Whether you’re just getting started, or looking for a way to rein in an existing digital signage network, a content management system (CMS) can help bring your digital signage project to the next level with distinct advantages in efficiency, flexibility and even cost.
But to choose the right CMS for you, you have to create your digital signage strategy.
Setting your goals:
Digital signage is a solution that grows. Before you know it that single sign has grown to 10 or 100 and each has a different audience and needs to convey different messages at different times of the day. To begin your search for the perfect solution, you need first to clarify what the needs of the project are.
Some key decisions you need to take into consideration are:
Decide what you want to say. This step comes first because it will shape what hardware and software to consider, as well as help you decide locations and content to prepare. Are you going to just show text or expand to video? Are you going to want to include multiple zones on the sign? This means partitioning the display to include different inputs like announcements and weather. Is the sign going to be used for emergency notification? Then that means it’s location and the content must meet specific standards.
Decide the scope of your DS project. Map out who will be your audience at each location. How many displays do you plan on using? In the best case scenario, how many locations for signage do you have?
Decide who is going to be in charge of the project. Having a digital signage champion and department will keep the project on track. Digital signage needs to be owned by particular members in an organization. A specific group will need to manage the signs and content both during and after installation.
Decide where the DS CMS will live. Is the signage going to be part of a standalone group with its own network or are you going to integrate with your existing Intranet / Internet? Bring IT into the conversation as soon as possible. Decide the type of digital network you’re looking to deploy; for example, are you looking at a system of standalone signs in multiple locations or a network of signs that operate in just one building or multiple buildings?
Realistically evaluate your budget. Which departments are going to pay for the signage and the man-hours it will take installing, creating on-going content and maintenance of the network? Are you working on a budget that allows for the purchasing of new hardware like displays and players or do you have to use existing equipment? This matters because many digital signage displays and players come equipped with a DS CMS. You may have to buy a standalone DS CMS if your budget is too tight or you already have hardware.
Once you’ve taken these steps, choosing a DS CMS becomes much easier. Then you can move on to specific features.
Identifying the Features You Need
Moving to a DS CMS offers a chance to use a template-based approach to digital content, delivering targeted messages throughout the DS network in an efficient, controlled and effective way. Beyond the “content management” role, many DS CMSs add content creation tools that help smaller groups create or even convert existing content into appropriate formatting for deployment over the digital sign network. Other modules like scheduling and ad insertion are tools that come in various DS CMS solutions. Data analytics modules are also available to help managers gauge the effectiveness of digital signs and provide valuable data on just how many impressions a sign is delivering and to whom.
The top features that a customer should look for when choosing a DS CMS system are driven by the size and scope of the digital signage network, the role digital signage is to play in the strategic vision of the company and the team that is going to be running the initiative.
For the multi-screen enterprise customer, integration into the existing network would drive considerations. Look for a DS CMS that offers flexible design and that uses plug-ins (like wayfinding) that work with existing technology and remote management. Don’t forget to evaluate that software as one that will support future growth.
In a small enterprise overriding factors will include cost, ease of use in content creation, data storage and management and, of course, the ability to support future growth.
Regardless of the scope of your digital signage network, you should look for a CMS that:
• will allow you to build your content visually (like how a PowerPoint slide is built) by filling in content areas.
• supports a variety of content types so you aren’t limited to certain media.
• offers detailed scheduling, so you aren’t tied to the signage every time you want to make a change.
• can grow with you, either with cloud-based software or network support for additional players.
• has the capabilities to make your decision about what you want to say a reality. This means functionality for video, weather, news feeds, emergency notification announcements and wayfinding capabilities should be included if your plan calls for it.
• supports touch interactivity if you are planning to add such functionality.
How CMS Systems Differentiate
The key DS CMS product differentiator falls along the lines of size and cost. Solutions range from simple media player, software and display all-in-ones to “bolt-on” software management solutions that tie directly to existing deployed media players and display signage.
Cloud-based software, known as SaaS, (software as a service) offers the ability to scale as your digital signage network grows. With the cloud, tools and services are not on local desktop computers but are accessible on servers. The interaction is through applications that are based on the server and usually through a Web browser. There are two types of cloud products. One is a public cloud, in which the software and data live on another company’s server (think Google Docs); in this case the software manufacturer’s server. Two is a private cloud, in which the software and data live on your own server.
A top-of-the-line CMS will help you monetize your digital signage through the use of interactive features like QR codes and text messaging. Analytics from these interactions can be a great source of information.
Whether SaaS or managed on-site, DS CMS networks can include the entire range of products and services, including network and signage deployment and management, content creation, storage and delivery, scheduling and ad insertion, plus tracking and analysis. All this can be done to scale, from a small company’s network of signs or tied into a digital network that generates ad revenue.
CMS Solutions by Type
This slideshow is a review of the popular DS CMS systems and includes both software- and hardware-driven content management initiatives. Use this guide to help gain an understanding as to what DS CMS systems are out there to choose from.
In general there are three types of DS CMS solutions to choose from:
● A Local CMS that runs on in-house servers and connects to media players either directly or via a Web-based network.
● Hybrid Local / SaaS solutions that allow you to start with a local solution and scale up to an SaaS system.
● SaaS Enterprise-class solutions that can range from “free” service based solutions to full-blown worldwide ad-based networks.