A major strength of place-based digital networks has always been their highly localized footprint. However, this strength is also a challenge when it comes to creating high-impact national advertising campaigns. With new networks springing up across the country in dozens of different categories, what has been missing is a way to tie these different networks together and create a single national media platform.
At SeeSaw Networks, we aggregate these disparate place-based digital networks to create a single, viable, national advertising platform. In 2009, we have grown to over 50 networks, reaching a scale that has changed the way advertisers view place-based digital video advertising. We also added new technology to facilitate very efficient and effective campaign targeting, planning and execution. Today, when companies plan their national media campaigns, it’s not uncommon for broadcast-oriented media planners and advertisers to look at what SeeSaw has to offer and say, “I can plan and buy this media like television.” Similarly, digital media planners and buyers say, “This fits perfectly with my web and mobile strategies.”
The three keys to the evolution of the SeeSaw place-based digital video advertising solution – national scale, precision targeting tools, and technology and processes for planning and execution – also reveal key benefits of this media for advertisers.
How big is big enough?
Using third-party data from sources such as Nielsen and Arbitron, and OVAB’s recently released guidelines, SeeSaw’s aggregated network delivers more than 50 million weekly gross impressions across 200+ DMAs in over 30 different types of places like gas stations, coffee shops, grocery stores, health clubs, transit centers and hair salons, to name a few. This puts place-based digital advertising spots on a scale that is equivalent to a couple of TV spots on a blockbuster primetime show such as American Idol and well on our way toward reaching Super Bowl scale with 100 million gross impressions in 2010.
With this kind of national scale at their disposal, advertisers and media planners understand they can extend their reach by incorporating place-based digital video advertising into their advertising campaign. This allows advertisers to connect with on-the-go consumers in a new and more effective way while they are out and about in places where they work, shop, socialize and play.
Target practice makes perfect
But clearly, scale is not enough today. In this economic environment, advertisers and their agencies are under pressure to make their marketing spend as efficient and effective as possible. And agencies are obliged to make the most of available resources and work as efficiently as possible on their client’s behalf. SeeSaw’s Life Pattern Marketing methodology combined with the precision marketing capabilities of SeeSawAds.com enables advertisers to reach audiences far more effectively and streamlines the process for agencies to build truly national place-based digital advertising campaigns.
What’s exciting about the combination of a large-scale national platform and precision targeting is the way it enables brands to think strategically about their national campaigns while delivering a far more relevant message to individual consumers. For advertisers, it’s the ability to think nationally and locally at the same time, eliminating the inefficiencies and waste of ‘shotgun style’ national advertising campaigns.
For consumers it’s about personal relevance. A typical knock on advertising is that too much of it is disruptive. But it’s only disruptive when it isn’t relevant to the target audience. Consumers actually like to learn about the products and services that can improve the quality of their lives, especially if they encounter ads at the right time and place. With precisely targeted place-based digital advertising campaigns, advertisers can reach more of their target audience in contextually relevant settings, so the audience is more likely to be aware of and be receptive to the messages. Consider an agency developing a campaign to promote a manufacturer’s protein bar. After developing the core messaging and creative concept, the team is able to use copy splitting to refine the message for the different types of venues: “Stay Energized!” in health clubs, “Fuel Up!” in gas stations or “Energy On the Go!” for convenience stores, for example.
A plan for success
Another important step in the evolution of the place-based digital video advertising platform is the development of new SeeSaw planning and execution services, that provides one plan, one proof-of-delivery, and one invoice that until now would have required consolidating information from potentially over 30 different networks. The SeeSaw campaign process helps agencies easily and quickly work through the following steps:
Ideation – Because place-based digital video advertising helps advertisers reach a specific audience segment in many types of places, it is critical for media planners to have the greatest flexibility in how they solve their clients’ communication challenges. SeeSaw’s Life Pattern Marketing methodology reveals where target consumers go and what they do throughout their busy week, allowing media planners to target only the most appropriate networks and venues. SeeSaw’s technology then lets media planners easily review detailed information on every affiliate network and create different scenarios for achieving their objectives. Based on this knowledge, companies can be very precise in setting priorities and establishing budgets based on geographic area, demographic profile and venue targets. This level of detailed planning has never before been possible with place-based digital media on a national scale.
Optimization – Each plan on SeeSawAds.com is optimized to meet the specific media objective for a particular campaign. Once an initial campaign plan is complete, SeeSaw’s technology also lets planners optimize it by creating “what-if” scenarios that show the impact various changes (in venues, campaign length, creative specs, frequency, etc.) will have on the cost, number of impressions, and reach. Planning can also include developing a campaign flighting schedule based on individual life patterns and an effective frequency for optimal message impact.
Buy – Once the optimal media plan is finalized, it can be purchased with a single insertion order across multiple networks. This single order can eliminate days or even weeks of calling each network and issuing separate insertion orders. It is also possible to set up schedule reminders and notifications for delivery of creative, creative quality management, format conversions, final content delivery, campaign launch and campaign end.
Go Live – Over the course of the campaign, the SeeSaw operations team works with the our affiliate networks to assure the campaign is executing to spec. Agencies can relax knowing everything from creative format conversions for the different networks, to pre-campaign checks, to ownership of ad-flighting and rotation is being managed on a day to day basis to assure a quality customer experience.
Completion – SeeSaw delivers a single, comprehensive proof-of-performance report, eliminating the need for the agency to rationalize thousands of plays across thousands of venues over several weeks or months. Instead, SeeSaw lets agencies focus on analyzing campaign results and creating the next opportunity for their clients.
For national advertisers that have challenged their media planning teams with finding new ways to more effectively and efficiently reach their consumers, place-based digital video advertising offers an effective way to grab the attention of people where they work, play and socialize. By using SeeSaw’s national network, Life Pattern Marketing methodology and precision targeting capabilities to create cost effective digital video campaigns with national reach, agencies can deliver one of the most powerful ways to connect with people in today’s media landscape.
Consumers could be forgiven for thinking that the ATM is the most archaic and least-invested in banking channel, particularly as financial institutions worldwide increasingly appear to be focusing on more modern points of customer interaction, such as Internet and mobile banking.
However, those within the ATM industry are only too aware of the costly renewal that the ATM channel has undergone due to the migration to the Windows-based operating system. The forced migration from IBM's OS/2 has resulted in Windows becoming the global ATM operating system of choice, almost by default. When the Windows migration was first implemented, a raft of services were highly anticipated. But banks, for the most part, have chosen to focus on upgrading the operating system and communications infrastructure rather than the software driving the functionality at the ATM.
Far from the stagnant channel that customers perceive the ATM to be, banks' IT departments have been working overtime in recent years to bring significant changes to back-office technology. In many countries, the cessation of support of IBM's OS/2 platform for ATMs was just one catalyst for the required investment. The mandated introduction of EMV smart cards in many countries also has resulted in widespread systems updates and expenditure on new software and hardware capable of the necessary encryption processing.
While implementing these required updates, there has been an obvious business case for banks to review their strategies, and most institutions have made moves toward adopting a multivendor approach to their ATM networks. In this regard, the migration towards a modern, open standards-based infrastructure has given ATM deployers more control over their networks and provides a good canvas to rethink their software strategies to unlock the value from their recent infrastructure investment.
The popularity of accessing cash at the ATM seems to have only increased due to the current economic climate. With consumers tightening their purse strings and the increased focus on budgeting, a U.K. survey conducted by Level Four in December 2008 found that the majority of consumers feel most in control of their budgets when relying on cash from ATMs.
With the popularity of the ATM showing few signs of waning and the investment to update legacy systems and modernize the ATM operating system in place, the question remains, isn't it time for banks to consider the benefits of new software architectures to reduce the functionality gap at the ATM?
The business case
In the current economic environment and with consumer confidence in the banking sector still shaky, banks are looking to increase customer service, ensure customer retention and maximize ROI. The ATM is a key platform through which banks can support these objectives.
Research suggests that by 2008, more than 60 percent of banks in the United States and Western Europe had migrated to the Windows operating system and this number is steadily increasing. Through the move to Windows and open standards, ATM deployers have already made the foundation investment required to support advanced ATM functionality. While technology investment is being reviewed across the financial sector, banks should capitalize on the previous investment in ATM infrastructures to bring the benefits of sophisticated high-bandwidth networks and high-specification hardware and software to the end-user through more advanced functionality.
Coupled with the technology drivers supporting the development of more advanced ATM services, banks across the world are currently facing a growing pressure to deliver faster, cheaper and more secure banking channels to their ever-demanding customers. Facing procurement pressure to adopt an open standards-based Windows operating system to reduce costs and increase vendor choice, as well as customer pressure to improve services, banks are rightly beginning to view software as the key differentiator in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With the challenge of customer retention a big focus for 2009 and beyond, ATM deployers are now considering the customer services benefits that a modern ATM network can bring — effectively a retrospective business case for the "forced" investment in hardware and communications infrastructure.
What are banks already developing?
As the number of channels a bank offers its customers continues to increase and diversify, ATM deployers are seeking ways to ensure the ATM doesn't lose its foothold in the market. One key way to do this is by supplementing the vital cash dispensing capabilities with additional value-added services. In order to recoup their recent investment in hardware and infrastructure, ATM deployers must harness the revenue potential of their upgraded ATM networks as an important route towards a multichannel banking strategy, fulfilling present and future consumer requirements.
A new technology that is being integrated into the functionality of the ATM in some countries is contactless payment top-up. As contactless technology gathers momentum, particularly in the transportation sector, there is an opportunity for ATM deployers to enhance the ATM to support this new functionality.
Cash machines are a natural choice for contactless card top-up and balance services, particularly in the countries where contactless adoption is becoming more widespread. Mass transit top-up functionality at the ATM is live in France and Spain, for example, and provides a revenue generating opportunity for the banks, as well as increased customer convenience through a wider range of terminals to top-up the cards. The ATM is an obvious channel to exploit owing to the established network of terminals already in place, which offer customers convenient, familiar and secure transactions.
ATM deployers worldwide that take advantage of contactless functionality will benefit by driving increased traffic to those cash machines that are fitted with contactless readers, making this a potential competitive differentiator for banks who wish to increase interchange revenues.
Cell phone top-up in the U.K. is another example of advanced ATM functionality already in practice that illustrates the value of improving ATM services to banks and customers. Making use of the national VocaLink network, a great majority of U.K. ATMs provide the facility to top-up cell phones that are on a pay-as-you-go model, directly debiting customers' accounts as they pay at the ATM terminal.
These examples reveal the potential of the ATM to become an enhanced self-service device, supporting the wider lifestyle needs of customers such as travel payment and cell phone billing.
Using the ATM beyond its central role as a cash machine leverages much of the core functionality already built in to the terminal. Indeed, the growing sophistication of deposit automation technology is close to making the "bank branch in a box" a reality. Enabling the movement of money between accounts, bill payments and person-to-person money transfers are all future opportunities for the ATM to better support the wider bank branch activities. Providing such services at the ATM would not only be cost effective to the bank, by reducing customer reliance on the branch, but also be beneficial to customers, enabling them to access services from multiple locations on a 24/7 basis.
The benefits that can be achieved through maximizing the increasingly sophisticated software platforms on the ATM are regionally diverse. While there are many examples of innovation at the ATM in North America and Western Europe, there is also a strong incentive for countries with less advanced economic infrastructures to utilize the ATM as an opportunity to better serve unbanked populations or enable international money transfers for migrant workers. In remote regions where access to branch banking is limited, the ATM becomes an even more powerful tool through which financial services can be delivered. Beyond the convenience and customer retention advantages sought by economically developed markets, in less advanced regions the ATM can be a financial lifeline.
Crystal ball gazing
Banks are currently deploying some of the aforementioned innovations in different locations around the world, made possible by the upgrades to ATM infrastructures that have already taken place largely due to the Windows migration and subsequent back-office renovations. As ATM software technology continues to develop and hardware manufacturers continue to innovate in deposit automation and contactless functionality, there is potential to integrate even more sophisticated additional services into the ATM.
The ATM of the future will focus on personalization. Using a modern software platform, banks will be able to offer a dynamic experience to cardholders based on who they are as individuals — for example, targeting promotional material at specific age ranges or offering loan agreements based on personal credit ratings. ATM deployers will benefit from the ability to exercise greater control over the services that are available to customers. For example, services will be tailored to customers depending on their location, the time of day that they are visiting the ATM and even their past ATM habits such as a certain cash withdrawal amount.
Banks will inevitably start to consider the ATM as a vital delivery channel to allow cardholders to download additional applications on their smart cards. Banks' ATM networks provide a trusted and secure point of customer interaction through which multiple payment types, identity and loyalty applications can be downloaded onto smart cards as more banks roll out multi-application cards. Banks have been trying for several years, through the introduction of such services as mobile phone top-up, to showcase the ATM as more than a simple "cash and dash" machine. Providing a platform on which new applications can be quickly and conveniently added to existing smart cards will reinforce this message and help position the ATM as the cornerstone of a multi-channel banking strategy.
Cash is (still) king
Now that much infrastructure investment has been made in the ATM channel, banks need to consider how they can maximize ROI by implementing new and innovative services in order to bring revenue and customer benefits. Moving away from the legacy software applications in favor of software based on modern architectures and open standards provides banks with significant cost advantages and ATM deployers with a path to recoup the investment in infrastructure made over the last few years.
Despite the obvious benefits that modern ATM architecture brings to functionality, it is vital that banks do not neglect the main focus of the channel — dispensing cash. Banks must ensure that any additional services provided at the ATM are not rolled out to the detriment of efficient and reliable cash delivery. ATM deployers must consider the strategic placement of additional ATM services, for example, avoiding peak periods in busy trains stations, or particularly well-visited terminals. Consumers also should expect to see more kiosk-type devices, which offer a wide range of banking services, but potentially without the ability to dispense cash.
However, while the need to maintain the core cash capabilities of the ATM is clear, deployers must focus on exploiting existing investment in this channel. Few banks are currently taking advantage of the increasingly sophisticated infrastructure behind the ATM. With an increased need to provide exceptional customer service while maximizing ROI, banks should look to advanced ATM functionality as a key differentiator. Advanced ATM software can help unlock the value and potential of the network and provide an additional revenue stream through the banks most frequent customer touchpoint.
Martin Macmillan is the business development director of Level Four Software in the United Kingdom.
From using ATMs to scanning groceries in self-service lines, we consumers are clearly comfortable with do-it-yourself options that save us money and time. Computer literate and technologically savvy, many of us also scour the Internet for information and services — often about medical concerns.
These trends are playing a pivotal role in the transformation of the healthcare system in the United States. Already devotees of blood pressure checks in drugstores, consumers are moving from "passive patient" to "engaged participant," with growing numbers eager to explore the next generation of convenient self-screening and monitoring options in the retail environment.
Some may question whether this new direction is good for the physical health of the consumer and the fiscal health of the market. But as industry leaders recognize the opportunities and the lead generation created by the change from a patient-oriented to a consumer-driven market, a win-win situation is emerging.
The development and availability of self-service health screenings can encourage consumers to catch problems early, when they are usually most treatable. It may also help consumers identify risk factors to prevent future health disorders, saving them money in the long run.
Providing consumers with health information and initial self-service screenings does not eliminate the need for thorough exams and testing by professionals. Rather, the opposite is true. If marketed correctly, these self-service screenings can generate leads by educating consumers about which healthcare services they need and move them onto the appropriate healthcare track for professional care.
The healthcare industry’s business-as-usual strategies of the past are simply not meeting current needs. One example: vision care. Regular eye exams can help detect problems early by assessing and treating vision problems and spotting eye diseases at a more treatable stage. The problem is that most Americans are uninformed about the need for regular eye examinations. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association, most people seek professional eye care only every 36 to 48 months — about half as often as recommended. Recent self-screening vision tests of 6,000 people in Georgia showed that 30 percent of them had never had an eye exam — and 80 percent of those using the free kiosk screening device were directed to see an eye care professional.
According to Prevent Blindness of America, the economic impact of vision problems in the U.S. is estimated at $51.4 billion. Dr. Kevin Lavery, a leading ophthalmologist and former FDA investigator who has taught eye surgery around the world, said that up to 50 percent of glaucoma cases go undiagnosed — and yet when left untreated, this disease can cause blindness.
It is crucial to educate consumers on how regular eye exams can help them preserve eye health and reduce expenses for future medical care, because disorders can be diagnosed and treated at earlier stages. Furthermore, if consumers understood and acted upon the need for regular eye exams, the U.S. vision care market, currently valued at more than $25 billion, would benefit substantially.
In the current healthcare climate, we need to use technological innovations to engage consumers in new ways. To do this, we must understand what they want and need. For example, data shows that nearly 38 percent of Baby Boomers would use a retail health clinic. And a new survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions concludes that many consumers desire wider access to healthcare in retail settings. While expressing anxiety about future healthcare costs, people are searching for services that save them money and offer convenience.
We need to close the gap between what consumers want and what they are currently getting by partnering with the healthcare professional community. Offering self-service screenings and monitoring at convenient business and retail locations makes sense, especially if we incorporate user-friendly technology to make the experience satisfying and informative. The sponsorship of these technologies will actually encourage consumers to schedule more office visits with a healthcare professional.
This will lead to better preventive healthcare for consumers and a stronger economic marketplace for those of us in the healthcare industry.
Bart Foster is CEO and founder of SoloHealth, an emerging company in Atlanta that is positioned to capitalize on the growing consumer preference for self-directed healthcare services. SoloHealth's inaugural product is EyeSite, an interactive kiosk that provides vision health information, as well as a customized vision report. Click here to see a video about the kiosk. In 2008, EyeSite won three Self-Service Excellence Awards, including Best in Show, at KioskCom Self Service Expo.
Keith Kelsen is executive chairman of the board of The MediaTile Company and chair of the Content Committee for the Digital Signage Association.
In January of 2009, I wrote the year’s "Top 10 Digital Signage Trends." I thought I would revisit my predictions to see what I had missed; what had I predicted correctly and what incorrectly?
As it turns out, I scored an 8 out of 10, having missed two trends that are now apparent. Following is a revised Top 10 (plus one additional) Trends for 2009:
Trend #1: Content is the next main talking point for the industry
As an industry, we now have great, proven technology to deliver messages across DOOH networks, so now what? Dare I say it? I have to! "Content is king." Why? Since prehistoric times, as evidenced in cave paintings, people have used images, placed where others would encounter them, to communicate important information. For more than 120 years, rapid advances in technology have transformed human communication, delivering information faster and to a greater degree of relevance. The technology that has led us to a new medium, digital signage, has become commonplace. Now, more than ever before, "the message is the medium." The content running across screens provides digital signage its moment to shine. As a new medium, digital signage needs to define its own creative approach to content. This will be a pivotal year for great content.
I am still very bullish on this prediction, and given the amount of attention focused on content in trade events, discussions and shows, content is THE No. 1 issue of the year (and I believe for decades to come). Quoting my industry colleague, Lyle Bunn, at the Digital Signage Expo (DSE), "Content was of primary education and exhibit focus for the first time at an industry-wide event." In a Web survey conducted by my staff, of 227 companies claiming to create digital signage content, only 47 actually could provide samples demonstrating a basic understanding of content for digital signage.
Trend #2 Traditional broadcasters are getting into the digital signage marketplace
With the television industry facing an unprecedented downturn, manufacturers and producers of content are looking to expand and capitalize on the DOOH/digital signage industry. It is the natural evolution as a new media develops that many companies put resources into testing the market. Some jump in with both feet as they have no other alternative. Production houses employ expert creative teams that can bring top-quality content into the world of digital signage. Some will have to play catch-up; some will leverage Web and Flash skills to optimize great content for this new medium, for maximum impact and to achieve unprecedented returns. We will likely see acquisitions coming from the TV broadcasting industry, with companies essentially buying their way into the market to make up for lost time in the DOOH industry, around technology and production.
This trend is becoming increasingly apparent. At the National Association of Broadcasters, Harris, a traditional TV hardware manufacturer, announced the advent of Punctuate for digital signage, to provide digital signage solutions for a McDonald's pilot. Wegener Corporation, a leading provider of equipment for television, audio and data distribution networks worldwide, announced at DSE this year that it will provide a technology preview of the WEGENER iPump 525 IP Media Player and WEGENER Compel Connect. We see CNN Health News and ABC Health News transmitted in digital signage deployments across hospitals and doctors' offices. NBC also creates content for college campus networks. A number of production companies have also entered the creative side of the equation to do what they do best: create content.
Trend #3 Agencies are awaking to the power of digital signage
Many agencies are realizing that DOOH is a valuable area to explore. It is a difficult transition from traditional media to DOOH. Some agencies are prompting brands to buy into this burgeoning market. Open software platforms for the DOOH market will excel as they allow cross network placement, helping agencies drive more comfort and scale widely across the digital signage landscape. Agencies are also realizing that DOOH includes more than digital billboards; that it extends beyond this early digital signage incarnation. DOOH is being used to build brand networks at the shelf and in-store, to capture the consumer at the best possible time: at the point of decision. In-store media is the new frontier for agencies looking to expand product presence and increase sales at the shelf. The good news is that the media is measurable with real sales-lift as proof. In-store media is more than just capturing "eyeballs" and branding, it is about the merchandising and selling of product — not to mention the resultant tremendous in-store associate training benefits gained at the same time.
A number of agencies are being turned upside down given current economic volatility, and need to rethink strategies for achieving the best ROI for their ad dollars. Jack Sullivan of StarCom Worldwide (one such agency) had this to say about the Digital Signage Expo: "DSE was relevant, provocative, a harbinger of new digital media choices and reflective of the emerging array of new and exciting media." Other well known agencies attended DSE and KioskCom Self Service Expo and The Digital Sigange Show to help them further understand the opportunities of this new medium. Also quoted from the DSE was Gwen Morrison, WPP (The Store), "Digital Signage Expo had a great mix of industry, agency and brand advertiser representatives, and provided the latest news on technology and communications applications."
At the recent Strategy Institute "Content Summit" on digital signage, there were more than a dozen agencies presenting or in attendance. And, last week, we saw EnQii declare itself in the "agency business" along with MediaTile's announcement of its agency content training program and the Ad Council's new clearing house for public service announcements (PSAs) for digital signage at PSAcasting.org. Companies such as SeeSaw Networks and Adcentricity continue to capture large gains on the agency side by capturing budgets for aggregated networks.
The real proof point? TV upfronts are down. Barclays Capital predicted in April that upfront spending would decline 15 percent from 2008 to $7.4 billion. In the UK, advertising revenues to the television companies are forecast to be 14 percent lower this year than in 2008. Newspapers are off 28 percent in the United States and digital signage network ad sales are up as much as 40 percent for a number of networks, and some are folding.
Trend #4 Brands are shifting money to this market from traditional TV
Major brands are moving into the market, right now. Once traditional TV viewership declined, they began looking for more effective messaging. This trend began last year when a few brands bypassed their agencies and began experimenting directly with DOOH. Building brand networks in-store at the shelf is a critical part of this strategy. For brands to survive and retain customers, they must spend money at the point of sale, or risk losing customers to generic brands. Once lost, a customer is tough to win back — and expensive. This trend will grow geometrically as sales become hotly contested.
For brands, the real proof points are scattered around the world, in retail outlets, stores, chains and other locations. More and more we see brand displays incorporating digital signage networks and their own brand TV-like channels at the shelf. Samsung is an example of a brand sold on DOOH, and their recent new product launch campaign was 95 percent comprised of DOOH media. The results were "fantastic," according to Rob Gorrie of Adcentricity. These are real proof points that will drive brands and their agencies to digital signage buys. The trend of reallocating budgets from TV to the shelf and DOOH networks is progressing. (Budgets are also coming from traditional POP.) Major players are spending aggressively now to maximize their ad dollars and protect their brands.
Trend #5 Cross-platform and interaction with cell phones is critical
In the past year, blue tooth and text message integration passed its experimental and pilot phases. The connection and symbiotic relationship between display and cell phone will continue to grow with more deployments in 2009. Consumers are ready to utilize this technology today. Personalizing features by offering coupons and other media on handsets will further drive sales at the shelf. Tracking these interactions to measure the success of a network will also play a part in the overall success of the campaign. Digital signage will take a front seat in this area, adding value to the entire digital communications grid.
So far this year we have seen a few outdoor applications involving mobile SMS and digital signage, including OutCast (formerly FuelCast). There are signs of change, however. Danoo is rolling out to 100 locations. "Download rates tend to be below 1 percent online, but we're seeing 3 percent," said Doug Scott, vice president of marketing for Danoo. For those users that set their mobile phones to "discoverable mode," making it easy for them to receive messages, download rates soared to 30 percent. Twitter and tweets are increasingly popular and pervasive, and digital signage vendors are moving quickly to integrate this and other social mediums. At a recent auto show, Volvo used Twitter and brought the results to digital signage. This trend is inclusive of mobile, but with a new Twitter-twist.
Trend #6 Interactivity and measurement
Along with interaction with cell phones, interactive engaging technologies will propel the industry to enhance new consumer experiences, from touchscreens to floor screens, to window touchscreens to gesture-enabled interaction. The engagement of the consumer adds tactile experiences to visual experiences, and helps to create an emotional connection with the brand and product. As was the case with cell phones, 2009 will see more than simple small pilot projects; it will boast large-scale rollouts vying for consumer attention, ramped up to unprecedented levels. Measurement proves the maturity of the industry and is key in 2009. Data collected from interactive solutions and delivered upstream will give DOOH another powerful asset in the form of market intelligence and direct consumer feedback, for marketers and agencies to measure the success of their campaigns.
Here, we have seen impressive rollouts (over 300 in some cases) involving touchscreens across retail with brands. Touchscreen interactivity is being used for Touch Tune's and Ecast's networks in bars using jukeboxes. We have seen some very cool gesture-enabled interactions. However, this has not reached scale as of mid-year. I expect more to come from this very exciting area for digital signage in the remainder of 2009 and 2010.
Trend #7 Data-driven content or ad search for DOOH
As an increasing number of large networks emerge online, and the number of displays grows geometrically, creation of individual playlists that are relevant to a specific display and associated audience will become a thing of the past. Just as with Internet search engines, metadata for content and screens will ultimately be matched for the right time, place, target and behavioral attitudes. This will allow access to databases that have ad content and remove the complexities from decision-making focused upon when, where and why. This will establish the industry as leading edge, not trailing edge.
Technology is definitely starting to conquer this opportunity and there are a few companies doing something about it. The real question is when the software is in place, how will content be created, tagged and placed on the network? I expect to see content created in a more layered fashion, and digital assets locally assembled in more automated ways.
Trend #8 Cost of LCD and players is entering next phase of cost down
LCD's are declining in price and have been for the past six years. This is a trend which will continue. Innovations on the media player side will also bring pricing down. Quality is still a significant factor, and will be critical in keeping networks up and operational 24/7. Declining cost is not a substitute for reliable and scalable technology. Total investment and ROI still require a quality platform.
Clearly, overall costs are coming down…but right now, LCD pricing is slightly on the rise.
Trend #9 Consolidation and failures will continue
In these unprecedented economic conditions there will be failures and consolidations in 2009. This is both good for the industry and bad. Though we may see failures undermining the integrity of the industry, the pieces will be picked up and business models changed to improve the industry overall in 2009; the prevailing economic situation will simply accelerate this evolutionary process. There will be success for companies that are established, have good business models and have the cash flow to endure. 2010 will be the year of winners in the end game, where a few companies dominate the market.
The industry is in a state of contradiction, enduring some layoffs and failures, while at the same time supporting large-scale rolls-out and awarded contracts. The industry is defying economic gravity in terms of growth, but there are simply too many companies competing for business, with even more entering the space from outside. I am still of the mind that the industry is headed for increasing consolidation.
Trend #10 Growth for the industry is positive
Notwithstanding my previous comments, industry growth will be moderate. Digital signage networks have the opportunity to reduce costs, save resources and communicate powerful messages. These are attributes that will spur continued growth as companies worldwide re-evaluate every element of their communication plans. Looking closely at the models and businesses that benefit by taking advantage of digital signage technology will be the key. Making the case to use digital signage is our job as an industry, and this will be yet another year of growth.
Sales are up compared to 2008. I continue to see the growth despite the contrast of failures. This is a common theme in an industry that is on its way.
Trend #11 The print industry seeks digital
This is a new prediction, and one of importance. I have seen several news items that indicate this as a viable trend. The first example: a deal between Fast Signs and Scala. Here, a traditional sign company is looking to capitalize on the overall success of digital signage. As with all acquisitions, this will require a fair amount of training for internal employees to overcome a significant learning curve. Another interesting and recently announced "print-related" deal comes out of Canada: ICON Print's (a large-format printer for environmental graphics, retail POP, grand format outdoor banners, vehicle graphics and fabric printing) acquisition of GridCast, a digital signage integrator.
Multitouch interfaces, as well as immersive experiences, are revolutionizing the self-service industry, and full-body tracking by 3D cameras will soon be added to the mix. These technologies draw customers into the action, first by sheer fascination and then through the satisfaction of being able to control, personalize and improve the quality of their interactive experience.
Cutting-edge 3D trackers have just begun to be introduced in motion-controlled self-service systems for high-traffic retail and public spaces. They help cut above the clutter that competes for consumers' attention. With 3D technology, customers are enticed to navigate advertising and entertainment content with full 3D gestures.
This refreshingly natural and intuitive ability to access information by gesturing in the air has created a more ergonomic, hygienic and, ultimately, more engaging consumer experience. Using just their hands, consumers can move items back and forth and sideways or even grab at virtual objects in mid-air. This kind of interactive user experience is far more exciting than a traditional touchscreen interface. And immersive technology, such as when the user actually sees his video image onscreen as he interacts with the display, creates an even more personal and exciting customer experience.
Even better, multitouch interactivity is adding a whole new dimension to a world where 'single user/single point' display control was once the norm. With a multitouch interface, multiple users can access information on an interactive display simultaneously, and each user can use two hands to do several things at once on a display. Because people generally use two hands in the everyday world, multitouch is a very natural, intuitive and comfortable interface.
By making simple rotating and dragging gestures, the user can control dynamic multimedia content, access product information, view advertising, play games, create special effects or manipulate images. Without a doubt, multitouch technology creates a world of possibilities for innovative and highly engaging multiplayer, multiuser and collaborative interactive experiences.
All these technologies are based on cameras, which offer the added benefit of being able to deliver user metrics for reporting and analytics purposes.
But how can multitouch, immersive technologies and 3D technologies go beyond mere novelty, so they actually build brand awareness and loyalty and even convert passersby to customers? Here are just a few scenarios that are made possible with these technologies:
As shoppers approach a retail window, they are beckoned to enter a virtual store, complete with an authentic 3D replica of the store's interior, aisles and merchandise. With a tilt of their hand, customers fly through the aisles, grabbing in mid-air to see the image of their own hand actually reach for and pick up products, which they are free to shake, twist, open or turn upside down. Each motion the user makes is rendered instantly onscreen for a real-time experience that entices customers to enter the store and make their purchase.
Tourists can enjoy a real-life virtual tour with the implementation of 3D depth-sensing, wayfinding systems. Visitors experience the thrill of a fly-by with an overhead view of a life-like 3D representation of their destination, complete with the ability to navigate key attractions. With a flick of the wrist or slight hand gesture, visitors can go, stop, change directions, fly through the cityscape or duck inside hotels, restaurants or other points of interest for an up-close and personal view of amenities and offerings before heading off to experience the real thing.
Customers can test drive new products with a 3D, interactive in-store display to gain a virtual user experience before they buy. Brand marketers can dramatically dial up the "cool" factor, kick start new product launches and create an experiential shopping environment that generates buzz and enhances viral and word-of-mouth marketing.
Entertainment venues can provide immersive, interactive experiences that help educate and entertain guests: Little sluggers can take a swing at a Major League-caliber fastball and then order tickets to an upcoming game. Aspiring explorers can navigate craters on the moon or traverse the jungles of Malaysia. Restaurant patrons can enjoy virtual games while relaxing with their favorite beverage and order refills right from their seat. With user-guided 3D environments that can be integrated into surfaces like tabletops, bars, walls and floors, the possibilities are endless.
Clearly, 3D and multitouch technologies provide loads of interactive and memorable fun for the consumer. But more than that, they also provide substantial economic benefits to the business that deploys them. Inventory costs can be reduced as real-world product displays are replaced with virtual ones. Sales-conversion costs can be cut as consumers conduct product research virtually, leaving associates free to close and cash out sales. Revenues can increase substantially as robust self-service kiosks allow stores to sell products and serve customers 24/7 through storefront windows, even when doors are closed. Printing expenses can be reduced, as consumers no longer require brochures to view offerings or explore options.
The list of economic benefits is long and grows over time, but there's no question that the fuller, richer experiences offered by these technologies entice more customers to browse longer and make them more inclined to purchase.
Awareness of environmental issues is at an all-time high, and it is fueling a dramatic market shift. Venture capitalists are pouring huge investments into early-stage clean technology providers, and I.T. industry titans, such as HP, IBM, Dell and Apple, are actively marketing energy-efficient green technologies. Environmental initiatives are also being championed at multiple levels of government, most notably through federal economic stimulus funding. A similar phenomenon is happening at the local level. In 2008, for example, Dallas received national attention for becoming the first U.S. city to achieve ISO 14000 certification for "broad scale" operations.
As a self-service technology manufacturer or solution provider looking to benefit from the momentum toward greater environmental awareness, you face important questions. Will going green benefit your business? How do you convey a credible environmental message to customers and business partners? Which green initiative is the right one to pursue? For answers, look to the globally recognized ISO 14000 family of standards for implementing an environmental management system, or EMS.
A global standard
ISO 14000 is published by the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO, the same group responsible for the ubiquitous ISO 9000 quality-management family of standards. The first two standards, ISO 14001:2004 and ISO 14004:2004, deal with EMS. ISO 14001:2004 provides the specifications for an EMS, and ISO 14004:2004 gives general EMS guidelines.
Since its inception in the 1990s, tens of thousands of organizations around the world have achieved ISO 14001:2004 certification. But until recently, this initiative has been less visible in North America. According to the most recent ISO Survey of Certifications, this region has contributed less than 5 percent of the total worldwide ISO 14001:2004 certifications.
The premise of ISO 14001:2004 is straightforward. It aims to "provide a framework for a holistic, strategic approach to the organization's environmental policy, plans and actions." Because it is based on a generic framework for implementing an EMS, without dictating business-specific environmental performance levels, certification is available to virtually any organization, including start-up companies, multinational corporations, government entities and nonprofit organizations.
Initially, an EMS provides an organization with a baseline measurement of the impact of business operations on the environment. Programs can then be put in place to improve on this baseline starting with internally defined goals. The intent of the standard is to give an organization a way to measure progress against these targets. It also provides a common reference when communicating with customers, stakeholders and employees about progress made in reducing environmental impact.
Benefits of compliance
Adopting an ISO-compliant EMS can have a measurable bottom-line impact on your business. Implementation will result in a substantive, actionable framework for continually improving environmental performance and optimizing variable costs for waste management, energy usage, raw materials and distribution. This message resonates particularly well with larger manufacturers. In fact, for those companies with highly optimized production and supply-chain processes, reducing variable operating costs can be viewed as the next logical step to ensuring continued competition in the global economy.
For VARs and other self-service technology solution providers, the opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs may be less compelling based on the nature or scale of your operation. For you, the key financial consideration is the potential for incremental revenue. With increased market awareness of environmental issues and growing demand for a greener approach to business, cultivating an eco-friendly brand can boost top-line results.
Achieving this goal, however, requires that your organization's green credentials be perceived as credible in the marketplace. ISO 14001:2004 addresses this by providing a globally accepted designation that clearly demonstrates your company's commitment to reducing its environmental impact. When competing for business with environmentally conscious buyers, ISO 14001:2004-certified manufacturers — and solution providers that partner with certified suppliers — have a clear advantage over competitors that lack this green authenticity.
Market momentum is building for eco-friendly business solutions, and ISO 14001:2004 represents a globally accepted designation for your eco-friendly organization. It gives manufacturers a framework for continually reducing variable costs, and it helps all organizations elevate their standing with environmentally conscious buyers. If you are looking for a competitive edge, consider ISO 14001:2004 certification, and be sure to partner with certified suppliers.
Adam Ortlieb is associate director of marketing for Seiko Instruments' Thermal Printer division. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As more and more technology is introduced to the marketplace, consumers have become increasingly fickle about technology adoption. Gone are the times when a company could develop a widget with all the bells and whistles that could still be profitable, even though it took an end user three weeks to figure out how to change any of the settings. Think of the old VHS players, and how most people couldn’t even set the clocks. It has become more and more important to develop a product that is usable and intuitive to the end user; in fact, I would argue that entire companies have failed because their products have lacked these characteristics.
Usability and the user experience are critical to the success of any new consumer technology. These are even more critical in a kiosk program, which directly interacts with a consumer and is meant to be successful in a self-service manner, without human assistance. If someone tries to use a kiosk, whether it is an airline check-in kiosk, rental car kiosk, hotel kiosk or health screening kiosks and the experience isn’t nailed down, they won’t become a repeat user, or worse, they will discourage others from using it.
The understanding of technology companies around the user experience is becoming ever more obvious. Look at the leaps in improvement seen in cell phone navigation or GPS use. Only a handful of years ago, these devices had owners’ manuals that were thicker than most college engineering text books, and it took an end user every page to figure out how to use them. Now, one can typically pick up the device and intuitively navigate through the most basic and heavily used functions without much effort.
While I would argue that this is more art than science, there is an element of human factor analysis and determining someone’s mental model that aids designers in determining how to create a great user experience. There are a handful of firms that really understand how technology and human interaction can be done seamlessly to create a rich experience.
At SoloHealth we are developing a novel, new-to-the-world device. EyeSite is a self-service vision screening kiosk meant to educate consumers on the importance of eye health and motivate them to get comprehensive eye exams. The service is free for consumers and typically placed in high-traffic retail environments. We have discovered, first hand, the importance of the user experience.
We are asking consumers to interact with technology in a way that they have never done before. While most people have taken a traditional eye exam or screening, either at their eye care practitioner or early in school, they have always had instructions and continuous feedback about the process, usually from live people. So when we automate the process and leave the pace, process, inputs and interpretation to the end user, it leaves room for frustration, misunderstanding and worst of all, abandonment.
One of the best things that we at SoloHealth have done is to spend a good amount of time developing the user experience through quick and dirty testing, before spending one minute writing software code. This is the single biggest piece of advice I can give to another kiosk, or product, developer. Test your product as easily and efficiently as you can. In our case we created a paper mockup of various screen designs and ran a host of novice users through the paper mockup. We could quickly iterate our designs, message, application flow and communication tools in a matter of minutes. This helped us get 80 percent of the experience nailed down before investing any time or dollars in to the software. As most people know, iterating a product through multiple prototypes is very timely and costly.
Once we had a product that worked and a user experience with which we were comfortable, we tested just one kiosk. This way we could gauge real consumer experiences and refine the product further, before getting too many units produced and having to manage a network. Our motto was 80 percent and go, and churn, baby, churn!
We are continuously measuring completion rate and where in the program a user drops out of the application, as well as conducting intercept tests to understand consumer reaction and overall consumer satisfaction of the user experience. We constantly test new ways to communicate information, including different button styles, locations on the screen, simpler screen layouts, etc. The continuous improvement process is never-ending, and the minute you take your eye off of your product and the consumer behavior, you leave the door open for your competition.
As technology gets more sophisticated, consumers do as well, but their innate human behavior still influences how they use products. If you can find the mental model through which the majority of consumers look at life and the lens through which they filter things, you can harness this to your advantage.
The writer is vice president of operations and development for SoloHealth.