The top 10 digital screen media trends for 2014, Pt. I

By Keith Kelsen

Author of "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage" and CVO, 5th Screen Digital

My title of this trends piece has changed this year to reflect the industry morphing into something new, something connected to the digital consumer ... for all screens are now part of the continuity of marketing messages including the increasingly powerful pocket screen.

As I reflect on last year's predictions (which you can see here and here), it struck me how this industry is shaping up, and what forces are driving new innovation, and how each and every one of us in the industry is one of the forces that count — no matter if it is one big screen or 500 small screens all connected to the mobile digital consumer. I believe that 2013 marked a few changes in the industry; some that were subtle but important and others more obvious and game changing.

And now ... on to 2014.

1. 2014 is the year of BIG and small

This coming year promises that you will need to go big or ... go small. With the trends that I see in the marketplace, it's no longer OK (within the retail, hospitality and dining environments) to put a screen on the wall and expect the consumer to pay attention. There is now a higher saturation of screens in the marketplace. The shopper is no longer wowed by the HD screen on the wall. In the 5th Screen's Good, Bad and Ugly Content Worldwide Survey, 40 percent of all participants saw digital signage in the retail environment.

The industry is headed toward creating BIG screen participation marketing experiences using huge video walls and large 65-to-80-inch screens with touch, gesture, virtual aisles and augmented reality to engage the consumer in experiences that get the shopper off their pocket screen and onto the brand screen, engage them and then link to their small pocket screen to continue the conversation between brand and the shopper.

For the small screen, think tablets and mobile. Both iPad and Intel-based tablets are permeating the marketplace. The recent announcement of Applebee's deployment of Intel-based tablets at each table is leading the way. We now see them at Subway on the counter next to the register; in the hands of associates; at the shelf next to products; in new concept stores. These small screens will be interactive with a personal one-on-one purposed experience and with the goal to continue the conversation on the smallest screen: the pocket screen. And to help this No. 1 trend, tablets are getting more powerful and less expensive by the day. The key to their success will be how these screens engage the shopper. These deployments will, I believe, be the most significant growth area in the marketplace. Remember that saying about how great things come in small packages.

The combination of BIG and small screens in the new retail environment is the key to brick-and-mortar brand survival in the digital world.

2. Participation marketing and gamification

In today's attention grabbing environment the consumer is inundated with more than 1,200 messages per day on average, according to recent studies. But, it is no longer about the consumer watching, it's about what they do. And they DO media, not watch media in the marketplace.

Today, if a screen does not deliver an engagement and story in a point-of-wait network (where the consumer has dwell time) or point-of-sale network (where the consumer is shopping) environment, then it's a waste of resources, and the consumer will simply not care.

The engagement process might be touch, gesture, augmented reality or simply "text to this number" from the consumer's pocket screen. The key is to give the engaged consumer the chance to win something, anything, or just offer to give them something, and they will give you (the brand) personal information in return and connect with you on their pocket screen for the ongoing conversation. The gamification of retail is underway, and using participation marketing techniques in 2014 is going viral — and it will give the brand and retailers a high return on investment and return on engagement.

The ante has just gone up, and the consumer is demanding something to do not something to watch.

3. Great content

Today's consumer demands high quality experiences, and the only element that we have to deliver on that promise is to create great content. Content is one of the most challenging and daunting tasks that has plagued the industry, but this year is the year that agencies are stepping up to the challenge. We have reached a point that the knowledge base has finally sunk in ... TV ads do not work on digital signage. Yes, I know, those of us in the industry have been saying that since day one. But now more than a decade and a half later, agencies are on board with this. And purpose-built media for digital signage is now the new standard. In the recent 2013 worldwide survey on content, 55 percent of the survey participants said that the content was mediocre, and 8 percent considered the content bad. In contrast, 35 percent considered the content good, and only 2 percent considered the digital media to be great.

So why do I think great content is on the horizon? Because now we know. Now we know that every piece of brand media that the consumer comes in contact with has to be great or risk the perception that the brand isn't: Bad content=bad brand; great content=great brand. Combine this with the fact that brands are making larger investments in their digital assets or they die. Brands understand that the past decade of feverish developments in intersecting digital technology require them to create great content in the digital world. As brands become digitally bonded with consumers, the only perception that matters is how great that content is, and this will directly affect the consumer's attitude toward the brand at every digital touchpoint.

Look for great content on all screens, because the brand's survival depends upon the digital bond.

4. Connecting the dots

This has been on my list for the last three years, and this year it moves up to the No. 4 position. The pressure for all screens to work together seamlessly is even stronger in 2014. Call it omnichannel, transmedia experience, mobile connection or whatever. The bottom line is that a consumer is looking for an experience that is seamless.

From their point of view, that means that what I see on TV, on my tablet, on my smartphone and in-store creates a seamless experience on that path to purchase. The industry gets it, the agencies get it, even IT gets it, and marketing definitely gets it. But it does take the fundamental architectural changes in the back end. And that process began for most retailers in the last two years and is still in its infancy.

Through the implementation or omnichannel in the retail sector, the seamless experience will become more of a reality this year. This is the time when the consumer touches the cloud and the consumer does not care which screen they are interacting with as long as it is entertaining, helpful or useful. Look what Apple just did ... iBeacon (although not new, just NFC the Apple way) ... but it does that tell us the experience is changing in retail and it simply does not matter which screen. Digital signage will be a connected cloud experience, or it will be ignored.

Look for more seamless experiences across all screens where digital signage is a part of the cloud ecosystem.

5. Data and experiences

"Big Data" is something that was a buzzword in late 2012 and in early 2013 ... but what happens when small data drives the real-time experience? We have seen this in simple terms, such as when weather data drives products offered on-screen (e.g., hot chocolate when it's snowing or an umbrella sale when it's raining). But the world of data is changing and becoming part of the very fabric that we live in. AutoZone utilizes big data to tap into a variety of databases, such as the types of cars driven by people living around their retail outlets. This has given AutoZone a competitive advantage because they can offer inventory to their customers with what they want, where they want it. Imagine when this gets integrated into their digital screen strategy.

Small data will begin to drive our interactive screen experiences in new (and unnoticed by the consumer), but extremely useful natural ways.

(Check back later to read part two of Kelsen's annual trends predictions piece right here.)

Author and speaker Keith Kelsen, chief visionary at 5th Screen, is an expert on digital media. More information about his book, "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen," published by Focal Press, can be found on the book's companion website at www.5thscreen.info. Reach him at keith.kelsen@5thscreen.com or on Twitter @kkelsen.

©2013 Keith Kelsen

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