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Digital Signage: Quick Start Guide to Dynamic Content

Discover the solution to your marketing needs

By: Ryan Schlussler, Marketing Manager for Intermedia Touch


Executive Summary  

            What is digital signage? Let's get this out of the way early on and get everyone on the same page.  While it is likely that if you are reading this article, you have some semblance as to what digital signage is.  But, in case you wanted some clarity, or for those of you out there that are not familiar with the term, digital signage or dynamic signage, is a form of guest engagement in which video or multimedia content is displayed publicly for information delivery or advertizing purposes.  

            Typically, digital signage utilizes LED, LCD, or projection based displays and can normally be found in public spaces such as transportation systems, museums, stadiums, retail stores, corporate buildings, restaurants, and the like.  These dynamic signs can provide wayfinding, exhibitions, general information, marketing, or outdoor advertising. 

            However, in recent months, digital signage is expanding into new fields of engagement and are taking a step away from the typical large display approach.  Companies are branching into augmented and virtual reality platforms to further impact audiences with new and amazing technologies.  There are even digital signage systems that now incorporate iBeacon tech, to further enhance the guest experience beyond anything that was possible in the past.

            With a stronger understanding of digital signage, utilize this report to take a closer look into the accessibility of digital signage, from the overall cost of deployment and maintenance, to the technical and creative aspects involved in operating a digital signage system.   This discussion will cover every step along the road to a successful digital deployment,  guarantee the understanding of a seemingly complex world, and explain why digital signage is absolutely necessary for a successful future.

            On top of outlining the benefits of dynamic content, and quashing the misconceptions with owning and operating digital signage, this report will also guide the first time user with important information and tips on purchasing digital signage for the first time.  Even if your company already utilizes digital signage, the information presented in this article is an invaluable refresher of what is most important when purchasing a new digital signage system.

Main Discussion

            Technology is in a state of constant flux, evolving ever more rapidly from one year to the next.  In the vast ocean of digital signage, it may seem impossible to keep afloat with the latest tech trends, especially with how complicated the newer platforms get, let alone the financial obligations involved in upgrading to these systems.  In many cases, it is easy to get lost in this expansive field, however, there is always a solution when dealing with digital signage.   Most importantly, a company of any size is capable of utilizing cutting edge digital signage.

            Dynamic signage may be considered out of reach for smaller companies, but this idea is far from the truth.  This technology is not limited to mega corporations or the ultra wealthy.  While initial cost of implementation may dissuade some companies from investing in digital signage, the return on investment more than makes up for the conversion from static signage.  Similarly, removing paper signs and menus, cuts printing cost out of the budget, and simultaneously catches guests' attention, more effectively.   There is a real quality of life improvement inherent in these systems, far beyond a simple aesthetic upgrade.

            While there are many hurdles when making the jump to digital signage, under close inspection, these challenges are easily overcome with the right approach and a little industry knowledge. Common issues that arise when considering dynamic signage, follow along the lines of, "Content creation is for creative people, not me," or, "This equipment requires a level of tech knowledge that is beyond our means," and most often, "This technology is too expensive, especially for just an aesthetic upgrade."

            Despite the fact that these concerns are valid to a certain degree, keep in mind that a digital presence in the real world is becoming a standard for advertizing.  This adjustment is causing companies that use static or paper signage to lose credibility.  Customers are starting to view static signage as out of date, and the companies that employ those signs as out of touch with current trends and there for, unworthy of their time.

            Going hand in hand with the importance of maintaining credibility, digital signage has incredible potential in reducing perceived wait time.  A happy customer is a loyal customer, and the entertainment aspect of dynamic content is likewise a bonus to the main function it serves: advertisement.  Increasing guest happiness while at the same time pushing new products and services is the obvious choice in any marketing strategy.


            First and foremost, digital signage can be affordable.  While new technologies are typically expensive, prices often decline rapidly in conjunction with the high rate of new product innovation.   Likewise, there are digital signage solutions in a variety of sizes, suitable for almost any configuration, which can minimize the overall cost of deployment.  There practically no limit to the form and function of digital signage.

            Digital signs are not just comprised of the display hardware, but are a conglomeration of many different aspects that come together to create a unique user experience.  Aside from the hardware there is content displayed through the sign, and the content management system, or CMS, that runs behind what the audience sees and allows the company to easily modify the content on display.  On the other end of the dynamic content is the effect it has on an audience.  Digital signage content is impactful and legitimizes the company in the eyes of the public.  A small company that utilizes digital signage creates an atmosphere of high quality services and lessens the divide between itself and other major corporations that it is in competition with.

            Since there are many option available to clients considering a venture into digital signage, the advantage is in the buyers hands.  The important detail to look for is an integrator that can adapt and fit to the needs of the client.  There are many different levels of user proficiency and a flexible integrator can efficiently work with any level of client ability.  There are many kinds of digital signage platforms out there, from an almost endless selection of interactive kiosks to a wide variety of interactive displays, or from video walls to tablet based systems, there is a solution for any situation. These platforms can be deployed to serve as interactive menus,  wayfinding stations, animated commercials, interactive information centers, entertainment providers, etc.

            On the topic of cost, there are several cost aspects of digital signage to consider.  At the top of the list is of course, the hardware, which will vary greatly, depending on whether the displays used are commercial grade or end consumer.  In most situations, commercial grade displays are recommended, even if the price tag is a little higher.  This option is due to commercial grade monitors having the capability to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without interruption.  End consumer displays would suffer hardware related failures such as overheating, burnt screens, or the worst case scenario, dead screens, in a significantly shorter period than the hardier commercial equivalent.

            The second major impact on cost is software related.  Having a nice touch screen monitor in your lobby is nice, but powering it with incredible software is what makes the audience remember your establishment.  When considering software and content, the difference in cost will come down to a previously developed platform, or one designed from the ground up, custom for your project.  The latter will cost much more than a prebuilt platform.  Typically, prebuilt platforms are perfect for most companies, since you just have to drop in some content like logos and product images.  But for more complex tasks, or very specific aesthetic requirements, a custom made system is better suited. 

            Once the hardware and software decisions are established, the next portion of digital signage cost is found with installation.  First and foremost, interview the digital signage integrator and inquire into their experience in a particular instillation type.  It is very important to make sure that the integrator you are contracting has experience with installing the type of digital signage that you require for your project.  It is helpful to ask the signage company for a portfolio of similar projects they have completed, and if that is unavailable, request several references for other companies that utilize digital signage from that provider.  If none of those options are available, check if the system you are looking into has had trial runs.  The last thing you want is to have a system implemented incorrectly and suffer down the road.

            The cost of the installation relies heavily on location and lighting.  These factors tie back into the hardware choice in type of display be it commercial or end consumer.  When positioning digital signage, the biggest impact experienced is by the Sun.  Direct sunlight can diminish the quality of the image on screen, or even render is un-viewable.  This issue can be avoided with proper placement, or by utilizing consumer grade displays with a high nit count. (Nit is a unit of visible light intensity, or one candela per square meter).  Determining whether the display is outdoor or indoor will also greatly affect the price of a display, outdoor being the more costly, but necessary for withstanding the humidity and other damaging elements found outside.

            This next aspect of deploying digital signage is not always necessary when dealing with indoor signage, but may be required for installing outdoor signage.  To be on the safe side, it is always a good idea to verify whether you need permits for the installation and whether the hardware being installed has a warrantee available.  Even with maintenance, there is a chance for technology to fail, it is better to be safe then run the risk of having dead equipment and nothing to replace it.

            On the topic of maintenance, another variable to consider in acquiring digital signage is the cost of that maintenance.  This is necessary in lengthening the life of your signage, but also to ensure that the devices are working properly at all times.  Embedded within the cost for maintenance is also travel cost and logging if the company contracted to assist you is out of town.  Ideally, contracting a local company to manage maintenance offers the best bang for your buck.  Also, it is imperative to follow the instructions or advice from the maintenance official, in order to keep your equipment functioning correctly during the period of time between maintenance visits.  Typical tech treatment procedures apply, such as keeping your cables managed well and not shoving your digital signage into a messy closet is a good way to keep it functioning properly for quite some time.

              All of these different costs add up, and can lead to an expensive system, but this is tied to the size and complexity of the digital signage.   Incorporating smaller screens, pushing content with prebuilt software, and keeping signage indoors are all simple ways to cut costs and bring dynamic content to even the smallest establishment.  Even if the initial cost is pushing on the ends of a budget, the return on investment is well worth it.  Not only does digital signage take some of the stress out of running a business, it significantly reduces perceived wait time.  The happy customer is one that not only continues to return, but brings their friends along with them.


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