David Weinfeld

Exploring the Convergence of Media and Technology

Physical App Store Presents Digital Signage Opportunities

The app store is making its way from the digital world to the physical. Openspace, a startup focused on making app discovery easier and more efficient, has opened a bricks-and-mortar retail presence in Colorado. At first glance, this may appear to be a ridiculous idea. “Why do I need to visit a physical store when I can purchase apps right from my phone?” some of you may be asking. But, I happen to think that Openspace is on to something.

Apple’s app store has over 500,000 apps, whereas the Android marketplace is cresting over 300,000. Those numbers are only getting bigger. It’s clear that app discovery is broken. It’s becoming ever more difficult to identify the best apps in a sea of copycats and gimmicks. 
Openspace’s digital platform is aiming to match users with apps according to interest-based collections. Companies like Appsfire and Chomp are attempting to solve the app discovery problem as well. With this in mind, Openspace has made a calculated strategic decision to open a physical retail store. The store is staffed with “App Gurus” who make recommendations and direct customers to the most useful apps for their unique needs.
The cost of the store is likely marginal, and the benefits are already being seen. The company has received a significant amount of press coverage stemming from its retail gambit, from the likes of Techcrunch, Mashable, CNET, and All Things Digital. That alone is worth it. 
Where Does Digital Signage Fit In?
With a folder of press clippings tucked away, now it’s up to Openspace to realize even more value from its retail presence. That’s where interactive digital signage comes in. The Openspace retail store is pitch perfect for an array of interactive displays and kiosks. As the entire idea of the venue is to merge the digital and the physical, next-generation retail technologies should be employed to take customers’ app discovery process to the next level. 
An installation similar to Obscura Digital’s Hard Rock Wall would be perfect. The Rock Wall is all about discovery, acting as a digital gateway to the Hard Rock Cafe’s global memorabilia catalog. Carrying the same idea to mobile apps would create both a rich and engaging user experience.

Even if the Rock Wall may be beyond Openspace’s scale, it’s impossible to deny the vast benefits the company would realize in maxing out its digital signage potential. From the photographs of Openspace’s retail store, it’s clear that they are using computer stations to facilitate app discovery. What I’m recommending is taking that idea to the next level. Openspace could become a leading paradigm for virtual meets physical retail.
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