In discussing trends for digital signage, almost all industry leaders listed a move to 4k screens as a major concern in 2015 and beyond. The growing use of digital signs in non-retail and creative niches, including art and hospitality, make better image quality important. But higher-quality screens and bigger imaging aren’t the only concerns for digital signage: the accessibility of the platform makes it possible to launch digital signage in a variety of locations and interactive formats, creating opportunities for uses throughout businesses and organizations in every industry. While many of these uses are possible today, continuing innovations will make some uses more prevalent throughout 2016.

Consumer Engagement and Regulatory Compliance: In Restaurants and Beyond

With the FDA requiring restaurant chains with more than 20 locations to provide calorie counts on all menu items—and the public becoming more interested in nutritional content overall—digital signage offers a way to educate patrons without spoiling ambiance with large paper handouts or posters full of black-and-white tables. Digital signs can be customized with mouth-watering images as well as information about nutritional content, and restaurants can use smaller screens to provide information at tables or booths.

Combine digital signage with menu apps, and patrons can customize menus prior to ordering to see how various options changes nutritional content. The diabetic can reduce sugar content by removing ice cream from the brownie a la mode, and someone watching salt intake can find out how a salad’s sodium content fairs when cheese and croutons are removed.

Small screens for consumer engagement or compliance aren’t limited to restaurants. Retail organizations can place small screens in various departments to advertise specific products or provide education. Digital screens might explain how to select the right car parts or provide inspirational ideas on using home décor. Hotels can convert smaller screens already in the room—the televisions—into digital signage with a channel that displays information, pictures, and videos about hotel amenities, local tourism, and food options.

Interactive Instruction: Hospitality, Attractions, Tourism, and Retail

Digital signage reduces crowding in any location where people regularly move through; signs not only direct tourists and others along paths, but they also they save organizations money on labor. While a static “you are here” map provides some direction for visitors in a theme-park, mall, or other location, digital signs can deliver engaging, interactive service that makes visitors feel more at home.

  • Use digital signs at welcome areas and throughout museums, attractions, retail areas, zoos, and even libraries.
  • Program signs with interactive displays to enhance static exhibits or provide video of a person stating important information such as the location of restrooms, visiting hours, and ticket prices.

Growing technology in the digital signage industry means organizations can begin customizing visitor experiences with signs. Cameras and facial recognition software let you capture demographics about your audience so you can tailor future content appropriately. Soon, organizations will be able to program digital signage to react to the immediate audience, displaying pertinent information for age, gender, or other demographics.

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People with children might see information about the petting zoo first, for example, or be provided with data about kid’s pricing. Tailored signage creates efficiencies for visitors and puts the emphasis on information that is likely most important to the immediate audience.

Digital Changing Rooms and Customer Support Kiosks

Using technology such as touchscreens, digital signage can deliver even more interactive experiences. Recently, Rebecca Minkoff and eBay partnered to bring interactive signage to a New York city retailer. Signs and touchscreen displays were merged with mirrors in dressing and shopping areas. The screens expand browsing capabilities beyond the store’s physical stock, but they also make custom services possible for a luxury shopping experience. Patrons can use the touchscreen to let associates know they’ll need a dressing room soon, ask for beverages, or change lighting styles in the area. That last one solves a major problem plaguing dressing rooms for years: patrons can now see themselves in a variety of lighting to make clothing purchases a more exact science.

The same technology could be deployed in almost any industry through customer support kiosks and other stations. You might not deploy screens in a mirror, but transit stations could make use of window panels and hospitals could provide interactive displays along corridors. Imagine a family member seeking their loved one’s room after an accident or waiting for the good news about a new baby. Hospital hallways are usually long and winding: interactive digital signage can reduce stress, create a more welcoming atmosphere, and provide necessary information.

As content management systems become more sophisticated, locations such as schools, hospitals, and hotels can even tailor content specific to a single person. Interactive displays might allow individuals to login to digital signs for personalized announcements. Hotel patrons can find out if turn-down service occurred in their rooms and family and friends waiting on a new baby might be surprised with a birth announcement that includes height and weight.

Digital Maître d’: Hotel, Hospital, Retail, and Museum

Innovations in interactive screen technology make it increasingly possible to use displays in a way that mimics or verges on artificial intelligence. Hospitality and other industries can even provide digital Maître d’s. Current signage won’t have the same flexibility and capability as a person, but signs can help take pressure off a single staff member or provide some services in off-hours.

Digital Maître d’s could provide information about a location, services, or area. The University of Massachusetts uses digital signage in this manner in its Football Performance Center. A large digital signage display provides visitors with information about current and historical football teams and players. The display is interactive, letting visitors select from years of data and information. Since digital displays are as big as the content system and data-storage options backing them, the signs at the UMass Football Performance Center aren’t limited to players and coaches. The kiosk includes data about mascots, marching bands, and other football related items.

Coupling all of the interactive approaches above, organizations can create personalized experiences for consumers that increasingly mimic human interaction. Instruction, advertising, and entertainment are just some interactive possibilities—and organizations don’t have to stick with customers who are already in the building. You might display information about your organization street side with a QR code that lets mobile users capture a coupon or offer. An option for nonprofit organizations is to provide a short presentation about a cause with an interactive display that lets viewers sign up for an email newsletter for more information. Add a credit card reader to your sign, and you’ve got an automated retail or fundraising kiosk.

The current opportunities for using digital signage in all types of industry are growing. Technology innovations and consumer comfort levels with technology are expanding those opportunities daily.