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Digital Signage Trends

Smart businesses that want digital signage are on the rise. Here are the latest trends to keep an eye on.

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For a few years now, digital signage has been what email marketing was in the 00s, or like web build in the 90s. Something which was once hugely difficult to implement, expensive and difficult to understand, now made simple by a small handful of companies striving to find a better way.

Digital signage today is incredibly easy to implement. Getting videos, images and social media onto a TV screen takes literally minutes. In fact, if you have a smart TV sitting in your front room, you could do it right now.

That’s how easy it is to implement. 

Here’s a quote from a customer of ours last week:

“It was really easy to get a demo running in my living room on a home theater flat screen with an Amazon Fire Box. At the time, I joked with my wife that it only took 15 minutes to set up plus the 4-5 years I’ve been researching this field.”

For us, this sums up digital signage today in a nutshell. It’s a mature industry, one which has been keeping a lot of people busy for a long time because of how seriously effective it is as a medium. But for most, the time spent learning the industry is now outdone by the mere minutes needed to get set up.

In this article, we’ll look beyond this, taking into consideration where digital signage is today and where else it might be heading before the year is out. 

1. Simple digital signage

As we’ve briefly mentioned, a few years ago digital signage was reserved for enterprise-level, big budget corporates. Certainly not your everyday brick-and-mortar store, restaurant or local business. Today, not only is digital signage super simple but it’s developed as an “anyone can do it” medium. Simple CMSs allow anyone to step in front of a screen and get great visual content up and running. 

In 2017, digital signage must be three things if it’s to be simple enough to be adopted by the masses:

  • Agile: In all marketing practices today, personalization is key. Digital signage systems must be personalized to customer preference, employee floor level and the time of the day the content is served if it’s to be useful.
  • Easily updatable: With the rise of remote working and shared coworking spaces, we aren’t always sitting at the same desk. For digital signage to be truly useful, it must be updatable from anywhere, so that a slide can be dropped into a rotating feed from a beach in Bali as easily as it might be changed from the back office at an event.
  • Easy to create content: Let’s face it, many marketers, IT professionals, and business owners who take to digital signage aren’t able to add sophisticated design skills to their already overflowing portfolios. For that reason, the most successful digital signage systems in 2017 will be the ones that go out of their way to make designing and producing content super simple. 

In simple terms: if digital signage is to be useful in 2017, it will have to be pared back so well that anyone can adopt it. 

2. IoT-enabled connected screens

How smart is your smart screen today? We talk about two scenarios when setting up digital signage with ScreenCloud: you either need an Android TV that’s already smart, or you need a dumb screen paired with a smart device such as an Amazon TV Stick 4K or Chromecast with Google TV to help make it smart.

You can also use a more digital signage ready device to play more demanding content on your TVs, like our ScreenCloud OS device, the Station P1 Pro.

When you do this, what you actually get is an Internet-enabled screen, otherwise known as an IoT device. If you haven’t read much around IoT just yet, here’s an overview. If you have, you’ll know that the potential for dumb devices to become more connected and thereby useful is huge. 

Here are some of the applications we see IoT-enabled screens leading throughout 2017:

  • In an office, a manager is speaking to the sales team. They reference a specific project and realize it would be easier to illustrate with the right project boards and sales figures present. They ask the screen on the wall next to them to display the content. Quick video of how this would look here:
  • An independent store suddenly gets a huge influx of customers from a group of tourists in the area. The store manager interfaces with the store screen to bring up a unique offer code for anyone visiting the area, encouraging them to make purchases in the moment.  
  • A convenience store is running a promotion on beer and they sell out. Their screens talk to their fridges, which stock the beer, and see that the count is low.  The advertising message gets switched to something else using an “if this then that” command. 

IoT-enabled screens are not too far off and will create a sophisticated way for people, but also other systems, to connect with the screens showing digital content, making them up-to-the-minute useful. 

3. Voice controlled screens

Interactivity is essential to the future of meaningful connections with screens. The amount of people going up to static screens in shopping malls and trying to touch the interface (when it’s non-touch) is huge. 

This is because we’re used to physical touch interfaces. In the near future, we see voice-user interfaces (VUI) as the next step in meaningful interaction. VUIs take a natural form of human interaction that we use every day (talking) and pair this with computers that can respond to a voice and speech platform to initiate an automated service or process.

An example of voice control commands with digital signage. 

The biggest benefit of voice-activated screens is that you don’t have to have a touchscreen (fairly expensive) to be able to implement and you don’t have to be anywhere near the screen in question. For those who are physically disabled or blind, or even for children who may not be able to reach up and touch a screen, this poses a huge opportunity. 

With voice-controlled interfaces like Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Echo taking precedent in our devices, this will become a cost-effective way of directing the screens around us in the not so distant future.

4. Proximity marketing

Proximity marketing has been making the rounds for many years, but the true application of this as a digital signage trend is only just becoming present.

Apple’s iBeacon, a device which uses a sensor to connect to a customer or passerby’s smartphone, is perhaps the most well known vehicle. 

As an example, the iBeacon would be connected to the digital signage screen in a restaurant window. As someone walks past the restaurant, the iBeacon sends a trigger to their smartphone with a unique offer code. If the visitor is hungry, they become a customer.

In theory, this works great! Who wouldn’t want to be bombarded with relevant, timely, useful offers and promotions? However, in reality, the application is quite different. 

What we failed to mention in the example above is that the visitor would have to have an iOS smartphone for it to work. They would need to have the app for that restaurant already downloaded. When the trigger arrives, they would have to open their phone, view the offer and have had Bluetooth enabled. 

Big ask, right?

As a trend, we see the future of proximity marketing enabled by systems which are much more user friendly.

As an example, Eddystone is a cross-platform beacon sensor, capable of supporting Android, iOS or any platform that supports BLE beacons. It is also enabled by a simple URL popping up on the user's smartphone, which allows them to choose whether to proceed or hold back. No app download requirements make the user journey much more fluid. 

Until the process is that seamless, beacons will be heralded as a trend, but will not be that widely adopted in everyday use. 

5. Tailored content programs

In most other marketing disciplines, we’ve come to accept that personalization is key to success. In email marketing, we segment data lists; on the web, we create tailored landing pages; in PPC, we search for specific keywords and respond with handcrafted adverts.

In digital signage, the same principle will become more widely adopted in 2017. To date, there’s been a “set it and forget it” mindset to producing digital signage content. Going forward, tailored content programs will be key to fighting the same content running on a loop.

This will be achieved in a few key ways:

  • Content which is easy to update: The easier it is to drop in a new slide or update a presentation in the digital signage CMS, the more advocates that will use it. Content platforms like our App Store will also help with producing content. Apps for social media, digital noticeboards, live news feeds and more will make the changing and tailoring of content more accessible for everyone - be they business owner, marketer, designer or store manager. 
  • Playlists and scheduling: Personalization will depend on the use of playlists and scheduling to ensure that the right content program gets served at the right time. For example, ensuring a morning audience gets a breakfast menu and an evening audience a dinner one. Or swapping out seasonal campaigns and offers depending on the time of year.
  • More insight into what works and analysis of your audience: As we’ve spoken about in the past, the “perfect playlist” is rarely generic across all industries. The content that will work for one audience may not work for another. Sure, there are some best practices around dwell time, engagement levels, use of composition and so on, but finding what content works for your specific market will be a case of regular testing and analysis. 

The more tailored the content program, the more successful the digital signage strategy. This year, we see more and more businesses adopting tailored digital signage not just as a one-off, but as a key part of the marketing strategy. 

6. Video advertising

There are a ton of stats pertaining to the importance of video content right now. In a noisy marketing world, we look towards video as a method by which we can attract more attention, use motion to engage the eye and to sell our message in a more visual format.

Digital signage, given its origin on a TV screen, is the perfect canvas through which to show video content. We’re used to seeing TV shows playing, so it makes sense that businesses will now begin to adopt video advertising as a way to gain attention.

Video also has some pragmatic benefits in digital signage. Written text can be difficult to read on a screen and may only be visible from a short distance; video is viewable from almost any distance. Video content is also starting to be more educational, informative or entertaining. This is a far cry from the standard video ads we’re used to seeing on YouTube’s pre-roll. Given that consumers use video as a source of information, or as a new way to consume content from influencers and bloggers, this will be a key consideration for anyone looking to adopt a successful video digital signage strategy. 

Given that 85% of videos are viewed without sound, a soundless video playing in a reception, office or store is not that different to what we’re used to watching on our smartphones. 

As a result, we see video advertising extending out of the personalized device and onto the shared screens around us in 2017. 


What are your thoughts on this year’s digital signage trends? We’d love to know! Leave us a comment on Twitter @screencloud.

 SC Gradient

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