As the Holiday season marches on, it is not unusual to reflect on the year that has passed and wonder about the year to come. Having already made 2014 predictions back in September, this is not about taking a second stab at those. In fact, I still feel very good about this year’s attempt at crystal ball reading. But in the dizzying month since my last post, it has occurred to me that the watchword for digital signage in 2014 is very likely to be acceleration. And that means acceleration of both positive and negative trends and forces within the industry, across all constituents. Why now? The one word answer is money.
Huge companies have recognized that digital signage has become a fixture and a growing marketplace for a wide variety goods and services, as well as a viable platform for messaging and advertising. Investors have shown that they believe that the business can support companies of significant scale with a variety of business models. Owners of public-facing venues of all types have embraced the benefits of using digital media in a variety of ways. All of that relates back to opportunities to drive business and earn significant returns on investments. And despite the warnings of the exiled Chicken Little, mobile’s growth is not the falling sky for digital signage, it simply provides an ancillary, one-to-one platform that enhances the value of well-conceived digital signage.
Here are just a few examples of accelerating trends that will make 2014 a whirlwind. Not all of the trends are new, but the speed at which they are happening is noteworthy:
Display companies show their hands: Samsung introduced their SmartSignage platform in early 2013, followed by an unprecedented hiring spree of industry veterans. By the end of the year, it became apparent that they want to be in the software business, and perhaps the network hosting and services business. LG has introduced a more powerful S0C TV in the consumer channel, and a commercial companion is likely to follow. If it does, LG’s strategy should be revealed quickly, whether it is to take the opportunity to open their SoC platform and build a partner ecosystem, or to do a me-too and compete with their partners. Expect to see competitive responses from the other major display providers both in terms of technology and positioning. Now is clearly not the time for status quo. DSE 2014 will be… fun.
Brands step up: Major brands worldwide will accelerate the current trend of working with their retail partners to use digital signage to move more product. We are well past the point of wondering whether digital signage works at the point of decision, and decreasing costs and increased form factor options are making tests and rollouts much more palatable, and therefore on the table at budget building time.
End user sophistication forces new approaches: Smarter buyers demand more than checkmarks on a requirements list or a price. They want partners in a process. With the endless appetite for education and new certifications, countless webinars and a generally well-informed community of users, the way technology and service providers of all stripes sell and deliver will change at a faster pace.
Cash flows to models that get it: If there is one thing I learned at the DailyDOOH Investor Conference, it is that there is a large amount of capital ready to be deployed from a variety of sources. Some of the big entities still want to compare our industry to the traditional OOH industry, which is fine. Others are looking for models that scale, or pieces that fit into portfolios. The flow of public and private capital will accelerate next year.
Mobility of professionals: The pace at which experienced people change hats will also accelerate in 2014, as businesses evolve, opportunity knocks and winners emerge.
Interest in our industry: All of the preceding paragraphs are clear indicators that digital signage is no longer a sleepy, “hang and bang” business. There are hundreds of peripheral businesses, potential partnerships and new players in the community all moving toward digital signage likes moths to a lightbulb. There are still problems to be solved and plenty of remnants from the adolescence of the industry. There is still lots of empty noise in the web sphere and twitterverse, but a corner has been turned, and the collective foot is on the gas. Enjoy the ride.
As the year closes, I’d like to send a shout-out to the amazing and dedicated people who work with me at Real Digital Media. Your work and your spirit inspires and energizes me, and I thank you for that. Looking forward to 2014! To everyone, best wishes for a special Holiday season, and a happy and prosperous New Year. I hope to have the opportunity to say hello to most of you in Vegas.