Samsung’s professional displays division addresses more than 80% of the total display market by focusing on nine different verticals – corporate, retail, transportation, education, quick service restaurants (QSR), digital out of home (e.g. sports arenas, entertainment venues and museums), manufacturing, hotels and healthcare – meeting customer needs with its standard product range and some sector-specific solutions, in medical for example.
Overall, its product range extends from semi-professional products for the SOHO and SMB sectors all the way through to high-end, professional displays designed to run 24/7 at high brightness, with display sizes stretching from 19in desktop monitors up to 98-inch professional displays, plus a range of software solutions built around Samsung’s Tizen platform.
“In every vertical there are overlaps rather than gaps, so we can meet all customer requirements that I’m aware of right now,” claims Andy Haywood, Head of Global Sales Europe at Samsung European Displays Organisation.
This is quite some feat considering the variety of applications and multiple sub- categories you might find in each vertical, such as campus wayfinding, boardroom displays and collaboration solutions in the corporate sector and wayfinding, out of home and retail advertising, command and control rooms and passenger information displays in airports.
“Every sector has its own vertical needs, but the products themselves are designed to be flexible,” explains Haywood. “A 24/7 passenger information display in an airport would need to be a certain brightness because the ambient lighting is controlled. Move into the corporate sector, and the same displays in a meeting room won’t be run at the same brightness; they’ll be turned down from say 700 nits to 500 nits to prolong the life of the display and to improve return on investment. Everybody approaches things in a slightly different way.”
In order to meet diverse customer requirements, Haywood says Samsung relies on channel partners that have in- depth knowledge of their customers, as well as expertise in display technologies.
“The channel is immensely important. We only go to market through our channel, through distribution and through resellers and integrators. Partners range from small specialist integrators that provide a very personalised service and don’t just work with SMBs but also with major corporates and multinationals, through to multinational resellers that are able to provide consistency of product delivery to large enterprises around the world. There is a need for all sorts of resellers with different skill sets and capabilities.”
Haywood adds that the relationship between resellers/integrators and end user customers is starting to change with the growth of managed services and the emergence of new ways of buying technology.
“That is evolving quite significantly now. Some of the system integrators, particularly the larger ones, have their own leasing companies behind them, while others will come to us or a third party. In the UK, there’s a Samsung business unit called Samsung Finance that is there to help customers and reseller partners to deploy displays as a service. Subject to certain criteria, we can do almost any project.
“It’s not just a case of financial support. It also involves putting in place a refresh programme, allowing for enhancements to technology and considering other aspects. Sometimes that’s just a case of looking at how we introduce MagicINFO, which is our CMS platform for data management, but we try to be as flexible as possible because if COVID has taught us one thing it is that you can never take anything for granted. We don’t know what’s coming next. We think we’ve returned to stability and suddenly an international conflict occurs which changes things again. So we have to be adaptable.”
To find out more about the challenges and the opportunities facing Samsung’s display business and its reseller partners, Technology Reseller asked Andy Haywood about key market trends over the last 12 to 24 months.
Technology Reseller (TR): What are some of the key growth areas at the moment?
Andy Haywood (AH): Some of the most interesting trends to have emerged since COVID are things like virtual studios and virtual production, so reducing the need to have multiple people in one location to produce something, whether that’s one of the recent Star Wars movies, if you’re doing big screen, or product advertising. Visual production facilities have enhanced and improved so much that there’s no longer the need to rent enormously expensive studios. That’s been a really interesting development.
Another area of growth is command and control, as everybody becomes more aware of the capabilities of command and control and it’s no longer seen as just a security piece. LED in those environments is increasing significantly, large format displays and then either professional desktop displays or smaller LFD for the personal workspace within a command or control environment. Also, Command and Control in airports no longer needs to be at the top of a control tower. It can be at the bottom of the tower or as we see more and more now in a centralised location. I was speaking to a colleague at an event in Frankfurt last week who specialises in financial security, and he’s built a dedicated control room for some of his banking customers that is nowhere near the City of London.
A third area of growth is corporate (see further below).
TR: When you say command control is no longer just a security thing, what do you mean?
AH: Many people used to see command and control as a security piece – special forces, police rooms etc.. But now command and control also has a role to play in manufacturing, controlling factory equipment for example, or looking at ingress and egress in buildings. In a shopping centre, it’s not just a case of tracking cameras and making sure that people are behaving properly; it’s also about monitoring the flow of people and if it looks like traffic is building up in one area, redirecting people to reduce the pressure.
TR: As applications become more sophisticated is software making up a bigger proportion of your sales?
AH: The software packages we sell are Samsung bespoke solutions, especially things like our MagicINFO content management solution, which enables the design, enhancement and publishing of content. We work with various organisations, from multinational QSRs down to small offices, to allow them easily to publish and manage content.
Behind MagicINFO, we also have MagicINFO remote management solutions, which allow either IT departments or third parties to manage an entire network of displays. So, if you look at it from an advertising perspective, we can do things like proof of play on a display. If you are an advertiser paying for primetime slots, we can allow you to see exactly what’s been displayed and when it’s been displayed.
We can also work with IT departments in small to medium-sized corporate environments to manage every single display on their network. We’ve all gone to sit down in a meeting and found that the last person in there has unplugged the network cable or taken the power out or neglected to report a fault on the display. Our remote management solutions allow you to manage everything around those displays, so you can proactively get into that meeting room before the next people arrive and rectify the core issue.
One of my customers in the retail world has in the region of 200 displays per store and most retail stores don’t have any IT trained staff. They’re all retail experts and product experts. If we can help maintain the uptime of those displays, it gives a better shopping experience for their customers.
That can either be done by the reseller or by the customer. We sell the products through our reseller network to the end user, but we’re also seeing more and more reseller partners integrate this remote management solution into their own network operating centres as part of their value-add to their customers.
TR:Are you expanding your software offering? Or does Samsung mainly rely on integrations with third party vendors?
AH: We’re always looking to see what might come next, but we’re also conscious of the fact that sometimes a partnership is the best way forward. Whilst we’ve developed our own CMS and our own remote management system, we’re also enhancing things through our SSSP programme – the Samsung Smart Signage Platform programme – which allows our partners to develop their applications and offer them out to our display network. SSSP is making it a lot easier for our partners to put their products out there and for our end customers to choose which applications best suit their requirements.
TR: Putting software to one side for now, what are the big development in display technologies?
AH: Perhaps the biggest growth area in LED is in narrow pixel pitch, particularly the sub 2mm area. Last year, the split between LED and large format displays of over 90 inches, whether that’s standalone displays or video walls, was roughly 50:50. If you look at the market projections going through to 2025, there’s going to be more of a 70:30 split in favour of LED.
That’s being driven by several factors. LED technology is becoming cheaper to build and cheaper to take to market and it’s become far easier to install because of things like our All In One solutions, so that total cost of ownership is coming down. And it’s far easier to repair than it used to be – you no longer need to package goods up and send them back to the factory; we’ve got fantastic repair facilities in multiple locations, so turnaround times have come down as well. These factors all point to LED being the more economical solution in the longer term.
Of course, that doesn’t for one second mean that we’re moving away from large format displays because there’ll always be market demand for LFD as well.
TR: What are the advantages of LFD?
AH: At the moment, with LED, we’ve come down from 2mm pixel pitchto 1.5 to 1.2 to 0.9 and we’re now seeing products coming to market at .67mm, which is about the same size as the pixels in a large format display from a couple of years ago. What that means is you can pick a large format display of 90 inches or a good quality LED display of about 110 inches. We’re now bringing the technology down further so we can do a 55-inch compatible LED module, which is the same size as a video wall panel, so you can see where that piece is going.
If we look at consumer TVs, we have really good 4K TVs at home; 4K is also prevalent across most meeting rooms, but that is now turning to 8K. We’ve had 8K displays in the market for a while and certain sectors are really picking up on them, particularly retail sectors. As 8K becomes more prevalent, it will go into meeting room spaces.
Not all meeting rooms want a large display. Some are quite happy with a 55-inch or even smaller display and LED doesn’t meet that requirement yet – I think it’ll be a few years before it does and even then the cost differential might be a little too much. Some customers will still take LED because they want that ‘wow’ factor for clients; others will be more than happy with a high quality 8K display.
TR: The provision of diverse meeting spaces is a growing trend in the corporate world being driven by hybrid working, which brings us back to COVID. That was a massive shock to the displays sector because no one could get into anyone’s premises. Since then there have been other shocks, like chip shortages and war. How has Samsung coped with these challenges?
AH: We did a pretty good job of managing everything throughout that period. As you say, COVID was a very difficult time from a business perspective, but throughout 2019 we still saw quite significant growth. A lot of that was down to our monitor division, which falls under professional displays. People were no longer able to go into the office and found that working off their laptop display was unacceptable, so we saw a significant uplift in sales of professional monitors during that period.
As we transitioned out of COVID and offices started to open up, there was that pent-up demand from corporate refresh phases and new builds that needed to be finished quickly, which helped almost to kickstart the market.
The chip shortage was a frustration for everybody in the industry. But one of the things we did as a business was to evaluate how our displays were being used and which ports or inputs on displays were being used the least. We then took the chips from those ports to ensure that we could maintain product deliveries. Although we were impacted, we were impacted far less than we might have been and that was born out of our ability to adapt very quickly to changing market conditions.
TR: Were you affected by logistics problems as well?
AH: There were a couple of challenges, but they were the same ones that everyone else in the industry faced. COVID meant that many ships and containers were in the wrong place at the wrong time and then there was the unfortunate situation when the Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal, which backed everything up.
That was a frustrating time, but one thing we did take from it was the realisation that we needed to invest further in our production capabilities within Europe to give us more control over road delivery. I’m pleased to say that earlier this year we opened a new facility in Hungary, which is now ramping up almost to full scale for our large format displays and our LED displays.
That obviously has many benefits, in terms of logistics and the supply chain and sustainability. I can now sit down with customers and show them every mile that a product will take. While there are some things we can’t control, there are others that we can, and the total product mileage before a product reaches the customer is becoming more and more important.
TR: There is a big push towards circular IT. Is that an option for displays, too, or do they tend not to get refurbished and reused?
AH: It’s something we’re looking at and we’ve got a couple of partners at the moment to help us see where we can take this but displays tend to be run for several years and some customers will sweat their assets for far longer. You can take the displays out, you can look at refurbishing certain elements and then putting them back into particular markets, but it has to be done with caution because if it doesn’t work, there’s a risk to brand reputation. It’s something we’re evaluating at the moment, but it is still at the fledgling stage.
TR: What for you are the main strengths of the Samsung brand in terms of displays?
AH: I always focus on three key areas initially and move out from there. I would say Samsung as a brand is extremely agile – I have spoken about our decision to take out a chip from display manufacturing to ensure consistency of product delivery. Customer focus is a huge strength. Customers telling us what they want and why they want it, that voice of the customer, has led to things like our Kiosk products, our Flip interactive displays, the way we do touch interactivity, and entry into new markets.
For example, we entered the kiosk market two or three years ago to enhance the experience of people going into spaces during the COVID period and to provide queue management and wayfinding so people felt safe moving into offices after lockdown. We have also strengthened our presence in the security sector with our command and control solutions and at ISE showed for the first time LED touch overlays that we worked on in partnership with another company partially for command and control purposes and partially for automotive design.
The third of Samsung’s strengths, for me, is innovation represented by smart products like our Smart Monitors. During COVID, a lot of younger people and particularly younger families didn’t have space for a dedicated office and had to work at the kitchen table, at a kitchen work surface, basically wherever they could set themselves up. So, we came to market with a Smart Monitor that doubles as a business monitor during the day and as an entertainment hub at other times.
TR: How have the changes you’ve mentioned impacted Samsung’s
AH: Our market share has remained very, very strong and pretty stable. Depending on whose numbers you look at and how you segment things, it generally ranges within just a couple of percentage points. On a pan-European quarterly basis we have around 53% to 57% market share in the corporate space in large format displays and our LED market share in the narrow pixel pitch sector has just gone up to 34%.
TR: Is the market itself growing?
AH: There is significant growth across the market, all the way across Europe, partially through pent-up demand from projects that have been postponed but also because more and more organisations now are recognising the benefits of moving to digital whether for sustainability or cost control reasons.
So the market is growing. And one of the really interesting aspects to look at is how that total addressable market is expanding and where there is untapped demand or untapped opportunity. This takes us back to that earlier point about the importance of having a trusted relationship with the reseller network, because if you’ve got a good reseller network, they can go out there and start to open up these sectors.
TR: At one point displays were just peripherals, but they’re now becoming much more integral to the whole solution, much more of an enabler than they were perceived to be in the past.
AH: Definitely. If you go back a few years, a display was a rectangular object on a wall or the corner of a desk. It was nothing more than a mechanism for presenting information. Then, as we started to add things like system-on-chip for compute power, building that smart signage platform infrastructure and then starting to overlay touch, the display started to go from something that couldn’t do a great deal to something that is almost all-encompassing.
The next piece for me is no longer just the display. It’s the connected meeting room. Look at the way Samsung devices in a domestic environment can all hang together – you’ve got smart fridges and smart washing machines and smart tumble dryers and smart kettles all connected through a Samsung infrastructure – and how we can move that into the corporate space to enhance smart meeting room capability and smart buildings. It’s no longer just about selling a product; it’s about being smarter and being more sustainable.