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How First Impressions Work & Why They’re Important

According to studies, you have around 30 seconds to make a great first impression in the minds of your customers! Here’s how digital signage can help.

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Can you tell a good egg from a bad egg on sight? We’re constantly taught that first impressions are everything. This puts pressure on a first meeting to lay the foundations of credibility for all of eternity! In business, this is even more important. In less than five seconds, you’ll need to prove whether you’re trustworthy, knowledgeable, fun or exciting. While this may seem a little dramatic, there are psychological studies and scientific proof to back up the idea that once thoughts are formed, they can be difficult to undo.

Thin slicing

“Thin slicing” is the term psychologists use, discussed in the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell to explain how we make decisions based on thin slices, or mere moments of information. More importantly, thin slicing is considered effective! Even if you’ve never spoken to the person or been exposed to them for longer than five minutes, you can still create valid associations about their character in your mind.

Slice time

A study by Dana R. Carney et al used 334 judges to make decisions on 30 targets to see what type of information could be garnered in the thinnest slice of time. They realized that people can determine if someone is an extravert, if they are conscientious and what their level of intelligence is - all within five seconds of meeting them (five seconds is barely enough time to blink three times for comparison).

Characteristics such as level headedness, how open someone is and their level of agreeableness could then be realized within a five-minute interaction. 60 seconds was decided as the optimal time between accuracy of first impression and length of slice. Which means that speed dating may be a more effective way to meet a partner than we think!

Fun fact: Carney also drew the conclusion that women tend to make more accurate judgments using thin slicing than men :-)

What information forms a first impression?

If everything you do (or don’t do) is being considered and taken in to create a first impression, what’s most important?

The raw materials of first impressions according to a collation of studies by Smith & Mackie include:

  • Physical appearance
  • Nonverbal communications (visual cues such as body orientation, posture, eye gaze, tone of voice)
  • Detection of deception (or lack of it)
  • Impressions from the environment and familiarity

Quick business decisions

Later studies support the idea that thin slicing is also used when it comes to brands. This is based on the assumption that brands possess personality. Which, of course, is grounded in reality. If you ask someone what adjective they’d use to describe Nike you’d probably get ‘fun’ whereas a bank or conglomerate may have more negative connotations such as ‘boring’ or ‘unethical’.

If brand experience is a thin slice phenomenon, then this makes it considerably more important for businesses to think about every first interaction with a potential customer.

First impressions in physical locations

First impressions are never more important than in businesses and brands manifested within physical locations. Restaurants, shops and even offices all need serious thought to ensure that the moment a customer or client walks through the door, the first five seconds are used wisely. Digital signage can play a huge part in this.

Screens are one of the first things a customer or client is exposed to within a physical setup. Screens draw the gaze while a visitor is waiting in line at reception, sitting before an interview or browsing a menu within a restaurant.

For first impressions, the screen content displayed could have a huge affect on the way your customers or clients build an impression within that crucial first 60 seconds. To ensure you’re making the most of the first impressions projected by the screens in your office, store or restaurant, ask yourself these four questions:

Do you have screens?

If not, why?! With a cost-effective consumer grade screen such as a Smart Android TV, ScreenCloud can provide you with a powerful system of apps that turns your TV into a digital sign. Even without a smart TV, you can use your faithful old screen with a fairly cheap Amazon Fire TV Stick to get things up and running. Screens are a powerful way to communicate messaging, provide digital menu boards, project your latest stats or impress your customers with quality customer testimonials. All great touch points for ensuring the right message is conveyed to your audience on first sight.

Are your screens positioned in a convenient way?

It’s no use having great screens and great content if no one can see them! You’d be amazed at the amount of receptions and shops we enter where a great screen is hidden behind a blossoming plant or rail of clothes. If the screens aren’t positioned well or the text is too small to read, you’re missing a trick at impressing your audience and giving them something amazing to watch while they wait or browse. More importantly, a poorly positioned screen or a crazy font that no one can decipher may provide the impression that your company’s slightly sloppy and doesn’t care about its customers.

What are you showing?

Software solutions like ScreenCloud can give you a cost-effective means of transforming a dumb screen into something smart, but what you show on it is up to you. Out of date content or the same 30-second video on a loop are a faux-pas in first impressions. Get creative! What would you love to see while waiting in line at a store? ScreenCloud’s apps make it easy to rotate content, create playlists and get customers on board with what really makes your company stand out.

What first impression are your visitors getting?

So much of the first impression slice is based on how something or someone makes you feel. Whether that’s through setup, environmental cues or the sounds and sights. Is your content punchy or relaxing? A screen in a spa waiting room would need to provide a completely different ambience to one in the payment area of a nightclub. Similarly, the content shown in a coffee shop in winter should give off a different display to one in summer, where the drinks choice and thirst of the customer will be different.

So in conclusion, the first five seconds to five minutes of an interaction are key for building credibility, likeability and trust. Get them right and you’re fast on your way to building brand advocates and customers who truly understand what you do - in minutes.  

For help optimizing your screens and spaces for the best first 60 seconds possible, test out our free trial. We’d love to help!

 SC Gradient

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