NRF14: Digital signage comes up big and small at Retail's BIG Show

In ways both obvious and subtle, digital signage made its presence felt at this year's National Retail Federation Convention and Expo, a.k.a. "Retail's BIG Show," earlier this month in New York City.

While the number of standalone, digital signage-specific booths was small, the medium's presence was a big factor at the BIG Show. Many if not most exhibitors had some form of digital signage on display, either as part of their offerings or as a way to showcase their products.

Ubiquitous digital signage consultant Lyle Bunn attended the show, and said in an interview that he noticed some significant shifts at this year's retail show — as well as some room for the technology to grow.

"I would say that the focus on digital engagement as a way of activating customer loyalty, assuring lifetime customer value, is clearly being activated by digital signage yet further," he said, "but the biggest change that I've seen is the integration of digital signage into a broader digital campaign, a broader digital experience, integrating with mobile through NFC being a key point."

While those were the major changes he saw on the show floor, Bunn said there was still a gap in the adoption of digital signage and dynamic place-based messaging.

"There's a certainty about the reality and the maturity of digital signage, and while that is being recognized on the information technology side of things, I'm not seeing that fulfilled on the marketing side of things," he said. "This reflects that agencies as instruments of retailers have not truly engaged a number of new, available and proven technologies."

The list of digital signage companies that did exhibit in their own booths included digital signage software giant Scala, which was represented at the NRF show for the first time, according to CEO Tom Nix.

"So far it's turned out to be a good decision," Nix said. "I think it's an ideal show for us to be at."

While it may have seemed that digital signage was a bit under-represented on the show floor of the biggest show serving digital signage's biggest vertical, Bunn said that appearance was perhaps a little deceiving.

"What's fascinating about that is that there are some standalone vendors, absolutely — STRATACACHE, ComQi, Scala and others are standalone vendors — but, within a lot of booths beyond the technology of digital signage, we see it being integrated into point-of-sale system providers ... so there's a lot of display capability that's out there," he said. "And even where mobile is being advanced, the digital signage is seen as the point of interface between that mobile device, so there's a tremendous ubiquity to it without it being a standalone application so to speak."

There also are still plenty of firms still moving into the space, he said. "So we continue to see, even here with this vertical market, vendors moving into providing location-based messaging media like digital signage as an extension of their existing platform."

Digital signage display provider Samsung Electronics America was one of numerous display companies at the show — the list also included HP, NEC, Panasonic and Planar Systems — showcasing the interactive capabilities of digital signage for retail. Samsung, for example, featured an application with digital experience company Infusion that allows consumers to shop via digital signage and mobile from a store window without ever setting foot inside the store

"As consumers, we get accustomed to technology in our homes, and then when we leave our homes we expect the technology to be mirrored where we go — and retailers have been the first to sort of capitalize on that to help create those environments and give those experiences," Samsung Product Marketing Manager Michael O'Halloran said on the show floor. "We live on our couch in front of an HD TV and our tablets and our smartphones; when you now go to your local retailer for something, you expect some of that interactivity or collaboration that you had at your house [to be] mirrored back to you."

Learn more about digital signage in retail.

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