Report: Digital Signage Summit 2017

Speakers say that integration and big data analysis are key to the future success of the DS industry at the first Digital Signage Summit collocated with ISE.

The Digital Signage Summit headed to Amsterdam for its first event collocated with ISE 2017 ahead of another seven digital signage summit events later this year. More than 100 delegates attended the conference that explores themes of consolidation in the industry, creating the smart retail store and the role of digital signage in the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT). 

Omnipresence:  all around us

The summit began within a keynote from Florian Rotberg, managing director of Invidis Consulting. He noted that digital signage (DS) projects have long been stand-alone systems and were not sufficiently connected to back-end systems and added that the growth of omni-channel platforms, which offer seamless user experiences, has accelerated this trend. He argued that digital signage needs to be highly integrated in order to create new retail experiences and to support big data analysis. With the help of established standards like XML and internet programming paradigms, dynamic signage connects to back office systems, enables transactions through ePayment/eWallet solutions, integrates RFID/iBeacon for interactivity and returns valuable customer data to make retail analytics possible.

Rotberg discussed ever-changing market conditions and said that the industry is moving toward an ‘omnipresence of displays’. This approach has led to more importance being placed on return on investment from clients, keen to ensure a sound investment and thus value being delivered for their business.  

Another interesting concept raised during the Summit was the phrase “calm technology”. It referred to benefitting from improvements in the field of user friendly interfaces to deliver a point of information digital signage solution. The aim is to raise the smallest amount of attention in order to inform while also retaining a feeling of calm in the user. It therefore has to be better placed and appear on the periphery, as part of a total DS solution, rather than attempt to command the full attention - a question perhaps of matching the technology to the message, audience and also taking into consideration site-specific issues.

Engaging the audience

A theme consistent during the half-day conference was engagement. To ensure technology is suited to the environment in which it is placed, and for clients to achieve desired outcomes, vendors must understand these variables at the planning stage.  
Chris Riegel, CEO of Stratache, discussed this during a Fireside Chat session. Summarising some of the key aspects for multinational companies taking on a DS project, Riegel explained that outlining a common goal and understanding local markets can prove imperative to the success of an installation. Take a brand with many outlets across a number of different countries – a shop or office application in Mexico will not have the same social norms, rules and regulations as its sister shop or office in Denmark, for example. The DS technology should be flexible enough to enable these differential. 

Furthering this, Jose Avalos, worldwide digital signage director at Intel Corporation, commented that data-driven decision making is the key to success. Companies who collect, analyse and engage with analytics will generate a better understanding of their brand and its customers. This approach will resonate with the millennial generation, for whom providing feedback and shaping brands is widely adopted. 

Global approach

Vidya Nagarajan, the senior product manager of Chrome & Android at Google, discussed a global approach to tackling the challenges facing the retail industry; to increase revenues, build on repeat customers and to reduce costs. By implementing a connected retail experience, customers can remain relevant whilst offering a consistent product and service, to ultimately transform the customer experience. 

This sentiment was echoed by Philippe Graf von Stauffenberg, chairman of the board at Trison. Discussing the challenges companies face, Stauffenberg referenced the lack of worldwide focus as playing a major role in the inability to remain relevant. By not just focusing on the local markets and investing in inventory as well as adding value to customers, companies in the DS industry will succeed.

Looking at the future of retail, Rotberg believes that there is no easy answer to a successful approach in the DS industry. The customer journey that marketers learned about at university is dead. A new generation of customer – the real digital natives – ignore the rules of these purchasing processes. They ask for new and flexible shopping experiences that focus on referral marketing, location-based services and amenities which, until now, could only be delivered by web-based services on a mobile or computer. Successful companies are the ones that will add value to customers engaging with them elsewhere along their journey. This seems to be verified when retailers move back into inner city, smaller brick and mortar spaces or shopping centres and with more interactive spaces.

The connected retail environment of today and tomorrow should offer connected and cohesive customer interactions which empower sales associates and delight customers. It should also use any medium it has to involve customers from sales associates, virtual assistants, smart instrumented product, indoor location mapping, smart applications or even vision based intelligence.  Before designing a new DS concept, it is an absolute necessity to analyse the needs of all stakeholders, define content workflows and decide the role that DS should play in the communication mix. Technology is only an instrument; the customer is the key to success.

An important and often overlooked element of DS is content creation. Content should be the king and agencies or in-house teams must be part of the process when creating this. The industry needs to educate people that real, total investment in DS is actually a process of ‘Hardware + Software + Content’ and that content needs to be invested throughout its life, just as equipment does.

The next DSS Europe event will be held in Munich, Germany on July 5 and 6, 2017.

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