Digital signage doesn’t always have to be the giant displays you see walking down Times Square. Digital signage comes in all shapes and sizes.
Digital signage seems to be just about everywhere these days – from corporate hubs and university campuses to mom-and-pop grocery stores and gas stations. The US market is approaching $6 billion in value (and globally it’s around $19.6 billion) and is estimated to nearly double by 2023. There are millions of screens across the country right now displaying content to engage and inform people, so it’s natural for organizations that haven’t yet adopted this technology to start to seriously consider doing so.
But isn’t digital signage a huge undertaking, requiring a large money outlay at the beginning? Not necessarily – one of the great strengths of digital signage is it scales fantastically well, and can be as small or as big as you want it to be.
Let’s start with the most basic deployment imaginable: a single screen hardwired to a single laptop or PC showing PowerPoint slides with basic transitions. The cost is negligible – a screen, a computer, some cabling, and someone to create content and load it into the software. This could be a bit time consuming for one person but is certainly doable. And it’s certainly cheap enough.
However, it’s also very limited. You can only show one thing at a time on a single screen (and so, in one physical location). The computer running things has to be physically nearby, and updating content means taking the digital sign offline while new content is created and loaded (which probably means after closing time, so someone has to work late). You’re limited to a basic slideshow and there’s not much flexibility in such a stripped-down system.
A better solution is using a digital signage software application. There are some free options out there, each with their own pros and cons (many of which have limited capabilities unless you sign up for a more comprehensive version). And then there are companies that specialize in content management software that is specially designed for visual communications with easy content design and scheduling tools.
Spending a bit more money opens up a world of possibilities:
- You can publish your messages out to multiple screens from a single application, and can choose what shows where and when.
- You can have multiple content zones on a screen, so you can show two or more messages at the same time. You can also use attractors to grab attention, like weather, date & time modules, news tickers, current traffic conditions, transportation schedules, video feeds, etc.
- You can set up your software to pull in content from feeds that will automatically update the information on screen without any user intervention.
- You can pull data from applications you already have, like event calendars, or easily import those PowerPoint slides you’ve been using.
Because such systems are centrally managed, content can be created and scheduled without interrupting the playlists currently being displayed, and you can use dayparting to schedule messages to display on certain days at certain times. Messages that are no longer relevant simply drop off the playlist, so no one has to manually delete them.
And if you need to quickly insert a message (for example, a surprise visit from the CEO might prompt a welcome message), it’s a mere matter of seconds to get that into the current playlist. And should an emergency occur, you can override screens (either selected ones or the entire system) with a single click in the software.
You can show content on multiple screens – either the same content on all screens, or specific content targeted to specific screens in certain areas. For example, screens in the back office will probably show messages that you wouldn’t want on screens in your public lobby.
Digital signage can also tie into other online expressions of an organization – not just with consistent branding, but by displaying social media feeds, short URLs to take people out to webpages, and so on.
By adding a web-based software solution, even content creation and scheduling becomes free of location constraints. Messages can be created, inserted, scheduled and deleted from any internet-connected device, anywhere, at any time.
Some companies offer content creation and management solutions paired with cloud-based storage, so they are the ones who actually caretake the whole system, while the people in the organization curate content and guide their hands.
Adding interactivity offers even more possibilities. Touchscreens and kiosks suddenly let organizations offer vast amounts of information organized in an intuitive way on a single screen. Directories, wayfinding, recognition of donors and contributors – these are just some of the dense information sets that can be easily navigated using interactive digital signage. Menu boards and queuing data on screens can reduce perceived wait times and enhance the visitor experience.
Managing meeting spaces gets much easier with small digital signs placed outside of conference rooms and shared spaces. These can interface with your calendaring software and digital signage system at the same time. That means you can show event calendars and room bookings for easy reference, along with your digital signage messages, so people stuck in meetings don’t miss important messages.
Anything with a screen can be a digital sign – large-screen displays, desktops, video walls and even smartphones. HTML5 coding means that your digital signage will be responsive to accurately display on any device, so even people’s tablets and phones become extensions of your digital signage. They can literally take it with them.
Scaling up even more, a single digital signage solution can be used through out an entire building, in multiple buildings on a large campus, or even in different physical locations across the globe. One person or a large team can create and schedule messages for screens in different cities, or even different countries. There’s no limit to how many screens can be reached, and how many people can be engaged.
No matter the size of an organization, digital signage is the most comprehensive, most flexible and most scalable communication tool out there. One screen or a hundred screens (or more!) give you unparalleled reach and engagement opportunities. It’s time to seriously think about adapting this technology or scaling up your digital signage offering as your business expands and grows.