Digital signage is the future of retail because it blurs the border between off and online. It crafts a ‘phygital’ environment that can collect inputs from customers visiting a physical establishment, analyze them, process them, and display the most appropriate messages, at the most appropriate time, to the corresponding audience.

Before 2020 when the keyword of the year was “pandemic,” we had already been talking for a long period of time about digital transformation, the apocalypse of retail, omnichannel, customer centric and several other topics that co-had social networks, conferences, events, and fairs. Taking advantage of the pull, many experts and opportunists began to appear who, using all these terms, tried on the one hand to predict the future of retail and, on the other hand, to provide less technological retail with tools to fight the great digital platforms that we all know, especially Amazon.

After auguring a terrible destination for retail, let’s say traditional, the end of shopping malls and “digitally transform or die” the pandemic arrived and took over all the forecasts we’ve been hearing about it. But wow, it turns out that with the pandemic came security measures, capacity controls and the massive growth of online commerce. With online commerce, the business of logistics and delivery companies grew (even more) and in the end certain sectors saw how not only did their business grow via the online channel, but also in physical establishments, for example, supermarkets.

It is at this time that physical establishments started looking for ways to communicate to their customers that they should wear masks, use hand sanitizer, that they must keep their distance, that the capacity is full and should wait, and even indicate to the riders if their order is ready to pick up. And how do you communicate all this in a physical space? Well, it communicates in several ways: or with employees repeating hundreds of times every day “please put the mask on properly,” putting up posters throughout the establishment, putting watchdogs or store managers to count and discount people, or go, digitally transforming all these processes thanks to digital signage.

Using any type of display of any size strategically located in physical establishments, customers can be informed of the real-time capacity, anti-COVID measures, rider shifts, marketing communications and any information that a retailer wants to offer its customers and employees. All this while drastically reducing the amount of paper used in making countless information posters and with an ability to impact the physical space with the same instantaneousness way with which visitors can experience through a website or mobile application.

So far, we’ve been talking about the past and how digital signage has helped many retailers communicate more effectively to their customers and employees. Now, let’s talk about the future.

Just one last mention of the past: in the late ’90s and early 2000s, companies only wanted one website “because you had to have it.” Currently, with digital signage there is sometimes a similar relationship: we have to put digital signage because you have to have it, just as you have to implement omnichannel, digital transformation and the rest of the keywords that appear in the media. If this is the argument for implementing a digital signage ecosystem, we are not doing well.

Digital signage is the future of retail because it blurs the border between off and online. With a well-implemented digital signage system, we can collect inputs from customers visiting a physical establishment, analyze them, process them, and display the most appropriate messages, at the most appropriate time, to the corresponding audience. What does this sound like? It sounds like retailers interacting with their customers on the online channel. Digital signage, I repeat, well implemented, allows to closely resemble a physical establishment to a website or an e-commerce. And this is where digital signage stands as the future of retail: if during predictions about the retail apocalypse there was only talk of the disappearance of offline and the triumph of online, digital signage introduces a third player in the match: digital establishments or, as dictated by the new keyword created in this regard, the phygital, a term that I personally do not like, but that allows me to correctly see what I am referring to.

And what is a phygital retail like? It is a physical establishment that, thanks to a well-implemented digital signage system with a coherent strategy, allows to create and measure the customer journey of customers during their visit to a physical establishment and, in addition, use this same information with the online channel. Oh, surprise! omnichannel and digital transformation thanks to digital signage. In short: the future of retail.

Landing all these ideas a little bit, let’s go to an example: a customer arrives at an establishment to make a purchase. In the input there is a screen that tells you the available capacity. At that point, the capacity is not at its maximum and you are allowed to enter.

Inside, ask for a shift on a display by scanning a QR code with your mobile that takes you to a website (or app) informing you of the turn and the average waiting time. As you head towards the corresponding section, you will see in displays of various sizes (from electronic labels to huge and eye-catching LED panels) the different promotions, offers and commercial information available at that time in the establishment itself.

Upon reaching the section of interest, a display shows you the current turn while your mobile sends you a notification announcing that soon it will be your turn to be taken care of. Once the order is placed, you go to the cashier line where you are shown to which one you are entitled to make the payment. Throughout the journey, cameras and sensors have been collecting information about the customer, always respecting privacy laws, and have been sending it to the corresponding departments to analyze, just like a website, how to offer the best customer experience.

Digital signage is the future of retail, and it is here.

Germán Talón. (2021, May 4). Digital Signage Today. Retrieved from