How to turn digital signage into an interactive marketing medium

We spoke at the Digital Signage Summit Europe in Munich about digital signage as a true marketing medium. We had a packed room and a lot of good reactions and that proves interactivity is a hot item right now.
We’ll explain in a minute why interactivity is so important us. But first a small quiz. Did you ever wonder how many digital
signage displays are interactive? So did we. So we decided to count all the screen types that we were able to interact with on our way from Brussels to Munich airport. We counted all the displays we were able to touch, react to, get content from, send content to using our smartphone or even gestures. 4 out of 44 screens proved to be interactive. That’s less than 10%. Surprised? We weren’t.


The millennial generation is way past mass media consumption, and to be frank the previous generations aren’t that far behind in letting go of one-size-fits-all media.

The millennials, and to be frank even the generations after them to some extent, also know they can get it cheaper — just about whatever *it* is — online, so they want an experience when they go brick-and-mortar shopping.

If brands can’t or don’t accept those two facts and work to engage customers on an individual level and to provide them with a unique experience, they’re going to be left behind. It’s pretty much that simple.

So it’s a good thing that providing those two also can be pretty simple with digital signage.

But creating an interactive customer experience doesn’t just benefit brands, retailers, restaurants, etc. by appealing to shoppers, it also provides analytics that can be critical to optimizing the reach and impact of their message.nativeadv_doohapps_200w (1)

“If it is interactive, it will engage more, and it will increase the impact of your message, and you will also be able to measure it,” said Frederik De Wachter, co-founder of DOOHapps, which bills itself as the first interactive application store for the digital out-of-home industry. “If you’re not doing this, you’re missing a big part of the value of these displays.”

Today’s consumers, especially the younger ones, no longer are content to passively consume whatever content is handed them, De Wachter said in a recent interview. Rather, they are creating and sharing content, starting conversations and expecting to be listened to.

“We have to realize as businesses that people, all of them, are walking around with a smartphone in their pocket,” he said, “and to them its its become the most important screen in the world, so the step to use that ingredient to allow interactions with the display is just a very small step.”

Which is just part of why it’s so important to make customer experiences interactive.

Echoing De Wachter, there are four benefits for deployers when providing shoppers with interactive experiences, according to Dan Trotzer, vice president of business operations, Pump Media, for Verifone Media:

  • – In a data-driven world, an interactive experience provides tangible means of measuring efficacy. If people are interacting, your objective is measurable and working. If they aren’t interacting, you have the ability to quickly deploy a different experience;
  • – An interactive experience creates voluntary action – it makes the experience more relevant to a customer’s own interests, while simultaneously building loyalty since you’re delivering what the customer wants;
  • – It moves customers through a self-selected sales funnel; and
  • – It enables two-way communication between deployer and customer; it moves customers from awareness and passiveness, to engagement and dialogue.

And the most important key to making an experience interactive? Making it easy to use, De Wachter says.

“The interaction must be designed in such a way that it does not need to be explained, and the number of technological barriers must be really, really limited,” he said.

For instance, De Wachter says he’s seen some unwieldy deployments out in the field using a Microsoft Kinect as, essentially, a kind of gesture-based computer mouse to navigate through the experience. Much more effective, he said, is having a Kinect-equipped display react to the fact that someone is passing by or standing in front of it and change content based on that. Then perhaps take an opportunity to engage with them on their mobile device through social media apps such as Twitter or Instagram.

“So there’s zero to learn, but there’s 100 percent of effect,” he said, adding that he knows it works because DOOHapps has been measuring such deployments and seeing their efficacy. “If it’s interactive it’s also, almost by definition, measurable.”

One test DOOHapps ran compared interactive and non-interactive movie displays promoting upcoming movies.

“The impact was huge,” De Wachter said. “In the case that we’re talking about, we had almost 12 times the number of people that were standing in front of the display, and also the dwell time, so the period of time that people were looking at the screen was much longer, almost tenfold.”

According to Trotzer, there are some key considerations for determining the best way to make an experience interactive. First, he said, it’s crucial for deployers to use data for “an enhanced and optimized” interactive customer experience. Second, they need to be smart about where in the customer journey they deploy it.

“Deployers can leverage data to understand the end-to-end experience and identify the right point in the buying process to implement an interactive customer experience,” he said. “For example, where is there a ‘pause point’? Customers need time to interact versus getting something interactive thrust upon them during the buying process. A ‘pause point’ might be at the gas pump, or the convenience store check-out line.”

DeWachter said DOOHapps looks at it like a marketing medium. “So our first idea is to try to grab their attention; the second one is to invite people to engage and to interact to join the conversation.”

By tapping into mobile and social, he said, deployers also can get shoppers to participate more actively in the process by sending in user-generated content such as tweets to a particular hashtag – which can also be measured for reach.

“So you can almost treat this as a marketing funnel, where first you they to measure their attention as its going toward the screen, then you try to measure the engagement and finally you try to measure the number of views. So how many times did your message pass by both in front of the screen and by social media?” he said. “And that by itself is just to prove that digital signage more and more can be seen as an interactive marketing medium, just as we’re used to working with mobile advertising and online advertising.”

And as important as this kind of easy interactivity is for the end-customer, it’s just as important to make it just as easy for the end-user deployer to use it, De Wachter said.

“The typical digital signage user is not a technical person anymore; it is a marketer or digital native. Therefore it makes sense to speak their language, work with very simple user interfaces and make sure the sometimes technically challenging interactions are very easy to set up,” he said. “We do this by working with applications that serve certain goals — think of social walls, voting, polls, etc. — and with templates that are almost ready to go. Or we do it by showing the reporting in a way that is very comparable with popular insights such as Google Analytics — proving that digital signage in fact is more and more comparable to any other online interactive marketing medium.”