In a recent article in inAVate Magazine, Paul Milligan discussed some of the ways that augmented reality (AR) has the potential to impact us. Although he discussed a variety of applications, from healthcare to the enterprise to connected cars, one of the applications that really caught my attention was in retail. Milligan describes an AR campaign by UK supermarket chain Asda, where shoppers took part in a monster treasure hunt at the store. As a dad of three, I can guarantee you this was effective.

I love ideas like this, and I know I’m not alone, because retailers are taking notice. Merchants are always looking for new and exciting ways to engage customers, and there are a lot of applications where technology can help do just that. One popular technology that is rising in use is digital signage. A display running high-resolution imagery along with product information and marketing videos is a great way to engage customers in a multi-sensory way. AV industry analysts have been predicting this rise in digital signage for years, and it’s no wonder. The combination of sound, videos and animated text attracts attention and communicates product values customers may have missed if simply seeing items on a shelf.

A major reason digital signage is effective in retail is because it moves. Unless you own a toy store, your product probably doesn’t, so this movement and color attracts the eye. However, digital signage in its purest form is still fairly passive. That’s why applications like AR work in retail. It’s active and engaging. However, it’s also probably a few years off from being applied in anything but early trials, and even this will be mostly virtualized. Of course, there are ways to tie digital signage to other systems to make a more connected experience that highlights the actual physical product.

Signage RetailWhen you integrate your digital signage system to motion and pressure sensors, all connected using an automation system, it is possible to make interactive retail displays that respond whenever a customer walks in an area, picks up an item or presses a button. Both the lighting on the merchandise display and the audio volume can fade up when someone walks up, and the signage can display detailed information whenever a customer picks up a particular product. And this is just the beginning. There are numerous ways that the environment can respond to customer actions. If you want a customer to notice something or learn something at a particular point, the room can respond to encourage that action or impart that information at the right time.

At the heart of this solution is the automation system, an intelligent device that receives a message from the sensors and then tells the lighting, audio and video systems how to respond. With a little creativity in the signage design and automation program, retailers can have a customized, interactive experience that can be both fun and informative for customers.

Let us know your experiences with interactive retail in the comments!

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