As the calendar turns the page to 2014 — and closes the books on what was a fascinating 2013 — Digital Signage Today is taking a moment to look ahead to the year to come.
To get a feel for what might be coming down the pike in the year ahead, we asked a handful of industry insiders to weigh in on one simple question: What will be the biggest digital signage news story or trend in 2014?
Their wide-ranging answers appear below (and be sure to click here to read what many of these same sources thought was the biggest digital signage news story of the year that just passed):
Jeff Collard, President, Omnivex
2014 will be a big year for consolidation. There are several trends that have been building over the past few years and are now coming to a head. Consumers have become accustomed to seeing information on digital displays and relate their experience to the availability and quality of digital signage around them. Having digital screens in your business is no longer enough; the information must connect with the viewer and be specific to them. Many of the systems currently in use are not delivering an appropriate return on investment because the information they display is not relevant to the viewer and operating costs to deliver more targeted information on older systems is too high.
The proliferation of intelligent devices is fueling a massive growth in data that organizations can use to target messages. Most organizations today have initiatives around "Big Data" and want to leverage it to engage people and grow their business. These factors are changing the criteria for digital signage networks. Customers are better educated and demanding more functionality from the systems they purchase. So the outlook for sophisticated systems in 2014 looks bright, but the market for low-end systems is going to get tougher.
Implementation and planning will be key to the success of sophisticated systems, so vendors need to do a better job delivering deployment services. Successful network operators with good technology will expand, pushing out smaller vendors with inflexible solutions. Service vendors who looked at digital signage as an add-on sale to a building renovation will be hard pressed to deliver complete solutions due to lack of knowledge and skills. They will need to make a significant investment in education and focus in order to supply this market. We have seen a few large companies come into the space over time, but we have also seen several exit. It is no longer a market to dabble in; the criteria for success is much higher and the margin for error much lower.
Paul Flanigan, Executive Director, Digital Screenmedia Association
Screens are everywhere. It's no longer novel, and it's not going to slow down. Technology in the general-product sense has become incredibly accessible, giving potential buyers more options than ever to find and create solutions for their own customers, clients or venues.
But in the year to come, the discipline of ROI will gain more ground. It's one thing to hang a screen. It's another thing entirely to get engagement and impact. The discipline of understanding engagement with digital signage has always been here, but real-world (and real-time) data, case studies and examples are going to provide a better foundation for proving the value of a network in terms of engagement.
We will see more influence from external behaviors; legislation — from local to federal — will be important. In the past few weeks, we have seen activity on patent trolls; we have also see many stories on legislation of digital signage (particularly with outdoor billboards). Environmental design will also play a much larger role. Solutions that include image projection, unique screen sizes and placement, and mobile connectivity are attractive to designers looking to create amazing visual eye-candy. These will shape how we create solutions that work for clients.
Mahesh Hinduja, President, doPublicity Digital Signage
We see the market moving toward a mass utilization of digital signage, especially by technologically challenged users who are typically reluctant to use unfamiliar technologies. This segment includes tiny and small businesses, who have limited resources and time for devoting to managing complex digital signage screens.
This segment typically prefers to use solutions that can be setup within minutes and have low operating costs — with the benefits of all the complex solutions that are available in the digital signage marketplace. Striking this balance of price and features is going to be critical in participating in this huge segment, as these users know what they want, but want it on their terms.
One thing that has not changed over the years and will continue to be a major factor is CONTENT. We have been providing ready-to-use customizable templates that continue to gain popularity and drive higher deployment of digital signage screens — just because setting up content and playlists is now super easy.
Michael O'Halloran, Product Marketing Manager, Commercial Displays, Samsung Enterprise Business Division
Ultra High Definition has already begun grabbing share with high-end consumers, but we think 2014 will be the year that UHD begins to gain ground in commercial environments.
Expect brands looking to enhance their image through stunning visual communications to start making the step up to 4K for their premium consumer-facing installations. Even for brands that do not immediately plan to display 4K content, we would encourage forward-thinking integrators to spec out UHD to future-proof their projects.
2014 will see more choice in the UHD display marketplace, and we expect many end-users will consider paying a premium to give their project that lifelike visual impact, or to simply ensure that they are able to support 4K content in future.
Nathan Remmes, Director of Business Development, NanoLumens
2014 will herald in a new focus in digital signage: While 2013 was about compatibility and interactivity, 2014 will be more of a focus on visual and aesthetic changes as display manufacturers and marketers explore more creative shapes and configurations for displays. Instead of one large, rectangular installation, we'll see more multidisplay installations and sizes to vary the message and enhance engagement with multiple audiences at one time. Sixteen: nine will no longer be a restriction, but more so a standard, with other aspect ratios rising into availability and focus.
Kevin Schroll, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Commercial Displays, Samsung Enterprise Business Division
Catching up with the rapid proliferation in smartphones and tablets in recent years, wireless connectivity will be a big trend in digital signage in 2014.
Over the past few years, we've seen increasing use of Wi-Fi or Wi-Di dongles to deliver content to displays, but now that functionality is being built into the display for premium models and will increasingly become a core feature.
Wi-Fi has enormous benefits in conference room environments, where it eliminates the hassle of HDMI cables and enables users to seamlessly display content from PCs, tablets and even smartphones. It also opens up new opportunities for audience engagement, for example by enabling mobile interaction with shoppers in the retail space.
Tanya Williams, Business Development Manager, Australian digital signage integrator Prendi
The trends for 2014 will focus on a few key areas. We are seeing a lot of interest from national retailers who are starting to think of how they want their "store of the future" to look, and many will start to trial and implement in a phased manner. Omnichannel and "store of the future" concepts are creating a lot of buzz as national retailers are looking at what is being done in overseas markets and what sales and engagements results that are being achieved.
We will see more SMEs considering digital signage in their initial store development and as part of their digital marketing budgets as the digital signage market continues to grow. Much of the conversation will focus on the digital content that is being displayed on screens, as this is what grabs the customers' attention.
As more education is being done around how to increase engagement with customers and the need to change the existing retail environment, I expect we will see more touchscreen integrations being developed that allow customers to drive their own experience. Being able to customize product offerings, browse at leisure and view extended product offerings will become more popular in customer-facing environments as this trend continues to be driven by consumer demand.
Having digital signage and similar technology is becoming an expectation by customers who are starting to drive the demand and push businesses to start to implement it.
Industry growth is likely to come from similar industries in 2014 as they expand into using more digital technology. 2014 will be a solid year for growth within the digital signage industry.
Thomas Zerega, Founder and CEO, Magnetic 3D
Looking at the year ahead, the digital signage industry is poised to transform from late-adolescent to mature market segment. For 3D, this will have great implications as early adopters of digital signage begin to see the market saturation of 2D technologies and start to look for the next technology to provide an edge over competitors.
At retail, glasses-free 3D signage has proven to provide triple the lift in digital sales, and we expect that many brands will begin using glasses-free 3D technology to differentiate themselves from the droves of followers that are now embracing digital signage. We see pilot programs turning into national rollouts for glasses-free 3D networks.
Also, we note that the convergence of digital technologies coupled with programmatic buying will play an important role in maximizing ROI for our customers in 2014.
Learn more about digital signage trends.