Recently, I stayed in a hotel with my family. In the lobby when we arrived, there was an orange cone with a wooden stick attached to it and a sheet of 8 ½ x 11 printer paper with a sign directing the flow of traffic to the front desk. Someone who works in the digital signage industry would cringe at just the thought of seeing this. Even someone who doesn’t work in digital signage might, too.
That’s not to say the hotel wasn’t trying to effectively share a message. Another sign had a message about wearing a mask and keeping a six-foot distance from other guests. These signs communicated necessary information to keep my family safe. But from a customer experience perspective, they fell short. By implementing digital signage and other technologies in hospitality environments, businesses can elevate the customer experience. In the case of the orange cones, the hotel was trying to get the customer from Point A to Point B quickly and efficiently. Conveying safety messages on an easy-to-read digital sign that could also fade to messages to inform us of available services or dining options not only helps minimize anxiety but could help promote the hotel’s premium features. For example, digital signs stating “Indoor restaurant is closed due to COVID-19” or “Please enjoy our outdoor dining with individual firepits for each group/family” showcase the variety of amenities a hotel has to offer.
Location, location, location
The adage is true for the location of your business – and it’s just as true for the location of your digital signage. Where businesses place digital displays and information really depends on the information you need your customers and guests to know.
One trend we have seen throughout the pandemic is the installation of outward facing displays. A digital LED poster bright enough to be placed in the window where customers can see the information without even entering your business is ideal for keeping social distancing measures in place. For example, businesses can display messages like “Your order will be ready in 5 minutes” so your customer knows to not enter yet to “Capacity 99/100” to communicate the current queue status from line.
Positioning this information on an outward facing display is one of those lightbulb moments – why didn’t we think of this before? Get customers the information they need before they need it!
With fewer employees working any given shift and the need to reduce face-to-face interactions when possible, digital signage can also be used as a virtual concierge. Press the Ask Me button and a video pop-up window would come on. An associate on the other end of the video call would then be able to answer your questions. This helps keep both the guest and the associate safe while still being able to engage.
Connect to Data
If you went shopping at any big box retailer at the height of the pandemic, you certainly saw dry erase boards and makeshift signs declaring “NO TOILET PAPER, NO SANITIZER.” Digital signage can be used to inform customers which products are available – or rather, which products are out of stock that day. When the delivery truck is in and unloaded, you can instantly inform customers about the status of items.
Having digital signage that can connect to the store’s inventory management system can minimize customer frustrations, lead to more positive customer experience, and increased sales. It can automatically show product availability and location as well as give alternative online ordering options.
The resurgence of QR codes
With the rise of outward facing digital signage, we are also seeing the QR code take center stage again. It makes sense – it’s a simple, no human contact, no touch solution for customers and guests to get information right on their smartphone. There are also some big names bringing QR codes back. In May, PayPal announced that retailers could create a unique QR to accept payment – a great option to reduce the needs for the customer to touch an in-store device and the retailer to exchange cash with the customer. Restaurants are also finding ways to implement QR codes. For example, restaurants have overwhelmingly opted to upload their menu online and create a QR code which they place at each table. Guests simply scan the code and browse the menu on their smartphones; again, reducing the need to touch a menu by both the guest and the server. It took a pandemic, but QR codes and other touchless technology options are likely going to continue to grow in 2021.
How to communicate the message
Once you implement digital signage, the question of what you communicate comes into play. Using too much text is going to be as ineffective as the orange cone with the piece of paper attached to it. The most effective way to communicate is using less words and more graphics. By now, we all universally know that two hands with some bubbles means “Wash your hands” and a face with a mask means you should have one on to enter a building. Using universal graphics to convey messages to your customers will help maximize your digital signage use.
As you look ahead to 2021 and consider digital signage solutions, purchasing an easy to use solution that can transition with your business as needs change is the ideal option.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Ferrer is Director of Solutions Sales for Sharp NEC Display Solutions. Sharp NEC Display Solutions of America, Inc. is the leading global provider of professional and commercial visual technology and digital signage solutions, owned jointly by Sharp Electronics Corporation and NEC Corporation. Serving a wide variety of markets, the organization’s expertise spans education, digital signage, graphics, healthcare, restaurants, retail, enterprise, entertainment, transportation, and more. For additional information, visit https://www.sharpnecdisplays.us/.