Comment: How digital signage is generating a retail 'wow factor'

Everyone in retail can benefit from a 'wow factor' – whether in two dimensions or three. It can be an amazing building or a dazzling piece of technology that simply gets you staring until you have worked out what it is.

So far, this year’s RBTE and RDSE has impressed me with some of the best digital signage technologies I have seen in a few years of attending trade shows, many having a powerful element of interactivity.

Along with many others at Olympia, I found myself captivated by a 3D holographic system producing projections which I can foresee gaining uptake in say, car showrooms. These are detailed 3D images above a glass plate, providing a revolving 360-degree view. Yet they are outside any case and to experience them you don’t need to don augmented or virtual reality goggles or headsets. And the remarkable aspect of this technology is that hand gestures make it possible to “scroll” through the image, examining it or extracting information as you wish.

This is the kind of 'wow-factor' technology that creative people in retail can seize and apply in ways that many of us cannot yet imagine. I can, however, see that even now anyone walking into premises making this technology available would want to use it.

I was also intrigued at another stand by an incredible 3D image that appeared to hover in mid-air against a velvety black background, illuminated by spinning LED fans.  Apart from defying gravity, the image certainly stopped me in my tracks and although it may not necessarily be a promotional tool for individual products, it was so arresting I can see it having application in bars and restaurants.

With all this excitement about three dimensions, it was reassuring to see that working in just two is still no barrier to innovation or spectacle. Lumitrix demonstrated how digital signage can be put to work on a grand scale, with complex projections not just on the exteriors of buildings but also inside. When I was present, the subject was a bike, the colour, design and configuration of which could be altered using an app, but which also could be altered by customers using hand gestures.  This was very clever. Sensors pick up hand movements as you gesture towards buttons or dials on the projection, turning the image into a giant tablet device. It’s an application of signage technology that may well save a retailer, such as a cycle chain, the amount of stock it has to hold on individual premises.

Finally (at least for day one of the show), I confess that any technology that flatters my age will always get my vote. The fact that it did, perhaps reflects that it still may need a little refining, but nonetheless, the video analytics I saw demonstrated at the Beabloo stand convinced me that this technology is advancing and starting to live up to the hype.

Whereas once the claims made for shopper-tracking solutions supplied by other purveyors fell down when customers moving around a store could only be identified by gender, now they seem capable of picking up a wealth of intelligence. Dwell-time, what customers are looking at or failing to notice, their age and even their facial expression and mood are all detected and analysed. The benefits in terms of altering layouts and promotions seem obvious if such systems really can work in a genuine set of bricks-and-mortar premises.

It is fair to say that having a few years shaved off my age was a good top-up to a first day spent examining maturing technologies such as video analytics that now look more likely to deliver for retailers. A very positive experience.