user/viewer will be presented with a cohesive, seamless, professionally produced, and branded experience. Again, it all relates to creating an experience that becomes memorable.
While omnichannel and retail go hand in hand, this concept also ports over to the dissemination of information on non-ad-based networks. Substitute posting an advertisement for the posting and distribution of information. Think about location-based communications and messaging to multiple locations on multiple platforms and presenting a seamless viewing experience. Once again the relationship and in some cases dependence on the information and yes the experience, are the goal.
An omnichannel approach has multiple benefits for a business but at the top of the list is having multiple coordinated points of impact to reach a wider viewing audience. In short, the more points of contact, the greater the potential audience. One subject matter expert in retail puts it this way, “In today’s digital age customers expect their experience with your brand to be frictionless. They expect to find you on the platforms that they want to use, and should they decide to switch to another, you need to keep up and meet them there.”
A significant and intended benefit of a well thought out omnichannel approach is customer and/or viewer retention. It begins with a single touch point and then building a relationship that can be strengthened over time. If you are seen and encountered across multiple channels it will help to keep a company and their message top of mind and in a best-case scenario become a habit when making decisions. Research shows that >75% of consumers buy from companies that offer personalized experiences and that this approach is more memorable.
For the omnichannel experience to be successful, you need to understand your audience, the platforms they use, and what they want from you and your brand. Omnichannel allows you to collect and track valuable data from all your channels. A company can use analytic data capture techniques to gain insights into user demographics, behavior, desires, and turn-offs. This will offer insights into where customers and/or viewers are interacting most with your brand, department, and message and where they’re encountering problems, and also when and where they’re unengaging revealing why.
The experience of communication between and among people and companies has evolved and digital signage has evolved along with it. Think necessity being the mother of invention. What began as print media with limited reach followed by broadcast television with both having been eclipsed by the internet, the digital world, and the ever-expanding role of communication (ad or information based) to any information, any time, any place, and on any device. The omnichannel approach is to make it all appear seamless to the intended audience at the location and on the device of their choosing. It is win/win. An omnichannel viewer experience benefits the sender and the receiver by taking communication to the next level.