Architect-ing Customer Experience with Array Interactive

Jeff Dumo uses the word “architect” as a verb. His agency Array Interactive “architects” digital experiences for built environments. That’s an important grammatical and functional distinction, because Array believes digital experiences should be a seamless part of the physical space, not pasted on as an afterthought. Learn how Dumo tackles customer experience—and what he thinks about the term “digital signage”—at the SEGD CX Workshop March 10 in Las Vegas!

How does Array fit into the digital experience realm?

We’re an agency focused on helping brands architect digital experiences and enterprise digital signage programs for built environments. We’ve worked with global brands including Adobe, Amgen, Brown-Forman, Cisco, Citrix, ExxonMobil, NASA, Salvatore Ferragamo, the San Francisco Giants, the U.S. Army, and others to tell their brand stories in ways that are relevant to their specific audiences.

Your bio says you’re an active member of the digital signage industry, yet you’re not crazy about that term. Why?

Yes, ironically we actually call ourselves a digital signage agency but we’re rethinking that descriptor now. Our backgrounds were in the advertising and digital marketing and media space, developing website experiences for entertainment brands like Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Universal Pictures. When we started Array in 2009, we saw a huge opportunity in a new “digital frontier” people were calling digital-out-of-home (DOOH), narrowcasting, and of course digital signage. We saw unique opportunities to leverage our legacy in web—especially our work in entertainment—to deliver experiences that moved people emotionally toward a decision or perception about a brand. The same principles apply to digital signage experiences. The only difference is that we are moving people emotionally in environments.

So what’s our issue with the term digital signage, then? I think it’s less the term itself than what it represents. In web there is an inherent understanding that what makes the platform hugely valuable is well crafted, strategically-focused content. That’s not to downplay the value of the infrastructure that enables it. It’s critical. However, at the end of the day, if the content does not emotionally move people toward a decision, a perception, or an action, then it’s simply a set of servers and networks devoid of value. That’s why we struggle with the term digital signage. It is defined more by infrastructure—media players, displays, touchscreen overlays, content management systems—rather than what makes it truly powerful—the content it enables.

What is your definition of “customer experience?”

We believe in creating experiences that connect the brand message to the right audience. When we hear “customer experience,” our minds immediately shift to the idea of a retail consumer. However, customer experience is not just about selling products. We view the term “customer” broadly. It could be a sports fan visiting a venue, seeing only-at-a game content that reminds them that they are just as much a part of the team as the players themselves. It could be an inspiring story that makes a visit to the hospital more comfortable. Or an elegant, in-lobby animation sequence that engages employees and instills a feeling of pride.  In many ways it’s classic storytelling—stories crafted in a ways that allow people to connect with brands in ways they might never have imagined.

What are the challenges of expressing the brand in physical space, and what are the primary opportunities?

When we were working with brands in the web space, they approached the design and development process methodically, thoroughly defining the audience, brand messaging and positioning, customer expectations, success metrics and measurement, content refinement, and more. But when it comes to physical environments, we’ve seen some of the world’s leading brands doing quite the opposite. The same brand and marketing managers who oversee mission-critical web initiatives are failing to apply the same development process to the integration of digital content in environments.

It’s not entirely their fault. We witnessed the same challenges with the advent of the web: poorly designed websites that lacked best practices and the programming standards we take for granted today. Integration of digital in physical spaces is on the same path. As standards and best practices are established, companies will be more successful in delivering digital in physical spaces. Unfortunately many have spent a great deal of money on digital signage programs and experiences that no one is looking at.

The good news is that brands are now realizing they have to approach content in built environments strategically. They’re starting to understand factors that will influence the success of environmental experiences, such as light, sound, structure, texture, and more. We’re working with them to assess how people traverse and use the space, who they are, and of course how to touch them emotionally. We’re having far fewer conversations about what to place on a monitor hung on a wall. They’re actually asking, “What do we do with this physical space? How do we express the brand physically?” It’s a very exciting conversation.

Your presentation at the SEGD CX Workshop is called Content, Devices, and Spaces: How to Create a Seamless Experience across Multiple Environments. Can you give us a sneak peek? 

We see three things converging—the content, the devices that serve them, and the physical environments.  We’re going to explore how they worked together historically to move people emotionally. We’re then going to examine how historical fact, current and future technologies, and other factors can be applied as the industry attempts to seamlessly create experiences that will move people in any physical environment.

We’ll also look at the importance of business intelligence and how intimately understanding brand, environment, and people correlates to the successful integrations of digital with the physical. Finally, we’ll explore the important concept of “story” and how it was and is a common thread that firmly ties the digital and physical experience together. 

And why is creating seamless experiences so important?

Seamless means people are experiencing the story or content in a way that’s uninhibited by its surroundings or the technology that is delivering it. Rather it accentuates the space it resides in, elevates it, to create a human touchpoint that is uniquely inspiring. It’s like designing a great user interface. When it’s done well, people are engrossed in the content they’re enjoying. However, when they have to try and figure out how something works or activates, they begin to realize that what they’re interacting with is software. At that moment, you have lost them to a seam. Our job is to understand how to deliver effective, digital experiences that complement the environment and work, feel, and behave as if it was meant for that space all along.

It’s one reason why see ourselves as experiential architects.  We “architect” digital experiences in physical spaces—built environments intended to serve the people that traverse them. We believe that we will soon experience a world where digital and physical are seamlessly integrated.  Environments that will unexpectedly delight as content such as motion video, lighting, sound, perhaps even smell, is initiated in reaction to the presence of people.  It’s an exciting opportunity for the architecture, interior and graphic design, A/V, and digital signage communities.  We’re ready and eager to embrace it.  We’re hoping others are as well.  

SEGD's CX Workshop is March 10 during the Digital Signage Expo in Las Vegas. Get registered and experience new products and innovations on the DSE show floor!

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