Symon Communications' Steve Gurley has long been at the forefront of the digital signage/mobile technology integration conversation, and at this year's Digital Signage Expo he led a pre-show panel about "Mobile Models You Can Believe In" that produced an interesting take on how those two should work together.
During the Las Vegas show, Gurley recapped the panel discussion, and talked about where he and others think digital signage fits into the exploding mobile ecosystem.
"There are massive trends in play today that are going to direct more attention of the consumer to the mobile device," he said. "There's an interesting dynamic like none we've ever seen before in terms of engagement with technology."
The panel discussion also featured representatives from mobile interactivity and marketing firms Screenreach and Blue Bite and from Abilene Christian University, which has been deploying mobile tech in the educational environment. And the panelists tried to highlight the ongoing trends to the audience, to help them prepare for what's coming, Gurley said.
"As consumers' eyeballs are gravitating more and more to these mobile devices, how can digital signage players survive and thrive in that kind of environment, where they're competing for the attention of the consumer?"
The representative from Abilene Christian had especially important things to say about what's on the horizon, Gurley said, since college students will be the next generation of adult shoppers:
"What they focused a lot on was, here is what the up-and-coming consumer is going to be expecting; here is what we're seeing in terms of college kids; here is how they're engaging with technology -- and they are engaging with mobile technologies," he said. "It's almost on an exclusive basis"
Take that next generation of mobile-centric consumers and couple that with the trends that are going to enable new services and new ways of doing things, and what does that mean to digital signage?
And what are those trends?
Take the advent of the iPhone 3GS and the Apple app store (the combination of hyper-sophisticated devices with apps that anyone, or any business, could build) and combine that with mobile access to free of paid content. Then couple that with high-speed wireless networks with unlimited data plans. And then layer on top of that mobile commerce (the ability to purchase things in real-time, anytime anywhere), and you're looking at a seismic shift in the way people do things, Gurley said.
The rate of adoption also is turning out to be faster than previously forecast, according to Gurley.
"The mobile ecosystem is alive and well and thriving, and it is changing everything," he said. "So you're seeing a shift that's happening faster than most people thought. And the other thing is, consumers are becoming addicted to their mobile devices, you can walk around anywhere ... and they're walking around looking at their phones."
Businesses and institutions have recognized this is happening, Gurley said, and they're already shifting their focus and their budgets to support this new mobile experience.
Retailers are seeing consumers coming in and price-shopping them right in their own stores, trying their products out and then buying someone else's – right as they're still standing there in the showroom. So what can they do about it?
The panel looked at examples in retail, news and entertainment, education and health care, Gurley said, to see how companies can adapt to the mobile ecosystem. And it looked at where digital signage fits into the mix.
"So with all those things combined, how does digital signage compete? We went through examples of where digital signage is the call to action," he said. "Is it interactivity? Is it some of the more sophisticated things, viewer analytics and so forth? We're taking the position that no ... digital signage has a play, it has a value, but it's a momentary call to action. It's not, bring them up and let them sit there and engage with it; we believe the model is let them engage with their phone."
Consumers can get more information, get more personalized information, and if it's in retail, they can consummate the transaction personally on their phone, Gurley argued.
"So what we're saying is that digital signage is the optimal model to promote that mobile engagement."
Read more about mobile and digital signage interactivity.