After starting off the new year with a look back at 2014, now it's high time to turn expectant eyes forward to the future, and see what 2015 holds in store.
Here's what a panel of experts had to say about the the biggest stories or trends in the industry in the year ahead:
Doug Bannister, CEO/CTO, Omnivex Corp.:
Fuelled by the advances in sensor technologies that are being used to monitor an enormous range of activities, the amount of available data will continue to grow astronomically. What we should do with this data is the big question. If you consider the "Five Vs of Big Data" — volume (massive quantities), variety (many sources and types), velocity (speed of updates), veracity (accuracy) and value (ROI on the data) — it's only the last one (value) that pays for all the others. With digital signage end-users can drive viewer actions with data, which means organizations can increase productivity, increase revenues, reduce mistakes and costs, increase safety, change culture and improve people's lives. That's delivering real value.
Another area where digital signage will shine in 2015 is in unearthing the value in hidden, or dark, data. Rather than residing in databases or warehouses that are only accessible by a few analysts, companies are realizing the value that can be gained by sharing this information and directing it to people who can best use it, at the moment they need it.
Finally, the term "mobility" will start to focus less on the devices we carry in our pockets and will instead refer to the mobility of the individual and providing people with relevant content as they move through their daily lives.
Clark Brown, vice president of digital signage, LG Electronics USA:
Moving into 2015, the widespread adoption of 4K ultra-HD displays is going to accelerate. 4K has gained significant momentum over the past couple years, which is a clear indication of the future viability and continued adoption of the technology among a broader customer base. As more manufacturers expand their portfolios and begin producing ultra-HD displays, there will be a wider range of options for business owners looking to take their visual platforms to the next level.
The stunning visual quality of 4K UHD displays, afforded by their high pixel density, offers a clear advantage for business owners looking to differentiate themselves and achieve a premium feel for their brand. In 2015, we'll see greater installation flexibility thanks to a wider range of screen sizes and shapes. In terms of content, even though 4K content is still playing catch up to 4K hardware, investing in 4K UHD displays offers business owners the peace of mind that their investment will be "future proof" as mainstream content distribution standards move toward 4K delivery in the future.
Lyle Bunn, analyst, advisor and educator in North America's dynamic place-based media sector:
- The top priority will be integration into the "Paid-Owned-Earned" media model as display systems investment is made and optimized. Organizations will increasingly look to dynamic media to increase the attractiveness of their destination(s) while increasing dwell time and shopper conversion. The influence that comes with presenting brand attributes, as well as product features and benefits at the point of purchase is a primary brand-builder through positive brand impression and shopper conversion. Locations that do not have dynamic media will increasingly be seen as "stale," "flat" or outdated as the broad proliferation of the media fuels consumer expectation that on-site media that speaks to them should be part of their discovery and purchase journey.
- Mobile is not a device, it is a platform. The role of the mobile device on the purchase journey continues to evolve. Geo-awareness and apps have established mobile as a platform with the important distinction that the "audience of one" pays for the device (like TV and Internet) while each interaction contributes to the body of insight and actionable intelligence on behaviors and trends. The fact that connected consumers are using media for decision support bodes well for brand and promotional messaging on digital display at points of action. As showrooming sits at the intersection of product research and purchase, the role of retail in the supply chain will increasingly be enabled by place-based media and platforms (such as digital signage) that can empower near-field, on demand, purchase-relevant informing and call to action.
- Retail will see high growth. As food services and financial retail organizations have moved forward with enterprise programs, fashion, specialty and general retail will continue to move forward with innovations. Shelf-level display and stand-alone merchandising displays will increasingly include video media that aligns with the time of year, major calendar events and the dominant shopper demographic and mindset.
- Digital place-based media is at the convergence of art and science. So expect to see improvements to content strategy and composition based on tangible evidence of impact. Analytics will drive optimization and higher return on investment.
- Investment will be made from a broader range of envelopes. In being called In-store TV, broadcast budgets will be tapped for "owned" media investment. In being called the OuterNet, Internet budgets are increasingly being tapped. In moving to the "C-Suite" with more attention to the enabling value of the media being realized by the chief marketing, information, technology, facilities and staffing officers, and with a greater awareness of the contribution of the media to overall brand and corporate valuation, digital media moves from being an operational to tactical to strategic investment.
Jeff Hastings, CEO, BrightSign:
In 2015 we'll see a proliferation of 4K screens — and the transition to 4K in the pro AV sector will happen faster than anyone expects. 4K screens are already an early hit in the consumer market, which will lead screen manufacturers to standardize their commercial production to 4K. As volumes increase, 4K display costs will drop quickly. In parallel, display manufacturers will also increasingly adopt the new HDMI 2.0 standard as AV professionals demand the smooth picture quality of playback in true 4Kp60.
I believe 2015 will be the year that the pro AV market transitions to 4K. The industry will experience steady growth as customers flock to 4K screens and players for new installations at the beginning of the year. Subsequently, existing installations will also begin transitioning to 4K. This growth and transition will be supported by display manufacturers introducing 4K screens in a wide range of sizes, and with support for new standards such as HDMI 2.0. Purpose-built devices that support the true 4K ecosystem from start to finish will drive this shift.
Jeff Ittel, senior vice president, Avnet Embedded:
For 2015, we will see digital signage as a call to action, whether it be as a point of sale, a shopping portal or a tableside menu — all available to personalize a retail or dining experience without the need to add costly headcount. The sophistication of audience analytics is improving at an astonishing rate, and soon we will dissect demographic trends to analyze who is buying what, when and where. Personalization doesn't mean big screens marketing one-to-many with a general message. Rather, personalization means 8- to 24-inch screens used to interact with individuals directly. This provides an out-of-home experience on par with what buyers have come to expect with their in-home experience.
Digital menu boards will continue to grow faster than ever with the recent finalization of FDA requirements. Food establishments with 20 or more locations are now all required to display calorie counts of all food and beverages, including alcoholic beverages. The new rules are more stringent than expected and will bolster the proliferation of DMBs across the nation that will seek to keep printing costs down, as a single ingredient change in a recipe could require another print run of menus. The new rules include food trucks and vending machines, so look for digital signage growth in these spaces as well.
Given that LCD manufacturers are now offering high bright displays with IP ratings and no HVAC cooling requirements, another trend will be to integrate the outdoor ordering confirmation system with the outdoor DMB. This will drive down costs significantly when deploying digital signage in the drive-thru.
Ultra-high-definition has been a long time coming, but now that prices on 4K displays and media players are equalizing, we will see growth in retail applications as they are not dependent on the broadcasters for content. We will see this in video wall deployments in mid-range and high-end locations which will include interactivity at the top of the market. Interactivity combined with 4K content will provide rich, lifelike experiences that will engage and delight customers.
Bill Melo, chief marketing executive, Toshiba America Business Solutions Inc.:
As the digital signage industry is clearly maturing, look for more sophisticated content delivery and integration platforms to enrich the end-user experience in 2015. The integration of content within digital signage is creating a seamless informational experience for consumers. Such integration involves information from such divergent sources as point-of-sale devices, the Internet, broadcast TV and mobile devices.
Without a doubt, digital signage is becoming more complex in its applications, which begs the question of whether it has become too complex for the average user, thus warranting a services consulting approach to continually manage content updates when needed. As more mainstream advertising reaches consumers via digital signage, companies capable of delivering best-in-class hardware and software while developing, updating and managing content will certainly stand out.
Paul Price, CEO, Creative Realities Inc.:
With the digital revolution, we've seen the growth of mobile and mobile payment solutions, omnichannel and beacon technology driving many of the advancements in digital signage in 2014. Yet, the perennial question for the industry is what will 2015 be like? While it's almost impossible to predict exactly which emerging strategies and technologies will have the most impact, there are some clear trends emerging.
There are immense opportunities ahead in 2015, with the expectations for further consolidation of the digital signage industry to create scale, efficiency and profitability. As brands and retailers look to improve their merchandising and promotional effectiveness, they will rely even more on innovative digital signage solutions to help them deliver content directly to the point where customers make decisions and purchases (whether that point is at a new product display, an in-store event, or in a checkout line), which in turn will contribute to revenue growth.
Further, there will be increasing influence of mobile (and related technology) platforms on digital signage system configuration and application. Businesses and marketers will need to focus on the transformative ways in which the convergence of mobile communications, the Internet and display solutions can create new and inspiring customer encounters, and turn these interactions into repeatable sales.
Another very exciting prediction is that there will be more 4K display deployments as prices fall and use-cases grow. In the evolution of resolution, 4K marks a new chapter in large-scale interactive displays. The vast improvement in resolution compared to standard high-definition screens will have a huge impact on displays. Better quality graphics mean that users can more easily and effectively view and interact with large sets of content.
Gajendra Ratnavel, CEO, L Squared Digital Signage:
In 2015 and beyond, the industry will see the competitive criteria for digital signage moving away from software/hardware features to content, ease of use and reliability. This will shift digital signage vendors to focus on reliability, customer service and allowing customers to bring content into the digital signage network more easily.
Rich Ventura, vice president of product marketing and solutions operations at NEC Display Solutions:
Looking ahead to 2015 what trends or areas of focus should we keep an eye on?
- Projectors being used for digital signage: With growing projector technology comes more creative ways to push the envelope in digital signage applications. We have already seen installations use projection mapping, odd surface, off-angle and structure projection, which is just the start of how projectors can make an impact in digital signage. The industry estimates that 25 percent of all current digital signage applications involve projectors, but with large venues such as Quicken Loans Arena, where 3D images are projected onto the basketball court during player introductions, and the United Center, using projectors in new and exciting ways, we can expect that percentage to increase tremendously in 2015.
- Growth of ultra-high-definition within the industry: As already stated, price decreases for ultra-high definition products and the increased availability of infrastructure needs, such as content and media players will be the driving force of this technology in 2015. Also aiding in this growth is the introduction of solid-state light source projectors and new technologies such as Display Port 1.2, which allows the pass through of 4K signals to video walls. As consumers' expectations grow because of the increased adoption of ultra-high-definition, more industries will be expected to have these installations. This means that many new markets such as education and health care, entertainment spaces like sports bars, and museums for digitizing artwork, will install ultra-high-definition. Retailers will also continue in this expansion.
- Analytics becoming more important: Knowing about your customer and their needs has always been important, but in 2015 the initiative for organizations to track data on consumers will grow. Digital signage, combined with viewer analytics and biometrics, can help organizations gain insights on their consumers' gender, the amount of time they are spending in stores, and their specific interests. Based on this collected information, organizations will not only be able to specify content to each individual consumer but they will also be able to use this information to drive future sales.
Glen Young, senior product marketing manager, Envision Peripherals Inc. for Philips Signage Solutions North America:
From our perspective, in the digital signage business, 2015 promises to trend toward three key areas. One is the continuation of low-cost wars among display manufacturers; No. 2 deals with large size displays coming down the pike with some industry leaders thinking they'll cut big slices out of the video wall market; and thirdly, the big signage players are placing bets on ultra-HD 4K for their upcoming ultrasleek (but expensive) digital signage models.
As in 2014, cost will continue to be a top issue with commercial buyers. Not much change there with display manufacturers, although you can be sure they are upping the ante to pare down their costs to provide the market more acceptable pricing and thus expand it more.
Meanwhile, this coming year, we'll see display manufacturers promoting large size models, above 70 inches, like 80, 84 inches, all the way up to 98 inches, depending on manufacturer. Some say these larger sizes will replace video walls; others totally disagree. From our point of view, the video wall application will continue to survive and actually grow dramatically in 2015. However, large-size displays will have their place in corporations, education and retail.
Lastly, there's the question of ultra-HD 4K TV. Certainly, consumer TV makers are heavily promoting it; it's the next big thing. But we feel that's only for consumer TVs and doesn't have a place in the digital signage business. However, it is all driven by cost. If the cost is right and content is available and affordable, UHD may start taking off by late 2015.
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(Photo courtesy of Neo_II.)