Finding a place for audio in your digital signage

In a recent study, Deloitte predicts a steady increase in audio consumption in 2024. This growing trend is mainly attributed to three important factors — content, cost, and consumer convenience. 

Research suggests there will be more than 144 million monthly podcast listeners by the end of 2025 — and that’s in the US alone! Other growing formats are streaming music, audiobooks, and the good old radio with 4 billion listeners. Those are not small numbers!

So, why is audio slowly hitting high notes with customers now?

In the US, the ability to multitask is one of the biggest reasons why people listen to audio content. It gives listeners more freedom, helps improve concentration, and induces relaxation.

But here’s the big question. While audio has many major benefits, does audio and audio ads or audio (music) placement in digital signage have significant benefits?  Does it make customers happy? Does it make the store more appealing?  Does it benefit the retailer?

We believe it’s a balancing act. After all, you don’t want your audio or music to feel like annoying elevator music or on-hold music caller tunes. So, does audio really have a place in digital signage? Let’s find out.

The dilemma: Audio or No audio?

Sound is touch at a distance. We didn’t say it, a Stanford professor did. While audio content has its appeal, incorporating audio into your digital signage strategy has to be done tactfully. How people respond to audio is subjective — after all, sound has the ability to affect emotions, trigger memories, and influence a person’s mood. 

The thing is, using audio in your signage content is a contextual business decision — one that depends on the type of business you have, the audience you cater to, and their temperament when they interact with your business.

Positioning the right audio at the right time can strengthen visual communication and even elevate brand experience. But, when not done well, your audio can easily turn to noise, irritating your customers like those caller tunes most of us dislike.

If you’re looking to incorporate audio into your signage strategy, here are the most commonly used formats:

  • Ambient music: Integrating music into digital signage is quite common. It’s versatile and is useful in environments like hotels, malls, and restaurants to imbibe a calm, in-facility experience. The trick is playing it at optimal levels to not risk turning it into noise.
  • Promotional audio: These are recordings played during sale seasons, new product launches, and ongoing brand events. They’re usually short, with the sole purpose of capturing audience attention and boosting brand awareness.
  • Emergency announcements: This type of audio is played during emergencies like natural threats and calamities to alert your audience. You can pre-record them and play them when needed to announce threats and share safety tips and evacuation protocols. 
  • Digital communications solutions like L Squared have built-in audio solutions to play broadcast messages and ambient music easily from within their platform with one touch.

How audio improves your signage’s effectiveness

Plain and simple: We won’t recommend using audio in digital signage anywhere and everywhere. But when done right, the benefits will elevate brand experiences for customers. 

Here are the most impactful use cases of audio with digital signage: 

1. Capture attention

Short audios, when played occasionally, are a great way to garner audience attention. Research shows that many consumers prefer listening to reading, making audio effective in many settings. Here are a few examples:

  • One-time showing: If there is an ideal location for audio in digital signage, one-time shows are it. You can play company information, branding music, and greeting messages to engage your crowd.
  • Town hall events: Share a reminder announcement with employees before an important town hall. These are also effective in reaching audiences who may not be looking at the on-screen text messages.
  • Trade shows: Playing ambient music helps set the tone of your booth. For product demonstrations, where sound is a big feature, audio optimization is integral to showcasing your product’s capabilities in real-time. 
  • Brand-building: By using signature tunes, you can use audio to build brand identity. For instance, Netflix’s “ta-dum” sound is a sonic logo that helps viewers connect the sound with the brand. Similarly, you can use your sonic logo for customers to associate your brand with an audio cue.

2. Elevate ambience

Ambient music sets the right tone for a pleasant experience when played in the background. It can positively impact both mood and productivity. Here are some use cases for ambient music in your digital signage. 

  • In-store experiences: When customers walk into your store, every little thing matters. Details like background music and voice overs affect their mood inside your store. In other words, sound affects how customers feel, act, and think. 

Research has also shown that music affects the way people shop, as tempo can create a sense of urgency, calmness, or even chaos. That’s why choosing the right audio to supplement your digital signage matters in creating pleasant experiences.

  • Waiting room areas: Pleasant music in waiting rooms helps reduce restlessness and even anxiety in high-stress environments. For example, a study conducted in hospital waiting rooms showed that patients respond positively to ambient music during their wait, reducing stress levels in some cases.
  • Workstations: Studies have shown that playing calm music in the background increases focus and concentration. In turn, people become more productive and efficient. 

While most people argue that classical music is best for maximizing productivity, Harvard neuroscientists suggest that playing music that people are familiar with helps them concentrate the best.

  • Co-working places: If you share a working space, you know external stimuli are never short — which isn’t always good. Having people take loud calls or meetings can disrupt the ambiance and even lower concentration and productivity. 

Audio can help here! This might sound counterproductive, but playing light music in the background can dissuade loud calls in common areas. You can also send audio reminders on best practices to maintain decorum.    

3. Improves accessibility

Making your text-based content available in audio is the right step towards accessibility. This will cater to a wider audience with visual impairments and reading difficulties. These include people with color blindness, dyslexia, or even temporary vision loss. 

For instance, you can incorporate text-to-speech features in interactive signages like wayfinding kiosks and catalog touchscreens. Here, your customers can use the audio feature to get directions and product details, without reading any text. 

Additionally, you can cater to diverse audiences with multilingual audio features. This way, a customer’s proficiency in a language will not deter them from getting a seamless customer experience with your brand.

L Squared’s turnkey solution makes wayfinding easy and interactive. You can simply search for your destination, and you’ll get stepwise directions in seconds! It also supports multiple languages, so language isn’t a barrier to seamless CX.

Other factors to consider

Incorporating audio in your signage can be a sound business move, but there are a few things to consider. 

Is there an ideal audio placement for your digital displays?

Yes, placement is crucial for your audio’s effectiveness and impact on customer experiences. Let’s answer this in two parts — physical placement and audio deployment.

Physical placement: Where your digital signage display is situated helps improve the sound quality. Here are a few tips to get you going:

  • Use directional speakers to focus the sound toward a targeted location.
  • Ensure there is no obstruction to your speakers that might block or muffle the sound. 
  • Analyze the acoustics of the environment. For example, hard surfaces like concrete, metal, and glass tend to reflect the sound and cause echoes. On the other hand, soft surfaces like upholstered furniture, drapes, and curtains absorb sound.

Audio deployment: For successful implementation, ensure your audio adds to your visual or text-based signage. You want your audio to enhance, not distract, your audience. 

Some best practices include:

  • Ensuring your audio is in sync with visual elements in terms of tone, timing, and pace
  • Matching your audio volume with the ambient sound level – lower levels for quieter places and higher volumes (without being intrusive) in louder spaces
  • Avoiding overly repetitive audio that might irritate your audience. Keep a ready stock of audio variety to maintain brand consistency without boring your audience 
  • Considering audience demographics before finalizing the voice type (like music and voiceover) and content (tone and style)

How do you test your audio’s efficacy? 

There’s no other way around it – a strong (and ongoing) feedback mechanism is the way to go. You can collect feedback from customers and employees using surveys and feedback forms to analyze how your audio is received.

For instance, you can add a message like “How do you like our new audio messages?” in the survey. Customers can vote 1 for extremely poor experience or 5 if they have no complaints. 

Adding a text box is also a great option to get more detailed, subjective feedback that’s not based on a yes/no method. 

What if you get mixed responses?

Once you’ve collected enough feedback, you can analyze the responses to work on improvements. Some audiences might have a problem with audio in general, while others might prefer a different setting, location, or style. Either way, you can weave in their feedback to create a more pleasant auditory experience with your signage.

Over to you

As we’ve navigated through the intricacies of sound in digital signage, the confluence of sound and visuals has the power to create immersive experiences with customers at the core. 

As we move forward, the challenge and opportunities for businesses aren’t really in adopting audio-enhanced signage. Rather, it’s in crafting and innovating ways to use sound to inform, inspire, and engage audiences. 

At L Squared, we’re all about pushing boundaries and finding innovative ways to make communication more effective — and audio has its place here. So, think outside the box, experiment with audio to create more targeted and accessible messages, and leverage soundscaping to create immersive experiences. 

Here’s a fun brain-tickling activity: For your next project, find a way to go beyond the visual. Ask if sound can add another dimension to your digital signage experience. Or if the challenge is not really about finding the right place for audio in digital signage but crafting the right place for it — tailored specifically to your unique business needs.

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