By Richard Hutton
If you’ve been around the heavily trafficked parts of New York, Chicago or Los Angeles in the past month, you’ve probably seen the new ESPN campaign: a series of 234 smart digital billboards boldly displaying the most noteworthy sports news in recent memory, from the America’s Cup win to the retirement of legendary Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera.
This innovative use of state-of-the-art digital signage is driving interest in ESPN’s brand as part of its oddly titled “DaDaDa DaDaDa” campaign (a nod to the network’s signature theme music). Each sign gets updated four times a day with content tailored for the market in which it sits.
The images are infectious, and it doesn’t take long while gazing into one of the displays to gather the power and impact next-gen digital signage has on consumer and retail marketing efforts. Significant improvements in a variety of technology areas are making digital signage hotter than ever and a burgeoning opportunity for the savvy partner.
We’re moving past the days of mere “techorating” with flat-panel displays, which are now ubiquitous in hotels, airports and entertainment complexes. Today’s digital signage leverages advanced technologies that make the form far more interactive and useful for both the viewer and the provider.
The improvements come as the market for digital signage shows particular promise in the channel. Industry tracker IHS iSuppli says worldwide shipments of signage and professional displays topped 17.2 million last year, up from 15.4 million in 2011 and 13.5 million in 2010.
Overall digital signage shipments are expected to hit 26 million by 2016 as demand for digital signs expands from large public spaces to SMBs, fueled in part by the rapid decline in LCD panel prices. IHS iSuppli puts retail, hospitality, health care, government, corporate campuses and education as the fastest-growing markets. Solution providers are also seeing digital signage and rich-media content traction in airports, schools, restaurants and houses of worship.
In the past, I’ve encouraged solution providers to take advantage of the opportunities in digital signage by mastering the complexity inherent in the combination of displays, media players and content management and creation software with display mounts, video switches, projectors, kiosk housings and add-ons such as storage systems and automation control products.
Digital signage has been a solid channel option for providers poised to handle specialized high-touch sales, integration and maintenance of digital signage hardware, plus content creation and management. But the landscape is changing, and the opportunities are growing.
In addition to the legacy knowledge and skills required to energize a digital signage practice, solution providers should be prepared to up the value proposition through the judicious application of these digital signage energizers:
Infrastructure improvements to turbocharge content
Prices for servers and storage media continue to decline even as performance improves. Add to that new software offerings that handle rich media with an eye toward reducing processing overhead, and you have a recipe for ditching the endless loops of mediocre content that plagues many early digital signage efforts. When developing a digital signage content strategy, it’s important to think big and targeted, which often means a heavy load of display data to be stored and served up across a network of displays. But with the power and cost effectiveness of today’s infrastructure elements, there’s no reason not to aim high. The sky is the limit.
Building an interactive experience
Digital signage has long been viewed as a pretty monophonic experience: Consumers look at a display as not much more than a fancy billboard and react to the moving images in some desirable way. That one-way mentality is giving way to an era of interactivity with high-tech display advertising. The flood of mobile devices in pockets and RFID processors in everything from sneakers to food wrappers is turning digital signage into a personalized interactive experience tailored for each viewer. The best part comes when the consumer can take action or make a purchasing decision based on what they see.
Applying analytics to boost value
The next wave of digital signage will bring the sciences of consumer analytics, profiling and demographics onto the showroom floor. The technology is available for digital signage users with kiosks and intelligent vending machines to capture buyer images and habits in real time to adjust messaging and increase sales. From the partner’s perspective, this calls for serious acumen in the ways of Big Data, business intelligence and the handling of inbound and outbound multimedia data.
In short, there’s plenty for partners to hang their hats on as we move toward Digital Signage 2.0. Solution providers that have a toe in the water here will need to ramp up skills and capabilities to further take advantage of the coming opportunities, but the benefits will be well worth it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to the ESPN monitor. The Barclays Premier League highlights are on. It’s almost as if they knew I was standing here…
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Richard Hutton is the director channel marketing for the Enterprise Business Division of Samsung Electronics America, Inc., where he is responsible for driving strategic direction across all channels for printer, monitor, mobile PC and commercial display product lines.
The views and opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Samsung Electronics America Inc., or any of its parents/affiliates as well as any other individual employee thereof.
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