By Jonathan Brawn
Digital signage should be thought of as one component of the overall sign industry. The issue the industry faces, however, is how digital signage may appear at first to be confusing, complex and even intimidating to traditional sign shops. To quell such apprehension, it is important to understand there are many similarities between all segments of the sign industry and, as such, there are very real opportunities for sign shops to expand their business and increase their profits by entering the digital signage arena. To find a clear-cut path to do so, signmakers need to start by considering a number of core elements of digital signage as alternative medium.
Defining the opportunity
At their core, all businesses will seek new opportunities to grow, but the traditional sign industry has been relatively slow to add digital signage to its activities, for a number of reasons. Over the past few years, the opportunity to enter this niche has become more attractive, addressable and attainable than many signmakers might have assumed.
Digital signage is an exciting, fast-growing market segment where the traditional sign, information technology (IT) and audiovisual (AV) industries intersect. It has far-reaching implications in terms of opening markets for signmakers, system designers, AV integrators and content creators, among other professionals.
Digital signage has found success where it can provide relevant, targeted messaging to the right viewers at the most appropriate time. As conditions change, whether environmental or informational, digital signs can be designed to respond to those changes. Content management and updates can be performed in real time from a central or remote location.
Further, digital signage has been shown to influence its viewers’ behaviour, both short- and long-term, by helping to create a more visually stimulating environment. The value of this influence has been substantiated by increases in return on investment (ROI) for the medium’s users.
The New York Times recently reported 68 per cent of people see digital signage every day. And research shows the inherently dynamic nature of digital signs captures up to 10 times more eye contact than traditional static signs.
The most obvious ‘explosion’ of digital signage has been in retail environments, but there have also been many applications for corporate communications, wayfinding, education and public transportation venues. This is why industry pundits predict a double-digit compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through to at least 2020.
A sign shop should not feel intimidated by the billions of dollars in digital signage sales forecasts or reports of many thousands of screens being rolled out for major networks. While the largest projects tend to get all of the mainstream attention, the average digital signage system sale actually involves five or fewer screens. This type of project, which represents the vast majority of those billions of dollars, is right in the ‘sweet spot’ for most traditional sign shops to handle.
There are, however, several barriers that can impede progress in the field. Many potential customers for digital signage lack an understanding of the technology’s capabilities, particularly with regard to the design, creation and refreshment of content. Additionally, financing and funding may remain challenges for their organizations, especially those concerned about a ‘soft’ ROI on ‘hard’ dollars spent.
Another barrier is the period required for a company-wide rollout in multiple locations, which can be dauntingly long. This means not only a large undertaking for the client, but also a longer sales cycle for the sign shop providing the network.
One way to prove ROI is through viewer analytics, which can gauge the effectiveness of digital signage and will continue to become more mainstream in the future. And from the perspective of sign shops, it is important to understand digital signage can supplement—not replace—
what they have already been doing for many years. It is not an either/or situation, but rather a blending of sign types and strategies to best serve customers by remaining current and relevant to their needs.