By Steve Kaelble
Signs sure are not what they used to be. People have been creating signs since the days of drawings on cave walls and, for many, many generations, this medium of information-sharing did not change much. The messages on signs throughout most of human history have been permanent, fixed, and static.
What is possible today through digital signage is vastly different, incredibly useful, and much more powerful. Just as a smartphone can do much more than a telephone could, so too has digital signage represented a giant leap forward in technology.
There are many purposes digital signage can serve. Before planning and implementing a new network, it is important to define what goals it will accomplish and what benefits it will provide for the client.
Revenue generation is often a key driver for a digital signage project. The most obvious way to make money in this context is by selling digital out-of-home (DOOH) advertising. There are many businesses today that pay to get their messages across using digital signage to target the audience in a certain area.
Another related objective is to drive sales. On-premise digital signage is frequently used to encourage customers to buy certain products and services. Examples include banks using screens to cross-sell insurance coverage to customers while they wait in line to see a teller. Many quick-service restaurants (QSRs), meanwhile, use digital signage to upsell special meal combos.
Digital signage can also save a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on the printing, shipping, installation, and periodic changing out of wide-format graphics. Such activities can run up big bills for organizations in terms of materials, logistics, and labour. For many of them, this reason alone is enough to transition them toward digital signage.
Engaging an audience
There are also situations where the point of digital signage is not to make or save money, but to convey important information to a certain audience e.g. employees, or the general public. Digital signage can entertain, distract, and assist its audience, whether to improve morale or to guide visitors through a facility.
Understanding the environment
Another step in the planning phase is determining where displays will be installed. Just as with real estate, ‘location, location, location’ is very important.
There may be multiple displays within a single facility and/or installations across multiple locations. Some retailers, for example, have installed digital signage everywhere from their entranceway to their checkout.
These decisions are also related to the types of displays. Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are available in many sizes, from digital photo frames up to multi-panel video walls. And while a menu board may need to be brightly visible from behind a busy counter, a wayfinding kiosk with a touchscreen will need to be comfortable to look at and use from up close.
Fortunately, content management system (CMS) software can pull together multiple types of screens into the same network. It can also support the future growth of a scalable digital signage network, whereby more screens and locations are added over time.
Speaking of touchscreens, the planning phase is also the time to consider how the network will interact with its audience. In some locations, the audience will just be spectators, but in others, an interface can allow them to become participants, whether via touch, smartphone, loyalty program card, or other method.
Increasingly, organizations are seeking metrics to show how many people are viewing their displays, for how long, etc. This desire will influence installation location decisions and can be supported with technology that measures gaze duration and uses facial recognition to guess each viewer’s age and gender. In turn, content can be arranged to respond to viewer-based triggers, such that an ad for a toy appears on a screen when a child approaches, by way of example.
It is also important to work with the organization’s information technology (IT) department. For one thing, members of that department may have experience with digital signage platforms and systems. For another, they will understand what might work best in the context of the organization. And finally, they can ensure the ‘backbone’ of the network is adequately supported on an ongoing basis.