As the Digital Signage Federation (DSF) prepares for the 13th Digital Signage Expo, a handful of executives are expressing more excitement about the industry than ever. The impetus for their enthusiasm comes from a variety of emerging trends, namely triggered content, mobile and data.

The latter – “big data” as it’s known across many industries – presents the biggest opportunity. But first it needs to be defined a bit more tangibly.

“I believe we’re now in a phase where there are a lot of things going on and everyone’s chasing the next big thing. For me, that next big thing is analytics, data. Everyone is chasing the data stream,” said Randy Dearborn, vice president of Media Technology for MGM Resorts International and former DSF chair (2016). “But it’s overwhelming and no one has it all figured out yet. The problem is all of this data is like a big bowl of spaghetti.”

Dearborn said part of the reason it is taking so long to figure out how to effectively apply analytics is because there are so many players in the game chasing the same solution, which complicates things.

“I’m a consumer, I want a box of Cheerios. Do you know what I get? I get 300 boxes of cereal to choose from. I just want Cheerios. That’s kind of like what we’re doing. It’s overwhelming and it becomes white noise,” Dearborn said. “But once we figure out the data we need to simplify it all, it will redefine what the digital signage industry is.”

Alan C. Brawn, principal of Brawn Consulting and 2012 DSF chair, agrees that analytics is one of the hottest topics in digital signage this year. He believes simplification can be achieved, in part, by answering:

  • How to prove ROI
  • How to know who is watching what
  • If the screens are in the best locations
  • If the on-screen content is relevant/meaningful/impactful
  • How to best communicate with intended viewers
  • What they watching and/or listening to
  • How to know who uses the information
  • What can really be measured

“Employee-facing networks are abounding with clear objectives and recognized value. ROI and ROO (return-on-objective), once a vague concept, is now substantiated by proven performance and analytics have taken center stage as proof of that performance,” Brawn said. “All this being said, we have only scratched the surface.”

Brawn predicts the near future will yield advances in how analytics take place, what data is gathered and how that data is utilized.

“Also, we will see customized analytics packages as we see a migration to more customized CMS programs. The effectiveness of types of content will become an even bigger topic than it is today,” he said.

In fact, the emergence of relevant content is a direct result of having more analytics to work with, according to Ken Goldberg, CEO of Real Digital Media and former DSF chair (2015).

“Data remains a challenge but also our biggest opportunity. When organizations figure out what data is relevant they’ll be able to better figure out what content is relevant and work better with marketers to provide better messaging,” he said. “Right now, people are overwhelmed by all of the different marketing campaigns coming at them and not being able to see through the hype. The emergence of relevant content will change that.”

For example, Goldberg said relevant content can be triggered by data pulled from a thermostat or a camera.

“If I own a store in Florida, I can stop marketing sweaters when the thermostat rises above 60 degrees. If I run a retail store and there aren’t a lot of women on site, I can run a different special geared more toward men,” he said. “We are just now starting to realize how to work with dynamic, or triggered, content because of the data we’re getting.”

When the “big bowl of spaghetti” will be figured out is still up in the air; Dearborn notes that Google’s entrance into the digital signage industry has not yet moved the answer closer, as expected. Nonetheless, the industry executives all believe it will be soon and it will have big implications.

“Ultimately, if you can prove that this thing is working based on analytical data, you’re golden,” Dearborn said. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and this is the most excited I’ve been. We’re on the cusp of proving out the value of this for the first time.”

Want to know more? Register for the Digital Out-of-Home Strategy Summit, which offers a high-level perspective on the state of the industry. Goldberg and Dearborn are among the speakers for the summit, which is Tuesday, March 28, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s Renaissance Ballroom 1. More information is available online.

Photo provided by Wikipedia.