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Next-Level Digital Signage: Trends Taking the Industry by Storm

Tim Bennett profile picture Bobbie Cummins profile picture Ray Buice profile picture

Contributors: Tim Bennett, Bobbie Cummins, Ray Buice

January 6, 2022


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If you've recently made the decision to install digital signage at your business, you've already taken the hardest step. You did the research, you found the right team for the job, and you made the investment. Digital signage takes branding to the next level, makes graphics pop and allows your team to make changes on the fly. Now you may be wondering: What's next? This technology can be applied in numerous ways to enhance your offerings and customer satisfaction. If you're unsure of where to start, read on for some creative and trending ways businesses are using their digital signage to entertain and delight customers, collect data, increase ROI, and more.

Loyalty Programs and Location Awareness

Loyalty programs were already a win-win for quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and their customers—bringing in repeat business by enticing patrons with free items once they spend a certain amount of money—but now these programs can further personalize the drive-through experience. Customers can download a QSR's mobile app, which, using location tracking, populates a customized digital menu board as soon as they pull up to the drive-through. This might display previous orders or suggested items based on preferences, such as all plant-based meals for vegetarians.

Multiple quick serve restaurants app icons on mobile phone
The customer's desire for a personalized experience helps the restaurant collect feedback that drives brand loyalty. Mobile ordering is here to stay.

"These suggestions generated by the customer's own purchasing history present additional opportunities to upsell diners and create a personalized dining experience," says Oracle. "These modifications to the drive-through experience also present an opportunity to minimize the turnaround time customers spend from order screen to the pickup window."

Next-Level Curbside and Drive-Through Pickup Options

During the pandemic, we all became extremely familiar with the concept of curbside pickup: Purchase online or through a mobile app, drive to a designated pickup spot at the store, alert the staff you're there, and wait for them to bring out your order.

Even as business and life slowly return to normal, curbside pickup remains strong. According to Digital Commerce 360, 50.7 percent of retailers were offering a curbside pickup service as of early 2021, up from 6.6 percent at the beginning of 2020. This demonstrates the demand from customers who want to "shop" from the comfort of their cars—and, let's be honest, their pajamas.

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Now, however, customers are looking for the next wow-worthy offering from their favorite retailers and QSRs: automatic check-in upon arrival. Through license plate scanning or location awareness, retailers can use technology to be automatically alerted when an online or mobile order customer arrives in a designated parking spot—the customer doesn't have to lift a finger. Digital signage reassures them that a staff member is on their way, as well as entertains them with relevant product suggestions and an opportunity to add forgotten items to their cart.

In the drive-through setting, some QSRs are needing to reconfigure their outdoor footprint to accommodate the surge in mobile orders. "It's to the point where a lot of quick-service restaurants are trying to figure out how to add a third lane, or even a dual lane, for those mobile orders, and putting up some sort of outdoor kiosk to support that," says Ray Buice, program manager at Bailiwick.

Interactivity and Entertainment

Inside QSRs and retailers, digital signage can prompt interactivity and serve as a form of entertainment. At some QSRs, for example, customers have the option of purchasing their soup and sandwich from a cashier behind a counter, but if they'd rather skip the line (or the human interaction—come on, we've all been there), a self-serve kiosk is waiting to accept their order and payment.

Then, while the customer waits for their food to be prepared, digital signage can entertain them with games, featured products, videos, even a “selfie” backdrop, encouraging them to snap a picture and share it on social media for the chance to win a prize.

QR Codes and Vaccine Passports

You've likely seen quick-response codes, more commonly called QR codes, printed in magazines, newspapers, and restaurants, replacing an eatery's paper menu. Now, those square, barcode-like images made up of seemingly random black-and-white patterns are being implemented into digital signage, nixing the need for a touchscreen. Customers can simply scan the QR code on their phone, leading them directly to your message, whether it's a mobile app download, survey, or coupon.

Mobile phone with a QR code on its screen.

There's been a surge in use of QR Codes, driven by pandemic needs. Most recently, QR codes have been given a new purpose, storing vital health information that may (literally) be someone's ticket to their next concert or event. Just as the beginning of the pandemic saw pop-up kiosks utilized as health-screening stations where workplaces could scan employees' temperature before admitting them to the building, these booths, in some cases, are now being used to verify vaccination status or negative test results. Restaurants, concert and theater venues, sports arenas, airports, and more are jumping on the bandwagon, prompting patrons to scan a QR code containing information about their health status.

"Vaccines are the real health security. So we may well be shifting to a situation in which technology will play a big part in briskly handling the use of so-called vaccine passports that act as gatekeepers for access into all kinds of different venues,” says Sixteen:Nine, a news site dedicated to covering the digital signage industry. "So just like you may scan the QR or barcode on a boarding pass to get you through airport screening and the boarding gate, kiosks and readers may very well grow common for many other scenarios that want to let people in but keep COVID out, and their patrons and staff safe."

As digital signage continues to become a must-have versus a nice-to-have, we're sure to see more innovation in how they can be used to benefit both customers and businesses. (Are holograms the next big thing, or perhaps special goggles to view secret menu items? Only time will tell.) But there's no doubt that data collection will be a big part of shaping tomorrow's trends. Businesses "are trying to figure out how to collect data and how to utilize the data," says Buice. "Personally, I think that's what's going to separate the giants from those that are just trying to figure it out and follow the trends."

Taylor Hugo profile picture Written By Taylor Hugo
Taylor Hugo is a freelance writer and editor, and owner of Taylor Hugo Creative, a content marketing agency based in Denver, Colorado.

Curiosity and creative problem-solving.

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