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Interactive Digital Signage: Staying In Touch With Success


If adding interactivity to your digital signage communications mix hasn’t been top of mind, it’s time to reevaluate and give serious consideration to tackling touch-screen technology.

To be sure, not all digital signage uses call for interactivity, but many signs employed today for simple wayfinding, retail promotion and other applications can leverage touch-screen interactivity to better serve the informational needs of viewers and in so doing better deliver a communications experience more in line with the goals of the enterprise.

Reconsidering the role of interactivity in digital signage messaging has taken on added urgency recently as consumers buy and fall in love with touch-screen gadgets like the Apple iPad and even touch-screen PCs.

Consider the latest statistics on touch screens from market research organization iSuppli. Shipments of touch screens for devices like Apple’s iPad are expected to rise nearly 5,000 percent to 8.9 million this year, according to an iSuppli forecast. That’s up from 176,000 in 2009. By 2013, the research company projects shipments to increase sevenfold to 63.9 million units.

The popularity of touch-screen interactivity isn’t restricted to iPads and iPad competitors in the pipeline. According to iSuppli, the personal computer touch screen market is expected to grow 242 percent this year.

As consumers by the millions adopt PCs and tablet-type computers with touch screens, their expectations about technology are likely to evolve. Where once no one would give second thought to a wayfinding digital sign other than absorbing the directions being conveyed, it’s entirely likely wayfinding viewers of the near future will wonder why they can’t touch the screen, call up a more detailed map and touch highlights along their route to learn more about them.

The number of consumers looking for greater interactivity with retail digital signs also is likely to climb as the number of touch-screen tablet device owners grows. With touch screen interactivity becoming a growing habit, why wouldn’t shoppers expect to do something as iPad-like as dragging a digital sweater from one interactive shelf and a pair of slacks from another onto a virtual mannequin to see whether or not they match?

Taking this type of interactivity to the next level, why shouldn’t traditional digital signage offer touch-screen interactivity via the very tablet computers, like the iPad, that are driving the explosive growth in the touch-screen market? After all, iPads come with either 3G and/or WiFi connectivity built in. Giving an iPad permission to take temporary control of a digital sign in a retail store would let a customer benefit from the interface they know and love on their tablets and the 42- or 50-inch display that delivers larger, more impactful images that better emulate the real world.

Digital signage communicators who ignore the forecast of explosive growth in touch-screen enabled devices do so at their own peril. To be sure, not all digital signage applications are appropriate for interactivity, but the ubiquitous presence of consumer devices controlled via touch screens demands a serious reevaluation of digital signage communications strategies.

Now is the time to begin that reexamination because it may be too late to make a strategic shift once 64 million touch-screen devices are in the hands of consumers worldwide. Launching a review today will let digital signage communicators proactively plan to take advantage of this tidal wave in touch-screen familiarity rather than flat-footedly responding to this likely sea change in consumer expectations.

David Little is a charter member of the Digital Screenmedia Association with 20 years of experience helping professionals use technology to effectively communicate. For further digital signage insight from Keywest Technology, visit our website for many helpful tips and examples. For more in-depth research from Keywest Technology, download our free digital signage white papers and case studies.