According to research firm BCC, the multi-touch systems and displays market is predicted to be worth $7.3 billion by 2018. While of course much of this is at the smartphone and tablet end, the plethora of demonstrations and discussions around the technology at AV industry shows such as Infocomm indicate growing interest among this group of users and integrators.
This is perhaps no surprise, given the huge range of solutions and applications that can involve multi-touch to add an extra interactive, multi-user experience.
As well as being used in standalone units, it is also being used as an integral part of multichannel marketing strategies, to interact with customers in a more engaging way and even to collect data. For technology resellers, distributors and system builders, multi-touch systems represent a possible new stream of revenue, helping customers to envisage new possibilities.
For instance, different ‘windows’ can be displayed on the screen, enabling a choice of content to be presented, such as games, competitions, video trailers, product information, maps, booking systems and web access. As well as obvious benefits including being able to promote new products and increase dwell-time, multi-touch systems also extend the virtual shop floor and can link to other systems or technologies, such as CRM and bar codes. This integration provides an opportunity to collect customer data, not just contact details but also useful behavioural information (for example, how many people clicked on the video of a particular insurance offer).
As one European vacation company is finding, multi-touch also supports ‘self-serve’ marketing. Users of its systems dispersed around two large hotels enjoy playing around with the on-screen content, creating their own, customised holiday experiences, which of course they may then subsequently book. Several large car brands have deployed multi-touch systems in flagship showrooms, where among the range of content on offer are car configurators, which customers can use to build their dream car (and again, maybe then engage with the salesperson to find out more). A Scottish property firm finds that people enjoy browsing through available properties, without the pressure of having to engage with an estate agent: instead, when they are ready, customers ask for more information.
The multi-touch experience described
To imagine what a multi-touch experience is like, picture a very large version of a smartphone touch screen (just a lot more responsive and able to support up to 60 touch points). It has all the functionality we are used to with touch screens: the ability to pinch or expand content, swish a hand to move a window to one side and so on. Plus, it supports multiple users at the same time, is designed to operate in difficult light conditions (such as bright sunlight) and can be in excess of 50 inches in diameter. Systems are typically housed in tabletop furniture or are wall-mounted (providing opportunities for additional branding). We’ve even seen systems that are incorporated into mobile vending machines, which can then be ‘skinned’ with a film’s promotional material and placed in, say, cinema lobbies. The potential is only limited by the marketer’s imagination.
Secrets of success
Of course, the theoretical benefits of any technology are only as good as the real-world experience. Fortunately, touch technology has advanced a great deal in the past couple of years, with some screens offering zero lag time and no pixilation, regardless of how much information is being displayed. Robustness is essential, especially when high volumes of user traffic is expected, or if the system has to withstand being outside, maybe even in an unmanned location.
Once a solid technology foundation is established, what really matters is creating a compelling customer experience. This may sound obvious, but the content has to be extremely engaging and immersive: the aim should be to keep people interacting with the content for several minutes, rather than the novelty wear off after a few seconds of just swiping the screen.
Above all, the software supporting the content has to have a highly intuitive interface, without needing any explanation to navigate around. Similarly, a system that constantly needs a member of staff to re-set it is going to frustrate everyone very quickly, so work with a designer who understands a ‘fit and forget’ approach. Other issues to think about include upgrading the content (can this be done by the customer; can it be carried out remotely; or do changes require a site visit by the system provider?).
For all these reasons, it makes sense to work with a developer that has a proven track record in developing and delivering touch screen systems, including experience of integrating multi-touch with other marketing or sales support systems.
The right multi-touch system, complete with content that truly captures users’ interest, could create new business opportunities for today’s technology suppliers, potentially opening up new markets. The key to success is creating a truly compelling experience that performs reliably and consistently.
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