From retail to strategy

COVID has changed the way we shop. E-commerce now accounts for 37% of retail sales, up from 27% before the pandemic. However, any rumors of physical retail disappearing are premature. Last year, the growth rate of brick-and-mortar retail outpaced that of online shopping, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Buyer behaviors indicate that people can buy just about anything online, but if they have a choice, they don’t always want to.

That should be a relief for physical operators, but it’s no guarantee of future success. The great strength of in-person shopping is experience, while e-commerce shines with convenience. Some of the biggest companies in the world – Apple, Meta, Google, Amazon and many more – are working to close the online experience gap. If the dream of the metaverse is fully realized, e-commerce sellers will be able to offer joint shopping experiences that rival the real world.

To counter, traditional retailers need to counter by increasing the convenience of in-person shopping while maintaining and improving their in-store customer experience. There is no better tool to help retailers achieve this goal than digital signage. Let’s explore the top five visual communication apps to stay competitive in the age of digital shopping.

Advertising and promotions

Digital signage offers a dynamic, effective and engaging way to reach customers, offering many advantages over traditional print and web advertising. Moving graphics such as animations, videos, and slideshows make digital signage activations much more eye-catching and result in better ROI year over year. And, because content can be refreshed at will, displays offer more long-term value and versatility than stagnant signs. Digital displays can be effectively personalized by location and designed for interactivity, bringing relevance and power to convert sales that rival online advertisements.

A long-cited barrier to entry for digital signage has always been content management. It’s a barrier that has crumbled in recent years: today’s best CMS solutions do much of the design work for the user, allowing more retailers to create, distribute, analyze and update content. Retailers can add their branding (logos, colors, and fonts) to the system to quickly create and deploy unified, professional-looking content across their stores and across locations.

Many CMS vendors make campaigns more effective with one-click interactive elements: in minutes, retailers can create promotions that allow customers to book an appointment with an associate, instantly download an offer to their mobile phone or order an item directly from the store. Retailers of all sizes – from individual stores to national brands – can leverage modern digital signage to drive conversions and align with current goals.

Interactive experiences

In-person retail has always had an experiential advantage over e-commerce due to both its social nature and the ability to explore products in person before purchasing. Online retailers are investing heavily in technology to mitigate this advantage. Already, furniture and apparel companies are using 3D models and AR apps to let customers view products online on their own bodies or in their own homes. They are also pumping billions into metaverse features that will allow customers to shop together online in the future.

Two can play this game. Physical retailers can create immersive, interactive in-store experiences that are far more compelling than anything on a mobile phone screen. A large-scale video wall or a wrap-around video projection feature always draws attention. Now, in Customer Experience Centers, innovative retailers can create personalized and interactive experiences that close premium sales. Using touch, gestures, mobile or a control kiosk, customers can navigate large-scale virtual worlds surrounded by images of the product, solution or space they are considering. At the same time, they can continue to benefit from the personal and human support and advice of qualified sellers. It’s the future of luxury in the retail experience.

Orientation

While continuing to innovate on the experience, retailers must also close the convenience gap. Going digital is one of the most effective ways to make shopping in person as easy as shopping online. A digital in-store directory can help customers navigate shelves and find what they’re looking for quickly, even after a reorganization.

For shopping malls and mixed-use destinations, digital wayfinding can help users navigate complex destinations with confidence, with 3D maps and personalized turn-by-turn directions that can be instantly downloaded to the user’s phone. Kiosks and wayfinding can also share a digital backend with advertising and promotion systems, and sync with events or sales calendars. By connecting the system to existing inventory database APIs, retailers can allow users to instantly check if an item is in stock and where it is, or order it for in-store pickup if it is currently exhausted. These digital maps and integrations can be automatically updated in real time for accurate information and a frustration-free shopping experience.

Behind the house

The human touch is a tremendous asset for brick-and-mortar retailers, making it extremely important to invest in the work experience of retail employees. The same unified content backend that drives the customer experience can also be leveraged to inform and unite retail staff. Retailers can send important communications to employees through screens, kiosks, or mobile apps to keep associates informed while on the go.

By integrating digital signage with business intelligence tools like BI360, teams can monitor KPIs and adjust their tactics to ensure they are hitting their targets. In retail applications that require a high degree of employee expertise and guidance to close deals, associates can use digital signage to schedule meetings and book a room, or even send invitations to colleagues directly from teaches it. A visual communication system is an essential tool to help sales teams offer up-to-date customer advice and work together to achieve localization goals.

Analytic

One of the main reasons for the exponential growth of e-commerce is the online retailer’s ability to leverage analytics to learn more about their customers. By following a digital breadcrumb, e-commerce businesses can understand how customers navigate their site, how much time they spend reviewing their purchases, what content drives the most clicks and sales, and more. Interactive digital signage gives physical stores the same advantage.

Using a modern CMS, every click on a digital signage network can be recorded and analyzed to learn more about customer behavior. Retailers can use their signage analytics to understand what customers are looking for, which locations see the most traffic, which ads are most appealing, and more. This information can help them iterate their content approach for ads and promotions; optimize store layouts by examining travel patterns; and schedule activations by identifying the most popular times and locations. Digital signage can help retailers shape their strategy for tomorrow, while improving the customer experience today.

Digital signage is an invaluable tool for making physical shopping appealing in the age of the multiverse, and in-person retailers must remain vigilant and innovative to compete with evolving e-commerce experiences. Ultimately, with the right content management system and a strategic approach, digital experiences are a rising tide that can increase both physical and online sales.

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