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Digital Signage in 2021: Here’s What Awaits!

Given the challenges we’ve all faced in 2020, we don’t need to wait until its end to call it one of the tougher years. As everything gradually returns to normal, or at the very least appears to be so, we look forward to the future and what 2021 will bring.

Should the current pandemic situation remain on a manageable path and we don’t experience any sharp turns along the way to recovery, here’s what digital signage in 2021 will bring us.

A relative recovery of OOH

A few months back, as living amid a pandemic became the new normal, we saw plenty of sources predict how 2021 will be the year of the miraculous recovery of OOH. Of course, we must take such predictions with a grain of salt. We don’t know what lurks around the corner. 

As we approach that corner, however, we now see the situation a bit more realistically. For reference, take a quick look at the UK. The latest Advertising Association/WARC expenditure Report showed that the UK ad spend will indeed continue recovering in 2021, but at a slower rate than predicted “with any gains made in 2021 unlikely to offset this year’s losses.” Full recovery of the UK ad market is expected by 2022 at the earliest.

Programmatic on the rise

Speaking of the recovery of digital signage in 2021, programmatic OOH is likely going to be a catalyst for it. The pandemic has provoked many changes. Among them is the shift to ecommerce which many brands opted for as the pandemic began. Programmatic OOH is the next logical step for clients of OOH as it can ensure marketers get the most out of their ad budgets while being able to deploy their campaigns quickly.

Not to forget, programmatic digital signage has been on the rise in the recent years. Its growth has shown it as a promising component of OOH. It’s bound to become the norm at some point in the future. 2021, expected to be the year of recovery from the pandemic, is the ideal time for it to prove its worth. In fact, the question is not whether or not it will grow in 2021, but rather how much.

Will audio in OOH be the next big thing?

There are plenty of benefits of audio in digital signage. Although do keep in mind that it can be a tricky tool. It should be used with several aspects in mind. With the benefits of audio in mind, there is no question that it will always exist as a feature. Someone somewhere will make good use of it. But is it going to become a must-have feature in the future?

For that, we need to see just how much ad spending goes into it. According to the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) review, US audio and ad spend saw a rise of 30% in the first half of 2019. Additionally, Vibenomics, a location-based Audio OOH ad company, this year raised $6 million in Series A funding, bringing the company’s total funding to $13.5 million. The funds will enhance the Vibenomics Audio OOH Advertising Marketplace. These numbers show there is a growing interest in audio for OOH, albeit not a groundbreaking amount.

A colorful visual preview of audio

Another factor to consider is the rise of touchless interaction. As it is today, much of digital signage in 2021 will be interactive via voice commands. In this connection, perhaps the concept of audio will become ingrained as a new normal in outdoor tech. Personally, I doubt that it will become an insanely popular feature anytime soon. One visual display can exist next to other displays without being a distraction. We can’t say the same thing for audio. That’s an obstacle that might prevent it from becoming a dominant asset. 

Of course, we can hope to see ways in which this is overcome if audio is to grow further. For instance, there may be a way for audio to be conveyed via the individual’s headphones during interaction. 

The return of trade shows!

Although 2020 was a killer year for virtual events, it was a literal killer for physical events such as trade shows and conventions, DSE being the prime example. While some tried to make it work by postponing to later in the year, most public events opted to call it quits in 2020 and wait patiently for 2021 to make their comeback.

If the pandemic doesn’t spiral out of control and safety measures don’t rise significantly, it is highly likely that 2021 will have plenty of events that didn’t have the opportunity to take place in 2020. Of course, there are also those events which haven’t confirmed if and when they’ll be returning, such as RetailEXPO

Empty seats at an amphitheater

Still, we’re keeping a close eye on events from ISE 2021 to InfoComm, expected to take place in June 2021. Nevertheless, how will the public respond to these events at that time? Some events, like InfoComm China took place this year in September. But do keep in mind that the vast majority of attendees, if not all of them, were from China only. 

It remains to be seen if 2021 trade shows will host only a limited and local audience. Or, should we reach a point where international travel is permissible, we’ll see if the trade show audience is prepared to travel the miles, both in budget as well as in convenience and trust in safety measures.

JCDecaux expects to reach carbon neutrality by 2021

A big win for the environment, the largest OOH advertising company in the world expects to achieve carbon-neutral status by 2021 for all its activities in France. The company is also working on reducing greenhouse gas emissions internationally. But France is, after all, where their largest market is. 

A small tree in a shattered orb of glass

Outdoor advertising is an industry that has relatively low greenhouse gas emissions. Still, there is always room for improvement. JCDecaux has achieved much in order to lower these levels further. One example is rainwater collection for the purpose of washing street furniture without detergent, a technique which dates back several decades.

New opportunities for digital signage

COVID-19 shook up 2020 and threw several challenges to the Out-of-Home world. It has also presented new opportunities for digital signage. Now, more than ever, businesses need such a tool to provide detailed information to consumers. PSAs, for instance, are a new content category which seems to emerge everywhere.

Digital signage software providers in 2021 will be thrown in the spotlight. Digital signage users will need tools which help them organize the content adequately to make sure the right content reaches the right place. Furthermore, businesses which have relied on simple digital signage will now find just how much they can benefit from digital signage software.


Aks Kojic
Aks has been a writer in the digital signage world for over 5 years, bringing you the best of cases and news this industry has to show. Thoughts or suggestions on topics you'd like to see? Drop him an email at aks@onsign.tv.
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