By Guillaume Proux, Vice President, Asia, Scala
As the person responsible for Scala operations in the Far-East, but with a European cultural background, I always find it interesting to see and compare the state of the digital signage market here and in the West.
Indeed, Scala, as one of the few multinational, multicultural, multimarket digital signage companies in business in Asia, has the privilege to serve local markets like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, etc. with local staff and support and with our complete software line localized in the corresponding languages.
With the hindsight of larger companies such as Microsoft that originally struggled because of cultural differences, we have tried modestly to approach the market by first learning about the local culture, the local typographic conventions, and some amount of each of the language before launching our products on those markets. Localizing the software is not the only issue of course. One must also understand the local business climate and business customs, especially in both the advertisement industry as well as the sign and print industry, important reference markets for any digital signage industry player.
Thinking globally, acting locally, we are able to have a 360 degree view and to leverage our global knowledge in each market. But it also helps us to have a better overview on the local state of the digital signage market in each of these territories. Japan being the second economy in the world, I thought it would be interesting to share our views on this market.
When I unveil the fact that I live in Japan, influenced by the images of the movie Bladerunner or the romantic scenes of "Lost In Translation" shot in one of Tokyo’s busiest areas, most people seem to believe that Japan must be some kind of Eldorado for digital signage.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
For those who have been around long enough in this industry you’ll remember the identity struggle of the industry in the US and in Europe. There were hundreds of proposed names ("narrowcast", "dooh", "dynamic signage", "digital signage", etc.). Japan has just started its search for an identity for this industry… It is like 5 years ago, all over again!
That is why Andrea’s earlier post rings so true to me. Today, one of our main tasks is still explaining to people what digital signage is, explaining the basic benefits, the cost savings opportunities compared to poster networks, the potential productivity gains in corporate communications networks, the advantage compared with a network of DVD or MPEG players (can we talk of networks in that case?) …
Another interesting aspect of digital signage on this side of the ocean is the fact that Asian cities are crowded… Which is both a curse and a blessing for digital signage network operators.
On the one hand, advertising based Digital Signage networks can easily rely on a few screens strategically located like this screen controlled by Scala in the heart of the Tokyo’s "Electronic Mecca" Akihabara
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On the other hand, space being a problem, it is fairly difficult to hang large screens inside shops, restaurant or offices. Additionally, large screens also become a real danger in case of major earthquakes. Therefore, the typical European or US deployment is not easy to apply here. People are more likely to go with smaller screens, mostly placed in portrait mode, easy to fit between two store shelves. With space at a premium, PC based solution must also adapt and be able to fit into smaller enclosures, or even better, from the trend we are seeing here, directly integrated into the screens.
Market trends and market maturity in Japan are just at a whole different level than in US or Europe, the trend is definitely upwards in Japan even if the time-to-decision is still very long… However, as somebody who has seen the typical acceptance of new technologies here, such as mobile phones or electronic payment systems, I am confident of an explosion in the Digital Signage Market in the not
too distant future!