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Digital Signposts: A New Generation of Information-seekers

How dynamic visuals are replacing text

Digital signage doesn’t have to be static. Here, a hospital wayfinding station presents users with interactive options as well as a QR code for their mobile device.

Today’s generation of anytime, anywhere content consumers have become more comfortable with visual media than traditional text. High-resolution images, viral video clips, and lively graphics are now becoming more effective for leveraging the best practices of story-based communications, leading to a shift in the way content producers convey their information. Catalyzed by decreasing video production costs, dramatic improvements in screen quality, and the emergence of the new attention economy, the time has come for the integrator and end-user community to refocus their messaging strategies toward more immersive visual-based communication channels. This would maximize business objectives, improve staff collaboration, and better serve the needs of content-savvy customers. To further explore this trend, the following article will take a closer look at how the concept of visual channels can enable content providers to communicate more effectively within retail, healthcare, and command-and-control environments.

More Responsive Retail

Visual messaging has become an important enabler for augmenting both the in-store experience and management effectiveness. Using customer-facing displays, today’s patrons can see promotions, advertisements, or targeted “day-parting” information, which has been scheduled to coincide with customer demographics. Powered by digital-signage-software platforms, local staff can also change product pricing on the fly and across several retail outlets from a centralized location. From a management perspective, head offices can monitor sales, inventory, and key performance indicators using impactful visual dashboards that can alert decision-makers when stocks are perilously low or sales are decreasing in certain sectors. In terms of branding, responsive visual communication also guarantees consistency across entire chains using templates and preset permissions granted to specific in-store staff members.

Channeling Healthcare Communication

Healthcare environments have already begun leveraging the opportunities of visual communication channels. For instance, interactive wayfinding screens now typically greet patients to facilitate the location of specific services within large campuses. Furthermore, healthcare providers are now customizing content to increase the effectiveness of information delivery to patients by providing content-on-demand capabilities for specific condition, allowing patients to access information even when they are away from medical facilities. Near field communication (NFC) is facilitating this trend, allowing patients to easily download health information related to healthcare options and nutrition, or download articles from a screen directly to their handheld device for future consultation.

Integrated Command and Control

Within the enterprise, government agencies, and other institutions looking to monitor their internal processes and external influencers, visual channels have become an increasingly effective tool. Processes such as cyber activity, production line status, and network reliability are now allowing staff to effectively identify, alert, and resolve issues that could potentially harm a firm’s performance. With regard to external information, visuals can also monitor factors such as weather conditions and overseas political risks that could impact outsourced production, data networks, and other important areas. However, to increase the effectiveness of message delivery, data should turn away from traditional graphs and spreadsheets in favor of dynamic, well-designed graphics that are concise and impactful. Using visual communications software, content administrators within enterprise contexts can set business rules that allow workers to be alerted once certain critical thresholds have been met or exceeded. Other best practices include the creation of data subsets for easy distribution to staff member devices such as tablets or smartphones. This leverages the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) phenomenon pervading today’s workplace and gives management an easy option for adding team members to the monitoring and decision-making process for even wider anytime, anywhere content capabilities.

Facilitating Big Data Delivery

As the effectiveness of text-based communications decreases in the era of big data, visual messaging has risen to become the primary means for connecting with today’s audiences. Video clips, animations, and dynamic graphics are now the preferred means for communicating complex data, critical information, and important thresholds, allowing customers, organizational members, and management to make rapid decisions—even via handheld devices. Using tools such as visual messaging software, content administrators are now able to enhance the absorption and retention of figures, statistics, and other big data concepts that were more complicated to communicate in the past. In addition to the creation, management, and scheduling of channel-based content, communication platforms facilitate a building-block approach to content delivery, allowing organizations to scale their visual communication solutions as their processes evolve. For instance, retail chains can first implement customer-facing display capabilities before adding backroom command-and-control measures to monitor inventory, sales, employee performance, and more. For corporations, decision-makers can easily add training channels, market information, or departmental news and statistics for gauging performance as their requirements expand. Flexible, interactive, and impactful visual media is replacing text as an effective vehicle for information delivery, providing an immersive channel-based approach that communicates information at the right time, to the right person, on the right device.

Vern Freedlander is vice president of production services for Montréal-based X2O Media, a full-service provider of technology, network management, and content services for professional digital signage applications. With more than 20 years of broadcast television experience as a producer, director, and executive, Freedlander oversees all of X2O Media’s content initiatives. He can be reached at [email protected].

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