What are the current trends in digital signage?

Digital signage by Techflow, www.techflow.eu

Digital signage by Techflow, on show at ISE

Hot off the press, this is an article I wrote for the Integrated Systems Europe show daily, Day 1 (January 29th 2013).

Digital signage is no longer a market for experts and insiders according to Oliver Schwede, senior analyst at Invidis. “The European market, including displays, integration, DOOH, advertising revenues, is now valued at between €1bn and €2bn.”

Mike Fisher, senior analyst at Futuresource, describes a split between the high-end, interactive digital signage market and simple plug-and-play systems. “In between there’s a range of solutions, but the top and bottom ends are really driving it.”

At the higher end of the market, Ronni Guggenheim, managing partner and CEO of executive consultancy neXius AG, co-founder and former VP of OVAB, sees increasingly integrated solutions supporting promotional strategies.  “DS is serving, not driving the e-commerce and mobile marketing mega-trends,” says Guggenheim. “A Digital Asset Management (DAM) approach to content and the rise of intelligent screens are challenging the existence of traditional content management systems (CMS) and player vendors in that segment.”

Schwede says the CMS is increasingly required by customers to provide a media asset workflow, connecting to third party softwares such as ERP, web-CMS or POS. “CMS can be connected to DAM and used as one playout channel,” he describes. “It should use standard architecture such as HTML 5, so programmers can customise it for clients. It should be hardware agnostic for use in mobile campaigns.”

“HTML 5 will help with software unification in DS,” comments Guggenheim. “Any display can read HTML 5 easily today, so it’s a catalyst for the acceleration towards smarter screens and fully integrated content.”
“Signage is no longer a pre-programmed loop of content at the higher end of the market,” says Fisher. “It’s becoming more intelligent, linked with a company’s stock situation and demographics, to other marketing media, DAM, internal databases and reacting to usage.”

“On the other end of the scale, there’s strong demand for basic, easy to use entry-level solutions targeting verticals like education,” adds Fisher. “Here, we’re seeing more media players integrating into displays.”
The rise of intelligent screens running Android or smart TVs offering DS apps is linked to cost reduction, says Schwede. “Intelligence in the screens replaces the media player, so you can provide cheaper, app-based out-of-the-box digital signage for entry level purpose,” he adds, also noting that screens are becoming bigger, lighter and thinner, with LED backlight slowly replacing CFL for economic, performance an aesthetic reasons.

Interactivity and engagement with the customer are on the rise. Touch and viewer analytics are well established but other types of interaction, such as bluetooth location-based signage, trigger-based content or gesture control, are not yet mainstream.
“Augmented reality software is still niche”, explains Fisher. “It’s mostly used in high-end retail, in virtual mannequins or interactive gaming in shops”. Schwede feels augmented reality will become relevant in 5 to 10 years. “At the moment it’s complicated and costs too much,” he adds.

Guggenheim highlights the impressive penetration of smartphones in the last 2 to 3 years. “This has impacted DS immensely. I’m following the rise of Android with interest and see NFC as an enabling technology.”

“Phones are now NFC enabled and some big credit card companies are trialling mobile payment technology and security,” adds Fisher. “It’s budding but I don’t think it’s quite there yet, as retailers have to see signage as a full part of the POS marketing mix first.”

Overall Guggenheim feels that DS is no longer technology-driven at the high-end. “Companies providing DS must be integral to the vendor’s marketing strategy and the customer journey from as early to as late as possible,” he predicts.

“Many people think of DS and see ‘display’, but the biggest revolution at the moment is happening behind the screen,” concludes Schwede.

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About monicaheck
Monica Heck is a bilingual freelance writer and journalist based in Dublin, Ireland.

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