Things to consider before buying digital signage
As a business owner trying to grow, you need to increase sales with existing customers while attracting new ones and this may require stronger marketing. Likewise, a school or hospital administrator; anyone responsible for success or failure must communicate with the public in an information age dominated by social media and the internet. You may have a blog and be on Twitter but do your bricks & mortar reflect a present day environment?
My name is Tom Gullo; I am the owner of tjg Technical Signs. We have been bringing high-tech products to market since 1992 and digital signage exclusively since 2006. This new medium will allow your in-house marketing to keep pace with your business needs. Besides experience, what makes us unique is we have everything you need in indoor/outdoor dynamic signage and displays to enhance the decor of your building.
Digital signage is growing very fast, creating marketing buzz but also confusion. There are hundreds of companies on the internet selling many products to accomplish the same task. In our experience, potential users have to go through detailed research to learn what will work for them and if it is affordable. After helping hundreds of customers, we find there are five subjects you need to understand before you can intelligently consider digital signage.
- Commitment to sign content. Far and away the most important element of digital is the media you display. The message on the screens is what customers see and help them form an opinion of you. Change and motion are what separates this medium from printed signage. A well thought out plan for how you will use the signage, what standard materials you can display, what you need to create yourself and how often it needs to be changed is your first decision.
- Will you need a media consultant? Once you understand the image you want to project you may not have the skills internally to turn that vision into media. As with web designers, help is available but you should understand what assistance you need and the cost.
- Venue design. Your customers see the media but also the hardware you display it on. The cost of electronics has dropped into the very affordable range but you don’t want the displays to cheapen your decor. We advise customers to choose displays that enhance the look of your room and we have a wider selection than most for both indoor and outdoor applications. Zoning or landlord restrictions as well as the hardware technology and potential for obsolescence must be part of your design plan.
- Who within your organization will manage the signage? This will greatly influence your choice of systems, as will the footprint of your Enterprise. You may have one to any number of locations so the digital signage management must reflect the size of your company.
- The reputation and experience of the provider is important. Digital signage is a system where parts may all come from one manufacturer but in most cases will not. You will need to understand the reputation of the manufacturers but also the integrator who assembles the system for you.
You should also understand the reasons others use digital signage. There could be features you will want to incorporate into your program were you aware of them. This webpage will first provide the reasons people buy and an expansion of the five subjects. Read as much as you need and when you are ready for the next step or for more information we are here to help and advise you.
- Customers use digital signs to:
- Increase Sales
- Promote impulse items
- Attract customers inside with dynamic outdoor signage
- Influence point of purchase decisions
- Display more than one message in high traffic areas
- Change featured items by time, date, season
- Display Variable Information
- Airline, bus and other schedule information
- Stock quotes
- Real estate listings
- Factory control charts
- Job assignments
- Promote Your Brand
- Stream HTML and other live data onto screens also displaying your logo
- Personalize generic sales materials
- Earn Money
- Display comp advertising at your venue
- Improve Customer Service
- Provide in-venue navigation and product locators
- Educate customers on new product features
- Reduce perceived wait time with interesting information
- Personalize marketing and community events
- Improve Operations
- Reduce the printing and distribution of posters
- Train store/venue personnel during off hours
- Implement central signage control
- Building Modernization
- Increase Sales
- Five Important Decisions When Considering Digital Signage:
- Commitment To Sign Content
- Relevant, contextual, timely content is the most important element of digital signage
- Change and motion differentiate dynamic digital signage from static signage
- Streaming video or HTML can be part of the content if desired as well as video from memory
- Live feeds, news, sports, stock quotes and other HTML is available
- Do you need a media partner with special skills
- Marketing or creative support
- Video and animation
- Special skills like food photography
- Venue Design
- Your customers will see the sign content and the display
- The display can enhance or degrade the venue
- Studies have shown eye level displays have greatest impact
- Digital posters in portrait orientation look better because they don’t look like “TV” and printed posters have traditionally been portrait
- Placement and accessibility of screens will impact network design
- How many locations and how many displays
- How many different programs are displayed at the same venue
- Interactive signage is more complex but can assist store/venue associates
- Zoning or landlord restrictions
- Potential for technology obsolescence and future expansion
- Should emergency notification be part of the system
- Will we do a pilot location first
- System Management
- Who will manage it
- Central or local control
- How often will sign content be changed
- Will more than one group of users input sign content
- System Provider
- Reputation and experience with digital signage
- Do I need to buy things I don’t need or can I buy à la carte
- Wide selection of products that work well together
- Commitment To Sign Content
The Reasons Customers Use Digital Signage
Increase Sales: Digital signage can update your message anytime making it ideal to promote impulse buying. Screens come in all sizes allowing for the creation of local displays throughout the store. Motion and change attract customers to your message.
“At a fast food restaurant we studied, a moving digital menu board panel was read by 48 percent of customers, compared to 17 percent for the same menu board – a non-moving version – tested earlier.”
Founder/CEO of Envirosell, Inc.
Author of “Why We Buy”
Motion is not difficult to achieve. A screen flipping through still images creates motion. Another strength of digital signage is to display more than one image in high traffic areas. This is why digital billboards on busy highways are becoming more widespread. Signage fades into the landscape over time but moving, changeable signage will always be fresh.
Studies show that 75% of all buying decisions are made in stores and in-store marketing can influence the choice of goods sold. Digital signage can automatically display different items throughout the day, the week or on your schedule. You can promote slow selling merchandise and quickly change to something else when inventory is gone.
Dynamic outdoor signage can invite customers inside. LED message centers are popular because they are an inexpensive way to display promotional items to passersby’s outside. Animated window signs and outdoor menus can tempt customers to come inside better than static signs.
Display Variable Information: Can you imagine an airport without digital signage? Flight schedules are an obvious use but airports are high traffic venues and advertising signs are converting to digital rapidly. Factories use digital for variable data like control charts in work cells and also for communications. Just as car rentals use digital signs to direct customers to cars, variable data of all sorts can be displayed. Have you seen a Las Vegas sports book lately?
Promote Your Brand: You can personalize generic marketing materials with your name. A multi zoned digital screen can play a generic car loan video on part of the screen with the name and logo of your credit union alongside. Libraries of informational videos for many types of businesses are available as well as interesting video clips you can insert into your signage. Advertising is changing, motion and video are becoming very common and are not out of reach for your business. There are several suppliers of small animations you can buy inexpensively and use in your digital posters like clip art.
Earn Money: We have customers whose business model is selling advertising on digital signs. Success depends largely on how big of signage network you have and how good you are at selling advertising. It works well for JCDecaux but Budweiser may not get excited about advertising on the two screens in your store unless of course you receive comp advertising money from Budweiser in which case you can propose using your outdoor/indoor digital signage for the ad instead of the community newspaper whose circulation is falling anyway. This works well on a local level. Budweiser may not want to advertise in your store but the dry cleaners on the next block might.
Improve Customer Service: Customer service can be improved in many ways with digital signs without spending a lot of money. Digital signs can educate customers and help them with their buying decision. You can include local events and organizations in your programming as a community service that also educates customers. Wal-Mart and many big chains have installed screens at every checkout counter to distract the customer from thinking about how long the line is. Reducing the perceived wait time with interesting information is a good use of digital signage. Wal-Mart TV is a private broadcasting channel most people are familiar with. Any business can create a private channel with networked digital signage at a very reasonable cost. Entertaining customers with TV is common practice in many venues but you have no control over the programming. Digital signage can entertain your customers with your message.
Improve Operations: Reducing the printing and distribution cost of posters is an obvious benefit. If your enterprise has locations across a wide geographic area a centrally controlled signage network once installed will eliminate the cost of poster printing, reprinting for typos and distribution. Central control of signage is a great benefit to businesses like retail and QSRs that have a lot of entry level employees and high turnover. It is one less thing for the store manager to worry about. It is also a way to train all those new employees. Your signage network can do double duty as a system to distribute training videos and employee educational material during off hours.
Building Modernization: Digital building directories are cost competitive with traditional and offer many benefits. A touch screen can enhance your lobby as it assists visitors. Some buildings show changing artwork when no customer is using the screen. Remodeling or an opening a new location is a good time to learn about digital signage. Restaurants are big users of digital menus and some buy them because they are modern and identify with the future.
Five Important Decisions When Considering Digital Signage
Commitment to Sign Content: Digital signage is an active element in your marketing. Not like an ad in the yellow pages that never changes. One benchmark many people use in planning the frequency of new signage content is how often your customers visit. The same message with a different layout can look fresh. Most customers create sign content themselves; some have animations created by professionals that they display on the screen mixed in with PowerPoint or similar in-house media they created themselves.
Relevant, contextual, timely content is the most important element of digital signage, so your first consideration should be a plan of what you will display, how often it will change and who will manage it. Digital signage is a marketing tool. It is easy enough to set up that most small businessmen do it themselves. Once installed it is easy enough to use that marketing can manage it and it is a natural tool for them. Motion and change differentiate digital signage from printed signage. LCD screens have dropped into the price range of light boxes but if you use them as light boxes, without motion and change, you are missing important potential benefits. HTML feeds are available that can add news headlines, sports scores, financial information, entertainment news and other active data that update automatically and keep your signage interesting. HTML feeds also let you import data from your website. Media for your website and for digital signage is similar so if you have good people creating media for your website they can help you with your digital signage.
When you are considering your commitment to sign content, there is a technology element. Signage that displays standard picture formats have the greatest share of the market and one reason is the user can choose any software he is comfortable with to create his content. Sign shops can use the software they use to print banners to make digital content. PowerPoint, Word, Photoshop, Paint, Windows Movie Maker; Any software that can save the output in a standard picture/video format can be used to create sign content for the popular media players.
Do You Need Professional Media: Once you have defined your signage program, you will know if you have the ability to create the content you want. Perhaps you need someone to create an animation of your logo but then you can use it over and over. Some companies want a professional video for their business that they can display for their customers and there are many companies ranging from freelance animators to video production companies with a large range of services to fit your budget. We can help you find the right media partner if you need one.
Venue Design: Your customers see the sign content and the display. This Liz Claiborne application in a department store dressed the screen in a picture frame. Digital signage should enhance the look of your room, not cheapen it. This example has two important attributes.
First is the portrait orientation of the screen. Better because it does not look like TV. You must use a commercial display for portrait orientation but if this example was landscape it would not look as good even with the picture frame. Second, the screen is at eye level. Studies have repeatedly shown that customers are more readily engaged at eye level.
Tesco, the big UK grocer, shut down Tesco TV; one of the largest ad supported signage networks ever installed because after five years it failed to make money. One reason cited was screens suspended from the ceiling in big box stores don’t get noticed because people are not looking up while they shop. Placement of screens and the look of the display are important not only for the decor of your venue but also because they will influence the effectiveness of your program.
The potential for obsolescence must be considered. Media players have become the product of choice in digital signage because unlike your computer they don’t need to download software updates all the time. A device that displays pictures will never be upgradeable to an interactive kiosk but it will always be able to display pictures which is the function of signage. But manufacturers do find bugs and develop new features so one of the things you should look for is the ability of the system to update firmware remotely. DMP media players for example can have new features added and bugs fixed without any action on your part. As the manufacturer adds new features they appear on your user interface if they are web based so there are no updates for you to install on your computers. Web based software lets you use PC, MAC, Linux, I-Pad or your smart phone to access the software: any device with a browser.
LCD displays will last for 50,000 hours before the brightness fades to 50% of its brightness when new. This is a common useful life measurement which works out to more than ten years operating 12 hours/day. Working life of LED is double LCD. LED displays have a 100,000 hour life. Heat degrades electronics which is why low power media players that don’t get warm can last as long as the displays.
Our final thought on venue design is if an emergency notification system should be part of your plan. An emergency can be anything from a kitchen fire in the cafeteria to a fire sale in women’s sweaters. There can be many reasons you want this feature. An emergency override allows you to temporarily change the scheduled program on all or some of your screens to a new program that will stay in place until you take it off in which case the screens go back to normal programming. Digital signs can interface with other emergency systems like Alertus unified facility notification on a school campus so equipped. If the Alertus system is triggered to sound the sirens, all the digital signage menus, class schedule displays and campus directories can temporarily become part of the Alertus message.
Many people do a pilot location to test the concept before a larger deployment. Pilots are good for working out the technology, seeing how the physical layout looks, determine if changes are necessary and learning how to use the signage. If however you accept the argument that content is the most important attribute of digital signage your pilot must have your best vision of media on the screens to make the good impression you are expecting on your customers.
System Management: Each organization has to determine who will manage the signage and depending on the scale of the enterprise that could mean more than one person. One common practice is central control providing the primary message with some local input.
For example if you have stores in multiple cities or states you may want central control of the marketing message but allow each manager to input specials or store hours; Anything unique to his location. DMP multi zoned systems are ideal for this example. The designer can allocate one section on the screen for local input and each manager can have password access to that section of his display.
System Provider: The reputation and experience of the system provider is important and everyone claims they are great so ask for references. Ultimately you are looking for the best value for your business and you can’t receive good value if your investment does not produce the results you expect. The sign content has to make a strong impression on your customers and motivate the behavior you want. The decor of your venue must reflect the image you want to project and the digital signage will attract attention so your choice of displays should enhance the look of your venue, not cheapen it. Work with someone who offers you a choice but also works à la carte so you don’t buy things you don’t need. Like anything else, digital signage will not be worth the money you saved buying the wrong system if it does not achieve your results.