July 31, 2017
By David Little
Digital signage network operators know the implementation process can be long and tedious. To make things worse, it is often akin to a moving target, with success seeming ever elusive. It is important to understand why this is the case and what can be done about it.
It is not difficult today to find hundreds of examples showing how the addition of a digital signage network to an organization’s communications mix can reap a variety of rewards, including increased awareness, reduced printing costs, instant dissemination of information and a high degree of relevancy. Indeed, the benefits are as diverse as the breadth of potential applications.
What’s key to keep in mind is no such success comes automatically. Hanging a digital screen up on a wall and displaying a series of images is not, in itself, likely to reach anyone’s communication goals. Rather, the screen will become just one more sign to ignore, generating nothing more than background visual clutter.
A digital signage strategy requires a team effort, with key stakeholders at the table, to meet specific goals. Without collaboration between experienced professionals in the fields of information technology (IT), audiovisual (AV) systems, project management, marketing, finance and business leadership to guide the launch process, a new digital signage project is, more often than not, an expensive catastrophe in the making.
Partners and vendors
Corporations, retailers, government agencies, hoteliers and building management firms, to name a few, are increasingly relying on vendors and partners to advance their communications goals and help circumvent potential pitfalls with respect to their digital signage projects.
This is a good approach to take.Otherwise, organizations that are new to the medium will frequently encounter unanticipated problems that waste both time and money, but could have been avoided with some foreknowledge and planning. These problems have been evident simply by observing the many digital signage failures of the past two decades.
Seven key steps
To help organizations achieve success—however they may specifically define and measure it—with their digital signage deployments, the following seven steps are recommended to make the planning and rollout experience smoother and more rewarding.
Digital signs can be used in many ways, from wayfinding systems, interactive informational kiosks and door signs to menu displays and reader boards, just to name a few. For any one of these applications to become successful, it should have a clear, concise and realistic purpose, well before all of the necessary pieces of the digital signage puzzle are assembled.
It is hard to put a puzzle together, after all, if no one knows what it is supposed to look like in the end. This is the time for the key stakeholders to do their homework and draft a vision.
2. Define the approach.
Some organizations’ approach to digital signage is to create buzz with advertising or enhance their customers’ experience, so as to generate additional revenue. Some support a self-serve process through interactivity. Others focus on communicating useful information with visual impact to the broader public. And still others aim to set the mood for their environment.
Whatever the approach (or combination of approaches), it is necessary to invest time, effort and forethought to develop a plan for achieving the organization’s goals successfully.
Creative staff and managers can better identify the brand purpose of a digital signage project through an extensive discovery process. This is usually the final collaborative ‘homework’ phase before the actual assembly of the network, providing an opportunity to beta-test ideas before spending more time, effort and money to build a system. This phase is especially important when a digital signage strategy involves a strong marketing component.
4. Design the content.
It is important to keep digital signage’s content relevant to its particular context. Too often, not enough attention is given to keeping it fresh, up-to-date, appealing and engaging. To achieve these aims, someone—either internally or at a third-party service provider—needs to take on full responsibility for the content and its effects on its audience.
Indeed, the core of digital signage success is appealing content. Failure to provide it can derail an otherwise well-executed campaign, cause the audience to lose interest in stale messaging and even condemn the screen to being put out of mind altogether. With this mind, content must never be boring!
5. Design the system.
Regardless of specific technical abilities, strong experience in designing digital signage systems can make all the difference when the time comes to specify the right mix of components for the deployment. When consumer-grade screens are specified, for example, not only are they not engineered to support portrait-mode content, but they may also overheat and become unreliable, as they are not designed to endure the long hours of commercial operations.
6. Implement the system.
Another common mistake is neglecting to give enough thought to digital sign placement. The physical locations of deployed displays, players, cabling and other components are all key considerations.
While an experienced digital signage integrator can expedite this process, it is important to combine the existing abilities of a general contractor with the central purpose that is driving the use of the technology. Walls, studs, electrical connections and even plumbing may require modifications before screens can be deployed where they are needed. Skilled tradespeople can ‘get their hands dirty’ and address unplanned surprises to help keep the digital signage installation on track and on budget.
Once an organization has created, tested, deployed, measured and tweaked its digital signage system to its heart’s content, repeating the process will allow it to find areas for improvement. Specific successes and failures should be shared with key stakeholders, so the system can provide a catalyst for further change in communications.
An effective strategy
It is important to shake off the all-too-common mentality that a ‘slide show’ is good enough—that’s not an effective strategy for creating a ‘wow’ factor or an improved experience for the audience. Working as a team through each of the seven steps, without taking shortcuts that could derail the original vision, is the path to digital signage success.
David Little is a marketing consultant for Keywest Technology, which develops digital signage software and hardware. For more information, contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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