For the first time since World War 2, the proverb “necessity is the mother of invention” has bred new ideas and technologies at unprecedented and exponential speeds. Businesses across all industries have been forced to make a critical decision – adapt or die. And as part of the ongoing tactical execution associated with the will to move forward and thrive, we are going to see businesses, specifically in the retail and corporate environment, take steps to differentiate themselves so they can continue to succeed.
Throughout 2021, we are going to see tangible advancement in three specific areas.
AI and Consumer Personalization
The ability to integrate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) into a retailer’s overall customer experience will be critical to set themselves apart from competitors. Consumers are accustomed to having their digital world tailored to them, ranging from the adds displayed while browsing the internet to the shows that are recommended by Netflix. Shoppers want personalization — they no longer are OK with being seen as just another person, being forced to spend valuable time finding what is specific to them. Relevance and speed of service, ultimately delivering on improved customer satisfaction, are crucial to shopper engagement.
Digital signage is a critical component of this evolving retail ecosystem. In 2021 and beyond, we’re seeing the increased adoption of sensor data into the storefront marketing strategy. Retailers and marketers can tailor engagement, updating the message on the screen depending on the shopper’s proximity to the product or display. Further away will yield a more generic message aimed at a general audience. As the shopper approaches, the system gains more knowledge of key characteristics and displays a very targeted campaign. Basic sensor technology can accomplish this personalization with little effort, capturing attention and increasing interest.
It’s critical to consider consumer privacy concerns when developing this type of solution. Two approaches for personalization will emerge. First, and more broadly, sensors and data science can yield targeted content based on such characteristics as consumer age, sex and ethnicity. To receive a more personalized experience, they can opt-in via an app or website. Utilizing the data from an opt-in participant, physical retailers can echo ecommerce — customizing content specifically to that individual, down to their name and previous buying history.
The shift to remote learning, shopping and working has been necessary and unmistakable. That said, the physical space where people gather is still critically important and will be increasingly important in the near future, and there is a need for reconnection. Utilizing predictive data, environments can autonomously change depending on the desired mood of the occupants. Digital signage and display technology play a key role in conveying an atmosphere of calm or engagement when relevant. This is specifically valuable in a hospital or corporate lobby atmosphere where potentially large numbers of people may soon gather.
The challenging goal is to reconnect people back to the physical space. It’s no secret that a physical environment can have a substantial impact on a person’s feelings on your business. This can be an employee in a large corporate building or a shopper walking through a store. Utilizing data-bound software and displays, environments can be tailored with localized weather and news, real-time traffic information, wait times and other key messaging. Color schemes and imagery can change throughout the day to help elicit a certain mood or feeling. All of these are methods and technologies that are expected in 2021 and beyond, strengthening that intimacy and connection between space and person.
Parking Lot Monetization
As part of the “adapt or die” mantra, last year retailers and restaurants were required to accelerate their implementation of a safe and efficient curbside pickup strategy, keeping speed of service and customer satisfaction top of mind. As the next evolutionary phase of this strategy, they will move past the delivery of items and onto the personalization of that outdoor environment. The physical store/restaurant has virtually expanded into the parking lot, and they must now determine how best to engage the consumer in that space. As the consumer waits in their car for that 5-10 minutes, they are a captive audience in a closed area. How to retain, and ultimately build upon, that brand loyalty is the ongoing challenge and opportunity.
Digital displays and marketing can have a significant impact in this market. By utilizing the personalization techniques provided above, retailers and restaurants can offer upsell/cross-sell options based on their current purchase, for instance advertising upcoming promotion that would interest that shopper while they wait. Displays can show the consumer key metrics like the items in their order, wait time and their personal order in the pickup queue. If opted in, they can be presented with their personal loyalty rewards information and other previous search/buying history recommendations. Again, privacy concerns surrounding PII will need to be addressed, however not all solutions require sensitive data like consumer name, address. Further, the system can easily be monitored to show the return on investment that the retailer is achieving.
These continued challenging times require reinvention of norms and acceleration of strategies that deliver customer satisfaction in ways no one expected at the beginning of 2020. Now that we’re a few months into 2021, businesses will be required to innovate and evolve their platforms to both sustain a healthy bottom line and also meet the growing expectations of their consumer base. Digital signage technology will continue to be an integral part of this strategy.
Rob Aita is an experienced Product Management professional with a unique combination of deep technical expertise and strong business acumen. Before moving into the financial technology industry, Rob started his career in cellular telecom where he developed a network-based cellular location platform for some of America’s largest cellular brands. In the financial technology industry, he focused on integration solutions for a financial planning platform, as well as, developing a new REST-based API framework to allow for data externalization. Since joining Scala in early 2020, he has overseen the releases of two key software platforms, Enterprise 12 and Scala Designer Cloud. He is recognized for a strategic and forward-looking approach to existing products and new market introductions, with focus always on innovation.