Digital signage takes aim at Retail's BIG Show

The retail industry still has a big target pinned to its back as far as the digital signage industry is concerned, and some big game hunters are braving the wilds of Retail's BIG Show to bag more business.

Retail IT spending is expected to continue rising as retailers embrace an omnichannel approach to engaging with, and profiting from, consumers, and making the in-store experience more dynamic through digital signage should be a significant part of that.

A range of digital signage providers from Stratacache to Cisco, Intel to NEC, are scheduled to be at next week's National Retail Federation Annual Convention & Expo, called Retail's BIG Show, to showcase their offerings, both in digital signage and in other consumer-facing technologies.

The BIG Show in New York City is the premier retail industry trade show in the U.S., with more than 25,500 retail industry professionals and more than 450 solution providers taking part last year, said Jose Avalos, director of visual retail for Intel Corp., in a recent email. But it's also the most important show for the Intel Retail Solutions Division, Intel's division for retail and digital signage, he said.

"The last two years, our Intel Audience Impression Metric Suite anonymously detected more than 12,000 visitors in our booth. It is at this show that we articulate Intel's vision for the Connected Store and our solutions for the industry," he said. "At this show, we've launched numerous retailing and digital signage solutions."

More than just for Intel, though, it's important for the digital signage industry to be well represented at the show, he said.

"Increasingly, digital signage is becoming a key component of retailers' and brands' omnichannel strategy to provide a seamless and consistent experience across all touch points that is personalized, relevant and meaningful," Avalos said. "Digital signage enables retailers to connect with shoppers on a one-on-one basis and deliver a personalized experience while gathering anonymous data on shopper demographics. Retailers are not looking simply for technology. They are looking to solve difficult challenges with technology — challenges like inventory distortion (having the right product, at the right place and time, for the right customer) and brand awareness (delivering a one-on-one marketing experience to the consumer). Thus, increasingly digital signage needs to be marketed within the scope of these overarching challenges and not as a stand-alone solution."

Digital signage display provider NEC Display Solutions of America also will be at the BIG Show for the third year, and Richard Ventura, director of sales-vertical solutions for the company, said the expo is key in helping the company plan its overall sales strategy.

"It is important for our strategy in that it helps us understand and address four major areas and strategies: What will drive customer engagement in stores in 2013? What are the key areas of focus for brands to grow sales and analyze those effects? How are stores utilizing technology to impact the customer experience? And what are the key drivers and expectations for retail companies in 2013 and beyond?" he said.

Jon Parks, product marketing manager for tech distributor Avnet's Brilliant Digital Signage division, said that this year he expects digital signage to be "nearly unavoidable as retailers look to adopt omnichannel marketing in the face of stiffer competition from e-tailers."

"Retailers are challenged with enhancing the in-store experience to keep customers walking through their doors, and digital signage is perhaps the best bait," he said. "With retail being arguably the largest market for digital signage (corporate communications/internal venue is often cited as larger), I expect to see many exhibitors who have elected to invest in a larger digital signage presence at this year's show."

The allure of the NRF BIG Show for NEC is that it provides an opportunity under one roof to meet various levels of retail companies, Ventura said.

"We can meet with the largest to the smallest companies and find out what key things they are looking for to drive customer experiences," he said. "The second is that it is a great opportunity for our company to see complementary products that could be integrated into solutions that we are offering to our clients. This also introduces us to various partners that we can engage with in order to strengthen the solutions offerings at NEC. Lastly, it is a great opportunity to display what we are doing with various current customers, prospects, partners, consultants and even the press."

With that said, though, Avalos said it's only mildly surprising there aren't more digital signage companies showing at the NRF BIG Show:

"Is it surprising? Yes and no. Yes, because retail is the largest vertical within digital signage and this is the premier show for the industry," he said. "No, because digital signage is so fragmented that many of the industry players just sell at the component level and not at the solutions level, and also because the digital signage industry already has various trade shows that do this well — the industry selling to the industry.

"Regardless, increasingly retailers will be looking for solutions for which digital signage is an ingredient. In fact, over the last three years we have seen more and more digital signage-based solutions showcased at NRF and we think this trend will continue. We should remember that NRF attracts solution providers that are delivering solutions across the entire retail value chain, and that digital signage is just one of many capabilities that retailers are deploying."

Read more about digital signage in retail.

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