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Last year at this time I wrote about what we could expect from the digital signage industry in 2012. I'm happy to say that most (if not all) of what I predicted did, in fact, come to pass. In particular, I stated that digital signage would "move into more 'non-traditional' areas such as education, hospitality and retail." In hindsight, this was quite an understatement — education, hospitality and retail were just the beginning! 2012 was a breakout year for our industry, with success driven in large part by countless vertical markets that embraced digital signage as a way to engage their customers.

A few short years ago, airports and restaurants were the only venues where digital signage was commonplace — nowadays you encounter digital displays at virtually every turn. And we're not just talking about a static display of menus and movie showtimes. These signage installations are eye-catching ... engaging ... they do their job with great precision every time they grab your attention and educate you about a given product. Displays are "intelligent" enough to wake up when you approach them. In many cases the customer is in the driver's seat — using iPad-like interaction to tap and swipe their way through in-depth, interactive content. From the customer's perspective, digital signage truly is becoming a valuable tool we rely on when making important purchases.

And from the vendor's perspective, digital signage does much more than simply engage the customer. Installations are busy gathering information about each interaction, providing valuable information that can be aggregated and analyzed to better understand customer behavior and refine content to improve conversion. The ability to set and measure against sales metrics is huge, especially in retail. Retailers now have the ability to better understand customers' purchasing habits — looking at what content is most popular, and analyzing where and when customers are most likely to buy. This is the sort of insight that retailers would either guess at, or handsomely pay a consultant for their perspective.

Next time you're out on the town, keep a tally of how many times you encounter digital signage in a given day. Gas station pumps, restaurant wait-lists, banks, vending machines, wayfinding kiosks in resorts, corporate campuses and public spaces — the list goes on. You've probably encountered digital signage in many of these settings and not even realized it. That speaks to how seamlessly the displays have been integrated into the customer experience.

I'm very bullish about 2013 and what the new year holds for our industry. As the economy continues its slow but steady recovery, we'll see proprietors from all walks of business invest more heavily in digital signage. Our customers and installers are equally excited. We share their enthusiasm and look forward to what promises to be a very prosperous new year.

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Jeff Hastings
BrightSign CEO Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign in August 2009 while it was still a division of Roku Inc. In late 2010 with digital signage activities growing so rapidly, BrightSign became a separate firm. The holder of eight U.S. patents, he also has a history of tech industry leadership, including as president of mp3 pioneer Rio.
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