By Peter Saunders
The overall medium of digital signage can be thought of as an ‘ecosystem,’ with multiple key elements that interact with each other, from hardware and connectivity to software and content. It is important from the start to identify these elements and make a detailed plan, so as to avoid making the following common mistakes that can cost time and money.
1. Not understanding the elements of digital signage
Every digital signage system comprises all of the following stand-alone elements in one form or another. If any of these is ignored, it can become
a weak link in the chain.
In addition to the displays themselves, hardware for a digital signage network includes screen enclosures, mounts, media players and components for extending audiovisual (AV) and data signals from the players to the screens.
The software for controlling digital signage ranges from single-purchase licensed applications—which are loaded onto or integrated into media players—to remotely hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) options.
‘Connectivity’ generally refers to the cabling between the media players and the screens across a digital signage network, which may be dedicated or shared with other applications. It distributes data, video, audio and serial control signals (e.g. for turning screens on and off and to support touch-screen interactivity).
Cabling is particularly important in contributing to the performance of digital signage. If the screens are far away from the source(s) of their content, then additional extensions or network switching equipment may be needed. And for screens in out-of-the way areas without network drops, wireless connectivity may be the only option.
One of the most easily overlooked elements of digital signage when getting started is the creation of content. There are a few options to consider, including the use of in-house services and/or outsourcing content creation to a specialized agency, the choice of which will depend on the client’s needs, goals and budget.
The catch-all term ‘operations’ encompasses everything needed to get digital signage up and running and then to keep it going at an optimal level to produce sufficient return on investment (ROI). It is important to understand from the star who will be responsible for all aspects of ongoing operations, including provisions for system backup.
Network design involves planning how the digital signage will be implemented in a systematic way, with a clear idea of its purpose and audience. One question is whether the rollout will be incremental or the entire system will go live at the same time, which may depend on whether the network is intended to be local or broad-based, perhaps even international in scope. In any case, starting with a beta testing project is a sensible way to work out all of the logistics involved in delivering content to screens and optimizing its presentation.
It is ultimately important to understand how digital signage will deliver an ROI or other benefits to the client, e.g. by saving time for the distribution of reliable information, making internal operations more efficient, boosting sales and/or reducing expenses.
In cases where digital signage is not intended to increase revenue, it should still deliver a return on objectives (ROO) in line with the client’s strategy.
Other aspects of the business model to be determined early on include the division of responsibilities, the involvement of partner organizations and the metrics for measuring the success of completed tasks.