The top 10 digital signage trends ahead for 2013, Pt. I (Commentary)

Jan. 2, 2013

By Keith Kelsen

Author, Digital Signage Consultant

Well, well, here we are again ... the end of another amazing year of the roller coaster ride for the digital signage industry. You gotta love it!

The hope and promise of 2012 has come and gone leaving the next chapter for our industry. What does 2013 hold for us? Here are a few of my thoughts on how this will all shape up for this coming year.

(You can check here and here to see my picks for 2012 trends and see how I did at prognostication last year.)

There are two significant trends that are positive forces in the industry: stores transitioning to digital destinations and fundamental IT architectural changes to support omnichannel marketing. The big question is, "How quickly will this play out in retail?" These two trends will change in-store digital engagement forever and impact our digital world. The good news is the impact on Digital Signage in retail will be positively affected by these trends in 2013 and 2014.

1. Digital destinations

Retailers are in a battle to combat the "showrooming" effect in their bricks-and-mortar locations. This is where a consumer goes to the retailer's location and asks questions, hold the product, leave and then order it online at a cost savings. And with more and more retailers offering free in-store Wi-Fi, they can simply order it from a competitor right there. Digital destination stores offer new forms of entertainment and interactive engagement via digital signage that has proven to increase sales and provide the brand with a positive connection with the consumer via mobile or e-mail. These digital destinations are fun and game-like and change the retail buying experience. Just as some brand retailers in Times Square have created unique retail experiences, the opportunity to create a fun digital experience in-store is my No. 1 trend for the industry.

Look for more in-store digital destinations that are entertaining, fun and engaging in the marketplace.

2. Fundamental shift to digital

If you were born after 1980 you are digital, if you were born before 1980 you are analog. In other words, after 1980 you were raised in a new digital consumer era. Like many of us I am a digital wannabe. And with the advent of the iPhone the mad dash for consumers to adopt this digital world has caused retailers and every business on the planet to re-think their digital strategy. It's not just a social "Like" button on Facebook that I am talking about. Most retailers and business are still living and thinking in an analog world. The consumer has left them in the dust and demands for a seamless experience. Today most retailers and businesses have antiquated back-end IT systems, and there is now a mad rush to fix it. The fundamental change of the back-end architecture will result in seamless digital touch points for all in-store platforms including digital signage. This newfound freedom of a connected infrastructure allows a retailer or business to embrace the in-store on-site digital inspiration that drives the sale and connects the consumer to the retailer and brand in a seamless and effortless manner.

Look for businesses changing the back-end (up to a two-year process) to accommodate larger robust seamless deployments and not just one-offs. These deployments will also be more interactive than ever.

3. Mobile will continue to be essential

This trend was the No. 1 trend in 2011 and No. 3 in 2012 and will continue well into the future. The integration of mobile applications and tablets is largely driven by the digital consumer. As trend No. 2 evolves so does the integration of tablets and mobile with digital signage. Digital signage will still be an inspirational point for both of these underlying brand engagements. Notwithstanding the introduction of sales associate tablets and the elimination of the cash wrap allows for digital signage to become the intervention to cause a sale even if the sale ends up on a sales associate's tablet or my mobile phone. It's all one screen as far as the consumer is concerned.

Look for new ways that mobile plays off digital signage and digital signage plays off mobile and tablets and how it all must work together seamlessly.

4. Content a fresh look

Content hitting No. 4 in my trends is not an excuse for its overall importance. Content is still No. 1 for anyone who has launched a network or failed to launch a network because of lack of good content. Today's demand for high quality and relevant content will continue to drive agency-level work to be part of the everyday screen. The challenge is how to create content that is network wide, has continuity and is cost effective. Depending upon the type of network — whether it is point of sale, point of wait or point of transportation — it is the level of work and the amount of content that is needed to accomplish the refresh rate that makes a digital signage network successful. With the trends for digital signage to be more interactive, look for content that will be more engaging and interactive.

Look for new ways that agencies, content creators and network operators approach interactive content and the manner in which content is created, reused and delivered to be more effective.

5. More consolidations, failures and major shifts

This was trend No. 6 last year and only moves up to No. 5 as the industry is still growing at an annual growth rate of over 25 percent. But with maturity comes consolidation and failures. As your humble fortune teller predicted for 2012, even one of my former companies went on the block when it was scooped up due to an unforeseen, alleged investor Ponzi scheme by GLR. So no matter how one looks at the 300-plus ISVs they will significantly consolidate, drop out and fail in 2013, leaving the strong and big to thrive.

Again look for bundles, purchases, deals, consolidations and more failures of ISVs this year

(Check back in this space tomorrow for part two of Keith Kelsen's picks for the top 10 trends of 2012.)

Keith Kelsen is the author of "Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen." More information about the book and the book's companion website can be found at Follow him on Twitter @KKelsen.

Read more about digital signage trends.

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