Expanding on Touchscreen Types and Smartphones (Part II)


Let’s face it, whether retailers like it or not, shoppers today are armed with smartphones. And many are armed with price-comparison shopping apps. A consumer who uses a smart phone when shopping does so for two main reasons: for price comparison, and to get additional information on a product. You can’t stop them, so you should embrace it. All a consumer has to do is scan the barcode of an item, or enter the product description with their smart phone, and it will pull up information on the product, as well as competitive pricing, all within seconds.

A retailer can dominate the shopper’s smartphone time use by helping the shopper get additional information easily by using QR codes. QR code (stands for “quick response”) is a mobile-phone readable barcode. QR codes can be scanned form distances. A retailer encodes a URL (universal resource locator) image, and makes it visible on the displayed message. All a shopper has to do is aim their phone at the QR code, and with their smartphone’s QR code decoding app, it will respond. Using QR codes has become very popular—you even see them on print materials: ads, brochures, business cards, outdoor signs, etc.

A QR code can direct consumers to a web page, an SMS message, V-Card, or even show a short video clip. The smartphone scanning device will respond by opening up the correct application the retailer embedded into the QR code.

A consumer will only spend a limited amount of time with their smartphone to look up additional information. So if a retailer were to dominate their smartphone time inviting the consumer to scan their QR code displayed on the digital-signage message, there is a good chance that consumers might not search elsewhere on the web, which can lead to purchasing the item. It’s much faster and easier for the shopper to scan a QR code than to type numbers or words into a search engine.

By placing QR codes onto your digital signs, a retailer can direct the shopper or visitors to:

  • Additional product details
  • Retailer’s website
  • Competitor price comparisons
  • Contact details
  • Offer details
  • Event details
  • Coupon offerings
  • Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
  • A link to a YouTube video
  • A link to a survey
  • A contest
  • Opt-in subscription, or
  • Show a short video clip

If you are a low-price retailer, you might even want to show real-time price comparisons from competitors. Retailers who use QR codes can make it much easier for consumers to get additional information. Adding a QR code can be a deterrent from consumers using shopping apps, because you have dominated their smartphone time.

Light-based QR Codes

Fujitsu has just developed a scannable, light-based QR code. The new, scannable, light-based QR codes are discernible to a phone camera, but not to the human eye. Viewers would still have to point their phone toward the display to receive more information. According to Fujitsu, this technology would enable brands to embed coupons or URLs into their digital signs, and distribute the additional information from the display directly to viewers’ smartphones. Viewers could scan and receive the coupons from two-to-three meters away. One of the advantages of light-based QR codes is that they don’t take up real estate on the screen, like a standard QR code image does.

SMS Marketing

SMS stands for “short message service,” and it is different from QR codes. It uses a smartphone SMS texting application. Placing an SMS number (phone number or common short code) on your signage messages will allow the consumer to interact and send an instant message to the retailer. This can be used to get shoppers’ feedback: texting comments, voting, entering a contest, newsletter signups, receive coupons, special announcements, etc.

SMS and QR codes are simple concepts to add to your digital signage. It also provides a way for the retailer to gauge the results of the messages to determine if they are relevant. And, best of all, these concepts don’t add any additional cost to hardware or content. Most consumers are comfortable using these technologies, and this is one of the reasons they purchased smartphones.

Common Short Codes

SMS messaging is done using a 10-digit phone number. But there is another way, called common short codes (CSCs). A CSC is a number to which a text message can be sent. A short code is five to six digits vs. a 10-digit telephone number. For example, a short code could be 55322.

A CSC is leased for a period of three, six or 12 months for a fee of $500 per month for a “Random CSC” and a fee of $1,000 a month for a “Selected CSC.” For more information on CSCs, go to www.usshortcodes.com.

Smartphones are just another canvas for the retailer to communicate and interact with the consumer. Interaction with smartphones and digital signs is quickly catching on in retail. As time goes on, there will be many more unique interaction applications using smartphones and tablets to interact with digital signage.

Besides using phones to interact with digital signs, there are still other ways to interact without actually touching the display.

Motion Sensors

A motion sensor is an add-on feature to digital-signage players. It is used to start and stop playing signage based on the activity around it. A motion sensor can be programmed to start playing content when someone walks up to, or by a display. Once the sensor detects a person within its programmed boundaries, it begins to play. Once a person leaves this area, the signage player goes into a sleep mode.

The motion sensor is plugged into the signage player’s USB or RS232 connector. Sensors are great to use if your digital signage has audio. It cuts down on repeating audio if no one is there to watch. This is much better for your employees, who find it annoying listening to the signage audio repeat throughout the day.

Motion sensors are also used in creative marketing campaigns. As an example, a consumer can be walking down an aisle lined with displays. As the consumer starts walking by each monitor, the monitors come alive. The displays can all be synced to follow the consumer with an ongoing message. The end result can be a very impressive use of digital signage, and an enjoyable experience for the consumer.

If you plan on using motion sensors, make sure your signage player can handle this feature.

Trigger Sensors

Today, more signage CMS companies are incorporating the ability to use special content-trigger sensors with their software. This technology identifies items that are lifted, moved or even touched, and immediately plays a corresponding message on a nearby screen. Tiny sensors get attached to an item. When a customer interacts with the product, the contacts are broken, and the player software triggers the correct content to be shown.

Some retail applications for this interactive technology: a shopper lifts a clothes’ hanger from a rail, and a supported video, linked to the item of clothing, is displayed on one of the nearby screens. Someone picks up a product to examine it, and product information is immediately shown on a screen in front of them. It can also be used to sell accessories, or related products. For example, a shopper walks into another area of the store with a product in their shopping cart. The sensor triggers content on nearby screens as the customer walks down aisles of related products, or accessories. This technology is a powerful new tool for retailers that will continue to make advances.

About Author

David Bawarsky, DSCE, is the author of Digital Signage Made Simple for Retailers. He has more than 35 years of experience in helping thousands of companies use technology to effectively communicate their unique marketing messages. He is currently the CEO of mySignageNow, a leading provider of digital signage solutions. He has been a technology entrepreneur throughout his career, creating and managing successful media companies. His companies have won many awards, including an “OBIE” (outdoor advertising’s Oscar) and has been featured in more than 1,900 newspapers, magazines and TV shows worldwide, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, CNN, BBC, NBC’s “Today Show,” and ABC’s “World News Tonight.” For more information, visit www.DigitalSignageMadeSimple.com

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