Digital signage looks set to reach a critical mass in 2012, becoming a commonplace marketing must, not just in large public venues and meeting places but in many smaller arenas as well; from inside hospitals, to replacing backlit static mall directories. In other words, what in 2011 was part tech-gimmick and novelty will become an advertising necessity in 2012.
So as we work to get started on our New Year's resolution lists, here's a much shorter list for you that's far easier to read about, the five things you need to know about digital signage in the coming year:
1. Integration will become more common – Digital signage will expand in coverage – both in number and area screen size. But here are the specifics: With 91 percent of Americans owning at least a feature phone (a non-smartphone), and rising, and the average cost of installing a digital signage system falling 14 percent last year, it's likely those trends will continue. More signs interacting with more people through more mediums is a huge plus for advertisers and agencies looking to switch over to the digital medium. Already some estimates put digital signage's total number at 8.2 billion. That's more than one sign per person in the entire world.
2. Signs will become smarter and more interactive – While digital signs will continue sending consumers location-specific short message service (SMS) texts — the backbone of mobile marketing — the continued rise in smartphone penetration rates, which stands at 27 percent globally and up to 62 percent in some U.S. demographics (and above that in parts of Asia) means far more rich media information can be shared between a digital sign and its smartphone recipient. Technology advances makes promotions, daily deals, flash sales and ads more exciting and engaging. Rather than being a passive reciever of a digital message, consumers in 2012 will increasingly expect to be active participants in a promotion in real time.
3. Measurable metrics will be KEY – Digital signage can't just replace their aluminum forebears because they're sleek, new and cool. Digital signage networks must know their systems are worth the financial effort. ROI is best measured by multiple metrics, for example by trackable by data sent via mobile phone. Soft metrics are no longer enough. Opt-in response rates (to a digital signage-mobile campaign), redemption rates, or even through loyalty polling or surveys, sent digitally, gathering viewer opinions about a particular campaign all help in determining real ROI. Combined, these steps will continue encouraging the all-digital transaction.
4. The future is — almost — here – 2012 will not be the year where a "Back to the Future II"-like 3-D Jaws will jump off digital screens, exciting consumers, but it will be the year the glasses-less immersive technology continues to evolve. 3-D technology will be further aided by larger screens (32-inch and in some cases much larger, like 100 inches), sharper images and brighter pictures. A sharper image will allow for more digital text, and presumably, a more involved message.
5. The Wild West may be over – While there continues to be much fragmentation in the digital signage marketplace, between sign developers, content providers and which mobile platforms, Android, iOS, Research in Motion and Windows 7, to fully endorse, it's likely the industry, as begun in 2011, will benefit from cross-media integration and unification.
So whether you were viewing traditional fireworks on New Year's Eve live in person, on your flatscreen TV or through a digital display, there's no doubt digital signage will figure prominently in the year ahead, for advertisers, brands and the consumers they so desperately want to reach.