One of our guiding principles at Ombori is the concept of “stopping power” - the ability of a device in-store to make a customer literally stop and engage with the device. We’ve used various tricks to achieve this: for example, voice-based systems that actually greet customers are very effective. But audio isn’t always practical or desirable in a retail environment, and many of our installations are required to be silent. That presents a different challenge.
Our initial builds for most of our devices have generally followed traditional best practice for in-store video screens: a continuous loop of marketing content, including both still and video imagery, which wakes up when a customer approaches. The problem, as we soon discovered, is that customers don’t always realize that the screens are interactive. They look like they’re just the same old video advertising displays that customers have seen a hundred times before, and so they just tune them out.
Basically, they’re pretty, but they’re just noise. Customers walk right by them.
Clearly, we needed to be much more direct at telling customers, “hey, you can use this device - come over here and see what it can do!” So instead of displaying product info or marketing imagery, we went instead with something really simple and clean.
The bold design of the new idle screens makes them stand out much more, and by using plain text on a solid background rather than images, it’s clear that they’re not just ads. Most importantly, they now include straightforward instructions telling shoppers exactly what they’re for and how to use them.
For added effect, when you come closer to the device, the colors invert, so it turns into dark text on a plain white background. That simple color change attracts the shopper’s eye and encourages them to read what’s on the screen.
So how much difference does it make?
Initial usage data shows that changing the idle screens results in a significant uplift in engagement. In some cases, such as the wayfinders or endless aisle, we’ve seen the number of users almost doubling.
Design for this kind of interactive signage is still a learning experience on all sides. Retailers are finding out what works for each individual store, we’re continually experimenting with new ideas, and customers are learning what they can do. As these kinds of devices become more widespread, we’ll see customer expectations change, and we’ll have to keep responding to ensure that what we’re offering is both intuitive and innovative. It’s going to be an interesting UX challenge, and one I’m very much looking forward to.