Mixing digital and printed signage

Photos courtesy 3M Commercial Graphics

Photos courtesy 3M Commercial Graphics

By Jeff Dowell
About 20 years ago, the convergence of tools like compact personal computers (PCs), electronic displays and networking technologies laid the foundation for what would become today’s digital signage industry. These technologies offered a number of positive attributes at the time that have transitioned very well into the present, including flat screens, programmability and the attention-grabbing nature of digital signage as a medium. And as capabilities have advanced over the years, the negative aspects of the original tools—including hassles with lighting, colour drift and difficulty in servicing—have largely been addressed with updated technologies. Flat-panel displays (FPDs), especially, have evolved from plasma screens to liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and today’s newest organic light-emitting diode (OLED) arrays. Digital signage can be found everywhere.

That said, it is now time to ask whether or not these technologies are being used to their greatest effect. It is not unusual today to see point-of-purchase (POP) merchandising dominated by FPDs—in some cases, all displaying the same message, and in other cases, all displaying different messages but placed close together and competing for shoppers’ attention.

In the rush to use digital signage technology, the result can be information overload that desensitizes the viewer to the message. Retailers may also be leaving behind some of the more desirable benefits of printed graphics.

On the other hand, with an integrated approach, the in-store experience is conveyed jointly through digital displays and printed graphics, offering the benefits of both formats. Motion and animation are displayed where they will be most effective in capturing attention, while attractive and easy-to-read printed graphics are posted in key areas to deliver information.

By mixing printed and digital media in this way, sign shops can help their retail clients develop more innovative, customer-engaging in-store environments, presenting graphics in unique shapes and locations to differentiate themselves from their competition.

Ingredients for the mix
The following are just a few of the available technologies that may serve as the ‘ingredients’ for an integrated display environment:

LCDs
Typically, the most common FPDs in use today are LCDs that can showcase brilliant, high-definition (HD) graphics and video content and offer wide viewing angles. A relatively recent trend has been the addition of touch-screen capabilities, enabling the creation of interactive customer experiences.

While concerns about durability and maintenance used to come to mind when encouraging passersby to not only look at but also touch a digital sign, today’s multi-touch-sensitive display technology is available with a rugged chassis and glass front surface to provide the necessary protection in demanding public environments.

Touch-screen capabilities have been added to many LCDs in stores, providing a more interactive shopping experience.

Touch-screen capabilities have been added to many LCDs in stores, providing a more interactive shopping experience.

3M Multi-touch in Clothing Store

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