There have been many trends throughout the years that have reshaped the way people communicate. Today we are experiencing such a trend in the form of a growing prevalence of digital signage.
The history of signage most likely begins with the first primitive men that scrawled images on cave walls. However, the first digital signs did not exist until the modern age.
In order to establish a historical starting point, it’s important to understand what the term “digital signage” means. Before the first digital displays came along, retailers used analog displays. This means that the information was stored in analog media such as VHS tape. When digital media became available, primarily in the form of DVDs, the first digital signage displays came into being.
The modern digital displays that are prevalent today have only been around for about five or six years, but the term “digital signage” was coined in 1992 in reference to a network of video walls in UK shopping centers. In the beginning years of digital displays, both VHS and DVD content were displayed on CRT monitors, the old type of tube televisions that people used before flat panels entered the market.
When flat-panel displays became more affordable in the early 2000s, retailers immediately began using them in their stores. The sight of an ad in high quality video was far more impressive than the typical paper posters and banners. As flat panel displays rapidly dropped in price, they became more prevalent to the point where they were the norm in most mainstream retail stores.
Soon more types of displays became affordable, including LED, plasma, projection screens and organic LED (OLED). As the image quality of signage displays improved, retailers began to see its impact on customers.
The next major advancement was computer-based players. With these media players, signage became more advanced, delivering more dynamic content that was centrally controlled and easily updated. Consequently, retailers began replacing DVDs and Blu-ray discs with computer-driven players.
When digital displays became commonplace, their impact on the public began to decrease. The market was ready for further innovation to make displays more than just an advertisement on a screen; therefore, a new advancement came along in the form of interactive display technology.
Interactive displays are the hallmark of today’s new signage. The most common interactive feature is touchscreen technology. This feature improves customer engagement and makes the experience more memorable. Touchscreens enable customers to search for information about a product or provide rewards and incentives. Shoppers can also use them to scan QR codes for freebies or play mini games that fuse promotional content with entertainment.
Another recent advancement in digital displays is social network integration. As people are frequently using social media to take selfies, send tweets and update Facebook status, this is a natural step forward. Some companies are displaying their social media channel in real time as customers interact with their displays.
For example, some restaurants post displays outside their front door where customers can see real-time conversations about the food and quality of service. While diners are waiting to be seated, they can participate on social media and see their tweets or comments displayed on the screen.
Technology has rapidly changed the look and experience of the retail environment, but in the future, new trends are likely to make today’s displays seem outdated. Digital signs have come a long way and they are sure to keep getting more engaging and innovative as technology improves.