Nothing can substitute for face-to-face communication. Everybody knows that, yet many companies are trying to do so by using in-store digital signage to simulate face-to-face contact.
Cloud-based digital signage provider MediaTile just announced the commercial release of its cloud-based HumanKiosk interactive digital signage displays. The displays were a popular feature at this year’s CES, where they demonstrated their video chat experience via Verizon 4G wireless internet, a set-up that retailers can use to deliver information and a personal touch to store visitors at a lower cost than with conventional store staffing.
An Industry Built on Simulating Face-to-Face
HumanKiosk is the latest entry in the telepresence market, an industry based on technologies that help users feel as if they are present together when communicating remotely. Cisco is a big player in the field, with its line of high-end telepresence equipment.
HumanKiosk is a good example of where this market is heading. As digital displays become cheaper to produce they will become a standard feature in stores. Better hardware creates a better experience by introducing the capacity for smoother, quicker interactions and telepresence capabilities.
Sporting a giant touch screen and tablet-like gesture-based navigation, the HumanKiosk uses cloud services to deliver interactive content segmented down to the individual unit, if desired. And the display keeps a record of how people interact with it, information that can be used as a source of market intelligence.
It is the video chat functionality that is most unique about this display. The large, high-definition display replicates a user’s chat partner with as much detail as possible and offers a new and efficient way for retailers to provide their customers with live help from an expert.
Is This the Future of Retail?
But will people really use these displays? It sounds strange the prospect of walking through a store and seeing other customers speaking with people via screens around the edges of the store. But the market is active and growing. Glowpoint, a telepresence system manufacturer, reported a doubling of usage of telepresence equipment from the first half of 2010 to the first half of 2011.
Retailers should consider telepresence technology and carefully examine the costs of such systems in light of any money that will be saved on staffing. In many cases, a telepresence display could improve the customer experience while simultaneously lowering costs, making it an easy decision.
For most retailers, it’s not a question of if, but when, they’ll install digital signage such as this.
Greg Steen, 10.12.2011