From the London Olympics to the New York hurricane, 2012 has been quite a year for digital signage. The industry has seen its share of big stories — from a tech giant selling off its digital signage division to the Supreme Court upholding Obamacare and what that should mean for digital menu boards — and in the coming weeks Digital Signage Today will be taking a long look back at the digital signage year that was in 2012.
The year-end review kicks off today with a cross-section of digital signage thought leaders offering up their answers to one simple question: "What would you say was the biggest digital signage news story or trend of the last year?"
Most of these same thought leaders also answered the question "What do you see as the biggest digital signage trend or story coming in 2013?" and some of them combined their answers to answer both at the same time.
DST also will be publishing a look at the most heavily-read stories of year on the site, as well as publishing additional longer-form year-in-review/trends predictions pieces from some digital signage experts who couldn't help but go above and beyond the call with their thoughtful and insightful looks at the year behind us and the year to come.
But, without further ado, let's get to the experts, to hear what they have to say (in alphabetical order) about digital signage in 2012:
Jose Avalos, director of visual retail at Intel:
Digital signage continues to become ubiquitous and intelligent. We have known for some time that digital signage is the fastest growing media channel. At Intel, we've been forecasting 10 million media players and 22 million corresponding digital signage screens by 2015. Perhaps the most important trend is that digital signage is becoming increasingly intelligent. We are seeing numerous high-volume designs utilizing remote management for improved energy efficiency, remote diagnostics and repair, and improved TCO. We are seeing high-performing solutions that support anonymous viewer analytics to anonymously collect demographics information for improved messaging, resulting in better ROI for advertising-based networks and better ROO for information-based networks. High-performing solutions are also delivering rich graphics and media engaging solutions to consumers.
Lyle Bunn, dynamic place-based media consultant and principal at BUNN Co.:
2012 has seen its share of important stories and trends, though these less dazzling than those of previous years. At an estimated $7 billion in annual revenues, growing on all accounts at a continued, double-digit compound annual growth rate, employing an estimated 50,000 professionals, as messages are presented on more than 2 million networked out-of-home displays, the dynamic place-based media sector is moving beyond its early adolescence as it quietly moves forward in providing competitive advantage to end-users and their capable suppliers.
The most important industry news items of 2012 were generally not published or profiled, as non-disclosure agreements and project privacy shrouded initiatives and kept them from public (and competitor) view.
One imagines how many marketing, agency and business executives have wondered at the value that the McDonald's McCafé menu/promotion board delivers or been impressed by the engagement value of the medical waiting room displays of Care Media. Ad and internal messages on digital place-based deliver high value.
The fact that few significant case studies have been released, that industry award nominees typically offered very little information about the business benefits achieved, and that few end user/vertical market conferences carried dynamic signage education sessions (these are typically member-directed association events) are indicators that dynamic signage is seen as providing significant business value and competitive advantage for the organizations that use it. (These comments were excerpted from a longer trends piece from Bunn that ran separately.)
Erin Doherty, director of marketing for digital communications company Four Winds Interactive:
The trend for us over 2012 and into 2013 is that we're using our product in more ways in any single implementation. We're pushing content and interfaces to more types of screens. The goal for our customers is to enhance experiences holistically, for whatever community the customer needs to reach — employees, guests, customers, patients, and students.
This requires that our platform make it simple to aggregate data and messaging from many sources, curate that information, format it in a meaningful way graphically, and get it to all the right places — including desktops, mobile, public displays, touchscreens and more, with consistent branding.
These solutions, which we used to call "digital signage systems," have expanded to cover more ground and should now be called "digital communications solutions." What used to require multiple software platforms and data integrations now can be handled with a single solution, which both reduces cost substantially and makes the message more consistent.
Jeff Hastings, CEO of digital signage media player firm BrightSign:
How about the part that digital signage played in the London Olympics 2012?
There were screens everywhere — and widely used both to enhance visitors experience and reinforce sponsors' messages. Screens were dotted around the Olympic Park and other venues, highlighting events currently taking place or about to start, and showing where standby seats were still available. Screens were also placed in London parks, allowing popular events (especially the opening and closing ceremonies) to be watched collectively (and free) by those unable to get tickets. The atmosphere around these screens was almost as good as in the stadium itself. Within the venues, screens explained the rules of the events and what was happening at each stage of a competition, as well as offering replays of exciting moments and close up views. People at the venues felt that the screens greatly enhanced the experience, enabling them to understand and enjoy sports like weightlifting, judo and volleyball of which they may have had no prior knowledge or understanding.
This shows the potential for networked digital signage at every level, and its immediacy and how it has become a part of daily life.
Jane Johnson, SVP, sales and marketing, for marketing technologies company Wireless Ronin Technologies:
The most exciting story I took away from 2012 were the visible signs that the digital signage industry is truly on the cusp of dramatic growth — growth that I believe we'll see in 2013. These signs include movement on the menu-labeling requirements by the FDA now that we're past the 2012 presidential election, lower cost hardware which will help drive stronger ROI, and more directly, the conversations we are having with both customers and prospects about national rollouts rather than POC's and single-store pilots. These conversations are proof that companies understand and acknowledge the value proposition and financial ROI that digital solutions can provide. We also saw increased interest in our solutions from new industry sectors, especially retail, which we believe will further spur growth for Wireless Ronin Technologies and the industry overall.
David Little, director of marketing for digital signage provider Keywest Technology:
Looking back on 2012, there have been so many improvements in the field of digital signage technology worthy of note that it would fill a book to discuss them all, but here is one newsworthy discussion of 2012 — Android.
Where there is smoke there is fire, Kindle Fire that is, which is driving Android growth something like wildfire. This is partly the result of Amazon's low-price strategy that is somewhere near build cost. This fact, along with the growth of other Android-based tablets, leads IDC to speculate that Android's worldwide market share will increase to about 42.7 percent by the end of this year.
Why is this good news for the digital signage market? Simply put, economies of scale. With the growing adoption of tablets by both consumers and businesses, über-exothermic market growth is forecasted through 2016 at 20.9 percent CAGR, according to an IDC report released on Dec. 5. Since the digital signage industry readily adapts consumer display technologies, this will ensure a good selection of high-quality products as manufacturers attempt to outgun each other with more powerful, higher-resolution devices. This means digital signage innovators will be able to repurpose these portable devices for a myriad of uses all the way from self-standing kiosks to shelf-talking display systems — all at a price that would put a smile on the most tight-fisted accountant.
Brian Nutt, CEO of digital marketing solutions provider Codigo LLC:
The retail experience has evolved dramatically over the last year. The biggest transition is the rapid connection between devices and the consumer environment. No longer can digital signage be relevant on its own as a one-way communication tool. Providers will have to offer new services that allow customers to interact in novel ways and return information back to that user with exacting information.
Today more than ever, consumers trust their devices and expect information to be delivered to them without delay. If digital signage is going to continue to grow at the pace the industry has enjoyed, we will all need to continue to evolve and innovate at an ever quickening pace. Consumers demand it. It is that simple.
Alex Romanov, CEO of multiplatform advertising solutions company iSIGN Media:
Right now, the top trend in digital signage is in the consumer's pocket or handbag: their smartphone. A recent Strategy Analytics report found that the number of smartphones in use worldwide topped 1 billion this year for the first time ever. That's 1 billion potential digital signs — and each is capable of capturing its owner's full attention.
The smartphone revolution has profound implications for the digital signage industry when digital signs are used as part of a location-aware marketing strategy. Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-based proximity marketing reaches potential customers at the time they are most likely to make a purchase — when they have indicated interest in the product or service being sold by arriving at the point of sale.
A proximity marketing strategy that leverages the world's 1 billion active smartphones has the potential to dramatically increase sales while also delivering valuable customer insights, all without compromising consumer privacy. So identifying the hottest trend in digital signage is easy — just look in your pocket.
Matt Schmitt, president and co-founder of in-store digital media solutions provider Reflect Systems:
In 2012 we saw much more interest and adoption of interactive. Credit the "app mania" effect from the consumer world, along with the growing trend of retailers focusing on omnichannel strategies. Another trend developing has been broader use of different screen types and sizes — from tablets to large-format LED systems, projects are now including more than just traditional "television-style" implementations, depending on the venue type and the goal of the media endpoint.
Richard Ventura, director of sales - vertical solutions for digital signage solutions provider NEC Display Solutions of America:
This was the year that we saw explosion in the digital menu board space. Some major brands rolled out digital menu boards to a majority of their restaurant locations. This will spark even larger rollouts in 2013 and beyond. Another major trend that we saw in 2012 was the continued focus and growth of video wall systems in multiple vertical markets. Colleges and universities have rolled out three-by-three and larger video walls on their campuses. This is spurring new ideas and strategies in content creation as well as the use of interactive signage. In the retail environment, 2012 saw more interactive digital signage installations. We saw touch interactive displays as well as mobile interactivity driving sales and implementations. A buzz word in 2012 was analytics. 2013 should show true integration of analytics into major digital signage rollouts. Lastly, in 2012, hospitality and health care focused on wayfinding systems and corporate communication signage systems.
Read more about digital signage trends.