Digital signage solutions: familiarising yourself with the future
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By Thomas Fraser-Bacon, e-marketing executive, AllSee Technologies
1 June 2012
Larger retail chains may find digital signage networks are suitable for their needs, while standalone solutions are likely to better suit independent shops
The digital signage market is set for major growth. Adcentricity predicts that from 2010 to 2013 the total global spend on digital signage will increase by a massive 346 percent. With an increasing range of applications as well as an escalating necessity to use digital signage to sell, promote and inform, becoming acquainted with it is essential.
When planning the installation of a digital signage solution there are many unfamiliar issues for an end user to consider. Firstly, there is the issue of whether to invest in standalone displays or a wirelessly updateable network solution. A large portion of the digital signage market is geared towards selling the more expensive wireless digital signage networks to end users.
However, this is rarely the most suitable solution for entry level customers. Networks invariably require a level of technical expertise beyond that of most SMEs. For example, for fast food restaurants, digital signage is an ideal medium to engage customers, subsequently increasing sales. However, a business such as this may not have an IT department or the technical know-how to set up and run a complex digital signage network. Standalone displays offer a more appropriate and simple solution. Content is loaded directly onto the display and is updated physically, using a USB drive, rather than over a web-based deployment system.
According to POPAI a massive 80 percent of UK displays are updated weekly or monthly and do not require a live feed of any sort. With this in mind it is obvious that there is a huge market potential for standalone solutions.
The operational cost of a digital signage solution is often unaddressed. Networked or wireless solutions are unsuitable for small businesses as they incur monthly charges and subscription costs. In addition, there are some system management costs which must be factored in; the human resource cost of managing a network is difficult to quantify and therefore often overlooked. Standalone digital signage solutions, on the other hand, are a one-off investment; once installed there are no reoccurring costs.
Inexperienced customers are often confused by the software associated with digital signage. Whilst there is a plethora of network software platforms, well designed standalone displays come with simple scheduling software to arrange the content into a media playlist, giving the amateur user complete control over their content.
Poorly informed customers will often be of the belief that the cheapest digital signage solution is the most cost effective; as we know this couldn't be further from the truth. Increasingly distributors and end users alike are sourcing their displays directly from China in the hope of reducing their unit cost. There are, however, many issues with purchasing directly from a Chinese manufacturer, predominantly the matter of technical support. Assuming that you complete your transaction without any hiccups and communication is not a problem, there will invariably be a technical issue later on. No Chinese hardware manufacturer is capable of supporting all of their products globally. Therefore it is important to make sure that wherever the end user (or distributor) buys their screens they have full technical support. Prospective customers should also think about scalability and consider future-proofing their investment by purchasing screens that can be upgraded from plug-and-play devices to wirelessly updateable network displays.
Content is another worry for potential digital signage customers. Many end users looking to install a solution already have content they wish to display. If not, the screen supplier should either have a content design partner or suggest a cheaper alternative for content creation.
It is important that the screens you are buying include mounting solutions, as often they do not. Ease of installation is also important. Some screens are so simple to install the customer can do it themselves whereas others are far more complex and require specialist assistance. Your screen supplier should either have an installation partner or be able to offer the service themselves.
There are undoubtedly occasions when networked digital signage solutions are the most suitable systems to use. In instances such as large retail chains, where offers may change on a daily basis and there is an adequate IT department, a digital signage network is ideal. To successfully deploy an effective digital signage network a large budget as well as a considerable amount of technical expertise is essential. There is a huge potential for growth in the digital signage market, but in order to maximise this potential the industry must embrace prospective customers with limited technical knowledge and restricted budgets.
Thomas Fraser-Bacon is the e-marketing executive for digital signage manufacturer AllSee Technologies.
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