November 2, 2012

"In what circumstances could smartphone adoption be considered a threat to digital signage, and what are some of the ways that mobile technology can be integrated with digital signage to maximize advantage?"

Answers:

Matthew Brown, Servus Credit Union

As a financial services company, the opportunity we present in integration between mobile technologies and digital signage is the ability to provide viewers with information that they can walk away with.

Bob Killmeier, Wells Fargo

I believe that the positive uses of smartphones and tablets will offset any negative impact to digital signage.

James Velco, The John Marshall Law School

Depending on what you are using your digital signage platform for, smartphone adoption is already a threat.

Thomas Kunka, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The rise of mobile technologies, smartphones in particular, is often seen as a threat to the adoption of digital signage technology.

Ralph Schorbach, Fairplex

This is really an interesting topic of smartphone adoption into digital signage. I would not consider it a threat, but more of an ally.

Len Dudis, Seaworld Parks & Entertainment

With smartphone adoption increasing at a frenetic pace and hundreds of millions of devices already in use, it would be fruitless to consider smartphones as a threat to digital signage.

Dan Alpern, Alpern Media

Everything that has an end user's attention is a threat to digital signage, including smartphones.

Sharon Erdman, Mayo Clinic

In the world of creative development, these two technologies have unique attributes. Smartphones and digital signage together create a very powerful combination.

Patricia Mitrano, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

Smartphone adoption is a threat to digital signage under any circumstance.

Randy Dearborn, MGM Resorts

I believe the biggest threat comes from 1) the expansion and accuracy of indoor mapping, and 2) the intelligence of location-based marketing directly to mobile devices.

Chet Patel, Disney Swan & Dolphins Hotels

I feel that smartphones can be a threat in that apps can be created to replace "wayfinder" digital reader boards.

Sue Culver, International Dairy Queen Corp.

Consumer expectations are changing faster than digital signage technologies are being adopted.

Jason Stuehmer, Dunkin' Brands

I have asked my colleagues about this topic and received multiple perspectives on this question.

Bob Stowe, Wendy's International

The ubiquitous smartphone, and the social media which is its child, puts a new level of fast-paced content in the hands of the consumer on a one-by-one basis and at their command.

Stacy Milligan, MetroPCS

I think smartphone adoption could be looked at as a threat, but I don't believe it threatens digital signage any more than that of any other digital marketing channel.

Todd Eastman, Target

I can see the headlines now … Smartphone User Walks Into Giant Abandoned Video Screen, Injures Self … Cracks Screen.

James Cordero, Wal-Mart

It's not only smartphone adoption, but also tablet adoption.

Lawrence Chang, Calgary Telus Convention Centre

I don't believe smartphone adoption is a threat — rather, it is a complementary piece of technology.

David Saleme, Columbus Regional Airport Authority

In the aviation industry, we do not perceive the smartphone as a threat to digital signage and struggle to envision such a circumstance.

Craig Huff, Vancouver Convention Centre

Smartphones are a "threat" to all advertising-based media because they represent another competitor for the same finite advertising dollars.

Amy Vollet, The Integer Group/Dallas

The adoption of smartphones means that each consumer holds a screen in their hand; therefore, messages can be personalized to their unique needs.

Daniel Wilkins, N2

In my opinion, it is only a threat of the digital signage industry doesn't evolve to take advantage of how mobile enhancing the users experience with the signage.

Lucas Peltonen, (for Dave Matera) OOH Pitch

Whether in an enclosed space or a more fluid and open shopping environment, people are becoming more and more reliant on their phones for information and entertainment.

Jeremy Lockhorn, Razorfish

Smartphones are only a threat to digital signage if network operators and content creators fail to understand the context(s) in which people might seek to engage with one or the other of the devices.

Christina Radigan, Outdoor Media Group

Digital signage, including place-based networks, is well positioned to grow in tandem with smartphone penetration.

Allen Marks, Advanced Innovative Solutions

First you must ask the question, "With today's technologies and evolving social behaviors, what is the best way to communicate to a target audience?"

Jonathan Brawn, Brawn Consulting

I don’t think smartphone adoption should be considered a threat to digital signage, but a potential advantage.

Lyle Bunn, The BUNN Company

As WiFi (i.e. "off-plan" and site-specific) connectivity becomes more available and reliable, we could imagine that door markers such as the "foursquare here" and other static sign reminders could successfully activate mobile engagement.

Linda Hofflander, The Handa Group

Communications are layered based on their effectiveness.

Margot Myers, The Platt Retail Institute

Hi, my name is Margot and I'm a smartphone addict.

Pat Hellberg, The Preset Group

Each and every communication platform ... smartphones, print, broadcast, digital, conventional POP displays ... poses a threat to digital signage if those other platforms are providing relevant, compelling experiences and while digital signs are not.

Adrian Weidmann, StoreStream Metrics, LLC

I believe a more relevant perspective is what role does digital signage have in the continuing emergence and ubiquitous acceptance of smartphones in the omni-channel arsenal of the digitally empowered consumer?

Sean Whiffen, AutoNetTV

A Coca-Cola executive once said they weren't just competing for market share of soda, they were competing for 'stomach share.'

Greg McGrath, Clear Channel Outdoor

Mobile technology provides a great opportunity to enhance the digital out of home experience and allows interactive capabilities that can be of great value to the consumer.

Loren Goldfarb, Everwell/MediVista

Smartphones and tablets may pose a threat to digital out-of-home networks if advertisers view mobile as a cheaper, easier and more effective way to reach consumers.

John Chin, IZON Media

The advent of the mobile phone in the late 1980s "untethered" the general consumer from their homes and started a revolution of freedom and convenience that technology has chased ever since.

John Miller, Lamar Advertising

In the out-of-home advertising industry, particularly digital out-of-home and transit, we feel that the smartphone will only help the industry.

Chuck Strottman, RMG Networks

Smartphones are pushing digital place-based media companies to reinvent themselves.

Oscar Gamez, Saber es Poder

With more than 100 million smartphone users in the U.S., it is not uncommon to see someone on their smartphone while they eat at a restaurant, while they walk down the street, or even while driving.

David Kahn, Wall Street Journal Network

If digital signage makes sense, I don't think mobile replaces it as much as complements it.

Chris Polos, VeriFone Media

Smartphones could pose a risk to digital signage by reducing consumer attention to it.

Vince Prato, Zoom Media & Marketing

This question departmentally has different vantage points.

Gary Halpin, Agency 225

The networks we operate are within retail locations, so for us, we have used it in a few simple ways, but do have plans to utilize it more going forward.

Mark Zwicker, St. Joseph's Content

Smartphone adoption is only a threat to poor digital signage executions.

Peter Vrettas, EDR Media

The smartphone is a threat to digital signage only if retailers decline to understand the technology and fail to embrace its potential.

Anne White, HypeHouse

Marketers don't like competition for eyeballs and mindshare (and having to add another line to their budget).

Letta Nagel, Saddle Ranch Digital

Smartphones could one day rule the media world! As over the top as that statement is, when you look at the data that supports the "must-have role" — that smartphones are contributing to daily life — from search, sharing to purchase — it's not far from the truth.

Bryan Meszaros, OpenEye

The biggest threat to digital signage is "personalization." When retailers begin to engage consumers on a more "personal" level in-store, it does b

Jeremy Gavin, ScreenFeed

The smartphone is only one of many competitors to digital signage, but it should not be seen as any more of a direct competitor than anything else that commands consumers' attention.

Guillermo Antmann, ZipCast

Mobile is definitely a threat; partner, embrace it or prepare to die.

Matthew Brown

Manager, Digital Experience
Servus Credit Union

As a financial services company, the opportunity we present in integration between mobile technologies and digital signage is the ability to provide viewers with information that they can walk away with. Whether we are talking about QR codes or other barcode technologies, or some of the other new exciting technologies that allow users to surface digital content on their devices through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and other technologies, on premise there is great opportunity and interesting ideas around how this would not be considered a threat to digital signage, but an evolutionary step forward in delivery and viewer attraction.

We have implemented some barcode technologies into our digital signage, especially around our campaigns, but have yet to see real uptake or adoption. That being said, the ability to provide the viewer with a pre-packaged sales kit through simply allowing them to scan a code seems like an incredibly powerful tool. We continue to try and understand how to bridge the gap from providing the opportunity to users, to them adopting and exploring. One of the concerns is whether we are appropriately dealing with viewers in the way they want to interact with our signage? Are they too passive to want to transition from digital signage to their smartphones, or do they see them as two different and separate mediums — perhaps mobile devices to our viewers are still more closely linked to Web and online communication, not live and on-premise communication? That is the largest hurdle for us, realizing whether there are other communication pieces we need to include to get viewers to accept transitioning from one platform to another (digital sign to mobile device). The other part to this is ensuring there is consistency in the delivery, that the message is delivered the same way and that the experience is equal to or greater than what they would see on the digital sign.

That could be one area where smartphones have an advantage over digital signage today — the fact that they can move the user to the next step easier. While I still wouldn't think of this as a threat, the concept is certainly something that would be a concern to larger operators that are more focused on ensuring they have active viewers who are dwelling on their screens. By providing the same information on the viewer's mobile device they can be locked into a single experience and can be presented with a next step action item in the process — go online to see more, click here to contact us today, etc. That can be delivered through digital signage as well, but it takes a lot more effort and understanding of the location and accessibility of the screen versus simply understanding line of sight.

For us, we will continue to try and explore integration between our digital signage and mobile devices, with the intention of trying to move the viewer from passively connecting with our content, to taking away the information or moving into the next step best action in the process. While we may be a ways away from our members adopting this approach to delivering information, I don't think it will impact our approach to rolling-out digital signage in our branches for now.

 

Bob Killmeier

Vice President Information Technology Team Lead
Wells Fargo

I believe that the positive uses of smartphones and tablets will offset any negative impact to digital signage. These devices can easily personalize the digital signage experience for consumers in several ways:

  • Use of the device to select menu items of interest
  • Use of the device to download brochure information
  • Use of the device to control playback of various videos
  • Use of the device to download directions after selection on a touch digital signage monitor
  • Use of the device to order products from an in-store catalog

 

Many of these connections will employ the capture of contact information belonging to the user. The contact information can be utilized to further follow up on items of interest to the user.

James Velco

Chief Technology Officer
The John Marshall Law School

Depending on what you are using your digital signage platform for, smartphone adoption is already a threat. The challenge is to determine how to use smartphones to leverage your existing digital signage infrastructure and produce an even better end-user experience. I have written previously on interactivity and how it must be incorporated into any future digital signage network design in order to keep its relevance. It is my opinion that interactive touchscreens and smartphones can be a synergistic force to provide feedback, information and communication with your customers/audience.

The integration between the two systems might come down to proper content creation tied to backend databases, which pull and push data between the smartphone, the digital signage network and data. I've envisioned using digital signage to allow customers to sign up for events by passing their info to the digital signage network, the digital signage network would pass that information to the registration database and the smartphone registration conformation message. That's just one example of the way customers can interface with a digital signage network and add value.

I think that, at the end of the day, smartphones are more of a creative opportunity rather than a threat and if we embrace the potential opportunity the possibilities are limitless.

Thomas Kunka

Coordinator, Network Systems & Operations
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The rise of mobile technologies, smartphones in particular, is often seen as a threat to the adoption of digital signage technology. That assumption is a bit premature and is only as relevant as the digital signage industry makes it. Meaning, digital signage can and will be able to both differentiate itself from and integrate with mobile technologies.

Focusing on integration…

Integration with mobile devices offers many interesting and innovative opportunities. A glimpse of the future can be seen in science fiction movies and TV shows but the future is becoming more and more of a reality as new products and systems such as Microsoft's soon-to-be-released Xbox SmartGlass (http://tinyurl.com/8nxf4hz) aim to seamlessly integrate our mobile and home devices. Such systems allow devices such as smartphones and tablets to augment home entertainment systems by providing backchannels of information about the television shows we view and the ability to interact with others watching the same shows – even those on the other side of the globe.

Capabilities such as the ability to begin watching a movie in our living rooms and then simply get up and continue watching that on our mobile devices is a very logical step forward in the evolution of technology but the from both a technological and practical perspective seems like child's play compared to the challenges of providing similar capabilities between our mobile devices and the world outside our own living rooms — the public spaces that digital signage calls home. While some technologies such as RFID, QR codes and integration with popular social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook have served as initial explorations into the relationships between mobile computing and digital signage we still have yet seen the "killer app" that allows seamless interaction between a person's environment and personal devices. And we may not see it for quite some time — if for no other reason than the segmentation of technologies and platforms into manufacturer and market-driven ecosystems — e.g. Apple, Android, Microsoft, Blackberry, etc. — but I digress…

The ability to provide "take it with you" and "share it with others" type experiences will be a great challenge to the digital signage industry as it takes what is often seen as the end — an integration of one's own personal devices — to a new level; a level that can makes what is personal more public and what is public more personal.

Higher education in particular may benefit by transforming the traditional campus into one that provides students and visitors alike with rich, meaningful and pervasive experiences in and out of the classroom. Students in particular are in engaged in constant transition between the activities associated with living, learning and working and everything in between — and constantly traversing campus spaces such as classrooms, residence halls, cafeterias, laboratories, libraries and athletic arenas. The integration of mobile devices and "digital signage" will provide opportunities to re-imagine and transform these traditional spaces into something new.

Whether they are called collaboration spaces, creative commons, new media centers, blended learning environments — or just simply home — campuses have the potential transform themselves into seamless environments for living learning and communication through the imaginative application and integration of technology. Our challenges lie ahead in not only in creating the technologies themselves but, in how to integrate them with each other and our environments to make them truly seamless and truly beneficial.

Winston Churchill once said, "We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us." — and today many may same about our technology. But we can look even farther forward and decide to shape both our environment and our technology to create something more — even rebuking the Hollywood stereotypes of digital signage becoming an invasive force of targeted product marketing and rethinking our notions of "return on investment" and focusing on what really matters — enhancing the human experience.

Ralph Schorbach

Information Technology Manager
Fairplex

This is really an interesting topic of smartphone adoption into digital signage. I would not consider it a threat, but more of an ally. We live in a world bombarded with information; be it signs, banners, fliers, on floors, in the sky, on TV, and the list goes on and on. So why not the phone? It is another source of sensory input that we can't seem to live without. When was the last time you left your phone some place and panicked when you realized it was gone? Almost like losing a child, right? What has been the fastest-growing market segment? Phones. Where are all the Facebook and Twitters feeds, pictures and information come from in our instant world? Phones. Why not incorporate digital signage or similar into the same technology? The cell companies have been spending billions of dollars to sell you the latest smartphone device, why not piggyback on their lead, and success to use this as an extra avenue the spread your word?

At the office, we have been trying to integrate smartphone technology with our on grounds location, website "interactive-ness" and detailed "specials" to the smartphone, all in the name of "information" for the customer. We are trying to bridge the gap in this digital age with our digital signage locations and using smartphone technologies allowing the customer to make dinner reservations, food and vendor discounts based on your online profile direct to you or vendor at a show in the convention center. A huge aspect is wayfinding or directions, showing the "event hotspots" with texts or Web updates to your smartphone. This keeps customers informed and on track for their needs and wants. We are still in the very early stages, but really seems to be a catching on.

There is always a give and take on cost, but just think of the in-house and customer saving of printouts, and equipment requirements. Almost every cell has a data plan, and most areas have Wi-Fi access. This should save a lot on the infrastructure piece, since the carriers spent their money doing it for us and also allows for more global connectivity and information download. As you are heading in, on-site and leaving. Keep that reminder going.

This is a direction we should be embracing and not feel threatened by a new frontier of opportunity. Let's bring it all in, it makes us stronger and will help that whole integration nightmare we all go through.

See you next month and stay connected. Ralph.

 

Len Dudis

Director, Information Technology
Seaworld Parks & Entertainment

With smartphone adoption increasing at a frenetic pace and hundreds of millions of devices already in use, it would be fruitless to consider smartphones as a threat to digital signage. Rather, the best approach we can take is to rapidly advance smartphone and digital signage integration in ways that make sense and provide incremental value to our customers. If we think of smartphones as a portable extension of digital signage, we can not only enhance the message of our digital signage, but also make it relevant, portable, and useful to the individual. I believe the key is in figuring out how to get the end user to enable the content on their phone. Recent advances in geolocation and NFC features are opening doors to allow quick and efficient transfer of data to smartphone devices. In order to gain permission from the end user for this type of content exchange, we need to ensure a compelling feature or offer is included. Instant discounts, coupons, or other personalized offers come to mind. As do other mobile benefits like wayfinding, show times, and other information that is more helpful on the go than in a static location.

Dan Alpern

Marketing Director
Alpern Media

Everything that has an end user's attention is a threat to digital signage, including smartphones. I believe digital signage needs to leverage technology and user habits to stay relevant and maximize value. Examples include integration of NFC, text messaging/response mechanisms, QR codes where appropriate, and social networking, including interactive polls and hashtags (#DSE2013!) One simple example is the use of digital signage to offer promotional code information that a user sends via text messaging on their smartphone to receive an on-the-spot discount. Everything and anything that engages end users will help to keep your digital signage relevant as trends in usage shift.

Sharon Erdman

Patient Experience Design Director
Mayo Clinic

I learned a long time ago that "either/or" answers to questions quickly become a sucker's choice, meaning if you simply choose one over the other, you're missing out on the great possibility of a new solution being created. In the world of creative development, these two technologies have unique attributes. Smartphones and digital signage together create a very powerful combination.

Digital signage offers purpose of place. It offers specific information or tasks for that given moment such as I need directions, I need $20, or what's on the buffet menu. I am in the experience. Smartphones offer an extension of the experience, allowing me to take the moment with me and return to it when I choose. I can also share the experience, which extends the brand to another user.

According to an article published in BusinessWire (October 2012), smartphones have topped the 1 billion mark in third quarter 2012 worldwide. With a digital signage and smartphone strategy, that's an amazing amount of brand awareness potential to tap.

Andrew Ward, Group VP of Comcast Media 360 offers, "… When media platforms remain siloed, optimization only occurs with respect to that medium alone. But when they are integrated, the ability to maximize reach and frequency among the desired consumer targets becomes greatly enhanced."

Forget the threats of either/or, one technology over another. With "and," the solutions are endless.

Patricia Mitrano

Web Content & Social Media Manager
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

Smartphone adoption is a threat to digital signage under any circumstance. Every advantage must be taken to make great use of the stationary digital signage screen and create an amazing and/or interactive experience for the viewer that is not possible with the mini-computer at their fingertips.

The more opportunities the viewer has to affect the screen display with their text or their photo, the greater the chance of maximizing the digital signage message. This summer we couldn't wait to get to the NYC American Eagle store in Times Square, where with your purchase receipt you can have your photo taken. In 15 minutes the image is projected on AE's massive outdoor digital display, on view to thousands. Next, you take a photo of the projection (which happens to also have their logo in the background) with your smartphone and can use it as a screensaver or profile picture. This is a big budget deployment with a concept that can be scaled down for the local bagel shop, perhaps with a customer testimonial or a happy birthday photo message.

Randy Dearborn

Vice President of Multimedia and Guest Technology
MGM Resorts

I believe the biggest threat comes from 1) the expansion and accuracy of indoor mapping, and 2) the intelligence of location-based marketing directly to mobile devices.

The advantages come when high-level content on a screen becomes easily transferred to the mobile device through things like QR codes and NFC and lets the consumer capture the offer/experience.

 

Chet Patel

Disney Swan & Dolphins Hotels

I feel that smartphones can be a threat in that apps can be created to replace "wayfinder" digital reader boards. However, they can work very well together too by allowing the wayfinder digital reader board to download the information to a portable device and guide them to their destination … i.e. via QR codes. The integration of mobile technology advantage is that users can twitter and Facebook on their mobile devices and have that information displayed during a conference … LIVE.

Sue Culver

Vice President of Retail Merchandising
International Dairy Queen Corp.

Consumer expectations are changing faster than digital signage technologies are being adopted. The biggest barrier to entering the digital signage realm is sifting through the vast amount of vendors, software, screens, media players, etc. Even when a user chooses which combination of these is best for their use case, newer and better solutions may have become available or affordable in that time putting them back behind the curve.

With digital signage, the user must focus their efforts into developing their content to that specific screen size, screen orientation and media player compatibility. They must also tailor their marketing strategy to fit the location of the screen both geographically and within the store, as well as "the who," "when" and "for how long" of the viewer.

With smartphones, the end-user is able to develop content and strategies aimed straight for the viewer, and in many ways is able to ignore the "who, where, when and how" and focus only on the "what." As phones change and evolve, the content will remain current and should always be relevant to the viewer.

While the advantages of digital signage and smartphones over printed materials are similar, the risk of becoming dated too quickly may push users into the more future-proof realm of smartphones.

However, when looking for ways that mobile technology can be integrated with digital signage to maximize advantage digital signage and smartphones should be viewed as two separate approaches to the same goal. In the case of a restaurant, the typical goals of marketing strategies are to get the customer into the store and to purchase a product. While in-store and mobile content could try to each do both of these things, it is more efficient and presumably more effective for the mobile content to drive them into the store and the in-store signage content to encourage them to purchase a specific product.

In this way, the content can have separate strategies to execute toward a common goal and both can play off each other's strengths to make up for their weaknesses. Mobile content is seen outside the store when the viewer's destination can be most influenced, while in-store content is shown to a captive audience where their purchase can be most influenced.

 

Jason Stuehmer

Information Technology Product Manager
Dunkin' Brands

I have asked my colleagues about this topic and received multiple perspectives on this question:

One perspective is that consumers are continually becoming more attentive to their phones. Phones are utilized more and more to pass the time and be productive in any given time fragment to send an email, check-in with social media or be entertained. The phone has the consumers' attention. The message and navigation is strictly in their control. In contrast, the objective of digital signage is to capture the audience's attention and prompt an action. Even effective digital signage content has to compete with the consumers' phone in order to meet the objective.

One term that immediately came to mind when receiving this question was "360-degree marketing." This concept says that marketing strategy incorporates all of the marketing mediums and makes the whole story complete from in-home to out-of-home and ultimately to point-of-action (commonly point-of-sale). Incorporating call to action within smartphone apps or content in digital signage to take notice or action in the opposite may improve the effectiveness of both mediums.

We have not tested any cross-messaging campaigns, but have theorized the potential the integration may achieve. This is also a frequent request by our franchisees that we may consider in the future.

Bob Stowe

Director of Marketing and Operations
Wendy's International

The ubiquitous smartphone, and the social media which is its child, puts a new level of fast-paced content in the hands of the consumer on a one-by-one basis and at their command. Smartphones — and other advanced media options — are having a deleterious effect on both broadcast and cable TV as entertainment and informational sources. Witness falling Nielsen ratings. So, too, must our industry be wary that digital signage — once a revolutionary way of reaching the consumer — could become mundane.

End users wish to showcase their product, as they should. While that "showcase" may wow their marketing team, it may also become boring to the consumer. Consider the fast food industry: Digital signage will replace backlit translite signage, which replaced printed signage, which replaced chalkboards with daily specials. When digital menuboards (which must remain fairly static to be useful) become the norm throughout the industry, uniqueness is gone. The eye of the consumer is no longer drawn to the message delivery vehicle because it has become table stakes in every QSR, and no longer extraordinary.

So digital signage must learn to collaborate with smartphone technology and provide a linkage for the consumer, so that the two don't compete but rather COMPLETE the other. For example, a smartphone initiates a conversation while digital signage provides the answer. Rather than fearing or ignoring social media, lets co-op the efforts making the two mediums inseparable.

Stacy Milligan

Manager, In-Store Digital Media
MetroPCS

I think smartphone adoption could be looked at as a threat, but I don't believe it threatens digital signage any more than that of any other digital marketing channel. The advantage of mobile marketing is the fact that it is a more cost-effective, immediate and better targeted tool to a larger pool of consumers. I have also read that mobile marketing produces higher response rates and quicker response times than any marketing channel. But, I think that is where the threat ends because although 37 percent of the U.S. population is using smartphones today, if you look at the money companies are spending on mobile media, it's generally about 1 percent of their media budgets. Many marketers think that today's mobile channel is filled with false claims, unmet expectations and in generally over three-quarters of marketers want to see more case studies of best practices or success stories before spending the money.

I do think though that smartphones should be integrated into digital signage. The amount of smartphones users in the U.S. maybe 37 percent today, but by 2016 it's expected to grow anywhere from 30 to 59 percent, and the amount of time people are on their smartphones keeps growing exponentially. Using either QR codes or NFC technology shows that your product/brand is innovative and it gives your potential customers the ability to get more information immediately and generally quicker than trying to search for information on the Web. The technology can be used for surveys/sweepstakes entries, or better yet, in today's world downloads — are you promoting a book or magazine that can be downloaded through Google Play? If you try to integrate smartphone technology in your digital signage though it needs to be smart — i.e. don't just take them to your homepage — it needs to be relevant to your ad and actionable.

Todd Eastman

Design Lead, Interactives
Target

I can see the headlines now … Smartphone User Walks Into Giant Abandoned Video Screen, Injures Self … Cracks Screen.

Humor aside, I can relate to the headline because I often find myself completely engrossed in my phone when I should be paying more attention my surroundings. I've missed the bus, tripped, bumped into objects and clipped my fellow pedestrians. I'm not proud of it, but I'm also not alone in my guilt.

Smartphones are a threat to all forms of visual communications. If I'm focused on my smartphone, I'm not paying attention to your message. Not only did I miss my bus, but I also didn't notice the bus was skinned with a colossal promotional mural either.

When comes to breaking-through our sometimes life-threatening addictions to our phones, there's an argument to be made that digital signage has a few advantages over traditional signage. If done well, dynamic, relevant, up-to-date, and motion-based messaging will stand out much better than posters taped to a window. Certainly, it does a better job at breaking through the two inches of peripheral vision I have when I'm focused on my phone.

I think the future of how mobile devices and digital signage will collaborate and complement each other is still unproven. I've seen several innovative tests, but most are still too complicated and have too low of "WIIFM" (or, "What's in it for me?") scores to facilitate rapid adoption.

Dual-purpose devices are one area of growing interest. Mobile devices that can fulfill the requirements of digital signage and can also deliver interactive experiences, are becoming affordable thanks to consumer smartphone and tablet adoption rates. Security concerns aside, these devices are opening up a whole new space for digital signage. Apple Stores have delivered one of the best experiences to date by placing a modified iPad at each product display.

Being able to see how many people are in front of me and/or receiving a text when I'm next in line, when I'm not physically in a line, is a great example of digital signage working well with smartphones. While not commonplace yet, I really appreciate retailers and restaurants with digital queues.

James Cordero

Senior Marketing Director
Wal-Mart

It's not only smartphone adoption, but also tablet adoption. Screens that customers own, spend time on, take with them out of home and engage with are viewed as desirable targets by advertisers. Like digital signage, mobile also allows advertisers to track results better than with traditional advertising. Advertisers continuously look for low-cost ways to reach their target customers. If the cost of advertising on mobile is efficient and effective, it will take dollars from not only digital signage, but any form of advertising.

For a digital signage operator, you need to make sure your network is transparent on how effective and efficient advertising is on your network. If it works for the advertiser, they will return.

Digital signage can complement rather than be substituted by mobile. To succeed in this endeavor, it will need to be about deploying effective multi-channel integrations. In my opinion, to integrate digital signage better with mobile, network operators will need to invest in technology that allows their screens to better integrate real-time messaging with what customers will see on their own phone, or tablet in real-time. Real-time, relevant delivery of messaging at the right time and at the right place, while integrating with mobile, can be a differentiator for digital signage.

Lawrence Chang

Director of Information Technology
Calgary Telus Convention Centre

I don't believe smartphone adoption is a threat — rather, it is a complementary piece of technology. When we consider the applications that we've seen in the very recent months in virtual reality, the ability to scan a QR code for mobile applications, one would believe you could tie the two in together in a marketing platform as a whole, instead of thinking of it as a separate entity. I'd imagine this might work better for a retail environment, where you could target your consumers with mobile media advertising, hidden 'Easter eggs' using a combination of digital signage and smartphones/tablets, creating a brand interest/awareness.

For ourselves, we are tying together our wayfinding platform — both within interactive displays around our facility, as well as via a mobile application that we are currently developing. With the coming of near field communications-enabled devices, we could potentially see smartphones in use for specific messages being shown when a client walks nearby, such as a schedule of events specific to that guest, and potentially targeted advertising.

David Saleme

Columbus Regional Airport Authority

In the aviation industry, we do not perceive the smartphone as a threat to digital signage and struggle to envision such a circumstance. In fact, with recent studies showing less than 80 percent of passengers carrying a smartphone, we perceive it as an important tool in getting information to passengers, and speeding their flow through our environment.

Our efforts to integrate digital signage and smartphones are still in the early phases. Initial efforts have included large-scale QR codes that could be read from a distance on our large format video wall directing passengers to airport specific apps. QR codes are also used on smaller-scale touchscreens, again using their smartphones to drive passengers directly to the information they need. Finally, our most recent touchscreen roll out even includes a "text to phone" feature to replace legacy printers. A passenger enters his or her phone number, and instead of a printout, information is sent directly to the smartphone via text.

Digital signage plays an important role in continuously connecting the facility and the passenger to the information that they need, when and where they need it. Unless passengers completely cocoon up with their smartphones, this role should continue.

Craig Huff

Graphic Design Manager
Vancouver Convention Centre

Smartphones are a "threat" to all advertising-based media because they represent another competitor for the same finite advertising dollars. But, the technology is more specifically a threat to digital signage because it's anywhere the user is, and is therefore, potentially the closest screen to point of purchase with the opportunity to "get the final word in" to the consumer. That being said smart phones also represent an opportunity, because they can facilitate greater interaction following a digital sign's initial impression.

Smartphones have a great advantage in that they have a profile of sorts on their user, including their current location, and allow for highly specific and targeted advertising. However, the user needs to allow the sharing of most of this information, and permit the incoming ads, which the majority of people won't do. Digital signage can be that "foot in the door," sharing a message with the viewer that may or may not be of interest to them, but if it is, the viewer can then follow the digital signage advertisement's call to action and further engage via their smart device, going online to learn more about the product, following a QR code, or engaging with the brand on social media.

Amy Vollet

Vice President, Director of Media
The Integer Group/Dallas

The adoption of smartphones means that each consumer holds a screen in their hand; therefore, messages can be personalized to their unique needs. This one-on-one communication elevates the value of the message to the consumer and ultimately of the brand. Digital signage is threatened in situations when a handheld device is a more desirable means of gaining information for a consumer, especially with the ever growing range of apps. Apps are a highly personal experience to solve specific needs or add value to shopping trips/experiences.

On the other hand, mobile technology can be integrated beautifully into digital signage. People, especially younger generations, are accustomed to sharing thoughts, reviews and content. Integrating this into your signage adds value. Conversely, making unique content available to push to your mobile device will continue to grow in popularity whether through near field technologies or other developments. The QR code was a precursor but proved too cumbersome. Knowing who is in the vicinity via mobile signals allows for custom offers and personalized messages. It is truly this level of detail that will maximize the advantage of digital signage and provide a reason to engage your multi-screen lifestyle.

Daniel Wilkins

Senior Vice President, Digital Out-of-Home
N2

In my opinion, it is only a threat of the digital signage industry doesn't evolve to take advantage of how mobile enhancing the users experience with the signage. Our industry should continue to work hand in hand with the mobile industry to ensure we are maximizing the opportunities made available by the integration of mobile and DOOH.

Mobile offers digital signage networks the ability to continue the "story telling" from the digital screen and literally into the hand of their viewer as they continue to move throughout their day and away from the network. From there it can even be taken into the home or mobile can serve as a tool to help spread the message/content from the digital network out to a wider audience via a strong social media strategy. Both mobile and DOOH are location-based media opportunities, which when used together are greater than the sum of their parts.

Lucas Peltonen (for Dave Matera)

OOH Pitch

Whether in an enclosed space or a more fluid and open shopping environment, people are becoming more and more reliant on their phones for information and entertainment. The biggest difference and, therefore, threat to digital signage is that the consumer is completely in charge of the content and entertainment within his/her phone. While digital signage generally still strives to provide engaging content and relevant advertising in a contextual environment, it is not as 100 percent personalized to the viewer. The question then becomes: Can digital signage integrate itself adequately with mobile technology to drive notice and usage?

The answer is that mobile technology and digital signage integration can work both ways to maximize advantage.

  1. Use digital signage messaging to drive to mobile usage
  2. Ping mobile phones with messaging that drives users to digital signage

First, digital signage messaging can work in numerous ways to drive to mobile usage. This messaging can range from text-in messages, URL, to QR code. Such mobile technologies allow the user to immediately interact with the brand that they've seen advertised or presented on the digital signage. Additionally digital signage is becoming increasingly integrated with NFC technology. Messaging that drives smartphone users to tap onto an NFC tag immediately integrates the two technologies. While upon initial examination it may seem that this "integration" will, over time, drive consumers away from the signage and toward their phones where the deeper interaction will continue; in fact, the opposite will happen: The more such instances of this integration, the more consumers will turn to signage to inform them about opportunities that mobile technologies can help further develop.

Secondly, areas surrounding digital signage can send messaging out to mobile phones, informing consumers that pertinent, relevant information is on the screens inside a certain place-based venue. This option directly integrates the two technologies and immediately draws in mobile phone users. The messaging that the digital signage sends out can be over Bluetooth or WiFi or even the geo-fencing technologies of data plans. It is important that such messaging is opt-in so that users remain in complete control of their personal device and do not feel bombarded or intruded upon by the messaging. As long as the messaging draws the mobile user toward the digital signage or at least the messaging is similar, the new methodologies of messaging will complement each other.

While smartphone adoption can be a threat to digital signage, mobile technology can be integrated with digital signage to the advantage of both types of media. The place-based and contextually relevant advantages of digital signage can feed into the user-controlled functionality of the mobile phone (and vice versa) creating a 360-degree experience that engages the consumer and continues the conversation in a powerful and personalized way.

Jeremy Lockhorn

Vice President of Emerging Media
Razorfish

Smartphones are only a threat to digital signage if network operators and content creators fail to understand the context(s) in which people might seek to engage with one or the other of the devices. Similar to how laptops, smartphones, and tablets all have subtle differences in the way that people use them — the same holds true for public vs. private screens. The phone, being a private and personal device, may be more appropriate for intimate communications, submitting information such as email address and/or credit card information, or for tapping in to inherent capabilities of the device like location and/or the camera. Digital signage, on the other hand, as the large public screen, can continue to work for way finding, large-format video content, and more.

And, as is often mentioned at industry events, the opportunities for interaction/integration between the device types are tremendous. People are beginning to expect that the phone is a portal to more information or interactivity from ANY physical object, including content or ads on digital signage.

Christina Radigan

Director of Marketing and Communications
Outdoor Media Group

Digital signage, including place-based networks, is well positioned to grow in tandem with smartphone penetration. The convergence of mobile, social and digital out-of-home media is merely in its infancy and already we are experiencing the benefits of integrating these media offerings. Mobile empowers consumers to opt-in and engage with digital signage allowing ads to be less invasive and more of an invitation to participate. Mobile engagements provide metrics of success beyond traditional audience measurement while enabling marketers to extend their campaigns across multiple screens and when compelling enough extend virtually to the consumer's social graph.

The opportunity for mobile integration with digital signage is virtually endless. Consumers text, tweet and post photos to screens often through a social media application while screens have offered coupons, entries into sweepstakes and a multitude of app downloads. Regardless of mobile strategy, to maximize engagement, mobile integration with digital signage should leverage the context of the environment and offer relevant and valuable opportunities to enhance consumer experiences.

And, while mobile may enhance digital signage, digital signage may play an integral role in spawning mobile commerce, the segment of mobile that is ramping up and expected to change the way we shop. Digital signage can be leveraged to prompt consumers to make mobile purchases and serve as an interactive showcase of product choices.

Overall, I expect mobile and social integration to continue to bolster digital signage communication and engagement, but only when the consumer experience is at the forefront of the integration. That said, exclusive of mobile integration, digital signage must always harness its own unique value proposition to engage consumers to sustain and foster its relevance among its audience base.
 

Allen Marks

Principal Investigator
Advanced Innovative Solutions

First you must ask the question, "With today's technologies and evolving social behaviors, what is the best way to communicate to a target audience?"

Before electronics, it was a posted sign; before smartphones, it was a digital sign. Both were placed in the visual space of the target audience (or the target). BUT what if I could shrink that sign, and put it in a place where the target could view it conveniently ... Well, welcome to "mobile signage"!

All it would take is a mobile app that could be feed the same content, the same message as the digital sign, ... i.e, content that is targeted, "context specific," and timely; ... and all the target has to do is look at a smartphone!

The value proposition is that digital signage will evolve to include mobile devices, not just smartphones but tables, automobiles, and ANY device that is accessible by radio or network. On a smartphone, it is simple, ... it is just an app, most likely a "free" app. The content source would be an application plug-in to existing digital signage software; a plug-in that pushes the message out to the mobile app. It could be a push app or a pull app. There are a lot of software options in development today that leverage this concept!

Currently the world is made up of various "users." There is a growing population of "mobile users" (this includes smartphones and tablets), there are "dumb" phone users; and then there are the "smart user" (the ones who don't have any mobile device at all!) In comparison and contrast, there are more NON-mobile device users; AND not all smart devices have a pervasive and persistent network connection. Therefore, the majority of today's target audience will best be served by conventional digital signage. BUT I predict that one day soon, the shoe will be on the other foot!

One more background point, "push messaging" to mobile device has been here for years (I can site examples ...); and the number of mechanisms, technologies, and applications for communicating to users is GROWING!

Second; … "Concerned?"…, YES! I think people should be concerned! Maybe not today, but certainly in the near future! We live in a capitalist environment! Businesses will always be looking for the "best bang for the buck", and everyone is interested in lowering costs! There will come a time when mobile signage WILL be the big dog!

So what the digital signage industry needs to do is "embrace" the future, and integrate mobile devices now! And here's how ... (It's very similar to what happened with websites...)

  1. For every fixed digital sign content/stream; create and offer a "mobile" version.
  2. Leverage the mobile device to be a physical (tactile, audio,...) interface between the signage and the target.
  3. Leverage the "place-based" capability (GPS, RFID, Wifi, Bluetooth, Cellular, ...) to alert the digital signage system that a "target" is in proximity; to receive a timely, appropriate message.
  4. Integrate the mobile device and the digital sign so that the content/image can be handed off from one device to the other (in both directions). Allow a target to take a message from a digital sign and view it on the road. (similar to the Corning Glass future …)
  5. Enhance the content of the fixed digital sign with a "premium" sent to the mobile device. The premium could be a special offer, a coupon, or a discount …

The digital signage industry needs to be flexible and grow with the trends. Mobile devices can be an asset, not a liability.

 

Jonathan Brawn

Principal
Brawn Consulting

I don’t think smartphone adoption should be considered a threat to digital signage, but a potential advantage. Integrating the interaction with a person’s handheld device will add impact, and can be a way to draw further information from the user. It also will help with carrying information away from the digital sign, and increased recall due to the interaction. Consider how apps of all type have become the way we interact with information as a whole, having one for a brand that can interact with the sign to expand the user experience can only be beneficial.

Lyle Bunn

Principal and Strategy Architect
The BUNN Company

As WiFi (i.e. "off-plan" and site-specific) connectivity becomes more available and reliable, we could imagine that door markers such as the "foursquare here" and other static sign reminders could successfully activate mobile engagement. If better mobile engagement can be achieved with ever-present (i.e. static) signs then these should be used. This could appear to threaten the value of using digital place-based signage, but is in fact not.

Time-relevant messaging from the dynamic display should complement the mobile message to motivate product browsing and associate interaction as well as deepening the shopper loop.

While the optimal use case of mobile is in presenting messaging, video, coupons or promotions that are more relevant/applicable to the "audience of one," it is the on-premises or near premises message presentation of digital signage that can intercept and surprise shoppers by presenting new information and opportunities.

Each communications approach offers benefits as paid, owned or earned media. The talent of marketing is in knowing which to apply to gain maximum return on marketing investment and time. In being inherently able to message to, and motivate mobile engagement with patrons, consumers, staff and students (depending upon display venues) digital signage at point of purchase, high dwell time, out-of-home environments, campaign value is delivered through highly targeted audience messaging that motivates action, increases brand awareness and triggers "earned" media.

Linda Hofflander

The Handa Group

FROM A MARKETER’S PERSPECTIVE.

Communications are layered based on their effectiveness. Marketing budgets need to get the biggest bang for their buck. When campaigns are designed their communication channels are mapped out as a metrics; media buyers and marketers need an audience to sell their client’s products and services, plans need to understand demographics such as age, male vs. female skews, etc. Smartphone adoption has and will continue to provide consumers significant real-time control over their direct communications and access to information based on their individual interests and needs. Businesses will continue seeking to align and measure campaign spend against results; dollars available to support various marketing channels, technologies, their infrastructure and recurring content creation are measured based on these results. From a marketer’s perspective one of the key threats to digital signage from mobile technologies is financial support for the platform.

To maximize communication results and to deliver a one-two punch, mobile technology and digital signage can and should be integrated when appropriate. Solutions work together best when they are allowed to still leverage their individual strengths (1+1=3) and build out campaigns that integrate data and help consumers convert information into knowledge while targeting select audiences and proven results.

For example, digital signage may be used to direct consumers to collect coupons, data, intelligence, Internet exposure and so on via their mobile device. Be it to educate, inform, entertain, convert, or sell, the purpose drives the integration of mobile and DS, and may or may not be appropriate in all scenarios. Technologies will continue to integrate not because businesses, hardware, software and service providers want the integration, but because consumers will demand it as part of the overall customer and environmental experience. My advice would be to listen. LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN to what your customer’s expectations are when dealing with your products and services, and the communication of their features and benefits, and then deliver more.

Margot Myers

Director of Global Marketing and Communications
The Platt Retail Institute

Hi, my name is Margot and I'm a smartphone addict. My fellow addicts are walking around in stores with their heads down staring at the small screen in their hands, not at the beautiful videowalls and large-format displays that were so carefully placed to attract their attention. All of that wonderful messaging might be meaningless if you can't get people's heads up out of their phones — unless you use the phone to draw them in.

So, how do you do that? Mobile technology is pushing retailers to change the way they do business. Quoting my partner, Steven Keith Platt, from an article in PRI's Q3 Journal of Retail Analytics:

"You have a variety of different points of contact, if you will, with the consumer, which are generally referred to as mobile touchpoints. Those can start before the customer leaves for the store. So, for example, on an app, I might put together my shopping list or do some product research. As I head toward the store, I may use a store location GPS-enabled app to check directions and for store hours, as well as to download coupons. Once inside the store, I may engage in product research, price comparisons, and scan barcodes to see usage videos. If I authorized it, a retailer may be communicating highly targeted, one-to-one messaging. At checkout, of course, I might pay with my phone, have coupons scanned, or engage with a loyalty program. Post-purchase, I might look for warranties, rebates, etc."

The point of all this is that retailers are learning to integrate mobile technology into their omni-channel marketing strategy. When a retailer can engage customers via their smartphones, provide information that improves their shopping experience, offer targeted messaging that is meaningful to them, and so on, they may still have their heads down in their phones, but the phone becomes another screen for the digital signage network.

You also can encourage shoppers to interact with the larger screens in the network in similar ways. Scan a QR code on a product to see information about it on a nearby display. Activate an NFC tag to see products that coordinate with the item you are looking at. Text a short message to a number that you see on the large display in order to receive a mobile coupon on your phone.

Rather than seeing smartphones as a threat to digital signage networks, retailers should be taking advantage of them by integrating them with all of the other channels they use to communicate with customers. Consistent messaging across multiple channels can only help to strengthen the brand.

Pat Hellberg

Partner
The Preset Group

Each and every communication platform ... smartphones, print, broadcast, digital, conventional POP displays ... poses a threat to digital signage if those other platforms are providing relevant, compelling experiences and while digital signs are not. With their capacity of delivering specific information customized to the user, smartphones in particular have the ability to make digital sign messaging seem generic and irrelevant by comparison.

But smartphones have a significant limitation: a small screen. They can't attract and engage like a digital sign. So one way to integrate mobile and digital signage is to play to each platforms' strength. Use the broad palette provided by digital signs to grab the attention of the audience. Then create messaging that leads the customer to a more immersive, interactive experience on the smart phone.

A great example: Tesco's interactive virtual grocery store in airports. On the big screen, customers see the "virtual fridge" filled with digital images of typical grocery items. Customers use their mobile devices to "shop"; they fill their virtual cart by scanning images of items on their list. Groceries are then delivered to the customers' home when they return from their trip. So their real fridge is stocked, not empty, when they return home. No need to run out to the grocery at the end of the trip.

With the large display attracting the customer, leading to a transaction based on smartphone interactivity, it's a happy marriage of mobile device and digital signage capabilities.

Adrian Weidmann

Founder and Principal
StoreStream Metrics, LLC

I believe a more relevant perspective is what role does digital signage have in the continuing emergence and ubiquitous acceptance of smartphones in the omni-channel arsenal of the digitally empowered consumer? I participated in a professionally scripted research project whose target audience was brand and retail chief marketing officers to discover their perspectives on digital signage and the role it played in their strategic planning and activation. One of the 'revelations' that became apparent was that 'digital signage' was not perceived as a unique strategy but rather as an application subset of their mobile strategy. This point of view is continually validated by the continuing emergence of mobile business models and applications. Digitally empowered consumers are now carrying their 'digital signs' with them!

The challenge today is to create innovative solutions that require a larger display (what we all know as 'traditional' signage), be it one-way or interactive, in order to provide the consumer a more relevant way to get their information, entertainment, education, communication or sense of community as they wish. This is an important strategic difference, and one that will require digital signage advocates and pundits to re-think traditional strategies.

Sean Whiffen

Co-founder
AutoNetTV

A Coca-Cola executive once said they weren't just competing for market share of soda, they were competing for 'stomach share.' A great principle that, when applied to our industry, means smartphone adoption is clearly a threat because it diverts attention away from the screens we've invested massive amounts of time, effort and money to have installed — some for the chance at just a few-second glance. If what is shown on our screens is not available easily or freely on the smartphone, then we have a good shot at winning the attention battle. If what we convey on our screens is highly relevant to the venue and/or purpose of the viewer visit, then again we have a good shot at claiming 'awareness share'. But, to that end, if a person is simply waiting in the vicinity of our screens, then even a good paperback romance novel is a competition. The key is to be interesting and relevant enough to steal each person away from the alternative. Yes, smartphones can also augment our efforts to engage an audience, but they must be done well. Too many companies have an app and feel people will download and use it because it exists. The same has been applied in this industry. Approach smartphone integration with the same discipline and customer-centric resolve that should drive all other content decisions on your primary screen, and always ask where you want the person to spend their time (Hint: Follow the trail of money …).

Greg McGrath

Clear Channel Outdoor

Mobile technology provides a great opportunity to enhance the digital out of home experience and allows interactive capabilities that can be of great value to the consumer. I don't believe mobile technology is a threat to digital signage because of the limited creative opportunities that exist with the small format of mobile. Digital signage and mobile are two entirely different platforms that work well together and have their own unique benefits. They can be integrated to provide clients the opportunity for social interaction, texting, and providing consumers coupons. These platforms are still the best way to reach and communicate with the consumer at the point of sale, which is of great value.

Loren Goldfarb

Chief Operating Officer
Everwell/MediVista

Smartphones and tablets may pose a threat to digital out-of-home networks if advertisers view mobile as a cheaper, easier and more effective way to reach consumers. Like the Web, mobile offers analytics that most DOOH networks don't. Mobile also offers greater personalization than digital signage. A key question to ask is whether consumers are less likely to pay attention to public screens when they can watch exactly what they want when they want on their mobile device? Our industry makes the case that there's room and a place for both digital signage and mobile; the two complement each other. Indeed, examples abound of campaigns that use digital signage screens to attract an audience and mobile to deliver additional value in the form of detailed product information, coupons, etc. During the course of the next few years, the flow of ad dollars will determine whether advertisers invest in both technologies. 

John Chin

Vice President of Sales and Marketing Solutions
IZON Media

The advent of the mobile phone in the late 1980s "untethered" the general consumer from their homes and started a revolution of freedom and convenience that technology has chased ever since. Today, smartphones literally allow a consumer to hold a phone, an unabridged version of the yellow pages, a computer, a music player (aka "Walkman") and a television in their pocket. Short of doing the laundry for us, the smartphone begs people to be out and about. Having said that, marketers are vying for consumers' attention both at home and on-the-go. Digital signage is in this boat along with all media formats quite honestly. But, like all clouds, there's a silver lining. If you look at how dependent society is on our mobile devices, those are captive and focused eyeballs. And we all look up from our phones eventually. So, if a marketer can target their message when the consumer is in the right mindset, and then integrate a simple call-to-action to migrate that message and engagement to the mobile device, not only will both efforts (outside and within the mobile environment) be more satisfying for the consumer, but the marketer will also have "tethered" their brand to this elusive consumer. The trick is to try to check off as many of these boxes as possible when developing your integrated mobile program: Personal/Relevant. Simple. Engaging. Value-added. Opportunity to re-market once connected.

John Miller

Vice President
Lamar Advertising

In the out-of-home advertising industry, particularly digital out-of-home and transit, we feel that the smartphone will only help the industry. OOH if used correctly can be an extension of the brand to the phone. Something has to trigger someone to find a brand and give them a reason to learn more, engage or be a part of a conversation on their phone and we strongly feel OOH is that connection. As the smartphone evolves and RFID tags and currently QR codes become more relevant, when used correctly in a transit setting can make for a very strong connection with a brand. Once the consumer is engaged with his/her phone they then can take action. Another possibility is having the consumer interact and in real time have tweets, Facebook post or Instagram photos stream live to digital billboards through the consumer's smartphone. Also the opportunity to geo-fence your digital OOH but using real time data about the consumer and put together real life patterns allows relevant messaging to consumers. So in short we feel that the smartphone will only help lift OOH industry if used correctly in campaigns. It's our responsibility as an industry to make sure our clients and agencies understand these capabilities.

Chuck Strottman

Vice President of Corporate Marketing
RMG Networks

Smartphones are pushing digital place-based media companies to reinvent themselves. By lowering the barriers to entry, smartphones allow us to skip the expense of installing screens on every corner and tap into the devices people carry around with them everywhere they go. As a media company, RMG is still able to leverage the context of location, but now we can deliver an engaging and customized experience on the consumer's terms. By using our screens to generate awareness, we can connect with content on smartphone and tablet devices that will activate customers and generate an immediate sale. For example, with my company's in-flight entertainment network, we have added the Wi-Fi component. So brands looking to connect with the traveler audience can run awareness messaging on the seatback screens. Those spots drive people to engage further — through long-form content, custom applications, etc. — and ultimately to transact on their smartphone or tablet.

Oscar Gamez

Saber es Poder

With more than 100 million smartphone users in the U.S., it is not uncommon to see someone on their smartphone while they eat at a restaurant, while they walk down the street, or even while driving. With access to so much information, it's easy to see how smartphones pose a threat to digital signage. You have to ask why would anyone pay attention to your signage when they much rather be on their smartphones.

The best way to integrate mobile technology with digital signage is to have digital signage complement smartphone use. If digital signage competes with smartphones, it will fail. We've all heard of technologies such as Bluetooth, NFC, QR codes, among others, and to some degree, they are all used in digital signage to get people to interact with screens, but none of these are very effective. These technologies offer great features, but they require some level of setup on behalf of the mobile user and this usually requires multiple steps. Anything that requires effort on behalf of the user has to be kept simple. For this reason, digital signage must take advantage of smartphones' commonly used features, including emailing, texting, picture-sharing, web access, and social media applications. If you want people to value your signage, invite them to be part of the experience through their smartphones. You can add social media walls and have people post content to your screens via their smartphones, have them send in the most artistic photo in their gallery, or have them participate in giveaways by liking or commenting on your social media page or texting and emailing the answer to a trivia question.

David Kahn

Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing
Wall Street Journal Network

If digital signage makes sense, I don't think mobile replaces it as much as complements it. Most marketers don't think about reaching an audience through one channel of communications, but instead seek to surround them. While there are many Band-Aids for interactivity (i.e.: QR codes, vanity URL, text code, etc.), none of them seem to provide a very satisfying user experience relative to our screens. I know for our network, we eagerly await the day when a substantial portion of smartphones have NFC ability. We have already tested the technology. It's presence will first-and-foremost facilitate real-time interactivity with our network, our screens, our content and our advertisers. Someone could download content from The Journal or from one of our advertisers. It's not terribly complex, but it would be an important step forward for those who deploy digital signage as the platform for a media business.

Chris Polos

Vice President of Advertising Sales
VeriFone Media

Smartphones could pose a risk to digital signage by reducing consumer attention to it. That's why it is important to not only provide quality programming, but it is important to integrate mobile engagement features. Whether it is NFC, QR codes, SMS or some other technical option, integrating these features in to the programming in a way that keeps the consumer engaged, and even allows them to seamlessly respond to calls to action, will ensure digital signage not only keeps pace but increases the overall value of the digital signage.

Vince Prato

Zoom Media & Marketing

This question departmentally has different vantage points … I took the opportunity to get the versions of response from Zoom Media and Marketing sales, business development, technology and creative departments.

Fred Schonenberg, ZM&M’s executive vice president of sales reports:

In some regards, as smartphones become more universal, there is a risk that they will demand the focus of their users, hurting viewership/notice of digital signage. But for venues with significant dwell time and engaging content, we believe that digital signage will stand on its own. Further, we believe that the universal adoption of smartphones actually enhances the importance of digital signage. Digital signage allows for persuasive messaging unlike mobile advertising, which is viewed as invasive by consumers. Digital signage venues already speak to a very specific audience based on their environment and allow advertisers to deploy targeted and relevant messages. As smartphones get smarter, we can progress to where digital signage is the screen and the smartphone is the mouse. Messages on digital signage con prompt smartphone users to take immediate action — purchase the product, go to a website for more information, text a friend about it, post it to Facebook, etc. NFC, QR codes and the like will continue to advance as well enabling further dialogue and action between digital signage and the consumer.

Patrick West, ZM&M's executive vice president of client services, takes the conversation in a different direction, reporting:

Smartphone adoption is a distant and non-threatening trend to digital signage in the greater context of our overall business. Of the overall media spend brands allocate, to pit smartphones vs. digital signage would be to ignore most of the equation. In a very real way, the growth and massive expansion rates of both smartphone usage and digital signage prevalence show where the modern consumer is going. They both are true symbols of not just the future but current reality for consumers. How to modify them to properly incorporate media opportunities is the (new) question. But when it comes down how media budgets are allocated, currently no planners or buyers pit these two media formats against one another in any significant way. Rather, it is traditional and old fashioned media that is praying and fighting to keep the rising tide of new technology media from flooding their space. Digital signage can provide direct connections with smartphones in ways no other media can. The roads to explore are endless in terms of overlaps and opportunities between the two mediums: live text-to-screen, NFC collaborations, etc.

As ZM&M's vice president of operations, I believe that this conversation will continue to evolve as technology creates new opportunities for these distinct digital media formats to communicate.  What we all know is that digital signage keep consumers engaged in media while their eyes are up and they digest the environment around them. We all rely heavily on our smartphone, but we must have a “heads-up” approach to life when moving from place to place. Digital signage may choose to prompt us to “look down” and engage in with our smartphone and often does. However, digital media takes on a whole new meaning if and when smartphones direct us to “look up” and engage with digital signage.

Gary Halpin

Agency 225

The networks we operate are within retail locations, so for us, we have used it in a few simple ways, but do have plans to utilize it more going forward. Many of our end clients have clubs that their customers can opt-in and join, either via a computer or their smartphone/tablets. The key point is opt-in, because there is a line that can be crossed that would make the customer with the smartphone become aggravated. But allowing them to opt-in using their smartphone while they are at the store has shown to be effective, as they don't have the chance to forget later on. There is also the ability to use QR codes on products, letting the customer discover more about a particular product or service, but the retailer needs to be careful that it doesn't take the customer online with the chance of checking online prices with an additional click or two.

We have also been exploring other options to use this technology. Our networks tend to be passive, but we have been testing giving employees or salespersons tablets or smartphones where they can interrupt the programming in order to show a customer a specific video. However, while this sounds easy, it might not make sense. Not all cool technology is efficient and we all know it's never as easy to use as we're told. The goals for most of our networks have always been to engage the customer in these stores, empowering them with enough information to initiate the sales process, whether that is buying an impulse item or asking a salesperson for more information. If the customer engages the salesperson, half the battle for that salesperson is alleviated. But if they start fidgeting with an iPad, trying to find a video or link to play, it could turn into a negative shopping experience and they could lose that engagement.

Mark Zwicker

Vice President of Business Development
St. Joseph's Content

Smartphone adoption is only a threat to poor digital signage executions.

There are two principles that support this statement: One, people enjoy consuming good, meaningful content; and two, they will choose the best available screen to view it on.

Given a choice, most of us will engage with content that is meaningful, beautifully produced, or ideally, both. As an example, have you every observed the viewing habits of people waiting in the lounge of an airport? Beyond emailing and texting, I have often witnessed people quite pleased to be watching content on their smartphone or tablet screen, while a large flat panel sits a few feet away. Why watch the small screen, when a larger one is available? Quality of content, plain and simple. The generic, split screen news and weather, that most airports run can only hold your attention for so long. The same holds true for retail environments. Running repurposed television spots, or poorly executed content, is a sure way to have your audience tune out to your message and turn to their smart phone.

So how do you combat this? Give the audience what they want; high quality content they have never seen before, combined with information that is valuable to them, in the moment. Better still, engage them further by allowing them to use their smartphone in conjunction with the digital network, creating a two-way dialog.

If they get what they need and want from a crystal clear flat panel, they will have no need to be looking at their smartphone.

Peter Vrettas

CEO
EDR Media

The smartphone is a threat to digital signage only if retailers decline to understand the technology and fail to embrace its potential. In reality, a "smart" smartphone proximity marketing strategy can be a cost-effective game-changer for establishments looking to differentiate themselves from the competition. Retailers can use location-based technology to lure shoppers into the store with enticing phone-based messages. Inside the store, digital signage and smartphones can communicate with each other via QR code or AR techniques, engaging customers right where they make their buying decision. Retailers should consider offering product and service promotions, loyalty program information, highly interactive "demand" shopping events, and brand-relevant interactive games. The right smartphone solution can make the retail environment a more exciting and participatory space, increasing sales, extending customer visits, and strengthening the retailer's image. Back of the house, it can also generate important metrics about customer behavior, help move targeted inventory, and potentially make the sales transactions themselves faster and more convenient.

Anne White

Creative Executive and Strategic Consultant
HypeHouse

Marketers don't like competition for eyeballs and mindshare (and having to add another line to their budget). But strategically, smartphones and digital signage are a match made in heaven. Digital signage at retail is the "push" to the smartphone's "pull." One supports the other, providing various levels of information, storytelling and personalization. For example, some products benefit from a video demo. Digital signage can bring that product to life instantaneously, pushing messages to shoppers at the moment of decision and even pushing to the phone. The shopper can then pull more detailed, personalized information from their smartphone. Savvy marketers will utilize the marriage of digital signage and smartphones to enhance the experience of a shopper with tools like personalized offers, handheld interactivity, immediate transaction capabilities and more. The most value to marketers will come from access to analytics, targeting and content optimization provided by providing access to information about shoppers on their path to purchase in proximity to digital signage.

Letta Nagel

CCO, VP Marketing & Creative Strategy
Saddle Ranch Digital

Smartphones could one day rule the media world! As over the top as that statement is, when you look at the data that supports the "must-have role" — that smartphones are contributing to daily life — from search, sharing to purchase — it's not far from the truth. In the multi-screen environment in which digital signage competes, smartphones are proving to be the most dominant interactive touchpoint. Brands are well aware that consumers are relying more and more on their smartphones to engage and consume content. So when they are looking to invest dollars that will deliver customers, digital signage needs to work hard to prove itself against the smartphone screen for a piece of the media budget. Digital signage can position itself with strength when it can show how the integration of a mobile strategy helps build a more empowered and connected consumer. Digital signage can be used to create interactive experiences that consumers can "take with them" and continue on their smart phone. Digital signage has the advantage of screen size to get in a consumers face and engage them for longer amount of time. Digital signage has the ability to display visual content dynamically. Digital signage is the perfect complimentary tool for helping to motivate call to actions along the path to purchase and at the point of purchase. Essentially, when you look at how you can leverage the power of the smart phone, you can build a plan that seamlessly uses mobile in context with digital signage and presents a competitive edge for media investment.

Bryan Meszaros

Director of Strategy and Development
OpenEye

The biggest threat to digital signage is "personalization." When retailers begin to engage consumers on a more "personal" level in-store, it does become difficult to justify the use of digital signage. From a retail perspective, why should they invest in a technology that doesn't necessarily let them form a one-to-one relationship with their customer? Digital signage does struggle at times to differentiate itself amongst the channels, which is in part due to an inconsistent content strategy or lack of defining its role in the experience.

We understand the reach of the smartphone and the impact it has on the consumer but what is commonly overlooked is the method in which we encourage the use of the phone in the environment. What are the triggers and sings which prompt a consumer to use their phone beyond just making a simple call? That is the question digital signage can answer. QR codes on a poster … boring; Targeted and vibrant digital adverts … brilliant! Digital signage is both a complimentary and influential medium and by using it correctly you can help increase smartphone adoption and communicate to those who choose not to use their phone.

Creatively both mediums can be integrated to deliver seamless media experiences with one feeding off the other. With more designers turning to HTML5, an experience can begin on the screen, continue to the phone and end at the point of sale. It comes back to understanding behaviors and guiding the customer. Don't expect one channel to solve all problems!

Jeremy Gavin

CEO
ScreenFeed

The smartphone is only one of many competitors to digital signage, but it should not be seen as any more of a direct competitor than anything else that commands consumers' attention.

I suppose the fear of a smartphone as a competitor comes from someone making the assumption that someone will only look at a digital sign if they are so bored they have nothing else to do — and if they now have something interesting to do, we'll lose their engagement. If that is what we've based our medium on, then we've got our own problems. The magazines on the coffee table in the waiting room, the person you are shopping with and a traditional cell phone all are examples of just some of the things that compete for your attention. As digital signage pros, we already understand we need to capture the attention of an audience by delivering messages that provide value to the customer and that are effective at delivering the right message and the right time in the right place.

Certainly the smartphone is a good competitor, but we're all very aware of our surroundings and have the capability to pay attention to several things at once. Those deploying digital signage must use the advantages of the medium such as:

  1. Large high-definition screens
  2. No effort required to go search for content like on a smart phone, it's right there with a glance
  3. At this point (mobile is advancing) we deliver a more location-specific and in-context message
  4. We reach those with and without smartphones

In some venues such as taxis and gas pumps the smartphone does present more of a threat, but we've got to compete and should compete. That competition will force us to get better. We need to focus on creating compelling content matched with great screen placement to win the battle. The industry has matured in many ways, but I feel our software and content vendors in the industry have only scratched the surface in what we can offer as an experience and hopefully we'll continue to innovate to further establish our medium.

In regards to how network operators can use the fact that many of their viewers will be on the go, with their smart phones in hand to their advantage — I'd like to offer the perspective that too often a solution involves having the customer interact with the screen by pushing information to it. Examples include: tweeting to a screen, texting or 'checking in'.

I suggest in more cases a 'pull' strategy can be applied more successfully — meaning allow the customer to take a version of the digital screen with them, or at least a portion of the content. For example, Four Winds has some wonderful technology they developed where a user of a wayfinding screen can zap a QR code and instantly be given a mobile web version of the wayfinding app right on their phone - and it looks and acts like the real thing. (And, the user didn't have to download an app to interact).

Being able to pull an example of an ad with a coupon is another example of 'pulling' the content down to the smart phone and certainly Near Field Communications technology will make that easier for a user and more likely to get them to engage.

 

Guillermo Antmann

ZipCast

Mobile is definitely a threat; partner, embrace it or prepare to die.

True statement for all media. It's clear that technology is changing and improving faster than ever and it will continue to change and improve even faster. That means that in a few years, mobile devices will be entirely different than those we now know.

Mobile media becomes a threat if you don't use it to complement your service offer; I highly recommend incorporating some sort of mobile services within your business. We have partnered with a company that is developing a grocery store app that will enable our in-store campaign to connect with the customer before and after the customers store visit.

There are many ways to incorporate mobile with a network with great results, I consider that a "text to win" or "text to get" have had positive results, "QR codes" and, of course, Facebook and Twitter.

I wish I could give you a perfect formula, but there is not a formula that can be applied across the board. Embrace mobile as soon as you can and start experimenting to find what works for you, once you do, keep experimenting some more.

Comments

Smartphones ARE digital signs - small, personal digital signs with significant differences in screen size, creative approach, personalization and location-awareness. To separate the two is to create a false enmity. Digital sign companies should embrace this and expand their services to include mobile screen options. This is at the core of a sustainable business model for DOOH (and ALL OOH) in the 21st century. Ad agencies aren't getting mobile right for a number of reasons, mostly internal. DOOH has the chance to redefine all of OOH with an integrated approach. This is why I sit on mobile company boards and constantly engage in convergence modeling. As an industry we need to understand that mobile is fast becoming the dominant screen in terms of relevance and personalization opportunities - but it is a sign at it's core. As such, it rightfully belongs to us, along with many other recent tech innovations.

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