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Digital Signage Gets a New Look in 2021

Laetitia Lim IoT Chat

A conversation with Laetitia Lim @quividi

Digital signage was already undergoing a rapid evolution—but the pandemic dramatically accelerated the changes. Digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertisers and physical retail stores are both confronting a new reality that is full of unfamiliar challenges. To thrive in this environment, signage systems integrators (SIs) must find new ways to deliver value.

Join us as we explore the path forward with Laetitia Lim, CEO of Quividi, a pioneer in campaign intelligence for digital out-of-home and retail digital signage. We discuss:

  • Why DOOH advertising is following the online advertising model, with an emphasis on ROI and real-time, programmatic campaigns
  • Why retailers need digital signage to support new business models like curbside pickup
  • How to deliver contextualized content that measures engagement while respecting privacy
  • How SIs can prove their value with a low-cost, low-risk proof of concept (POC)
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Transcript

Kenton Williston: Welcome to the IoT Chat. I’m Kenton Williston, the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech. Every episode I talk to an industry expert about the technology and business trends that matter for developers, system integrators, and end users. Today I’m talking to Laetitia Lim from Quividi about the ways the pandemic has changed digital signage, and what system integrators can do to adapt to the new environment. Laetitia, welcome to the show. What is it that Quividi does exactly, and what is your role there?

Laetitia Lim: Hi Kenton. So, first of all, happy new year to you and to all our auditors today. I’m wishing all of you a healthy and successful 2021. Thank you so much for inviting me today. It’s a real pleasure to kick off the year with such an interesting conversation, and I hope that at the end of our discussion today the audience will get some ideas on how to enable our digital signage industry to capture the new-normal growth potential. So, to answer your question, Quividi is the pioneer and world number one audience and campaign-intelligence platform for digital out-of-home and retail digital signage. We’ve been serving hundreds of customers, analyzing billions of shoppers every month across tens of thousands of screens.

And my role in Quividi is to lead the team as their CEO. We’ve been working in more than 55 countries with leading DOOH networks and retailers such as Simon Malls, URW, [inaudible] Cineplex in North America, as well as Clear Channel in Singapore, or Seven Eleven in Asia-Pacific. So, what marketers can do with our platform and data science is basically enabling them to test, measure, optimize, and deliver data-driven contextualized content to best engage and convert audiences while respecting privacy. In other words, marketers use Quividi to turn, DOOH and retail signage into a powerful medium boosting engagements, traffic, and sales. And my role at Quividi is to lead the team as their CEO.

Kenton Williston: Excellent. Well, like you said, we’re recording this very early in the year. 2020 of course was a pretty challenging year for all of us—with the coronavirus and everything else that was happening around the globe. And I think we’re all pretty excited to get into a new year and see what new opportunities are in store for us. So, how are you thinking about the digital signage landscape as we move into this new year?

Laetitia Lim: Yeah, definitely. 2020 with COVID has been a tough year, a real challenge for our customers, no matter—we talk about digital out-of-home media network retailers. Now, we know—we always see challenges as opportunities as well. And I think our customers are looking for ideas and ways to actively recover their business from the 2020 pandemic situation, and even further to capture the new growth potential. So we see actually that—we think at Quividi that COVID has accelerated a lot of trends in retail, and those trends were underlying.

So it’s just that COVID has maybe made changes happening in six months, whereas otherwise it would have happened in a few years. So that’s the interesting part. So we think that retailers have actually now to accelerate their transformation. And when we are discussing with our clients, we see—no matter if you talk about digital out-of-home, so the media side, or you talk about retail—we see the following trends. In digital out-of-home, we definitely see with this unannounced situation with lockdown it’s really critical for the media network out there to keep a constant—to keep their fingers on the consumer pulse. And to do that they do need real time.

So we see real-time data as a key differentiator for the networks who really can offer those kinds of data to advertisers—to basically convince those brand advertisers that it is worse for them to inject major investment into their networks versus all the media networks, because they have the proof of the reality of the audience—that the audience is back into their venues. And that is the first, must—evidence to provide to brands which have limited media budget, because everybody’s dealing with a crisis. So being able to prove the reality of the audience is critical for the two players.

The second thing we think interesting is that they also need to deliver much more ROI. So, when a brand used to spend $1 in the past in media, they maybe were expecting a $5 equivalent of ROI; but now they are expecting the same $5 by spending $0.5 or $0.80. And to do that, the media DOOH network have to deliver higher ROI than they used to before. And one way to do that is to leverage real-time data to target relevant messages on the go, so that those messages are engaging better the audience in front of the screen.

Those are the two major trends we see on the DOOH side. When we talk about retail, we really see retailers reinventing or accelerating their digital transformation and moving really towards—to an extreme type of model. The first one is being really hyper-convenient. Like the Amazon Go. So, really, consumers now when they go into a food retail they have already browsed online, they know what they want to buy, and they just go with the strong intention and just go to buy the things they wanted to and then leave the store. So it’s really this hyper-convenient user experience that those retailers will have to deliver. On the other side, on the other extreme, we see another trend which is hyper-experiential. Like the Nike House of Innovation, where you really deliver a unique experience about your brand so that the visitors can see what the brand is about.

And that is also a major trend we see in retail. So, that’s basically the two extremes that we see in retail. And we see very interesting type of usage for this digital signage within those trends. Like I was talking about hyper-convenient: we see the appearance of large-screen deployment outdoor in curbside pickups or drive-through where people are coming—they order online and they come to the venues to pick up what they have ordered. So they either stay in their car—which is the case of curbside pickup—or they have all this in QSR and they just come in the back to pick up their orders. So, that is an example of new signage, large deployment of signage—a project we’ve been seeing as a result of COVID.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. I think those are all really good examples, and I should point out that we are working on—and by the time our audience hears this we’ll have published—an article talking about some of these various different trends, and I’d encourage all our listeners to head over to insight.tech to check that out. I want to start by exploring a little bit more deeply the digital out-of-home side of things. When you say “real time,” I’m thinking of two elements here. The first is being able, of course, to deliver content in real time, to be able to manage what it is that’s showing up on the displays at a moment’s notice. But I think probably even more importantly than that is being able to determine the audience reactions to those displays in real time—so you can see what’s working, what’s not, and then you can make those kinds of decisions about what to show the audience more intelligently. Do I have all that right? Anything I’ve missed there?

Laetitia Lim: No, I think that’s a very important add-on you just—to each content—because definitely Quividi is all about measuring the attention. And the attention for us is the measurement, the true measurement, of engagement. When you think about digital out-of-home and public, those screens are in public spaces. It’s crowded places; it’s definitely not like a one-to-one experience like when you’re in front of your laptop at home. It’s a one-to-many type of communication. So it really does matter for brand in such a busy environment to be able to really attract and engage with a person on the go. So for that, the true measurement of how a person is engaged when he or she is on the go is actually their attention time.

So I think depending on which content is actively watched longer or not, you could really derive the level of engagement of that person if you are marketer, and you could basically build—leverage on data science to really analyze what type of content usually works best on what type of venue and what type of screen location. And then you could derive from that some predictive model to help you in the future to actively optimize and improve further your marketing strategy.

Kenton Williston: Interesting. And is that something that people are starting to automate? I’m just thinking about everything you’re saying about data science, and I’m starting to imagine going beyond just being able to assess what the audience reaction is and have a human being comb through the data to try to make an assessment, that perhaps some of this could be automated and even adapt in real time.

Laetitia Lim: Yeah. I think definitely it’s something at Quividi—at Quividi we’ve been the pioneer in this space; we are now 14 years old. So we’re not a startup; we have more than 60 billion data points as of now. And this would be by far the largest anonymous video-analytics database available in the digital signage industry. And we’ve been actively analyzing those data to try to extract those—and build those—predictive models. So, definitely, like you said, the step one is to be able to measure the performance—the past performance of a campaign in terms of attention span, for instance. But moving forward it’s also to learn from past performance and results to try to predict what content will have the highest likelihood to be the most engaging for a specific demographic group on the specific type of screens, locations, and venue tags.

Kenton Williston: Interesting. Can you give me a practical example of what kind of predictions and what kind of recommendations that might come out of this?

Laetitia Lim: Yeah. You could basically do the prediction in a quantitative way and a qualitative way. So, the quantitative way is basically the same way like online advertising is working, where you really do what we call real-time bidding and programmatic trading online. Today, digital out-of-home is still behind online for the programmatic trading. We are catching up; it’s really growing double digit as an industry. So, really, programmatic is the highest growth potential for digital out-of-home from now on and in the coming years. However, it’s still a tiny part of the revenue. So if you were able to actually measure what happened like one second, or a tenth of a second, just before on that specific screen, you could basically assume that those type of audience, those number of people, will be there.

And then you could decide to actually push the content. A brand can decide to say: Because I want my campaign to reach out to these type of millennials, in this type of venue, and I want to reach these number of impressions—go there and basically look for all those places and deliver in real time my campaign to those places which are matching the criteria I just mentioned. And that could be done almost in real time. So that is a way to use it in the quantitative way.

In the qualitative way, you could think about, once you analyze campaign after campaign at the very granular level—the attention time for each content which has been played on each screen at different time of the day, different day of the week, and different months during the year—you could come out with basically trends to tell you that: usually millennials, young millennials of male gender like to basically engage much more with this type of content, with this type of headline, with this type of video, type of format, etc., on that specific screen, in that specific venue. Whereas more senior people of over 45 years old, male, tend to prefer to engage and watch longer these types of content, on those type of screens, at this specific time of the year, or of the day.

Kenton Williston: So, Laetitia, I have to tell you, just before we recorded this podcast was my birthday. And I’m really glad you said an old person is 45. I only turned 44, so I still have one more year of youth.

Laetitia Lim: Did I say old? I’m not sure.

Kenton Williston: So, this leads me to an assumption here about why it is that ROI has come under so much pressure, because of course if you’re in an online environment there’s a long-standing trend of that being driven down, down, down. I assume what’s happening here is that the digital out-of-home market is—much in the same way it’s following some of the online patterns in terms of having programmatic advertising—the ROI crunch is also following some of the same patterns. Is that right?

Laetitia Lim: Yes. Because when you look at digital out-of-home—when you look at out-of-home and the way advertising has been sold in the out-of-home space, it used to be sold by, "I’m buying two-week campaigns on those screens, and, basically, how much impression you are going to give me for these two weeks, and this is how much I’m going to pay." Now, you know with technologies coming in the offline world, it’s actually enabling those screens to actively sell in a much more proactive way like online is doing. And what we are hoping is that it enables out-of-home with an effect to digital out-of-home to basically capture more major budgets from the online media advertising budgets. And to do that, digital out-of-home has to be much more data driven.

So, like you said, it really needs to be able to deliver more measurable and more ROI in the sense that it’s not any more about impression tomorrow—and we’re seeing it already today with some of our clients who are at the forefront of that. You could imagine to be able to buy audiences the same way like on Facebook or Google you said: I want to have this campaign to be displayed for people of a certain age, certain lifestyle, certain purchasing power. You could also think that in the physical world, thanks to technology like us, you could buy audiences and not only overall impressions.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. So this is a really good point. And I think this is a perfect example of the good news/bad news phenomena, where the bad news, or the challenge at least, is that there is a lot of pressure to demonstrate higher levels of ROI. But the good news is that market size is very large. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but if I recall correctly, the amount of ad spending on digital out-of-home is like in the single digits relative to online ad spending. So there’s just a huge upside potential in terms of the amount of revenue that’s available.

And I think it’s pretty compelling, too, because you don’t have ad blockers in real life. You have a very different kind of intent when people are out and about. If they’re browsing around on a website, or what have you, it’s a signal, but it doesn’t tell you everything you might want to know. Whereas if you are out in the real world and you know exactly where this person is, you’d get a sense of what they might be up to and their age and gender and things like this. So you in some ways have a more valuable data set than you would have online. So I think that’s all very exciting from that perspective of an advertiser to have that sort of opportunity available.

Laetitia Lim: Yeah. I definitely think that in terms of brand safety-ness, when you think about road and all those issues that are happening which have been happening in the online world, definitely you don’t have such a thing in the offline world, because you are dealing with real human beings—and actually being able to capture their intention. Again, like I said, we talk about busy environment where people are on the go. So when you manage to have them stopped and watch a screen and engage with that for a certain number of time, that’s really a strong proof of engagement.

Kenton Williston: Yeah, absolutely. And that leads me to talk about the other piece of this, which is how retailers are using digital signage in new ways to bring in a new sense of convenience—a new sense of experience. And in particular what I’m thinking about here is how, with the pandemic—and I’m betting this will last into the future for some time, maybe permanently—people are tending not to head out to be active in the world unless they have something very specific in mind that they want to do.

So for retailers to get additional spending from those consumers, they can’t follow some of the past practices, like putting something really enticing on their end caps, because people are not looking to spend a lot of time dwelling in the store, for example. So there needs to be a different approach to give the customer the sort of exciting experience to incentivize them to do additional purchases, and so forth.

Laetitia Lim: Yeah, definitely. We see that consumer behavior in stores has changed. Like I said earlier, COVID has, unfortunately in some extent, accelerated online, e-commerce development. So there are people who were not shopping online who started to shop online during COVID, and we believe they’re going to keep those habits.

Kenton Williston: Yes.

Laetitia Lim: So definitely retailers are under pressure to—more than ever they are competing against online. Now, we see digital signage inside the store as one of the tools they can leverage on to differentiate themselves from the online and e-commerce type of user experience. What do I mean by that? It is that digital signage went through many spaces over the past 25 years, and we see that we are now in the phase where we are entering what we call adaptive signage era. And this era of adaptive signage is smart screens. So the screens should not only be a way to play content, which honestly is 90% of the usage today in retail.

So, screens are there and basically it’s making—it’s easier to basically change content. Whereas before we know we have a paper-like box, and then we could not change content so easily or have different content on the same piece on the same day because it’s going to change so fast, and having screens instead of the static billboard enables definitely to manage the content in an easier way, definitely. But for us, we see that as more like a logistics, operational benefit. Now we think that it’s time where screens have to deliver much more smarts, so that they can be really integrated into the physical customer experience delivered in-store. And to do so the screens should be able to switch from a one-to-many to a one-to-one communication type whenever it is relevant.

And being able to switch back from one-to-one to one-to-many communication whenever it is relevant. Because the screens—imagine you have a kiosk inside a food retailer, that kiosk at some moment is basically—you have many people watching ads in front of that screen, but you also have some moments during the day or during the week where there’s only one person in front of the screen. So you could imagine a screen smart enough to basically be able to tailor-make to some extent the experience the screen is providing to that audience, depending on who is in front of that screen.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. So I want to dig into that a little bit deeper. So, when we’re talking about a one-to-one—so of course there’s the opportunity to target someone based on their demographics—but are you also talking about something that’s tied to that specific individual? Like, I see that this is Laetitia, so I’m going to show her something specific to her interests. Or is this more just restricted to demographics? Are we talking about things that stay anonymous, or where’s the state-of-the-art here?

Laetitia Lim: I think there’s different pieces of the answer here. First, definitely in Quividi we are privacy by design. So it’s really something we care a lot about. Meaning that we are really all about anonymous video analytics. So we do not keep any biometric information. So we would not know that Laetitia is in front of the screen. We will know that there is a female of a certain age in front of the screen, but we will not know that it is Laetitia, and we don’t want to know that. And that’s enabled us to be able to actively operate in public venues and in countries with very strong privacy regulations, like GDPR in Europe. So it’s really something that we care a lot about. This is the first thing I’d like to say.

Second thing is, definitely, if on the screens you want to have some content that is meant for your VIP, your members, people who are in your CRM database, you could have a QR code shown on the screen. It’s happening a lot in Asia, where people with their smartphones could basically tap on the screen and then get special promotions, or whatever, being pushed to their smartphone. Or, if they really want the one-to-one experience with that—like self-kiosk-ordering—they are giving by typing on the screens the consent to, basically, the retailers to access their information and propose based on their history of purchases, for example, some tailor-made promotions on that digital signage screen. So that is also possible, provided the audience in front of that screen is giving a consent.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. That makes sense. I think self-checkout kiosk is a great example where—and of course it makes sense to customize it for that specific interaction. I want to ask—we talked a little bit about the data science and AI and all these other things, and the role they’re playing in the digital out-of-home context. How does that work in a retail environment context? Is there something that’s different about those two contexts, or they are fairly similar?

Laetitia Lim: I think the principle and the rationale behind are similar—now, the usage and applications differ. Because imagine you are in QSRs—so in retail, in QSRs—you could really have actually the screens in your drive-through connected—having information connected to the operations inside your kitchen. And, depending on the stock you have, the preparation time you have, you could decide also to push a certain type of promotion to the type of menus—to design some promotions for some specific menus that you have overstocked for in order to help you to reduce your stock and your cost and increase your margin. To push the sales on some specific items based on information you have in the back of your kitchen, for instance.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. That makes sense. That’s a great example. And I’m wondering, too, more broadly—whether it’s digital out-of-home or retail environment—do you have some examples of specific customers that have implemented some of this leading-edge technology and how it’s helped them?

Laetitia Lim: Yeah. So, for example, when we were talking about real-time triggering of content in order to be able—in a busy environment like a shopping center to show the right content to the right audience, this is something that we’ve been running very regularly. We’ve been running these kinds of campaigns very regularly with our customer Scentre in Australia. Scentre is the number one shopping center in Australia and New Zealand—100% of their shopping centers are equipped with this technology for more than five years. And, basically, we’ve been running regular campaigns with their clients, advertisers—which also sometimes happen to be their retailers, so, tenants inside their shopping centers—to basically deliver higher ROI-triggered campaigns.

So, it has become kind of systematic with them, for instance. We’re doing that as well with URWs—Westfield Centers in the U.S. —as well, because they are 100% equipped to screen with this technology. Another example of usage is URW in the U.S.: they actually, since last July, they were the first major network in the U.S. to launch a guaranteed impression module—where, when a brand is willing to spend advertising money into Westfield, U.S., they actually—the brand is guaranteed to obtain the number of impressions that they wanted to achieve. Otherwise Westfield will compensate that by adding more airtime, and that has actually a lot of success with the brand. Because, like I said, brands during COVID, they really look for the proof of your audience and higher ROI. So being able to guarantee the ROI is something very powerful, and they’re using our data for that.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. That’s really interesting. One of our favorite little haunts—I’ve got a young daughter and I like to take her into San Francisco, and we’ll just have some daddy-daughter time just strolling around, exploring the town. So when we come back to more normal times, I’m going to have to go check out the Westfield, San Francisco and see if I can find some of these displays and see what they show us.

Laetitia Lim: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Kenton Williston: So, it’s pretty clear to me why any customers would benefit from these technologies, but I’m wondering, if I’m looking at this market as a system integrator, where there might be challenges—either in selling this technology, or even just putting it together and deploying these advanced technologies. Can you speak to that?

Laetitia Lim: Yeah. That’s a very important point. System integrators are definitely one of the key stakeholders and key partners for us in digital signage space. They definitely—with this COVID environment, retailers and users, their clients, have been definitely under pressure. So whenever there’s this question about rolling out a signage project and about budget, they’re really going to basically reconsider most seriously about: Is it wise to spend the money? So that’s definitely something on top of their mind. So that would mean for a size that they have to really demonstrate the business value of deploying a signage project. And I think that—to some extent that may be different from previous years, because a few years ago it was really logical, and it was really progress to change static, bold, bright screens.

It’s really bringing innovation to the retail space. That was the first phase, of course. But now a lot of signage projects have to be renewed. It’s getting into a second phase of cycle, and the discussion now is more about: I’ve been rolling out a signage for five years, what’s the ROI? What does it bring to my business? And the operation of people in retail who actually got the budget at that time, maybe is now challenged by their marketing or sales team about what is the ROI? To what extent are those prints helping me to increase my sales inside the store? So I think that is the new type of conversation that’s happening before COVID in the recent years, and getting accelerated with COVID.

So I think the challenge of SI is definitely to work with the software providers like us to demonstrate that if you are capable to that you can leverage on technology—real-time triggering capabilities. You can leverage on the audience data to understand better your consumers and your visitors, so that you can drive better sales by actually providing a better customer experience with more engaging content and a more effective communication on the screens to those visitors. So I think SI has to embrace as well this data—has to put forward all those data points and participate in educating retailers about what kind of usage they could make of the digital signage, of the screens, and not only just playing content on those screens.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. And to that point, I know you offer a thing called the Quividi Data Academy…

Laetitia Lim: Yes.

Kenton Williston: …and also Kickstarter kits. And again, I’ll plug here—we’re covering these both in the article that we’ve published on insight.tech. So go check that out. But could you give me the quick overview of what those are, and how they help systems integrators?

Laetitia Lim: Yeah, so that’s actually really—with the help of Intel we’ve come up with this brand-new offer to basically really help system integrators to decrease the entry barrier to run a POC, a proof of concept. And to really go hand-in-hand with them to educate the end users, so in this case the retailers, about the value of deploying screens in the store. So it’s a project which is meant to basically reduce the entry costs of running a POC. And we will assist the SI in that project by providing three or so analytics reports to actually show to the retailers what are the business values they could extract out of Quividi’s audience data.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. So in other words, it’s like a low-risk way for the end customer to try out this technology not making a financial commitment, and they can try it out and see for themselves: Yes, this really does what Quividi says it does.

Laetitia Lim: Yes. And truly to invite them to join and start together with us the data journey.

Kenton Williston: Perfect. Well, we’re getting close to the end of our time together. So I just want to make sure I gave you a chance if there’s any question I overlooked that you wish I’d asked you, that I give you a chance to share your brilliance with our audience.

Laetitia Lim: Thank you so much. I think we really at Quividi, we are bullish and positive for 2021. So I really wanted to deliver that last positive message to our auditors today. And how we translate this positive mind for 2021 within Quividi’s team is basically we are really excited to launch the structure and the academy and to start to equip the structure with Intel and, more broadly, we are actually launching a brand-new offer to discover the benefits of Quividi’s data. And that is basically the IQ Preflight, which is a series of consulting and resources for free to basically educate the audience about our data, and to help our clients and partners to become more knowledgeable about that.

And then the second offer we have is IQ Passport. This is a way to invite clients and new prospects to embark together with us into the data journey starting with the POC, which will be supported by our data scientists, and, like I said, will be eligible to our Intel-Quividi co-founded Kickstarter program. And the second nice announcement we have is we are really excited in Q1 to launch new functionalities about vehicle and body detection, which will enable Quividi to tap into all those new business opportunities that I shared today about the outdoor, curbside pickups, drive-through—all those big outdoor-signage projects as well.

Kenton Williston: Yeah. That’s amazing, very exciting. And just kind of to wrap that up and put a bow on it—there’s so much action happening in this space. And I think for system integrators what’s the key takeaway for me from this conversation is that Quividi and Intel together are there to support you—not only with educational materials and information that will help you convince your end customer of the value of these offerings, but even hardware, cameras, potentially video players that can be provided for this no-cost proof of concept. So there’s a really amazing launch pad to take 2021 in a really positive direction, and I think that’s fantastic. So, with that, Laetitia, I just wanted to thank you for joining us. I really appreciated hearing your insights.

Laetitia Lim: Thank you so much.

Kenton Williston: And thanks to our listeners for joining us. If you think you enjoyed listening, please support us by subscribing and rating us on your favorite podcast app. This has been IoT Chat Podcast. We’ll be back next time with more ideas from industry leaders at the forefront of IoT design.

About the Author

Kenton Williston is the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech and served as the editor of its predecessor publication, the Embedded Innovator magazine. Kenton received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2000 and has been writing about embedded computing and IoT ever since.

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