Blog Post from March 14, 2016
Digital signage - current status & the opportunity ahead

This is a guest post from Yashwant Prakash (LinkedIn), one of Sophatar's business advisers

Out-of-Home (OOH) digital campaigns act as white-noise in the minds of consumers. With a very short attention span, consumers are always-connected and always ingesting information from small-screens (their mobile phones).

Digital signage started as out-of-home large screen static displays and evolved to showing more attention-grabbing clips/GIFs etc. Over the last decade digital signage also became more than a unidirectional display of information, by adding touch-interactivity to make it more immersive and engaging. OOH players are taking the kiosks approach to capture audiences via interactive value-adders like way-finding, directory assistance, and in-store engagement. As an example, Omnivex developed a “store of the future” concept where children interact with touch-enabled kiosks located in the store to customize and assist in building their bear buddy toy.

The physical placement of the signage traditionally provided one metric of context (i.e location) to marketeers and agencies so they could target location-based ads. I believe that recent advancements in beacon technology are leading to promising use-cases to solve some of the challenges in bridging the digital-to-physical gap in a meaningful fashion. For instance beacon solution providers like Gimbal (a spinoff of Qualcomm) have started to partner with the digital signage industry and are layering a very important metric of ‘proximity’ on top of location. This proximity delivers a means to further personalize the OOH displays and adds enormous value by engaging with consumers in a more personalized manner. However this market has seen its fair share of headwind when it comes to mass adoption, mainly due to deployment and setup of dedicated beacon hardware and its required maintenance. Clearly there is a need for the ecosystem to evolve and facilitate mass adoption. Growth of Gimbal, Rambus, and Google’s Eddystone are indications that proximity beacons will play an important role in defining out-door engagement strategies for large media companies, in-store engagement for physical brick-mortar stores, and in-venue engagement for venue owners.

Technology giants like Intel, Microsoft and Qualcomm have demonstrated newer emerging technologies that lead to customer engagement. Gestures, stereoscopic vision with depth perception, and face detection can bring next-gen interactive capabilities to OOH displays and deliver improved ROI to the signage value chain.

Although most OOH systems have remained bulky, costly, custom designed and require extensive engineering, development and maintenance, the industry is growing. According to a 2015 study published by research firm Markets and Markets, the interactive display market is expected to grow at a compound annual rate of 12 percent over the next five years, reaching $14.96 billion by 2020. With another Markets and Markets study pegging the overall digital signage market at $23.76 billion by then, the implication is that the market is quickly becoming dominated by interactive applications — Digital Signage Today White Paper.

It’s my belief that adoption of mobile phones into this eco-system will drive the next phase of real growth in this space. While location, proximity and interactivity with large screens will remain relevant, the real game changer will bring seamless interaction of large screens with the personal small-screen, i.e. a consumer’s own smartphone. This allows to deliver a more personalized engagement on both screens without resorting to expensive proprietary hardware. One example is how a Silicon Valley startup named Sophatar (Disclaimer: I'm on the advisory board of this company) is trying to use the smartphone as a remote control to engage and interact with the large screen in retail environments. When standing in front of the large screen, the user is able to fetch, browse and select from the content programmed by the business owner for this screen. The system works based on proximity, without the smartphone having to connect to a Wi-Fi network.

So the summary is:
OOH Digital campaigns and PR acts as white-noise in the minds of consumers who have a very short attention span. They’re always-connected and always consuming information on their small-screen (mobile phone). The ones that can truly capture mind-space in a meaningful manner are the ones that are not just interactive but also immersive and engaging. However, the true winners will be the ones that completely embrace mobile phones and bridge the digital-to-physical gap in a personalized and contextual fashion.

Tagged in: