Digital Signage: The omni-channel approach


Photos courtesy NanoLumens

By Nate Remmes
In recent years, the retail industry has focused significant efforts on achieving an ‘omni-channel’ presence, whereby it can offer a seamless, personalized shopping experience to all of its customers, whether they are connecting with them online, in a bricks-and-mortar store, through social media or over the phone. The key to creating such a personalized experience is learning who a customer is and recognizing him/her at the point of contact. While retailers—and many of the technology providers that support them—have been spending immense amounts of time and resources to figure out who their customers are, the digital signage display industry has lagged behind in terms of contributing to the omni-channel experience.

There has certainly been impressive growth within the digital signage industry, which at a global level is currently valued at $18 billion per year, including everything from the physical displays themselves to content management software and services to digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising. According to market research firm IHS, the digital signage industry experienced a 10 per cent increase in revenue in 2015, a growth rate that is expected to continue through 2020.

While the industry has been somewhat late to embrace the omni-channel trend, it is at least fashionably late, taking time to evaluate technologies that have only recently emerged. These new technologies are focused on attribution (i.e. showing how ads affect consumers) and relevancy (i.e. proving those ads are reaching many people and are having an impact on the right type of consumers).

The following are some of the technologies that can help achieve attribution and relevancy goals through digital signage systems.

Camera sensors with facial algorithms
When digital signage is equipped with camera sensors and facial algorithm software, the technology can detect how many people are looking at a display at any given time. Today’s more sophisticated analytics applications can also capture customers’ reactions to product displays, in-store dwell times and traffic flow.

These types of analytics are helping traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers level the playing field with online vendors, who have routinely tracked and profiled their own customers for years through the use of cookies (i.e. information based on the user’s preferences when navigating a website). Much of their excitement comes from putting a face to all of the other aggregated bits of data about each customer that have already been collected through loyalty programs and point-of-sale (POS) records.


Canadian retailer Holt Renfrew has implemented a range of digital signage technologies, from large-scale video walls to interactive ‘digital mirrors.’

An in-store Bluetooth beacon emits signals and detects corresponding proprietary apps on customers’ mobile phones. Once it connects with an app, it is able to access all of the information stored therein about the customer.

Retailers can use this technology for many purposes. For one thing, they can use collected customer data to help improve the shopping experience and reduce wait times, e.g. by staffing cashiers based on the busiest times of the day.

With regard to digital signage, beacons allow marketing campaigns to become more personalized. Most commonly, this involves sending electronic coupons and other offers to the customer’s phone—but the industry is also starting to use the same beacon-based communications to change messages displayed on digital signage, so they are more relevant to the customers standing in front of the screen, in the hope of persuading them to buy something in the store.

Thus, retailers are installing and using in-store beacons not only to better understand their customers by collecting information, but also to increase profits by issuing a call to action based on that information. Further, studies show consumers are more likely to return to a store if they enjoyed the personalized nature of the shopping experience.

Indeed, digital-age marketing has proven most successful when it is based on personalized experiences. This is why in-store beacons are expected to become an increasingly common practice in the future for mainstream retailers.

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