Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Just below the "Surface"

Those of us who are aware of the remarkable potentials for retail and out-of-home media using interactivity are increasingly excited with the array of new tools available. No longer just demo tech, Microsoft’s new “Surface” platform is a good example of this genre, now being used in AT&T stores and elsewhere. GestureTek, Reatrix and others paved the “gesture-based” way … and now BumpTop, EonReality, MicroTouch, PerceptivePixel and other sensory displays are evolving fast. Such formats allow increased “hands on” touch-screen access for a far more fluid interaction “experience”. The system understands the user rather than the other way around … good news for all of us.

A decade ago I ran an experiment on self service “kiosks” at a medical trade event … one using a computer with keyboard and mouse, one with identical content on a touchscreen system. The results were quite compelling. Many intelligent, computer oriented customers literally avoided the computer / mouse … and the keyboard was treated like the “untouchable” caste in India! The touchscreen system by contrast had even admitted technophobes playing around and exploring the media with enthusiasm.

Creating a new “transparency” for out-of-home users is a critical element. Content is also key. "Digital signage" is more than moving pictures and commercials ... it offers a two-way line of communication directly between a business and its life blood ... Customers. Rather than the traditional "guesstimating" at their preferences, interactivity allows your clients and customers to actually “tell” you what they want in no uncertain terms by their behavior.

I'm not talking surveys here, please! Personally, I find many surveys depersonalized and irritating despite incentives for rewards. There are lots of real “choice” options which quietly and subtly allow the users preferences to be clear. When customer data is unified and used properly, the evidence is clear even without RFID’s, preferred member programs (though often a great idea) … or any tech driven invasion of privacy.

By using technology to make the dialogue between seller and buyer a close, honest and cooperative one, real brand loyalty is built … which is, as MasterCard says “priceless”. In this new media neighborhood, customers will naturally turn to those brands which comfort, nurture and care about them.

Be one of them.