At one time, back in the pre-digital era, the world of printing static graphics and the world of sound and motion were very different worlds, akin to the difference between the newspaper and the television. But with the development of graphic communication tools, designers who live in both worlds aren’t hard to find. “It’s blurred now,” Collins says. “Those typically young designers, many in their 20s, can be recruited to do both kinds of work. They can be put on staff, or hired on an as-needed contract basis.”
Because many PSPs who enter digital signage will continue to work on static signage, they will need to have designers and production people who can deliver both, Collins says. Ten years from now, the distinctions between digital and print signage will be a thing of the past, as these “digital natives” become owners of their own shops, Collins says.
According to Lazo, PSPs will have to become thoroughly familiar with the elements of digital display. The technology platform of the screens, motion sensing and network, as well as the content itself, are all key ingredients that create a seamless experience at point of purchase, he says. Print aspects of the display are fundamental, as well. “The goals are to drive traffic, drive dwell (the shopper stops in front of the retail display) and drive sales,” Lazo says.
Getting up to speed, he adds, will entail developing key technology associations with partners skilled in the hardware and content aspects. Those partnerships are necessary because “this is not something that can yet be vertically integrated within the organization,” Lazo says. “It’s important to have partners who specialize in this market. There are partners specializing in electronic digital signage specific to the retail marketplace, in terms of screen reliability, battery life, and the motion sensors that activate the media.”
When dealing with complex digital signage systems featuring connected screens, it’s important to collaborate early with the brand, retail provider, and display provider, Lazo stresses. “Getting a retailer and brand involved early in the process, so it can approve the look and feel of the point-of-purchase experiences, is important in avoiding having to go back to the drawing board,” he says.
Also essential is designing an experience that looks and feels integrated, Lazo says. “Don’t ignore your content until the last minute,” he adds. “Think about it early, about how long it plays on the screen and how well it’s integrated. With the emerging digital world, content is king.”
Marketing Your Capabilities
For those PSPs already servicing static sign clients, the best market will be their existing customer base, Gottwald says. “[Clients] are likely to ask their current providers whether they can offer the new technology,” he reports. “If they can’t, the end user will go to someone who can provide the digital, and it’s likely they will shift their static signage to that new provider as well.”
As a result, ISA is encouraging its members to learn as much as possible by taking advantage of the education in digital signage it offers. At SignExpo in late March, ISA will have a full track dedicated to this topic. It will focus on topics ranging from basics of the technology to partnering with technology providers.
Collins also believes existing customers will be the best prospects. Those relationships already exist, and PSPs can leverage them to their advantage.
“I would not go out and chase other digital signage business beyond my base, at first,” he says. “You know what colors, what messaging works for existing clients in print, so you’re halfway there. The colors and messaging you do in digital will have to complement what you’re doing in print.”
Two franchised operations that have really “cracked this nut,” Collins says, are SignsNow and FastSigns. A minority of each company’s sign shops offer digital signage. But both companies have well-developed programs that allow individual franchisees to get involved in digital signage if they wish.
The heavy lifting to produce the digital content is provided through each organization’s central office, helping ensure that individual sign shops can offer work that doesn’t look amateurish and boasts excellent production values.
“I’d encourage any wide-format imaging professional who wants to get into sound and motion to study what FastSigns and SignsNow are doing, because they’ve spent a lot of time and effort perfecting their models,” Collins says.