These days a single screen is rarely enough for the creative possibilities of digital signage. In the war for customers’ attention, digital signage is increasingly the retailer’s weapon of choice.
“The higher tier retailers are pushing the boundaries with digital signage, with creative displays, videowalls and even filly immersive store fronts with entrances that are purely digital signage,” says Phil Davenport, EMEA director of sales and operations at Datapath.
These days a single screen is rarely enough. “Multiple displays are not only more demanding of customers’ attention but also open up great creative possibilities,” says Davenport. “For example, several displays located around a store can run their own local content, but then ‘join’ together for a continuous image.”
Along with the attention-grabbing displays, what really ‘makes’ digital signage is what goes on behind the scenes. “Content is paramount to any digital signage installation,” says Mark Flowers CTS, external sales specialist at Midwich. “In contrast to static signage, retailers can update content according to changes to their stock availability, promotions or any other variables.
“The key is opting for a consistent content management system (CMS). BrightSign, for example, provides a consistent platform that can be accessed either locally over the LAN or remotely using the BrightSign Network regardless of the display technology.”
As signage points multiply, effective CMS becomes even more vital, says BrightSign’s CEO, Jeff Hastings. “Imagine a department store with a videowall in the foyer, digital signage menus in the restaurant, and advertising screens throughout the store. With a good CMS one person can manage which content is delivered to which screens and at what times of day.
“BrightSign Network is an affordable, scalable, subscription-based hosted service, providing the complete infrastructure to serve and support a retailer’s digital signage network. It makes delivering remote content to one or many units a breeze, and frees customers from the complexities of hosting and maintaining their own network.”
Nowadays most shoppers are inseparable from their smartphones, and linking these into the retailer’s signage network can be incredibly powerful.
“BrightSign’s BrightBeacon uses Bluetooth to allow retailers to push personalised information to customers via their phones,” says Flowers.
“BTLE/beacon-enabled signage can deliver a two-screen experience where the customer interacts with both the screen in front of them and the screen on their hand-held device,” explains Hastings. “It’s a great way for users to interact with product demonstrations and it helps physical retail compete with digital retail. The trend is towards new technology interactions that power the experience, including audience recognition, beason/BTLE, iPhone wallet passes, voice recognition and new possibilities with RFID.”
This year Midwich launched MiSupport, an enhanced aftercare option for BrightSign signage systems. “We offer an added value and all-in-one extended warranty, training and technical support helpdesk service that can be added to the reseller’s product or system at the point of purchase,” says Flowers.
Flat panel videowalls continue to be a trusted technology in retail, and improvements in videowall processing such as Datapath’s Fx4 and Hx4 are enabling retailers and their suppliers to create stunning custom designs, says Flowers.
“The award-winning Fx4 controller is used across a broad spectrum of retail environments for creative displays, scatter walls and synchronising large displays,” says Davenport. “Creative projection applications can also benefit from Fx4 power for UHD application.”
Most Fx4 users also opt for Datapath’s Wall Designer software, which enables them to visualize their content by adding inputs, backgrounds and adjusting capture regions.
Conventional LCD videowalls remain popular for a number of applications, particularly where high quality video reproduction is being viewed from close up. Midwich is also seeing an increase in narrow pixel pitch LED in retail environments.
“Due to its inherent brightness, LED is very well suited to areas of high ambient light. While the bezel gap of LCD has been reduced significantly, LED enables store designers to build larger digital canvasses with a bezel,” says Flowers.
“High resolution LED is seeing a huge surge in popularity in retails applications, especially when there’s a larger viewing distance and a large canvas is required for big impact,” says Chris Smith, channel manager at LG Electronics UK. “Content also influences the selection, with LED displays being better with graphical content rather than film or photography.”
Direct ambient light has always been a major challenge to signage in high street stores – but this is not the case with LED. “LED can compete with full daylight conditions, even direct sunlight,” says Drew Rogers, large format display product manager at Samsung.
Tech firms love to describe their products’ ‘flexibility’, but in the case of LED this is literally true. “At ISE this year Samsung demonstrated how a 1.2mm fine pixel pitch indoor LED modular system can be wrapped around walls or installed on ceilings to provide content in otherwise unused spaces,” says Rogers. “We also demonstrated curved LED with convex and concave cabinet orientations by coupling the engineering experience of our outdoor LED range with the high image quality of the indoor fine pixel pitch products.”
Also new at ISE were transparent OLED displays and transparent colour LED film from LG. “The unique design of the OLED displays means you can have full colour, vivid graphics but also see retail products through the displays,” says Smith. “The LED colour film can be applied to windows rapidly and with very little infrastructure to create huge, colourful canvasses.”
LG is seeing a big shift towards OLED as the preferred platform for large format displays, thanks to its thin design, deep blacks and high contrast, and the ability to curve it for creative installations, Smith adds. “OLED is at the forefront of innovation due to its durability, quality and colour reproduction. The displays are also very lightweight, enabling them to be used in semi-permanent retail applications and pop-ups. In-glass models can also be double-sided to maximise the use of space.”
Now LED technology is being developed even further. “Quantum dor LED (QLED) uses a quantum dot filter with the display to deliver 100% colour volume of the RGB spectrum, meaning that virtually any colour can be reproduced,” says Rogers. “A backlight capable of peaking brightness up to 1,500nit enables QLED smart signage to deliver such colour in much brighter environments such as high street retail. Peaking brightness where it’s required rather than uniformly across the panel ensures that a high dynamic contrast range can be maintained without washing out colour and detail.”
Whatever the technology required, Midwich has an unrivaled portfolio of products, says Flowers. “From initial content scheduling, through to signal distribution, building management and control, audio reinforcement and displays, Midwich has become a trusted on stop shop for our trade partners.
“What’s more, through our events such as the Retail Shop Even at the OXO2 Tower on May 10, our flagship even Technology Exposed, and our LED Assessment Centre at PSCo, Midwich can demonstrate our vendors’ products as working solutions. This has proved very valuable to our trade partners in making product decisions.
“We also realise that retailers often require proofs of concept and pilot installations before committing to large store roll outs, and our load product portfolio caters for this.”
This article is from our AV Magazine Retail Special. Visit our Marketing Hub to view the whole supplement along with our other marketing materials, including guides and portals.