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By Ifti Ifhar – CEO of ComQi Inc


The retail business is again in the midst of massive transformation – with Retail 4.0 driven by advances of the cloud, big data analytics and the Internet of Things, and growing preference of shoppers for seamless experiences.

In the middle of this evolution is digital signage – with physical retailers integrating online and offline shopping experiences and reinvent the idea and real-world look and feel of brick-and-mortar stores.

Here’s how things used to work. In-store digital signage only provided one-way information.

But with advancements in image processing and IoT sensor technologies – like RFID, light ID technology, sensors and beacons – digital signage now provides smart, interactive tools to engage customers in exciting and relevant ways.

Instead of canned, pre-determined messaging, smart screens in an aware, “smart” retail environment are providing shoppers information about what they’re looking at, and influencing buying decisions, including up-sells.

These smart systems, for example, will trigger content based on multiple contributing factors, including:

  • What’s under-performing?
  • What’s overstocked?
  • What’s low on inventory?
  • Time of day?
  • Local environmental/weather conditions?
  • What’s trending online?
  • And countless other variables that could influence, shape and initiate or switch content.

Digital signage can integrate add-on software to create smart retail solutions that respond to the two major trends in Retail 4.0: omni-channel commerce and smart retail system.

Interactive digital signage will drive omni-channel

For omni-channel commerce, interactive touchscreens can help physical retailers to integrate multiple online channels to provide real-time tailored messages, and propel specific objectives, such as:

  • endless aisle;
  • assisted selling;
  • self-guided shopping,
  • engaging customers with virtual interactions through touchscreens to increase product interest and dwell time;
  • enhanced shopping experiences that allow customers to learn more about the product, increase purchase intent, and ultimately improve sales.

When not in use, these screens aren’t sitting idle. They can be scheduled to display promotions or entertaining content, and also the calls to action that get consumers using interactive tools.

Making Retail Environments Smart

For smart retail systems, in-store digital signage with image processing and tracking technology can visually see, sense or even hear the presence of nearby customers, and display dynamic content based on demographics.

A bundled solution integrates technologies such as a high-resolution camera, facial pattern detection and analysis, radio-frequency identification (RFID), electronic shelf label (ESL) and beacon notifications.

For example, a motion sensor or security camera located at the gateway to a dressing room triggers a notice to portable devices carried by sales associates, or at a service counter. The sensor has logged someone standing there for more than, say, 10 seconds. So help is dispatched and shoppers get a better experience, because they’re not left waiting and the retailer can optimize their in-store staff.

Previously, the retail response might be pagers or a loudspeaker paging system that dispatches help. In an IoT, device-driven world, the salesperson might get notified by nothing more than a smart watch that vibrates and flashes a notice: “Customer waiting at dressing room B.”

ComQi3-8-2-2016Taking Control

Retail 4.0 is amazing in concept, but it doesn’t just happen. Tools are needed to manage the devices, data and content that results in seamless experiences that “just happen” for happy consumers.

Something needs to be the hub, the control tower for all the moving parts and steadily changing data, and an IoT-centric Content Management System (CMS), like ComQi’s EnGage, is ideally suited.

A robust, Retail 4.0-ready digital signage CMS can also manage the following tasks:

  • Provision- provisioning a network of remote devices;
  • Monitor – monitoring the operations of various network devices and automatically notifying operators of any anomalous behavior;
  • Control – the end-points can be controlled in real-time via a bi-directional connection, or via a polled interface;
  • Acquire – acquire content and data from external systems;
  • Target – effective meta-data organization means the correct data and content is published to the right end-point;
  • Function – it can drive content playout and host independently developed software to perform specific functions;
  • Capture – the metrics from end-points are logged and stored in a time-series database, which can be displayed or extracted;
  • Report – A reporting console provides access to the data that is collected. Reports can then be scheduled and emailed, or accessed via web services;
  • Analyze – Analytics let retailers analyze customer buying behavior, effectiveness of product placements, in-store traffic patterns and other parameters, allowing them to revise strategies and adjust resources accordingly boost traffic and sales, and reduce operating costs;
  • Scale – Thousands of active in-store smart hubs can be monetized and reproduced across additional market verticals.

The rise of more integrated and connected digital signage solutions is bringing unprecedented opportunities for the retailers, helping them become early adopters of Retail 4.0.

The digital signage business has long talked about the core concept of getting the right content to the right place at just the right time. That used to be realized by predictive scheduling and crossed fingers.

With all the data and devices, real-time content switching and very smart software, the consumer experience in retail can always be relevant.

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