How a Worldwide Pandemic Re-shapes Digital Signage Trends

COVID-19_trends_web

This article has been written by Aferdita Qesku our Director of Sales at Signagelive and was published by Dave Haynes at 16:9

 

When I originally wrote an earlier blog (December 2019)  titled: 2019 Analysis and the Top 3 2020 digital signage trends for Invidis Consulting little did I (or any of us really) know how things would go on to be impacted so widely for the remainder of the year.

On face value, surely this virus cannot change so drastically how so many industries operate, could it? 

It was just another form of a cold or flu, wasn’t it? 

Most people at ISE thought so and for our industry that was one of the last shows to take place – impacted by absences for sure, but it took place at least. This mentality, these thoughts were mirrored in some way shape or form in each and every country impacted by this pandemic.

Fast forward five months into 2020 and the landscape of not just the AV industry but almost all others has changed in a way few people other than epidemiologists could have imagined. Well actually, slightly untrue, it’s been imagined and talked about plenty of times, Bill Gates TED talk on pandemics, in feature films and many other forums. But nobody was ready. Indeed the next feature movie to follow Contagion, Outbreak and countless others will again have the ‘society wasn’t ready’ theme running through it. I definitely want to be around to see who plays Trump (maybe he will, and do a cameo appearance… remember Home Alone?)

So with that in mind, how ready and adaptable have we in the AV industry been? 

What will the future look like for many of us? 

This and many other questions, I don’t have a final answer, as we are still learning, waiting, either for someone to lead the way to show how and what to adapt with, or some of us will have already started to take this journey, ready (I hope) to come out of the other side, somewhat scathed, but at least able to fight and grow for another day.

As with many things which shock the system to the core, there are different aspects of what we do to come to terms with it. [queue all the infographics about the different stages we go through – grief, acceptance yadah yadah…!], I’m sure in our highly increased social media consumption of real and fake news we’ve seen 90% of these infographics. 

So what stage are we at right now as an industry? 

That’s slightly different to understand and get a feel for. Countries and territories are definitely split in their opinions of this. There have been plenty of surveys to gauge the mood of the industry and nation etc. I’ve been following the AVIXA ones as they’re pretty relevant to our industry (although there definitely needs to be more respondents) as well as others from an economic perspective.

The biggest takeaways for me from these have been:

  • Week 1 – (March) 30% expectations of a downturn both stateside and internationally (due to cancelled projects, and face to face meetings).
  • Week 2 – (March) 58% expectations of a downturn both stateside and internationally, however, a higher proportion of respondents expect this to happen elsewhere other than North America – I wonder does this correlate with how Trump viewed the virus at this time? Just putting it out there…
  • Week 3 – (April) 71% expectations of a downturn in numbers. June expectations that projects will come back online, with some others more pessimistically citing August or September. 
  • Week 4 – (April) staff reductions (25% average). June still the leading month most are citing for a return of projects coming back online.
  • Week 5 – (April) – 74% are seeing revenue declines (83% operating outside of North America), continued staffing declines (layoffs or furlough). July now being cited as the month where projects might start to come back online.
  • Week 6 and onward – Jump to the site for more information

Real-life translations of the above range from companies adapting to other forms of sales of products to keep cashflow continuous and topped up. 

Video conferencing, of course, is tops, but for those who work very much on the hardware side of things, automatic hand sanitiser dispensers are also more relevant now than ever. 

Looking forward into the future as to what the new norm for retail will look like: others are collaborating with technology companies for proximity sensors linked to digital signage. Virtual queuing assistants instead of store employees having to wear this hat with a ‘stop and go’ system. 

For software vendors such as us at Signagelive, ‘broadcast’ is the new slant. How do we continue to communicate with these remote employees at such a time where clear communication is key? 

Bearing in mind, when we return and we all will, what we once knew as an office and ‘workforce communication’ will have changed forever.

Going back to my original Top 3 Trends:

  1. Multi-platform strategy – this is still relevant especially when taking into account an increased way of broadcasting messages – ensure your message can be seen in different formats and different hardware
  2. Audience analytics (making sense of data) – still relevant, however, how we use the data will be different to before. Perhaps the next big thing (for a while at least) will be the proximity sensors and how they are used to communicate the right message, especially important for places like airports and event gatherings as one example
  3. AV as a Service – still very relevant, however, the question is: will post COVID-19 budgets allow for this to continue or will we see end users going back to ‘We’ll do it ourselves mentality again”?

I believe the above trends have and will continue to remain relevant because they are truly three different things that solve problems for clients, thus a pandemic won’t impact how they are perceived (with the right message). All three go hand in hand also, but personally, I think AI and making sense of data will start creeping up in terms of requirements higher in the list than just the ‘nice to have’ category. 

A 4th trend, which wasn’t included previously (as it was already a norm) but I wanted to mention here is the age of touch screens? 

Has this come to an end as we know it? Or will COVID-19 and what came with it be forgotten in a year and humanity will revert back to interactive touch screens? 

Some think this has changed for the foreseeable future and that new ways of interacting without having to touch screens are needed. 

I look forward to seeing how else we can adapt to accommodate what will be the new norm, and let’s face it, it most definitely won’t be what we’ve been used to in all of our walks of life.

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