The pandemic has forced brick and mortar retail operations to evolve, and reinforced the importance of using digital displays to share relevant, timely messages with shoppers. Retail analysts suggest that these changes simply accelerated an already existing shift in how store operators attract, engage and retain shoppers.

Traditionally, the shopper’s journey looks like a funnel: Consumers narrow down their choices and often know what they want before they get to a physical store. Now, smartphones, high-speed mobile data and in-store digital messaging are allowing shoppers to be both more informed and more impulsive about their buying decisions.

The global consultancy McKinsey says in-store digital messaging has a major impact at that “moment of truth” for buyers.” Consumers want to look at a product in action and are highly influenced by the visual dimension,” McKinsey said in a summer 2020 report. “Up to 40 percent of them change their minds because of something they see, learn, or do at this point — say, packaging, placement, or interactions with salespeople.”

With COVID-19 forcing changes in bricks and mortar operations and compelling many more consumers to order online and for home delivery, the digital signage industry’s longtime motto is more relevant than ever: “the right message, in the right place, at the right time.”

The new buyer’s journey

Online and mobile provide consumers with a bottomless well of information — from product demos and reviews to price comparisons and real-time inventory reports. However, research is suggesting that consumers may be walking into stores well-informed about their options, but they still hold off their final purchase decision until they’re in the store. They’re still influenced by factors like at-shelf messaging and packaging.

Enhance the buyer's journey with digital signage

icon of a document
White Paper

Get your free guide to the what, where and how of digital signage in retail environments. Download Now

Says McKinsey’s researchers: “Sometimes it takes a combination of approaches — great packaging, a favorable shelf position, forceful fixtures, informative signage — to attract consumers who enter a store with a strong attachment to their initial-consideration set. Our research shows that in-store touch points provide a significant opportunity for other brands.”

As you choose your store’s digital displays, be mindful of where the displays will be positioned, and be sure to use accessible management software.

From the outside in: Curbs and concourses

Super-bright LCD displays mounted in weatherproof enclosures attract customers by sharing attractive promotions. These screens are also being used curbside at open-air malls and retail streets to facilitate the buy online, pickup at curb (BOPAC) and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) services that grew more widespread in 2020.

Direct view LED displays are being used in shopping centers and airport retail concourses, serving as headers in store entryways — or on their full facades — to drive messaging and attract foot traffic from as far as the eye can see.

Along with these evergreen uses, digital messaging can also reinforce in-store health and safety protocols.

From the inside out: Signposts and self-service

To use in-store digital displays most effectively, consider factors such as scale, complexity, purpose and brand positioning.

In a large-footprint store where shoppers come through the door on a mission — like getting the week’s groceries and other household supplies — the shopping layout and signage can help guide people, locating specific sections and highlighting promotions.

In 2020, Walmart started rolling out new store designs, which its chief customer officer acknowledged were inspired by the big, bold and simple signs now popular in major airports. Shoppers that are on a mission want to get in and out, so they want a shopping experience that’s clear and convenient. Recent research suggests 43 percent of consumers want to shop more efficiently and welcome in-store advertising that guides their browsing, while 69 percent of people just want get their shopping done as quickly as they can.

Large, flat-panel displays at decision points guide shoppers on where to go and what to do — with reminders on store policies like social distancing and mask requirements. These displays can also drive awareness of promotions, loyalty programs and new services like BOPAC or BOPIS.

Interactive displays can offer shoppers convenient tools like product lookups, demos and inventory checks — right on the floor. Retailers are also using more interactive displays for self-service ordering and checkout. Digital touchscreens and fully contactless options minimize the risk of virus transmission, lessening one-on-one interactions between shoppers and staff.

Retail designers are using can’t-miss direct view LED display walls to set the tone in stores and shape the shopping experience, with screens placed behind sales counters and filling entire walls in major stores. Luxury brands are using premium options like Samsung’s microLED-based The Wall for Business to deliver crisp visuals that evoke a store’s branding.

Smaller displays can nest with products on merchandising shelves and tables, or sit above them as digital headers that highlight products and offer more information.

Retailers are also using displays in the back of the house — areas not accessible to shoppers. Large displays connected to the real-time data from store management systems help staff stay organized with everything from curbside pickup operations and product deliveries to communicating store policy changes and recruiting.

Keeping up with the times

As the health crisis has steadily changed how businesses operate, digital displays allow businesses to keep pace — and ensure consumers have the right information in front of them. When it comes to the modern shopping experience, effective digital signage can make all the difference.

Learn how to influence the buyer’s journey with digital signage in our free guide. And discover what retail can learn from transportation about digital displays.

Posts By

Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes is a well-known veteran in the digital signage industry. He consults to some of the world’s largest brands on their digital signage strategy and technical needs, but also spends time mentoring start-ups. A former daily newspaper journalist, Haynes has for the past decade written a highly-respected blog about digital signage, Sixteen:Nine. Follow Dave on twitter @sixteennine

View more posts by Dave Haynes