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The Road to Digital Signage Relevance

​Ryan N. Fugler is a former editor of WRAPS magazine. 

Everyone strives for success. But sometimes it can be a long road, traveling from point A to point B. Often there are wrong turns, dead ends and shortcuts-gone-wrong. However, when everything comes together, the outcome is rewarding. Such is true in the electronic digital signage market—there are many critical decisions that factor into developing a truly effective signage system.

In today’s market it’s fair to say that almost every business is a potential target for digital signage. That in mind, it’s important for sign shops to realize how to approach their customers about installing and operating an electronic digital signage system.

“Truthfully, most if not all markets are targets,” says Jay Saret, business development manager, Almo Professional A/V. “With the drop in technology pricing, verticals like retail, healthcare, finance, food service, education and corporate are all moving to this solution.”

Saret believes that sign shops bring value and credibility to this side of the market “by serving as a consultant and partner for their client’s marketing efforts.” And as a result, ensuring success for everyone involved.

In this market the customer pool is wide and deep, and it’s a great time to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Sign shops can work with clients in just about any vertical type to identify specific faces that would be more efficient as displays,” says Michelle Huang, content marketer, Broadsign International, “such as at a store front for promotions or digital menu boards so specials can be adjusted for time of day and day of week.”

Partnering Up

For sign shops that have entered into the digital market—or even considered doing so—they likely know that the competition is fierce but the opportunities are plentiful. That in mind, it makes a lot of sense for sign shops to partner with companies that specialize in various aspects of digital signage.

“There are tons of partners out there that come in all shapes and sizes,” says Ryan Cahoy, managing director at Rise Vision. “The right partner is one that provides expertise in an area that is missing. If the sign shop has a lot of really good install guys they don't need an install partner but they may need a content design partner or vice versa. If they have strong graphic design skills they might have content covered but need help figuring out the hardware.”

For sign shops focused on electric and LED signage, hardware is the major concern. Other shops may have nothing to do with the hardware and installation, but are experts in marketing and messaging. Both of these pieces need to come together to create a successful digital sign deployment.

“Sign shops should partner with companies that specialize in each category of the digital signage ecosystem,” says Huang. “Resellers and integrators are a great way to source displays and media players from experts who can also provide guidance on installation and maintenance.”

Based on each customer’s desire, shops should take a look at the configuration of the digital signage system and decide who is the right partner. Manufacturers, associations and other groups provide great resources to complete a job.

“As sign shops get started they can turn to organizations like the Digital Signage Federation for guidance and to find distributors to work with—like Ingram Micro, Synnex or Almo—that can provide suggestions for different products,” says Cahoy.

Almo Professional A/V “offers a team of experts that focus on digital signage content creation services and installation services along with all necessary hardware so you can offer a complete package to your clients,” says Saret. “Almo is the only distributor to provide this combination of services and products for digital signage projects.”

Driving the Content

Thinking of digital signage in layers, the hardware component is the shell. It’s the tangible element that viewers can see. Beneath that resides the content. Ultimately it’s the content that determines the effectiveness of the signage.

“Content and management of the content is what makes an LED dynamic,” says Wayne Rasor, director of digital & exterior technology, FASTSIGNS International. “It is not the hardware, which everyone seems to fixate on. It is all about the content. The advantage of digital signage is showing the right content to the right person at the right time and place.”

Huang agrees, saying, “Compelling and relevant content is what makes digital signage networks effective and attractive. There are many digital signage content providers available who provide a unique selection of content material and templates.”

Content management is artistic. It takes more than just stringing a few words and graphics together; the beauty of digital signage resides in the subject matter.

“I believe it all comes back to content,” says Cahoy. “Installing the display is the easy part—coming up with effective messages that achieve goals is the most important part and sign shops should use their talents to help users define these goals and create strategies around them.”

In the signage industry, it’s all about content. Messaging in print or digital is always the central focus of a sign. So taking that leap into the digital signage market isn’t all that different than creating traditional signs.

“The primary advantage that sign shops have is that they understand the importance of content,” says Saret. “Their main competitor is the typical AV integrator who has experience on the installation side,” but not much depth on the message-content side.

Rasor summarizes that “everything ties directly back to the core objective. Too many people install digital signage 'just because'—without giving much thought as to why. Identify your objective or go home.”

Getting Personal

Reaching the intended audience and then communicating with that group is what sets digital signage apart from other media. Nowadays, with most individuals carrying a smart phone, it is much easier to connect with people on a personal level.

“Digital signage and mobile are a highly effective pairing,” says Huang. “This combination brings a one-to-many experience on to a personal screen, for further engagement. It also allows for unique campaigns that include mobile interaction with the digital display. Finally, mobile provides further granular targeting for a digital signage campaign.”

After developing the content, the implementation of it is equally as important. Rasor says building on the foundation of content creation is “using the content, management software and hardware to create a unique and engaging UX (user experience). Typically a good solution will pull from many different vendors and integrate them in a unique way to solve a particular problem the customer has.”

In other words, digital signage is customizable. It allows the user to fully control the messaging and specifically target viewers.

“Digital signage content is meant to be seen by the right people at the right time,” says Huang, “and audience measurement software platforms help capture the quantity and quality of views. Audience analytics display viewer data according to a variety of metrics (such as gender, demographic, facial expression), enabling the assessment of a network’s success and enhanced reporting. Additionally, audience analytics give insight on strengths and weaknesses of a deployment, allowing content strategies to be tweaked for improved efficacy.”

Rasor agrees, saying, “Dynamically triggered content and user interaction are the most effective techniques to use technology to engage the user and solve the objective. This can be done using camera-based audience analytics, touchscreen interaction, motion-based interaction; and probably the most effective and latest technology is connecting the digital signage solution and experience with the user's smartphone to allow for lasting engagement and to also continue that engagement after the user has walked away.”

Added up, digital signage providers will get out what they put in. Deploying a combination of quality hardware and meaningful content builds success for the provider and the user. More than anything, sign shops should be aware of what’s available to them to build the best digital signage system. Finding the right partners, developing effective content, and managing the message are essential steps to gaining success in this market. The sign shop that can navigate down that road is the one that will profit in the end.