For instance, Sonic Drive-In, in partnership with Mastercard and self-serve kiosk company Zivelo, installed AI-powered, voice-activated menu boards at several locations to interact with customers, take orders and offer weather, time-of-day and location-specific menu suggestions.
Ultimately, integrated voice technology is only as effective as the AI algorithms that power the platform. But with the rapid advancement of AI technologies, including breakthroughs in conversational AI that foster a positive customer experience, now is a good time for retailers to make digital signage with voice integration part of their go-forward plans.
3. NFC, RFID and AR for Personalization and Customization
An “alphabet soup” of acronyms, these embedded technologies power new ways for digital signage user engagement that feel custom-tailored to meet their personal needs.
NFC (near field communication), which powers short-range wireless communications between devices, is the tech that allows tap-and-go credit cards and phones to complete a transaction via mobile wallet by holding the card or phone near the POS device. As phone-based NFC technology has become more widely adopted by consumers, other technologies, including digital signage, have started to employ it.
NFC can create one or two-way communications between a customer’s mobile phone and a digital sign. With one quick tap, a customer can get more information on a product or receive a discount offer via digital signage. Or shoppers can get data “to go” — for example, by having directions, maps, size charts, recipes or other information transferred via NFC onto their mobile devices.
Alternatively, embedding NFC in products allows retailers to put the physical digital display in the customers’ hands, delivering signage content straight to their cell phones. In one example, Adidas included an NFC tag on its 2018 World Cup soccer ball. Tapping a phone to the ball generated personalized content, including product details, challenges and contests — all in the palm of the customer’s hand.
While NFC creates a personalized experience, it also mitigates some privacy concerns. For instance, customers are more comfortable using their smartphones to enter and secure contact information than they are using a kiosk. In retail environments like pharmacies, NFC can help verify patient identity via mobile device before launching privacy-sensitive applications on a digital screen.
Like NFC, RFID can trigger signage to alter based on something brought close to it. The RFID-equipped fitting room mirrors at the Ralph Lauren flagship store in Manhattan “recognize” the clothing items the customer has selected to try on. The mirror/screen then features product information and engagement opportunities, like other available sizes and colors or the ability to contact an associate for assistance — all with a single touch.
Cosmetics retailer Sephora creates a similar, customized engagement with shoppers through the use of AR (augmented reality) that enables customers to see what products will look like on their faces. In select store locations, Sephora combines AR with RFID technology on individual products: customers merely present the lip or lash product at the display and generate an image of how it appears when applied.
An efficient and highly customized experience, this implementation also demonstrates how leading-edge digital signage can continue to mitigate hygiene concerns that are likely to linger, even as we emerge from the pandemic.
Over the past year, consumers have adopted new shopping habits and expectations that they will carry with them as they venture back to stores. Demand for real-time information, convenience and hygiene has not replaced the fundamental desire for a satisfying, personalized shopping experience. With the right implementation of leading-edge technologies, digital signage can address all of those needs and create an engaging, positive customer experience that will keep them coming back.
Jeff Bradbury is senior marketing director at Hughes Network Systems.