2013 in view: Looking ahead at the digital signage year to come

Dec. 20, 2012 | by Christopher Hall

From concerns over the so-called "fiscal cliff" facing the U.S. economy to some promising signs from economic indicators, the year ahead looks both promising and ominous, depending on your focus.

For the digitial signage industry, some of the economic concerns facing the market might actually push growth, as retailers and restaurateurs among others may find deploying digital signage can create efficiencies that improve their bottom lines.

As 2012 comes to a close and Digital Signage Today takes a look at the year in review, we're also taking time to look ahead at what 2013 might bring to the digital signage/dynamic place-based/digital out-of-home industries. The end-of-year review/look ahead continues today with a cross-section of digital signage thought leaders offering up their answers to one simple question: "What do you see as the biggest digital signage trend or story coming in 2013?"

Most of these same thought leaders also answered the question "What would you say was the biggest digital signage news story or trend of the last year?" 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 what's ahead for digital signage in 2013:

Jose Avalos, director of visual retail at Intel:

In retail, digital signage has become central to the retailers' omnichannel strategy — the strategy to deliver one-on-one marketing experiences that are personalized, relevant and meaningful across all the brand's channels and consumer touch points. We are seeing numerous leading brands worldwide deliver these one-on-one marketing experiences across their digital touch points via integration of technology, from analytics to gesture to augmented reality to mobile integration. We have also seen "gamitization" [or "gamification"] into digital signage-based solutions to enable deeply engaging experiences and have consumer dwell times improve.

We believe we are at the beginning of the "omnichannel" era of marketing and that digital signage will remain a critical building block to the retailers' and brands omnichannel strategy, and perhaps this will be the biggest story in 2013. We are already seeing digital signage technology integration across many digital touch points, including interactive kiosks, interactive white boards, intelligent vending and dispensing and many other product segments.

Alan C. Brawn, principal, Brawn Consulting, and board member and chairman emeritus of the Digital Signage Federation for 2013:

The biggest trends for 2013 will be audience analytics and of course the continuing proliferation of NFC [near field communications] and QR codes and interactivity as well as video walls.

Lyle Bunn, dynamic place-based media consultant and principal at BUNN Co.:

2013 will be another positive year in the decades-long success story that is dynamic signage and digital place-based media, in particular for diligent project directors and suppliers. Specifically:

  • As Health Care Reform legislation, in particular Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, is implemented, the food services sector will substantially increase their use of dynamic place-based media. This use will spur interest and use in other sectors. Projects in retail, financial services, consumer services, health care and for corporate communications will advance in this current "post-cutting, must-build" economic climate.
  • In realizing that successful dynamic signage use and supply is the application of knowledge, proven training programs available online and from industry associations will offer an ongoing foundation of project and professional success. Experimentation and "trial and error" continually give way to structured processes and proven approaches. Underperforming projects and investments will be reviewed and re-positioned.
  • Static signage and digital graphics providers will continue to become a supply force of dynamic signage as the International Sign Association offers its members and affiliate regional associations education and resources.

(These comments were excerpted from a longer trends piece from Bunn that ran separately on DST.)

Jeff Collard, president of digital signage software provider Omnivex:

As we come to the end of a turbulent year in politics and uncertainty over the economy, 2013 could well be the turnaround year that helps us put some distance between us and the really bad hangover that started in 2008. Businesses are flush with cash that they will not spend until they see more certainty. Europe seems to be coming to grips with their debt issues, but no one is expecting a quick fix. The U.S. is getting closer to an agreement to deal with their immediate fiscal issues, which would pave the way for slow growth. Businesses are under pressure to grow without adding to their head count until they have greater certainty over long-term prospects, so increasing productivity and efficiency is key in the short term. This presents an opportunity for the digital signage industry.

Digital signage provides a mechanism to communicate targeted information to specific audiences at the time of decision making. Helping businesses meet their goals without adding to their workforce can be accomplished through better communications with staff, patrons and customers. Organizations need to change the way they interact with their audiences by delivering targeted messaging on a single, intelligent platform. The businesses that understand how to leverage the information within their organization through visual communications will be more successful and drive the adoption rate of this technology.

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.

Bryan Fairfield, president and CEO of digital signage and self-service kiosk software provider Nanonation:

It's difficult to predict the specific trends in the coming year ... [but] We do see a measured increase in deployments in both signage and interactive signage in the next year. 2012 was a huge growth year for us and, we believe, many others in the industry. 2013 already looks to be more of the same. Ironically, the economy is somewhat neutral in this industry since retailers are looking for alternative ways to differentiate right now. Signage and interactive are both cost effective and extremely impactful. Interactive, especially, can do wonders for conversion as well as cross-selling in the retail environment.

There are a couple of specific signage platforms we expect to see grow in 2013. We saw several thousand new iPad and iPod Touch units delivered in 2012, used either directly or output to a larger screen. It's a format that commands a significant amount of attention right now among both deployers and consumers. We expect that trend to continue. We also anticipate a shift toward Android as a key digital signage platform. Like the iOS platform, Android presents a huge cost savings from a hardware perspective.

Another trend we anticipate is an increase in the number of folks actually using facial recognition for demographic tracking or messaging based on demographics. Our customers have expressed interest here for some time, but now we're actually seeing interest converted into action.

Certainly a trend that began in 2012 and looks to continue to expand in 2013 is the integration of signage into other business areas. We're seeing integration into mobile (in both directions), integration into point of sale, integration into both inventory and CRM databases, and integration into the Web. We expect retailers to continue to recognize the exponential value increase of these kinds of integration and to invest more in this area over the next couple of years.

Jeff Hastings, CEO of digital signage media player firm BrightSign:

The health of the digital signage market as a whole is dependent on "waves" of innovation that drive market acceptance and adoption. In the coming year, the industry will begin moving full-throttle toward the next "wave" of innovation. We'll see extremely reliable devices emerging in the market that do not require all the overhead of operating systems, security software, maintenance fees, etc. ... Customers will enjoy easy deployment of signage projects big and small, using purpose-built appliances that are simply made to do the job at hand. The large universe of businesses that understand the value of digital signage, yet have held back due to budget considerations, will jump in.

An equally important part of this next wave of innovation brought about by the latest technology is support for the best content development tools. I believe the tool leading this innovation is HTML5, as evidenced by the exploding number of content providers who are using this development tool to serve up engaging and cutting-edge content. Add a device that can render this content and package it up reliably, and the entire AV industry will be re-invigorated. Installers and integrators will be able to revisit existing accounts and pursue new ones, with an updated toolbox that enables them to once again impress those prospects with compelling digital signage installations that are technically advanced, easy to deploy and extremely cost effective.

In short, there is an enormous market of businesses eager to either upgrade their existing digital signage solutions, or install digital signage for the first time. These customers need wait no longer for a solution that meets their functional needs and fits within their prescribed budget. The next wave of innovation is here, and 2013 will prove to be one of the most transformative periods in the evolution of digital signage.

Jane Johnson, SVP, sales and marketing, for marketing technologies company Wireless Ronin Technologies:

In addition to overall industry growth, a top trend that we will continue to see evolve in 2013 is the convergence of digital channels — including in-store signage and interactive kiosk, mobile, social media and Web. Companies who put their customer in the center and create a consistent brand message and a seamless customer experience, regardless of channel, will win. These companies will need the tools and capabilities the digital signage industry has to offer to make this a reality in a cost-effective fashion. Solutions that allow companies to manage their digital content on a single platform and deploy that content to any device, be it a cellphone, a digital sign, a tablet or a kiosk, will be key. Consistency across channels becomes even more imperative as customers interact with brands in multiple channels simultaneously. We all know that the mobile phone is embedded in almost everything we do. Thus we will especially see more solutions that integrate mobile interaction and mobile messaging with other channels.

David Little, director of marketing for digital signage provider Keywest Technology:

Looking to 2013, we will likely see additional integration of "Big Data" into digital signage applications. Some may instantly think of "Big Brother" and other notions of invasion of privacy that is always a fuzzy line, but the utilization of Big Data by advertisers is really more about making better guesses at what might provoke one's interest and engaging with content.

This data is collected as we use digital devices, apps and the Internet on a daily basis, but it is rarely tied to us in a personal way, unless you have given permission through a loyalty program or the like. Of course, just using certain digital services may be part of a permission-based data collection scheme, and it is not hard to go too far before ad intrusion becomes an annoyance, which is one reason some speculate on the fate on Facebook's future. We are yet to learn how much of the application of Big Data the general public will tolerate. Interested in finding out? You can experience it firsthand by viewing your Facebook page (assuming you have one since over 1 billion people do) over the next year as they incorporate Big Data through 2013.

Big Data in some ways is our digital fingerprint that knows our digital habits, regardless of what OS platform, Internet browser or mobile device one prefers to use. When we boil Big Data down for digital signage applications, it becomes a process of getting better at engaging us and helping us find products, people, service, news and entertainment that matter to us.

Because digital signage by its very nature can seamlessly aggregate and use data already existing on customers, this data can purposed to offer personal assistance for many in-store processes, such as product assistance, customer service, loyalty incentives or possibly social interactions when and where we feel like sharing something.

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 2013, expect more focus on tighter connections between the Web, mobile and in-store applications. The blurring of the lines between Web and store will be a focus of many projects. Also, more businesses will be taking big steps to equip employees with rich media applications for training and assisted sales.

Richard Ventura, director of sales - vertical solutions for digital signage solutions provider NEC Display Solutions of America:

In 2013 we are going to see further integration of mobility and NFC with digital signage systems. This will also be the year that large displays will be integrated into digital signage applications. The video wall will continue to grow in vertical markets. We will actually even see larger than normal video walls with a focus on off shapes and sizes as well. The tablet will become more important with the interactivity of the digital signage systems that are out there. We will see this integration focus especially in the retail market segment. Outdoor digital signage will continue to grow and will develop into a more important part of the projects.

What do YOU think will be the biggest digital signage trend of 2013? Sound off in the comments below!

Read more about digital signage trends.

Topics: Interactive / Touchscreen , Mobile Interactivity , Retail , Trends / Statistics

Companies: Nanonation , Keywest Technology , NEC Display Solutions , BrightSign , Omnivex , Intel Corporation

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