Keith Kelsen’s 2014 Top 10 Digital Screen Media Trends

keithkelsen-top10-1213My title of these trends has changed this year to reflect the industry morphing into something new, something connected to the digital consumer… for all screens are part of the continuity of marketing messages including the increasingly powerful pocket screen.

As I reflect on last year’s predictions, (you can see here) it struck me how this industry is shaping up and what forces are driving new innovation and how each and every one of us in the industry is one of the forces that count no matter if it is one big screen or 500 small screens all connected to the mobile digital consumer. I believe that 2013 marked a few changes in the industry; some that were subtle but important and others more obvious and game changing.

And now… on to 2014.

1. 2014 is the year of BIG and small!

This coming year promises that you will need to go big or… go small. With the trends that I see in the marketplace, it’s no longer (within the retail, hospitality and dining environments) OK to put a screen on the wall and expect the consumer to pay attention. There is now a higher saturation of screens in the market place. The shopper is no longer wowed by the HD screen on the wall.  In the 5th Screen’s Good, Bad and Ugly Content Worldwide Survey, 40 percent of the participants saw digital signage in the retail environment.

The industry is headed toward creating BIG screen participation marketing experiences using huge video walls and large 65-80 inch screens with touch, gestural, virtual aisles and augmented reality to engage the consumer in experiences that get the shopper off their pocket screen and onto the brand screen, engage them and then link to their small pocket screen to continue the conversation between brand and the shopper.

For the small screen, think tablets and mobile. Both iPads and Intel-based tablets are permeating the market place.  The recent announcement of Applebee’s deployment of Intel based tablets at each table is leading the way.  We now see them at Subway on the counter next to the register, in the hands of associates, at the shelf next to products, in new concept stores. These small screens will be interactive with a personal one on one purposed experience and with the goal to continue the conversation on the smallest screen: the pocket screen. And to help this #1 trend, tablets are getting more powerful and less expensive by the day. The key to their success will be how these screens engage the shopper. These deployments will, I believe, be the most significant growth area in the marketplace. Remember that saying great things come in small packages.

The combination of BIG and small screens in the new retail environment is the key to brick and mortar brand survival in the digital world.

2. Participation Marketing and Gamification

In today’s attention grabbing environment the consumer is inundated with over 1,200 messages per day on average according to recent studies. But, it is no longer the consumer watching, it’s about what they do. And they DO media, not watch media in the marketplace.

Today if a screen does not deliver an engagement and story in a PoW network (Point of Wait, where the consumer has dwell time) or PoS Network (Point of Sale, where the consumer is shopping) environment it’s a waste of resource and the consumer will simply not care.

The engagement process might be touch, gestural, augmented reality or simply text to this number from their pocket screen. The key is to give the engaged the consumer the chance to win something, anything or just offer to give them something and they will give you (the brand), personal information in return and connect with you the brand on their pocket screen for the ongoing conversation. The Gamification of retail is underway and using participation marketing techniques in 2014 is going viral and it will give the brand and retailers a high ROI and ROE (return on engagement).

The anti has just gone up and the consumer demands something to do not something to watch.

3. Great Content

Today’s consumer demands high quality experiences and the only element that we have to deliver on that promise is to create great content. Content is one of the most challenging daunting tasks that has plagued the industry, but this year is the year that agencies are stepping up to the challenge. We have reached a point that the knowledge base has finally sunk in… TV ads do not work on digital signage. Yes, I know, those of us in the industry have been saying that since day one. But now, more then a decade and half later, agencies are on board with this. And purpose-built media for digital signage is now the new standard. In my recent 2013 worldwide survey on content, 55 percent of the survey participants said that the content was mediocre and 8 percent considered the content bad. In contrast 35 percent considered the content good and only 2 percent considered the digital media to be great.

So why do I think great content is on the horizon? Now we know. Now we know that every piece of brand media that the consumer comes in contact with has to be great or risk the perception: bad content = bad brand, great content = great brand. Brands are making larger investments in their digital assets or they risk brand death. Brands understand that the past decade of feverish developments in intersecting digital technology requires them to create great content in the digital world. As brands become digitally bonded with consumers, the only perception is how great that content is and this will directly affect the consumer’s attitude toward the brand at every digital touch point.

Look for great content on all screens because the brand’s survival depends upon the digital bond.

4. Connecting The Dots

This has been on my list for the last three years and this year moves up to #4 position. The pressure for all screens to work together seamlessly is even stronger in 2014. Call it omni-channel, transmedia experience, mobile connection, or whatever. The bottom line is that a consumer is looking for an experience that is seamless. From their point of view, that means what I see on TV, on my tablet, on my smart phone and in-store create a seamless experience on that path to purchase. The industry gets it, the agencies get it, even IT gets it and marketing definitely gets it. But it does take the fundamental architectural changes in the back-end. And that process began for most retailers in the last two years and it is still in its infancy. Through the omni-channel implementation in the retail sector, the seamless experience will become more of a reality this year. This is the time when the consumer touches the cloud and the consumer does not care which screen they are interacting with as long as it is entertaining, helpful, or useful. Look what Apple just did. iBeacon — although not new, just NFC the Apple way — but it does that tell us the experience is changing in retail and it simply does not matter which screen. Digital signage will be a connected cloud experience or it will be ignored.

Look for more seamless experiences across all screens where digital signage is a part of the cloud ecosystem.

5. Data and Experiences

Big Data is something that was a buzz in late 2012 and in early 2013, but what happens when small data drives the real time experience? We have seen this in simple terms when weather data drives products offered like hot chocolate when it’s snowing or an umbrella sale when it’s raining. But the world of data is changing and becoming part of the very fabric that we live in. AutoZone utilizes big data to tap into a variety of databases, such as the types of cars driven by people living around their retail outlets. This has given Auto Zone a competitive advantage because they can offer inventory to their customers with what they want, where they want it. Image when this gets integrated into their digital screen strategy.

Small data will begin to drive our interactive screen experiences in new (unnoticed by the consumer), but extremely useful, natural ways.

6. From Digital Signage/DOOH to Digital Screen Media

2014 marks the year of significant steps of transformation from an industry that calls itself digital signage/DOOH to an industry of digital screen media. As we look at the trends over the last four years, digital signage/DOOH has been fighting to keep its place ahead of mobile and tablets and as it turns out, tablets are being used for marketing messages at the shelf, aka digital signage. I contend that in this colossal wave of change in the way that we implement marketing messages on screens in the marketplace, and that one can no longer separate out one screen from another. Clearly the definition of what the industry was just four years ago is not the same and is a branding challenge for most companies in the industry.

Fundamental changes will redefine the industry from a digital signage/DOOH one to a digital screen media one.

7. Innovations

Innovation has continued to awe us at every turn, and 2014, I believe, is headed for unprecedented technological innovation. I say this not because I have the next big thing; I say this because we are coming out of a down economic cycle. And when there is a downturn in the economy,  there is a cycle of innovation — people create and they innovate something better than what we had before. The rate at which we are seeing new products and innovations even in 2013 eclipse all prior years, with over 200 new products in our sector alone. This includes everything from hand-crank powered kiosks to the introduction of 4K screens — and 2014 promises to make that look like a walk in the park.

Look for a number of useful products, new experiences and new connections.

8. Solutions Not Pieces

A major change in who is making the decisions for the brands and retailers has taken place. The  marketing department is now in charge. After years of IT making the decisions for our industry, the paradigm has shifted. This is in part and partial to the omni-channel marketing push and who is driving this. Screens, CMS, cables and media players are not a solution; they are the pieces. Marketing wants solutions, not pieces. Marketing gets it. Do the suppliers? We see software companies and screen manufactures partnering up to supply a “solution.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, a screen with CMS is not a solution. Marketing wants great concepts to drive their vision. Marketing will need total solutions to accomplish this. And because the concepts are now experiences, the concept will be given priority and the pieces that make up solution will follow — not the other way around.

Marketing is now in charge and they want solutions for experiences.

9. Consolidation

This has been a significant trend in the industry for the last three years. Some say it’s a sign of industry maturity. I say the industry will morph into something completely different. Among the feverish 22 M&As in 2013, some were significant changes: RMG bought Symon; CBS Outdoor was bought by PE firm Platinum Equity and became ExterionMedia; Cineplex bought EK3; Bell bought Astral Media; Stratecache bought Carmanah Signs; and PE Firm Generation Partners funds Captivate. Some of these trends are consolidation to buy market share and some are other industries buying into the marketplace and a few are PE firms expanding the current business. The other news comes when Intel introduced RCM, which will have significant impact on CMS pricing. Pricing has gotten so aggressive that there are only a few Saas platforms that will survive the next phase of the industry. I have another thought on the industry consolidation. Remember when AOL bought Time Warner? Who would have thought? With mobile growing at a rate of 146 percent, I believe we will see some cross platform investments and acquisitions that may surprise us.

Look for cross platform M&As as the industry morphs.

10. Growth

As I look into the crystal ball in this last trend, I see growth in certain areas of the market within our industry. They include corporate lobbies where the experience is now amped up. Just take a look at what Arsenal Media did with Christie, or Array Interactive did with Adobe’s lobby. This new lobby inspired experience trend will see growth in the market place. QSR will continue to grow with new innovative experiences based on menu boards and queue line promotions, just take a look at Dee Da Restaurant. Retail is changing and requiring less space and virtual aisles and engaging the digital consumer will have tremendous impact this year with brands. Healthcare will continue to expand for obvious reasons, but the model to capture more purpose of these screens will also change.

Growth — Corporate lobbies, QSR, retail with experiences that engage the digital consumer and healthcare for sheer necessity.

Author and speaker Keith Kelsen, chief visionary at 5th Screen, is considered one of the leading experts on digital media. More information about his book, Unleashing the Power of Digital Signage – Content Strategies for the 5th Screen, published by Focal Press, can be found on the book’s companion website. Reach him at or on Twitter @Kkelsen.