Author Lars
Published on September 12, 2016

A simple guide to digital signage content for retailers

Digital signage setups can vary from a single consumer TV to a collection of displays the size of a building. As a result, the content or content creating process can differ widely from case to case. However, all of them end up creating an experience. The content then functions as a vehicle for that experience, enabling businesses to connect with their customers — and that’s what this article is about.

Simple guide to digital signage content for retailers

Morgan Stanley’s current Times Square setup covers more than 1200m². The potential is immense: the content shown there can touch millions of people. By coordinating screens, they have the power to create experiences so powerful they sweep people off their feet.

It’s not an easy feat. To build this breathtaking show of force, Morgan Stanley has employed an army of producers, designers, animators, and developers.

They make full use of the display real-estate: the content is compelling, immersive, and beautifully animated. It’s a truly memorable, cinematic digital signage masterpiece.

Building it wasn’t a walk in the park by any measure. The process took a full 9 months to complete. Apart from promos & brand-related content, there are means to display animated, real-time streams that consume financial data from Bloomberg.

To top it off, the generated content is tailored to an ever-changing audience.

With some clever automation, 1800 blocks of content are shown over a 19-hour period.

Are all digital signage content creators expected to do the same? Certainly not — and for obvious reasons. Morgan Stanley has enough resources to pull it off. Is a simple digital signage setup set to fail then? Is it a waste of resources? Most likely, no. Digital signage can deliver a memorable experience even on a simple setup (even on an average, consumer display).

The outcome depends on how well a digital signage publisher is able to maximize the potential of her digital signage setup, delivering the best possible experience for her audience at a given time.

To wrap up this section, imagine Morgan Stanley using their displays to only show their logo.

Sure enough, that wouldn’t make for a good experience. It would be a waste of resources, to say the least.

The guide

One might argue Morgan Stanley is not in retail. Be that as it may, there is a strong, yet the simple idea behind it which applies to most industries, especially retail. Digital signage enables companies to create experiences. Needless to say, just by using digital signage, you won’t necessarily create a compelling experience. Think of displays used for wayfinding or scheduling — many are strictly utilitarian. Creating an experience requires detailed planning, so that’s where you start. Coordinate with marketing and make digital signage part of your strategy, not an addition to it.

Why it is so important to focus on experience? There’s no math to it, thinking of a brand as a set of experiences will increase the perceived value of its products. Moreover, it can increase the perceived functionality or aesthetics of certain products. Evidently, that can result in higher revenue, provided that the resources spent on building the experience don’t exceed the added value. Most importantly, experiences are means to create loyal customers. This, in fact, is true to other industries, not only digital signage (I’ll expand on this in a future post).

Now for the simple guide (might be an overstatement):

Rich sensory experiences are the obvious choice in retail. Jargon aside, videos, animated content, interactive content — that is the key to maximizing the potential of digital signage.

Thinking to use digital signage to display your logo? You’re missing out. The easiest way to grow a positive attitude towards your brand is via experiences that people feel part of, built on emotional, evocative content.

To simplify, consider the visual explanation below. Content is split into two categories.

Visual explanation - Digital Signage Content

Whereas both categories are capable of delivering promotional and presentational content, it’s much simpler to create emotional reactions through B.; similarly, it’s much easier to create functional content and generate cognitive reactions through A.

In a sense oversimplified (but valid nonetheless), the essence of a compelling experience is illustrated via category B. — it can deliver emotional reactions, create content & brand impressions at any step, where’s A. can’t.

Hopefully, this explains why the Morgan Stanley logo-only content made a weaker impression, while the animation on the same setup made a much stronger one.