Digital Signage In London: Impressions From The Road:
January 25, 2023 by Dave Haynes
It’s a big trip and expensive flight to get from North America to Barcelona for ISE 2023, so I broke it up by spending a few days ahead of next week’s trade show in Barcelona with meetings and site visits in London.
I’ve had a bunch of good meetings with industry friends like Esprit Digital and Beaver Trison, as well as some interesting interviews that will turn into podcasts in February.
I’m knocking this out after a whole, whole bunch of steps today (18,317, in fact), so it will be brief-ish.
Peter Critchley of Beaver Trison said the QSR and auto retail businesses are absolutely hopping in the wake of COVID disruptions, while another Peter (Livesey) and his team at Esprit are seeing big demand for both its LCD and LED (Lumos) displays.
One of the intriguing things about visiting a world capital is seeing what’s being done in big stores and venues with digital screens. We are waaaaay past the years of being excited when a retailer or public facility puts in a screen. Screens are now everywhere.
It was actually a little weird to walk around an H&M store on Oxford Street – London’s mainstream shopping high street – and see absolutely no screens. No LEDs.No flat panels. Nothing.
It could be a budget thing, I suppose, or more likely a conscious decision to assess a store without all the big, flashing screens.
On the other hand, the visual circus was in 5th gear in the big sports retailers – with LED everywhere. I even saw mesh LED used inside, away from a window or any sort of divider – used for some sort of lower rez visual trick.
The Nike store at Oxford Circus was many levels of fine pitch LED all over. It would be sensory overload for a lot of people, but the Nike people know how to market, so …
Weirdly, perhaps because I’m jaded or just plain weird, what caught my eye was a set of small screens in JD Sports, which sells sports gear, including trainers (what we call sneakers or kicks). There were screens in portrait mode showing the status of requests to try on pairs of trainers – like queue management, but for shoes.
That was hooked into a conveyor system that sends shoes up from the stocking shelves in the basement. These screens do the boring but very helpful job of informing shoppers about the state of their request for checking out some new shoes.
There was also a big screen at the service counter showing a Team Viewer message. But … that stuff happens.
Photos don’t do the best job of capturing it, but the stores that had LED right down at floor level, with no protection, had the crap beat out of them. You don’t really see it until white content shows, and then they look quite rough, as in scratched, blotchy and with missing light emitters.
Obvious pro tip: Protect the investment either with something that creates a barrier, or raise the LEDs above kick-boards, or use the newer “glue on board” LED tech that offers a protective coating.
There’s a big Microsoft retail store also at Oxford Circus that has a lot of fine pitch LED on the main level walls, facing out to the street. I asked a sales associate, who said that while Microsoft shut down its mall and standalone stores – the ones filled with tiled flat panels – the company has kept some “experience” stores open.
It was quite impressive and the walls would have cost many, many pounds sterling.
I had a couple of excellent interviews with the C-level people from Outernet – a huge, LED-filled development at one end of Oxford Street (that’s the main photo at top) – and with Sook, which heavily relies on video walls to enable pop-up retail spaces that can be booked and used for as little as an hour.
Podcasts coming on both.
I also had a look at Flannels, a very high-end specialty apparel store – a “distressed” ball cap from some Canadian brand had 160 pounds on the price tag – that has LED displays in all the windows of the first three levels. I assumed they were mesh LED, but they were conventional LED walls that filled the window spaces, and inside, shoppers wouldn’t see windows or know the screens were there.
The store’s basement level is wall to wall LED running immersive art content, with companion audio, as part of a community art project. I had an interview set up, but some sort of emergency meant I’ll have that chat remotely, once back at World HQ.
It was interesting, and generates some foot traffic, I suppose. But I’m not sure how the dots connect to sales of premium price apparel.
I walked by the big LED in Piccadilly Circus, which has hosted some high profile anamorphic Illusions ad campaigns. There was nothing like that in the loop, but what I found interesting (maybe this is common but new to me), is that the board was running several different ads at once. It would rotate clockwise through them all, with each spot getting a larger, featured position.
Much more normally, DOOH billboards show multiple ads in a rotation, but just one on screen at a time.
More interviews and visits tomorrow, and then on to Spain … where it will be warm…er. January in London is like January in a lot of places … brrrrrr. I’ve been forced to duck into pubs to warm up, and since they had beer on tap, well …