When shop­ping in a store, I often find myself liken­ing the pur­suit of find­ing exactly what I want to buy as a walk through a maze. I have only signs, other shop­pers, and my smart­phone to guide me. At times, stumped, I won­der how much harder this jour­ney to locate the item I want could be. Frus­trated, I ask myself, could this store make the maze any harder than it already is?

Imag­ine if, in the future, the shop­ping maze remains, but when you walk by a sec­tion of a store, the walls change. Not in a threat­en­ing sense, putting you in even more dire straits, but com­ing to your res­cue. On one wall, a dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­play wel­comes and greets you. It imme­di­ately rec­og­nizes you and knows what you have bought in the past. It then asks if you need help pur­chas­ing those same items or nav­i­gat­ing new ones.

Once you respond to the dis­play, it offers per­son­al­ized rec­om­men­da­tions and guides you to the items you’re look­ing for. It also reminds you of the offers you’ve earned from your past pur­chases. No longer per­plexed, you even­tu­ally leave the maze, sur­pris­ingly buy­ing more than you had come for! Thank­fully, you avoided hav­ing to accost ran­dom strangers in the store to find your way. And over­all, you rejoice at hav­ing had a won­der­ful shop­ping experience—finding what you wanted quickly, eas­ily, and self-sufficiently.

Nowa­days, as the price points for hard­ware dis­plays con­tinue to ebb, more stores will likely use dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­plays to engage cus­tomers in per­son­al­ized ways. The abil­ity to cus­tomize mes­sages to cus­tomers any­where in a store at any time of the day is pow­er­ful. For exam­ple, a gro­cery store could tar­get par­ents of small chil­dren as they walk through cer­tain aisles and send them per­son­al­ized offers based on the most immi­nent mealtime.

In addi­tion to get­ting per­son­al­ized offers and guid­ance around the store, cus­tomers will ben­e­fit by feel­ing not only like an impor­tant and remem­bered cus­tomer but also con­nected and engaged with the retailer. When they feel pos­i­tively about their rela­tion­ship with the brand, cus­tomers are likely to be emo­tion­ally drawn to keep com­ing back to the store.

As soon as I get to where my prod­uct cat­e­gory is within the store, either on my own accord or through some way-finding dig­i­tal dis­plays, the next chal­lenge is choos­ing a spe­cific prod­uct within that cat­e­gory. We’ve all found our­selves stand­ing in front of an assort­ment of hik­ing shoes, snow­boards, golf clubs, beard trim­mers (okay, maybe this is more mine), or even cars and won­der­ing, “What’s the dif­fer­ence between this one and that one?” or “Why is this one so much more than that one?”

The tra­di­tional approach is for store asso­ciates to help cus­tomers deter­mine which prod­uct is right for their needs. Yet, I think we can all appre­ci­ate that often we don’t want to engage with a sales­per­son and so we shoo them off with a polite “just brows­ing” response. In real­ity, how­ever, we’re strug­gling to under­stand the prod­uct cat­e­gory in front of us. Now, with a smart­phone in our pocket, we can begin to resolve some of our ques­tions, and, if the retailer is doing its part, there may even be an app for this.

Imag­ine how much richer and more com­pelling this expe­ri­ence could be with a large screen that lets me dis­cover and learn more about the cat­e­gory and which prod­uct is right for me. Some national restau­rant chains are exper­i­ment­ing with dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­plays. Pizza Hut, for exam­ple, has made the dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­play a cen­tral part of its inter­ac­tive din­ing tables. From the moment they sit down, cus­tomers can design and order their piz­zas from their table­tops and then play games until their orders are ready.

Even menu boards in restau­rants can become dig­i­tal and can poten­tially upsell cus­tomers while they make a deci­sion. These dig­i­tal menu boards can be changed to reflect the time of day using the point-of-sale sys­tem or a mobile appli­ca­tion. In the UK, McDon­alds has been suc­cess­fully test­ing customer-facing dig­i­tal sig­nage solu­tions, find­ing that these dis­plays have lifted sales by as much as 11 per­cent on some items and have led to higher trans­ac­tion amounts.

Large, sprawl­ing spaces—such as air­ports, col­lege cam­puses, and malls—could use dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­plays to guide vis­i­tors in the right direc­tion. At the air­port, for exam­ple, tap­ping on a dis­play could pro­duce maps, coupons, restau­rant menus, real-time flight sta­tus, board­ing times, delays, and gate changes. Sapi­ent Engaged­Trav­eler has seen more than 35,000 taps a week dur­ing its pilot at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air­port. This pro­vides a strik­ing exam­ple of what dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­plays can do for large sprawl­ing spaces.

We’re not too far from the day when dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­plays will per­vade most of our phys­i­cal spaces, trans­form­ing the real world into a more dig­i­tal one. One thing is for cer­tain: Hav­ing dig­i­tal sig­nage dis­plays at every cor­ner will make nav­i­gat­ing real-life mazes much more interesting.

For more information, visit my blog here: http://blogs.adobe.com/digitalmarketing/author/darin-archer/