There are no longer many places you can go without seeing some form of advertising. One medium that has helped to transform advertising and make it more exciting and appealing is digital signage. It has rejuvenated the world's oldest advertising medium – the humble poster – and enabled copy placed outdoors to be updated remotely, reducing the reliance on vans and ladders.
Such digital out-of-home displays have made outdoor advertising one of the fastest-growing advertising trends, earning a lot of money, and big business by anyone's standards.
So-called "human kiosks" that allow face-to-face interaction via kiosk-based digital signage over a 4G connection are now set to pop up everywhere, not just at your local retail outlet. I read recently in Scientific American magazine that US customs and border protection are trialling a digital avatar that can "converse" in English and Spanish in a kiosk developed by the University of Arizona.
Using this facility, pre-approved, designated low-risk travellers can be moved through dedicated lanes as part of the US's Trusted Traveller programme at the Mexican border, with a view to freeing up real officers to catch criminals.
Digital signage is about to make another leap forward, with the integration of social media. Advertisers and marketing companies are always looking for new ways to get to know their customers and deliver more personalised and, hopefully, engaging communications. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are also looking at ways to earn more money using their customer databases.
They could be used to direct customers to a specific location in a store, for example, such as the shoe department, and while there the customer could be offered a special deal. This benefits social media, as the customer might well tweet about it or update their Facebook page, which may encourage others to make a purchase. This could perhaps be the start of a mini flash mob-type activity that retailers would relish.
The integration of digital signage with mobile communications is even more interesting. It could enable secure credit and mobile payments to be bundled with targeted advertising, for example.
A McDonald's spring pilot offered Foursquare users who checked in to McDonald's outlets on a particular day a chance to win $5 or $10 gift cards. This resulted in increased foot traffic to McDonald's, according to reports.
A US shopping centre is reportedly using kiosks with digital signage and integrated social media to help promote new products, special offers or events happening at the centre. Such kiosks can email directions to shoppers and provide access to the centre's Facebook page.
One of the great advantages of digital signage is that screens can be updated any time, from anywhere with a connection to the network. The latest and most relevant, dynamic content can be provided.
Touch technology has made the screen a central focus of interactivity, which is great news for digital signage and the audiovisual industry. The potential applications for digital signage and mobile communications are endless and complemented by a wide variety of screen sizes installed in strategic places as end points.
Martine Dodwell-Bennett is sales and marketing director at Steljes
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