Digital Signage, IT/AV

Industry POV: The Rapidly Evolving World Of Displays

Displays, Video Displays

Helping manage transformation in a post-COVID-19 world.

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to disrupt companies and business activities worldwide, these organizations have little choice but to review their strategies and organizational structures in an attempt to overcome the fallout from this crisis. COVID-19 has forced businesses, as well as their executives and their employees, to accept many changes. Many of these have been drastic and necessary, and, undoubtedly, they’ve had an immeasurable impact on our personal and professional lives. These changes have accelerated decisions and business strategies as regards the use of technology; indeed, some of these strategies had been labeled “challenging” or “impossible” before the global pandemic arrived. Digital screens have become more significant than ever before. Big screens, small screens and screens that were once overcompensating are starting to become the new normal.

Digital Signage

For obvious reasons, among digital displays of all technology types, digital signage will become the standout winner. For retailers and multiplex environments, digital signage will play a key role in connecting the consumer and the retailer; moreover, in commercial spaces, digital signage will provide the most important commodity in today’s world: information!

The pandemic has taught us that digital signage has to work smarter across all environments. In the past several months, we’ve borne witness to the panic caused by simple household products having evaporated from retail store shelves. In a forward-thinking world, retailers might be able to mitigate panic buying—at least somewhat—by tying stock levels and point-ofsale (POS) systems to store signage screens. That would keep consumers informed about what’s available in store, while also conveying any restrictions that are still in place. From my own  experiences, nothing was more soul-destroying than traveling to my local convenience store or supermarket only to return without needed essentials.

In public spaces, digital screens or kiosks have seen tenfold increases in adopted use as body-temperature displays. In the age of COVID-19, having the capability for simple and instant capture of employees’ and customers’ body temperature might well be essential, allowing those with suspected fever or viral infection to be identified. These displays and kiosk solutions will be key in the “new normal” world in which people are more cautious and aware.

Digital Wayfinding

Digital screens and wayfinding will thrive within reinvented spaces. In a post-COVID-19 world, digital wayfinding solutions within a multiplex environment could have more impact than we ever could have envisaged. People are understandably nervous when in a large retail setting with many people; accordingly, any assistance that makes that experience more efficient and less time-consuming will naturally be welcomed gratefully. Arguably, even touchscreens still have a big future in serving this purpose, so long as guidelines around cleanliness and hygiene are strict and transparent.

Digital display technologies within retail and multiplex environments also have the opportunity to serve new and different needs and purposes. Content that includes digital artwork, inspirational quotes and videos of successes within the community could be used to transform the once-chaotic and erraticfeeling retail experience into a calming and enticing pleasure. Now, more than ever before, retailers must make people believe that Main Street is where to go for good customer experiences. No matter the circumstances or the environment, a digital-signage deployment’s goal is to improve the customer experience, making it more efficient and effective. If retailers can achieve this—delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right people—they will have a future apart from turning to the internet and ecommerce.

Digital desktop displays and the home-office space have also seen a significant turn in fortunes. This is because we’re engaging in business activities from a distance never experienced before and because a large percentage of the workforce is now working remotely. Video platforms have been assisting in this. Meetings took a new direction, now occurring from the comfort of the home workstation; this inevitably forced change, as many employees found bedrooms, dining rooms and conservatories replacing their prior office environment overnight.

As I sit here, writing this article, my home office is furnished with four displays that offer me fantastic visual real estate and a high-resolution canvas. I can see more, interact with more and deliver more. I’m an experienced home user, and my displays have clear and primary functions, as follows:

  • a 29-inch, ultra-widescreen display is for video-based calls with internal and external clients
  • a pair of 24-inch displays (in portrait mode) is for emails, documents and web-based content
  • my final 24-inch display is for system designs and architectural drawings

I’m privileged to have access to all that hardware, and I’m definitely ahead of the curve. However, with esports and gaming from home driving an ever-increasing desire and hunger for more, I believe more than ever before that desktop displays’ future will be resurgent.

According to several data-collection and market agencies in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) segment, desktop sales increased year over year by as much as 43 percent through the first three months of lockdown. That was not predicted by anyone; yet, it’s now stimulating thought-provoking conversations and intelligent business decisions. Major global conglomerates are reviewing their IT planning, considering users’ needs and demands. Improved connectivity, higher resolutions, larger screen surfaces, and greater flexibility across professional and personal devices are all now seen as key technological influences in buying decisions.

The Traditional Office

Not surprisingly, the traditional office and meeting-room display is now firmly in the spotlight. Open-office architecture gave birth to the huddle room—a strategically small meeting room designed to empower people to meet quickly, collaborate easily and make informed decisions in a timely manner. Huddle rooms are designed to be intimate, typically serving the needs of three to five people, and they often have an interactive or non-interactive display that’s typically around 55 inches. The huddle room exploded in popularity, as it afforded companies many benefits: more videoconferencing/unified communications (UC) spaces; a space for remote workers to use as their base and feel included in the team; and, most important, more rooms for the same cost as—often less money than—traditional conference rooms. In short, the huddle room promised more opportunity for the organization to realize increased productivity.

Now, the huddle room is under severe threat. Even in a post-COVID-19 world, it remains to be seen how it might fare. Socialdistancing guidelines, increased awareness of hygiene, safety concerns and business cautions with regard to potential legal liability mean the once quaint and subtle footprint of these ideal collaboration spaces might be undergoing a review.

I am a Technical Solutions Architect. I help our teams in EMEA fix problems with customer requirements and needs, and I work with external technology consultants and architects. I’m already seeing a dynamic shift in how screens are positioned. What had been a 55-inch display is now a 65-inch display because people are farther away from the content. What was once a 98-inch-display application in a boardroom is now being repurposed with either a fine-pitch-LED solution or a traditional front are promoted based on customers’ specific purchase behavior and other data tracking. And, although that kind of one-to-one personalization is best executed through an app on a mobile device, digital signage can be used similarly, showing a more reactive and more granular message within retail. Integration with past,
predicted or real-time data points can enable dynamic changes to the messaging.

One big opportunity is the rise of curbside pickup or buy-online-pickupin-store (BOPIS). In general, BOPIS has shown itself to be fantastic and efficient. In such situations, however, how does a retailer communicate and entice for impulse buying? Messaging at the pickup location could be specifically targeted to the individual. At the very least, the retailer knows the customer’s selected items. And, if the shopper participates in any loyalty programs, the retailer knows even more. Digital signage placed at these locations could change based upon that knowledge, enticing the customer to add “quick pickup” of items of interest.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed some shortfalls within retail, but it also revealed that customers are quite tolerant of varying methods of communication and action. Digital signage within retail isn’t new, but, in a post-COVID-19 world, retail will be very different from before. With more customers having shifted to online shopping, their expectations for the in-store experience have only grown. Digital signage is a way to enable experiences of the kind typically reserved for the online world.

More often than ever before, customers expect dynamic, timely and relevant content. In the world of AV integration, digital signage will clearly be one area of strength and growth among so many that are shrinking.

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