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Digital Signage: Hybrid, Interactive Systems Amplify Marketing Impact

Aug 17, 2007
A new trend in digital signage is emerging that combines the strength of digital signs with the interactivity of digital kiosks. For many areas, such as retail shops, the sum of the two holds greater potential for marketers than either of the individual parts.

Known in some circles as hybrid digital signs and by others as interactive digital signage, these combo systems can capture the attention of those nearby by playing back compelling linear content -for example an enticing commercial or news feed- and immediately switching to an interactive mode when triggered by an external input, such as the touch of a viewer, the mere presence of a passerby or even environmental conditions.

Like a standalone digital sign, a hybrid system allows communicators to playback a pre-built sequence of elements, including video files, graphics, text, animation and live television. Those staples of digital signage are the makings of an effective message that entices interaction with the very flat panel on which the content plays.

Once viewers touch the panel or step within its proximity, the hybrid sign automatically interrupts linear content playback and displays a digital kiosk-like interface that lets a shopper touch hot spots on the screen, launching a pre-built interactive branching presentation. Navigating through the presentation, shoppers can find the information they want like product recommendations, pricing and availability.

Depending upon the level of sophistication needed, such hybrid interactive presentations can link to company's servers, pulling information needed for the presentation and collecting information about the consumer that can be stored on the server.

For instance, a hybrid system at an automotive retailer could send an inquiry to the store's server to access a database of recommended filters and oil viscosity specified by each car manufacturer. Matching information the customer entered about his car with the recommendations in the database, the system could check inventory for the right products, retrieve availability and pricing and present the information to the shopper standing at the hybrid sign.

Prior to offering that information, the system could ask the shopper to enter his name and address and to grant permission to be notified of future specials. With that data saved on the server, the retailer's marketing department can automatically send out coupons for oil and filters when next estimated time for an oil change rolls around.

What enticed the shopper to touch the screen in the first place? Perhaps it was a video playing back in linear digital signage mode of a favorite racecar driver discussing why it's important to stay current on oil changes.

On the front end of customer interaction, the hybrid system cast a wide net, cycling through a playlist of content designed to sell oil, followed by tires, then batteries, air filters -the list goes on an on. Each linear segment is backed up by an interactive kiosk component that's triggered when a shopper's curiosity is piqued by one of these linear presentations and touches the screen. On the back end, the system uses data that's collected to stay in touch with shoppers once they leave the store, offering special incentives to have them return. In essence, hybrid digital signage can help to extend the marketing reach of a retailer well beyond arm's length from the display panel and into the homes of shoppers who are willing to interact.

Interactivity doesn't haven't to begin with a human touch either. Imagine a hybrid digital signage system in a ski shop at the base of mountain. Skiers donning their boots and gloves might see a digital sign in passing as it plays back linear content; however, their attention might be focused when temperature, wind and solar sensors at the top of the mountain report conditions and trigger specific presentations. Lots of sun could call up reminders about needing sun screen. Heavy snow might trigger another presentation that makes them think twice about leaving the store before having the right gloves or goggles.

The possibilities for interactive, hybrid digital signage are only as limited as the imagination of creative marketers. To be sure, this aspect of the digital signage market is in its infancy. However, with the recent availability of the hardware and software needed to bring together the separate worlds of kiosks and digital signage, hybrid systems will certainly play an important roll in the unfolding digital signage market.
About the Author
David Little is a digital signage authority with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to expand their marketing messages with alternative media. Visit http://www.keywesttechnology.com and find how you can expand your marketing horizons. For further insight, download my free white paper Why Digital Signage Works.
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