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The Near-Future of Interactive Digital Signage

Our predictions on interactive screens, the problems they’ll cause and the benefits they’ll offer.

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Have you ever gone up to a screen and tried to touch it, only to realize it’s not a touchscreen? If the answer’s yes, you’re not the only one. Today’s audience expects the screens on offer to be interactive as standard. Just like our smartphones, iPads, tablets and even a lot of laptops and PCs, “touchscreens” have become the new “screen”.

So if anything located lower than eye-height is ripe for the reach of customers and employees, how many actually cater to the trend?

Right now, most of the screens around us are non-touch. But in airports, transport hubs and the quick-serve restaurant industry, touch is rising in popularity. Here are some of the reasons why.

Entertainment

Interactive screens offer more than just a message which, let’s be honest, we can view on a normal TV screen. They invite people in to play, experience, touch and choose.

With choice comes a powerful interaction with your brand, one that’s far more memorable than reading information alone.

Particularly in retail, where according to I AM Omnichannel, 70% of women and 50% of men think of shopping as a way of entertainment. Digital screens can cater to this trend, moving from static noticeboards to points of engagement.

If everyone’s gathered around your screen, whether it be in an office or store, you have their attention. More importantly, you capture the attention of those passing by as well.

Better data

As well as providing meaningful interactions for the user, interactive screens also provide feedback to the business using them. When a viewer looks at a screen it can be difficult to track their journey. Are they impressed? Dubious? Facial recognition could help, but this is more future-future than near. Yet when a viewer touches the screen, you get to track their entire journey.

It’s the same process as Google tracking what you search and what you click on. How long you spend on the page, or how quickly you bounce off. With interactive screens all of this information (and a ton more) becomes data you can collate.

More channels of interactivity

In addition to finger touch, we think other forms of interactivity such as mobile devices, gesture and voice will also be added to the mix as channels to interactivity.

All mediums are becoming more accessible and consumer-led. Already, Verto Analytics reports that 44% of all US smartphones were used to make at least one voice search in 2017.

This may still be way behind desktop and mobile search, but it shows willing. Whether people will feel comfortable asking for directions, items, products or coffee using voice search, only time will tell, but if we made the jump from landline calls to mobile calls so easily, then the answer is probably yes.

Smartphones and beacons will be another form of interactivity. Your smartphone could talk to screens to provide you with offers, whilst providing the screen with information on your preferences. The thing holding beacons back from taking effect today, is the interoperability between systems. To take iBeacon as an example, the visitor would have to have an iOS smartphone for it to work. They would need to have the app, for say a restaurant, already downloaded. When the trigger arrives, they would have to open their phone, view the offer and have had Bluetooth enabled.

A more near-future option is something like Eddystone, that supports Android, iOS and any platform that works with BLE beacons. It works with a simple URL pop-up that the user can choose to click through on.

Until the process is this seamless, beacons will keep being mentioned as a trend, but will probably not be as widely adopted in everyday use as voice or interactive screens.

Screens as a service

Screens that show static content inform and entertain, but the content is fixed. This means that whether it’s relevant to the current viewer of not, the content stays put. Interactive screens change this. If you can ask the screen a question or use search to look for a specific product, then that screen becomes a service.

Taking the place of a member of staff, it helps you get to what you need faster and more efficiently. Given that screens are a few hundreds bucks, this could be a cost-effective way of hiring more staff or expanding a business in the near-future.

Interactive digital signage pitfalls

So with all of that said and done, the benefits are clear. But what’s holding interactive digital signage back? If it were that simple everyone would have it, right? Here are a few of the challenges that we expect ScreenCloud, and the wider digital signage industry, to overcome in the near-future:

  • User experience - at last year’s Digital Signage Expo, the user feedback on interactive digital signage was that large screens weren’t as easy to navigate as tablets and smartphones. Whether the answer is to add a keyboard, add voice capability to a keyboard or something else entirely, more thought needs to be given to interactive screen use.
  • Multi-use interactivity - most touchscreens are four or six-point touch. This means that, at a push, only four or six interactions can be picked up at once. In high-footfall areas, more simultaneous touch capabilities may be required.
  • Content creation - we created apps to help combat the difficulty of creating good digital signage content for screens. To make those apps interactive, they would need to be thought about from a completely different perspective based on what the user might decide to do. It’s a big ask and without apps, there’s a huge financial gap between simple digital signage and the content needed to fuel an interactive screen.
  • Tactile issues - touchscreens that use infrared sensors where the touchpoint breaks the beam of light and therefore triggers an action can be affected in ambient light conditions as well as through screen wear and tear. Users also expect something they can truly feel and that reacts to their touch and many hardware options haven’t yet reached that point.  

Despite these hurdles, interactive digital signage is popping up more often than ever and we look forward to working on more projects this year where interactive is the method of choice.

Find out more about our simple digital signage software at screen.cloud/.

 SC Gradient

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