Positioning your company in the emerging digital signage market is about much more than buying some screens and plugging them in. Entering this segment requires careful planning and a wealth of knowledge.
While some of the visual communication skills required are similar to those you mastered long ago, you’ll likely need to gain greater expertise through industry association-sponsored seminars and other means. You may also have to hire the young technical and design talent familiar with both digital and static signage to lead you into the digital promised land.
Some argue the chasm between print and digital is steadily shrinking, and there will come a day soon when it will be totally blurred. PSPs must be ready when that day comes.
Digital is entering retail in store, says Phil Lazo, director of innovation with Rocktenn Merchandising Displays. “It has some powerful features and ability to deliver rich media to shoppers at the point of purchase,” he says. “Rich media means a higher level of information in the form of movies, stills, changing stills and promotional campaigns that could change virtually instantly.”
Digital signage has the capability of informing shoppers about product choices, but also carries with it a “wow factor” at the point of purchase that engages consumers and helps drive sales, Lazo points out.
This capacity has helped pique the interest of both advertisers and signmakers, say experts. “We certainly see a lot of interest in the digital signage market,” says Rich Gottwald, executive vice president of the International Sign Association (ISA). “We’re getting questions from our members and we’re also sponsoring webinars and seminars that do very well. This technology is going to be another technology for traditional sign manufacturers. We don’t see it doing away with existing technology.”
In discussions with experts in the field, the ISA is hearing that what is displayed will become just as important as how it is displayed. Ongoing content generation and content maintenance will be a key to profitability.
Providers will differentiate themselves on capabilities. One area of sales and profit will be installation, another content generation and maintenance, which will require a different skill set than what current sign makers possess.
“People will want new messages all the time,” Gottwald says. “It won’t be a matter of putting it up and leaving it up for a few weeks or a month. If you have this technology, there would be no reason to do that. Content will have to change regularly. And the providers could position themselves to do that.”
The technology is becoming more interactive. In its simplest form, a user touches a screen and gains directions. On the far more sophisticated side of the ledger, a sign recognizes the age and gender of a person walking past and generates a message to that individual.
The Learning Curve
What will PSPs need to learn to enter the digital signage market? They’ll have to learn a lot, says Bill Collins, principal with DecisionPoint Media Insights.
In printing, PSPs must know inks, materials, and techniques. In digital signage, they must be knowledgeable about the differences between LED, LCD, plasma, and electronic inks, and which are most appropriate for different sizes, applications and locations. “For instance, they need to understand the implications of ambient light on these different technologies,” Collins says.
Gaining this insight isn’t rocket science. “It’s remarkably similar to what they’re already familiar with,” Collins says. “They are in the business of visual communication. It’s not too much of a stretch for them to understand the basic principal of communicating, using sound and motion imagery in a public venue.”