Mark Boidman on “COVID-19 Market Reactions and Forecasts in AV”

Watchfire Signs

Digital Signage COVID-19 Challenges

The COVID-19 crisis has proven to be difficult on digital signage and OOH media applications. Over the past few months, we’ve all been forced to make dramatic changes to the way we work and live, and we’ve needed to (or we’ve been told to) quickly learn new technologies and adaptation strategies. But most of us just want to know how long this will go on. Will we be facing a short- or long-term recession?

The first challenge we’re seeing, Boidman shares, has been to the local market economy. Small and medium-sized businesses are not currently spending on advertising and media, and it’ll probably take smaller, local markets much longer than national organizations to have the funds to spend again. A second challenge is around live events and those left-and-right cancellations and postponements you already know about. Boidman predicts that live events won’t disappear, but we do know the industry will need to evolve, with more “blurring between the physical and the digital.” This blurring could actually help AV expand in the long-term — though, for now, we are seeing hard short-term impacts in supply chains, events and more.

These challenges said, Boidman shares that he’s optimistic about the potential around OOH media. He sees plans for events to kick back off and adds, “The power will be in how those events will continue to evolve, and that’s what gets us excited.”

Digital Signage COVID-19 Solutions (So Far)

Through kiosks and more, digital signage has already provided emergency alerts, public-health updates, communications around public safety, business hours updates and more. Furthermore, we’ve seen people like Mark Cuban and others speak out about the need to get everything through drive-thru windows or via pickup and delivery. For now, we know digital signage has a role in flattening the COVID-19 curve. But a changed future, like the one Cuban speaks of, will likely mean more touchpoints, more communications and even more digital signage.

Some unique COVID-19 digital signage solutions Boidman shared that we’re already seeing (or seeing more of):

  • Digital signage hand-sanitizer dispensers
  • Temperature-checking kiosks/tablets
  • InstaScan Body Temperature Scanning (U.K.)

These solutions could soon be deployed wide-scale in hotels, government buildings, gyms, restaurants and, really, anywhere.

The takeaway: We may need a whole lot more digital signage soon — particularly because it offers the capability to change critical, time-sensitive messages in real time.

AV Industry Consolidation Pre-Virus

Yes, recent industry transactions and mergers in our industry are not to be ignored. This public health and economic crisis will drive even more mergers and acquisitions, more consolidation, more partnerships in the AV industry and beyond, Boidman says.

With that, you’ll also start to see more diversification — both with product and with geography. Being diversified in both of those areas (in product and in geography) will be a front-and-center theme.

Forecasts in AV, Digital Signage and Advertising

Looking at market performance of professional AV as compared to the general index, we’re seeing more of an impact on DS and AV than we are compared to the S&P 500, Boidman said. So, yes, AV-related industries have certainly declined in their market values. But be mindful that these forecasts are changing every day. Don’t “anchor yourself” to Boidman’s predictions below — but do use them as a starting point for where we are today, then go from there.

  • OOH networks will likely be less impacted as compared to other forms of media. OOH media still offers an advantage. Reaching a mass audience in the physical world will continue to be the benefit of out-of-home (as opposed to other media channels that are fragmented, like TV and internet). Uniquely, digital signage can measure who was there (who saw the media) and inform how we adjust. We’ve already seen increased traffic in places like healthcare facilities; this will continue to increase in grocery stores, drugs stores and more.
  • In recessions, ad spend decreases but will slowly ramp back up. We saw in the 2001-2002 and 2008-2009 recessions a drop in OOH media spend, Boidman shared. But spend came back up after each with consistent year-over-year growth. The difference with COVID is the uncertainty of how long this will last. Boidman thinks ad spend will slowly ramp back up, though we are seeing it harder hit now.

“Everything is new here; but I can tell you if we don’t deploy these types of technologies, it’s going to take a lot longer to get people comfortable going out into the physical world …. Professional AV can really help here,” Boidman said.

At the same time, as things slowly ramp back up in 2021 and beyond, the hope is the sector recovers, just like every other. But again, we are going to have to adapt. This is the opportunity for professional AV and digital signage. It’s the opportunity, as the digital and physical blur, to bring more people into the former (the digital vs. the physical). There’s a lot of growth that can come from that.

“Short-term, it’s defense. Long-term, it’s offense,” Boidman concluded.

If you need to reach people in an effective way, there is no better channel than OOH media. The more information consumers have, the better they’re going to feel. You can’t overcommunicate to consumers in this environment.

By Leah McCann


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