Jeff Hastings joined BrightSign as CEO in August 2009. He brings a wealth of experience in digital media and technology. Prior to BrightSign, he served as Corel’s president and general manager of digital media, responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the company’s digital media strategy. Prior to joining Corel, he served as general manager at Pinnacle Systems, the consumer division of Avid, where he was responsible for all aspects of the company’s global operations. Prior to joining Pinnacle, Jeff Hastings was COO of M-Audio, another Avid company. He was responsible for taking M-Audio’s highly regarded tools for computer-centric musicians and professionals and expanding their reach into the consumer market. Before this, he served as president of Rio, the company that pioneered the MP3 space by introducing the industry’s first MP3 player. Jeff Hastings holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Purdue University and holds eight U.S. patents.
Website URL: http://www.brightsign.biz
LCD televisions are plastered everywhere – on the walls of restaurants, bars and gyms, for example – and every single one of these screens can now simply and easily be adapted to show digital signage content alongside the broadcast content that they were originally intended to deliver.
These screens potentially can drive massive growth. We will, I think, see explosive growth of HD content sources and the far-reaching deployment of HD-capable systems in virtually any setting.
Many (if not most) of these businesses that host such displays are missing out on a significant opportunity to have existing HD-capable screens double as promotional billboards. Until recently this wasn’t possible because most digital signage players weren’t capable of passing through live HD content. But the newest solid state digital signage players can handle multiple HD sources, including live HDTV.
Imagine the possibilities: gyms can cut between live broadcasts and customised content to notify members about upcoming events. Sports bars can display live sporting events while also promoting happy hour specials to help drive sales and extend customers’ stays. This presents a perfect opportunity to customise the patron’s experience, increase engagement and ultimately drive revenue.
What’s most compelling about this opportunity is that much of the necessary infrastructure for these deployments is already in place. This is low-hanging fruit like we’ve never seen before. When you consider the upside to integrating dynamic digital signage content into an existing setup that’s already capable of HD, this is an affordable solution that practically sells itself and pays dividends immediately.
At DSE in Las Vegas, as at ISE in Amsterdam, there was a strong mood of optimism and excitement about where our industry is headed. At the two events there were some common threads and interesting trends that will generate the growth that we’ll see in 2013.
I believe 2013 will be all about rich content and interactivity. In recent years the market has produced substantial advances in hardware – devices have become smaller, less expensive and more powerful. Our new XD players are a great example of hardware that’s more than capable of handling today’s rich media, with the ability to scale as content continues to develop in the months and years ahead.
As a result, we believe that we’re going to see a proliferation of rich, compelling content developed in HTML5 and delivered in HD. 4K HD is on the horizon as well; this new ultra-high-res video format has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 1080p, with four times as many pixels overall. It can be delivered using a new codec called H.265 that provides a 50 percent bit rate reduction so that file size remains manageable.
The crux of all this, however, is that rich media like this requires powerful devices capable of hosting, managing and serving it, and software capable of supporting the latest development tools.
At the same time, the proliferation of touchscreens is driving explosive growth in interactivity. This shift is happening as a direct result of the increase of smartphones and tablets. People have become comfortable with touch/swipe as a method of interaction with their personal technology, so it makes perfect sense that digital signage will begin to connect with people in the same manner.
We’re reaching an inflection point where the richness of content makes full use of the impressive capabilities of today’s hardware. While the shift to solid state technology is becoming commonplace, installers and end users must remember to choose carefully and be sure they are investing in the very best equipment. Solid state players have set a new standard for reliability, rendering those dreaded blue or black screens a distant memory, and now they are exceeding customers’ performance expectations at every turn.
The underlying theme is the mutual dependence of hardware and software – and this rings true now more than ever. We stand at the confluence of rich content and robust hardware, and what results is digital signage that’s nothing short of breathtaking.
During 2012, I saw a distinct shift in public attitude to digital signage. In 2011, you could exceed customer or visitor expectations by providing exciting and dynamic information live on-screen. In 2013, you will fail to meet their expectations if you don’t.
The change was particularly visible in London during the Olympics last year, and has also been evident in a number of the projects we’ve been involved in like Charles de Gaulle Airport, the stunning Eybl sportswear store in Vienna and the Zurich Film Festival.
At the London Olympics there were screens everywhere informing and entertaining visitors and reinforcing sponsors’ messages. Screens were dotted around the Olympic Park and other venues, highlighting events currently taking place or about to start. They were also placed in London parks, allowing popular events to be watched collectively (and free) by those unable to get tickets. Within the venues, screens explained the rules of the events and what was happening at each stage of a competition, as well as offering replays of exciting moments and close-up views. It is truly inconceivable that anyone will try to run such an event again without at least repeating this feature, if not going further in the use of digital display media.
Similarly, signage is now an integral part of new store concepts and upmarket events. In the new Buy Paris Duty Free shops in Charles de Gaulle Airport, the video walls, and the interactive signage that runs only when a person enters the area in front of the display, were part of the initial design. Eybl World Store Vösendorf, modelled on the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, embodies lightness and transparency, and digital media is integral to the concept of the store. For example, customers looking for running equipment find themselves in a high-definition video park along with other joggers.
For attendees at the Zurich Film Festival, the experience started at the airport with screens looping information about the festival and providing a countdown in anticipation of the annual event. It then extended across the city on 70 screens installed for the duration of the festival, and culminated in a dramatic video wall experience along the red carpet walkway at the festival itself.
Last month I wrote about how innovation in both signage hardware and content development tools is making interactive and uniquely engaging installations more affordable than ever. These reasonably priced solutions have helped drive signage from being a bonus to being an integral part of a retail or event experience. In 2013, every business should be thinking about how they can use signage creatively to enhance the customer, visitor or indeed employee experience.
Digital signage has seen waves of innovation, each of which has driven increased market acceptance and adoption. 2013 will see the industry moving full throttle toward the next wave.
Purpose-built digital signage players will give customers easy deployment of signage projects big and small. The large universe of businesses that understand the value of digital signage, yet have held back due to budget considerations, will jump in – especially as these solid-state digital signage players now fully match the video performance and advanced functionality of the PC solution.
Facilitating this next wave of innovation is support for the best content development tools. I believe the tool leading this innovation is HTML5, as evidenced by the exploding number of content providers who are using this development tool to serve up engaging and cutting-edge content. Add a device that can render this content and package it up reliably, and the entire AV industry will be reinvigorated.
Installers and integrators will be able to revisit existing accounts and pursue new ones, with an updated toolbox that enables them to impress those prospects with compelling digital signage proposals that are technically advanced, easy to deploy and extremely cost-effective.
PC-based digital signage drove the initial wave of innovation, but this type of deployment has plateaued. Businesses that deployed digital signage in the past five years have realised that the total cost of ownership, which includes not just the PC-based player itself, but also the maintenance and replacement costs and software fees, is just too high.
There’s an ongoing financial commitment associated with PC-based solutions that many businesses grossly underestimate, and this is driving demand for innovative new solutions whose lifetime costs don’t balloon.
In short, there is an enormous market of businesses eager to either upgrade their existing digital signage solutions or install digital signage for the first time. These customers need wait no longer for a solution that meets their functional requirements and fits within their prescribed budget. The next wave of innovation is here, and 2013 will prove to be one of the most transformative years in the evolution of digital signage.
Every retail sale consists of three simple steps. Engage your customer; promote the items you want to sell; convince the customer to buy from you, here, now. And retailers who have invested in digital signage will be more successful during the key Christmas holiday season than their non-digital counterparts in making the sale.
Why? Because digital signage can cost effectively contribute at each of these three stages.
Shoppers – especially during the holiday season – are looking for an experience. They expect to enjoy their hours at the mall and be entertained with visuals, sounds, interactive demonstrations and more. Retailers who use digital signage to its fullest potential by investing in high-end content development and creatively executing a signage installation will win customer mind share.
Another key component of engagement is keeping it fresh. Retailers will see a higher frequency of the same customer during the holidays, so refreshing that signage content is important. For maximum customer engagement, the experience should never feel stale. Surprise and delight the customer, and the customer will provide a delightful sale to the retailer.
The Christmas season is a unique time for merchandising because a very high percentage of purchases are gifts for someone else. Rather than letting the customer wander unassisted, successful retailers will promote specific items and expertly highlight the features of those products that will make them the perfect gifts. There are so many choices, so retailers must focus on what makes their products the right choice. Digital signage can do the job well. Retailers can effectively use signage to display the reasons why their products are the best gifts – no need to go next door – look no further. These gifts will make your loved ones smile.
Having successfully engaged the customer and promoted a specific item, the bricks-and-mortar retailer faces a challenge that in 2012 is bigger than ever. The customer needs to be persuaded to buy here and now rather than go home and find it on the Web. Digital signage should be enlisted to promote the retailer’s value proposition and close the deal.
Does the store offer easy returns and exchanges? Is there free technical support or customer service? An extended warranty? Do customers receive future discounts or loyalty programmes once they buy? Some retailers even offer live price comparisons with leading Websites – or a price-match guarantee. Communicate the value of buying right now, in the store, and more sales will be made.
These three marketing objectives have been addressed by different retailers in different environments in countless ways over the years. Certainly window displays, store layout, well-presented and well-stocked shelves and service are as important as ever. But this Christmas and indeed throughout the year to come digital signage is what will truly give retailers the leg-up.
Skyfall has been a spectacular box office success since its release – I haven’t seen it yet myself, but that’s not going to stop me doing a Bond-themed blog.
I was very excited by the images forwarded to me by Andy Bohli of Imaculix, one of our European integrators, which was responsible for the eye-catching signage concept, dynamic content and execution at the Zurich premiere of Skyfall on 26 October. They show a series of ten perfectly synchronised screens driven by BrightSign players. Not your average video wall!
This is just one example of how the line between solid-state players and PC-based signage solutions has largely disappeared. With the addition of PC-class features and top-of-the-line video performance to the arsenal of solid-state players, we see the emergence of signage-in-a-box solutions that can’t be beat – PC-class performance, reliable hardware, intuitive and feature-rich software and networking solutions, all wrapped up in a beautifully compatible package that simply works.
We’ve only begun to see the difference that this will make. Another example: bars and restaurants have been using strategically placed displays for years to play sporting events or other live HDTV programming. But until now, traditional solid-state media players were not capable of displaying multiple videos, playing HDCP-protected live HDTV content, or promoting the house specials on the same display that was showing the game.
That’s changed. Venues can now combine live broadcast video with promotions, news and other digital content of their own on the same screen using an affordable solid-state digital signage player. With new and powerful video engine capabilities and the ability to play live HDTV, every bar and restaurant can be turned into a profit-boosting environment worthy of a visit from 007 himself.
We will see many other examples of the advances being made in digital signage next year, largely because of the advantages and newfound capabilities of solid-state players. You’re going to start to see digital signage appear in places you never expected to see it. Personally, I’m very excited about this shift and I can’t wait to see where it takes the industry as a whole in 2013 and beyond.
The haunted house is big business, bringing in over $200m every year. The best of the best offer all-out terror enabled in part by video effects powered by industry-leading digital signage controllers.
Anyone who’s known the multi-sensorial experiences within these haunted worlds will remember the conditions – heat, steam, moisture, dry ice perhaps. And a video experience within this environment would have to be run by a stable, reliable solid-state player, interactivity also a plus for certain scary effects.
I’ve been known to say that BrightSign is a player in literally every vertical market that dabbles in signage, and this growing haunted house industry effectively leveraging the power of solid-state media players is no exception. Let’s take a look at just one particularly disturbing video experience enabled by our players.
Pale Night Productions, a customer on the leading edge of gruesome, has a store overflowing with horrific experiences. One of my favourites portrays zombies as they flood toward the chained doors and attempt to get through, making them physically move and strain the chains.
Suddenly, gunshots ring out and zombies begin to drop. The last two zombies are shot and visitors are blasted with water to simulate blood splatter.
The customer who orders this particular fright for their haunted house will receive pre-programmed control hardware, our solid-state video player, a monitor, flow control valves, digital sound, a 6x23-inch mat switch trigger, and all necessary electrical and pneumatic connections.
Whether you’re involved with AV installation, haunted house operations or the production of these spooky effects, I’m sure we can all agree this is one of the more exciting situations where solid-state reliability is of the essence.
Digital signage is interactive, mobile, cloud-ready and video-enabled. In short, it supports most of the major consumer technologies, as well as the majority of the popular online tools. The limit on what can be done with it is not the technology – it is our imagination.
Smartphone vendors changed the way we use and think about a “phone”. No longer is it a device just for making phone calls, it is your email, Web surfer, social media, camera, camcorder…oh, and of course your phone. The genius in this is that they built a device that you “wanted” to interact with versus “had” to interact with.
Digital signage has the same potential. It is so much more than a new way of conveying information. In my previous blog, I highlighted the way in which digital signage is going social, with live updates and full interactivity. It is also mobile, embracing the smartphone generation. Support for all types of video, the fastest-growing form of online content, is growing ever stronger. Digital signage is also cloud-ready – and in fact has been for quite some time. Taken together, this is a powerful package providing the functionality to do just about anything an integration specialist might dream up.
I believe that the real strength of digital signage lies with this new-found potential to interact with customers in unique and engaging ways. This is not just the old generation of displays looping video, this is an interactive experience to capture and captivate the viewer.
Today, solid state players provide almost all of the functionality of a PC in a much more user-friendly, affordable and stable platform. The introduction of a new generation of players that will truly provide all of the functionality of a PC and more is on the horizon.
I’m always thrilled when I see the ways that customers are using our products to support business models that we didn’t conceive when we designed them. That, to me, is what the word platform should mean. Solid state digital signage players provide a strong and stable foundation but don’t constrain the size and the shape of the construction above.
Mobile devices are enabling digital signage applications with a social edge. Smartphone and tablet adoption has now reached critical mass. Businesses trying to reach affluent audiences, especially in younger age groups, can now assume that they will have an Android or Apple device in their pockets.
There’s a movement underway that has one of our customers triggering video content from an iPad or iPod Touch. The solution is especially well suited to trade shows, hotel lobbies and corporate events, and I believe it has great potential to be leveraged in a retail setting, too.
In essence, a mobile device sends commands wirelessly to a network-connected digital signage player, which then displays content chosen by the individual. And because the system is scalable, it can be built out to fit anything from a small showroom to a large convention centre. It’s the perfect way to give the customer control of the content, while the vendor retains control of the message.
It isn’t just customers that want to use their mobile devices to control content; often the owners of the network do too. Proprietors are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, and they’re asking for easy access to their digital signage networks. Tablets are now big enough and capable enough to support a digital signage user interface that is as elegant as it is functional. As a result, it’s common for installers to offer tablet-based content management systems that allow business owners to conveniently update pricing, daily specials and other digital content.
These examples show that the connectivity is in place to make digital signage fully social. Customers could “like” your content on Facebook, tweet about it or comment on it on LinkedIn from their smartphone or tablet. There is no technical reason why customers can’t post to your screens via Facebook – though clearly there is a management issue to be thought through. Alcohol, Facebook and public screens are a heady combination.
Social media have created a permanent shift in the way the world works, and digital signage is already technically able to fully engage with this paradigm. Our customers aren’t slow to see and exploit that opportunity.
There’s no denying that showrooming, the practice of researching products in a bricks-and-mortar store and then buying them somewhere else, is on the rise.
Showrooming is one form of cross-channel shopping which is hugely popular – a recent survey showed that 54 percent of customers employ two or more channels such as mobile, online, stores and Facebook before making a purchase. The good news for traditional retailers is that bricks-and-mortar shops remain hugely popular – 75 percent of customers will visit a store to see a product before they buy it.
This practice does get customers into the store where they are exposed to the retailer’s on-site products and promotions. But it’s then up to the retailer to captivate customers and make the sale before they leave the store to purchase elsewhere. And they are open to being convinced – 44 percent of customers visit a store because they need the product right away, and 41 percent visit because they want to avoid shipping charges.
One way retailers can convert showroomers into paying customers is by capitalising on the effective use of digital signage to provide customers with the information they need to justify and motivate the retail purchase. A successful display engages the customer, educates, and makes it convenient and even cost-effective to buy on the spot.
Despite the proliferation of e-commerce, the retail experience remains an integral part of the purchasing process. Effective digital signage can complete the experience of seeing and touching the product in the flesh, providing customers with all the information they need to feel comfortable going forward and making a purchase. Get it right, and you will see a real and measurable uplift in sales. In like-for-like comparisons, retailers have reported doubling or even trebling of sales through the use of digital signage in-store.
Retailers, seize the day!