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DSS Europe: how digital technology can change the narrative

The first day of the Summit covered such diverse topics as AR/VR, touch interface design, reinvigorating the retail experience – and even the use of scents in marketing

Conference chair Florian Rotberg of invidis consulting told attendees that the Digital Signage Summit 2018 had relocated because of the FIFA World Cup. Because 4 and 5 July is the only two-day window with no games, many conferences are being held on these two days. Because no suitable venue was available in the Summit’s traditional home of Munich, this year’s event is taking place in Frankfurt, at the airport’s Sheraton Hotel.

The Summit began with a morning of keynote presentations. Rotberg  gave an overview of market trends and developments over the past year, and discussed a number of technologies driving the market, such as artificial intelligence and predictive data analytics. “The industry has changed from Mad Men to Math Men… everything is driven by data,” he said. “If you don’t know how to connect your digital touch points with ERP, with everything in the back office, you’re lost.”

Stefan Schieker of ResultMC expanded on the theme of the conference – how digital technology can ‘change the narrative’ and complement brand storytelling. Beginning with the definition of an experience as something that happens to you that affects how you feel, he argued that retail does not provoke generally create memorable experiences because it is too focused on pushing products. While not everyone can go as far as Lego and build a theme park, other retail brands are adding more experience into their customer interactions – including Apple, which opens up its stores into community spaces; Dyson, which creates technology stories around its products; and Decathlon Village, where visitors can take part in sports and buy sportswear under one roof.

In his keynote on the digital customer journey, Richard Offermann, managing director of digital media company Ströer Digital Group, emphasised that it’s easy to underestimate the speed of technological change. He gave he examples of video communications, tablet computers and wearables, which were all featured in the Star Trek TV series as devices from hundreds of years in the future – but are all realities now. “The worst thing you can do when predicting the future is taking the speed of growth at the moment and extrapolating it,” he said.

Offermann also described how his company responded to feedback from customers that Ströer needed to better understand their industries and their end customers’ requirements better; he reorganised the company by putting the end customer at the centre and building everything around that.

Alastair Kean, development director of retail design agency Dalziel and Pow, presented multiple case studies of his company’s work in creating connected digital experiences. These fell under three main headings.

Among the services and experiences to make life easier and more fun were high-end department store Harvey Nichols’ use of the Hero app to provide a personal shopper service to customers all around the world; and an O2 store in Manchester, which differentiates itself on service and emphasises the social and cultural aspects of the brand – including an interactive billboard that explored different aspects of the character of Manchester.

In describing seamless journeys to help fulfil and transmit, Kean emphasised: “It’s not what you sell, but how you sell it.” For instance, the Polish shoe store Eobuwie has no products on show – customers browse on kiosks – but a large inventory in stock. This model, he said, “blends the power of digital with the service and instant gratification of shopping in-store.”

Finally, his stories to inspire, inform and share featured a dazzling installation of transparent LEDs showing specially created content around the atrium of a multi-storey Primark store in Madrid; and the pop-up Chanel Coco Game Centre, which “plugs into the mindset of new customers” by mimicking the arcade halls of Japan – customers can play games and win products for themselves.

The afternoon saw the Summit split into three strands: two presentation spaces and a workshop area. Doruk Eger, a creative developer, and Dann Krijnen of ngage Media, a Dutch DOOH company, presented examples of their work in augmented reality in the out-of-home market. Among these were the Speech Bubbles application, which superimposes speech bubbles onto live video of people walking in public spaces; and a project in which farm animals were mixed in with live footage from a public square. The realism for this was increased by the fact that the application understood the position of people in the space, and could decide whether animals would pass in front of them or behind them.

Ibrahim Bakhrani of DigiComm presented a number of VR applications in Dubai, including the VR Park – a theme park where every attraction has a VR element (including four retrofitted rollercoasters from the space’s previous incarnation as a traditional theme park). Perhaps most impressive was Mission 828 at the Burj Khalifa, where visitors scale the world’s tallest building virtually, then make a parachute jump off the top. Effects, wind and haptic feedback all serve to make a more realistic experience.

A rather different experience came from a workshop led by Silvia Ravetllat of Akewuele and Ben Phelps of parent company Trison, which explored scent marketing. Smell works differently from other senses, they explained, being more strongly connected with memory and emotion. Brands can be represented by an ‘odotype’, which can be created like a logotype – it needs to summarise the key attributes of the brand. Participants then had a go at creating scents of their own by creating a ‘cocktail’ from up to nine constituent scents, each of which has its own defining character. We tried creating ‘sexy vintage technology businessman’ – though we’re not sure how successful the end result was.

We then chose more customer journey presentations to finish the afternoon. Hoss Khoravi of Visual Art looked at the role of DOOH in a multiscreen strategy. His company, he explained, is the only vendor in the Nordics that offers programmatic buying. An example of this was a campaign for mobile provider Halebop, which sought to turn train delays into a positive thing by giving passengers free mobile data. This was done by running advertisements with a download code at relevant stations when delays had occurred.

“With relevant content and relevant data, DOOH can be the perfect communication platform,” he concluded.

Stuart Janicki, a senior content designer at POPcomms, talked about creating exceptional immersive touch experiences. Simplicity of design is important, he said – in public spaces, people are less confident with touchscreens and may not engage with them at all if the experience is not good. Making the experience fun, and providing tactile interactions, are also plus points. And he warned: “No amount of creativity is going to mask a bad customer experience.”

The last session of the day was shared by Ulrich Schoof of Sentibar, who showed his company’s survey and opinion poll offering, which can be used to provide engaging signage content; and by Frank Larsen of wireless streaming company Airtame. When Lake Superior College, which maintains a high level of technology as a USP, switched to Airtame for streaming content from its students’ devices, there was a 75% reduction in the number of IT support tickets raised.

To round off the programme for the day, Florian Rotberg presented invidis consulting’s Digital Signage Awards to the leading signage software, display, media player and integration companies in the DACH region.

Our quote of the day came from Stefan Schieker in the first keynote: “The best stories are told by humans – digital is just a tool.”