Let’s start by proclaiming that printed signage is not going away. That being said, what if your customers want to explore a more integrated approach, offering the best of both electronic and ink-on-substrate worlds? After all, digital signage can be used to add dynamic, media-rich, even interactive elements to broader graphics projects. To successfully execute, however, print firm owners and managers need to know some basics, the very least of which is with whom to possibly partner. It’s either that or watch potential profit fly out the window as someone else proactively takes the project reins.
When it comes to considering digital signage, cost now can be taken out of the equation because the “it’s-too-expensive” excuse is simply no longer a viable argument. With another post-Thanksgiving Black Friday upon us, here’s an electronics trivia question: Do you remember how much a 46-inch, flat-panel television set cost in 2007? This year you can expect to pay around $600 for that TV. Five years ago, the price point for early adopters of “big screen” technology was five times higher: that’s right, around $3,000. (I remember buying my first 42-inch plasma screen in the fall of 2006, in time to watch my beloved Chicago Bears make their successful run to Super Bowl XLI. Like the final score versus Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts, the price tag I’d just as soon forget.) Like all consumer and B2B electronics, prices come down over time, applying the age-old, supply-and-demand rules of economics.
Since hardware technology is no longer cost-prohibitive, more print service providers (PSPs) are able to expand into digital signage these days. It’s a buyers’ market, and the prime time to invest may be now. The time is right, echoed Alan Brawn, principal of Brawn Consulting, who presented at the 2012 Specialty Graphics Imaging Association (SGIA) sign show last month in Las Vegas. His firm helps clients to grow their ‘AV IQ.’
“It’s more than digital retail now and more than digital advertising,” Brawn noted, adding that more people than ever can get involved in large screens and video walls as well as tablets and other mobile platforms. For Samsung, his firm constructed a distributor/dealer portal providing a dedicated space for easy access to product materials and training courses related to the Korean electronics giant’s Information Technology Division. Brawn also is chairman of the Digital Signage Federation, which manages the upcoming Digital Signage Expo later this winter.
But before shopping for hardware and corresponding software, it is wise to first know how to sell the service. It helps to identify target markets, according to eHow.com contributor Erick Kristian. “Depending on what is being sold, different markets should be targeted,” Kristian wrote. “Bars, restaurants and lounges are ideal for washroom signage and behind-the-bar signage. Property owners who currently have traditional billboards are good candidates for digital signage. If the digital signage is already in place and ad space is being sold, then consider where the equipment is located and approach complimentary businesses. For example, if digital signage is in a bar, a natural partnership would be with a beer company,” he added.
There is some technical knowledge to be gleaned, too. More than 500 vendors exhibited at SGIA this year -- and more than a few were digital signage suppliers. The show’s Digital Signage Innovation Zone offered interested attendees (there were some 22,000 registered overall) behind-the-screen knowledge and insights for seizing digital opportunities. The education-only area on the show floor taught show-goers how digital signage can be used to convey messages and present variable or scheduled information. Participating companies included Black Box Network Services, Ingram Micro, NEC Display, TSI Touch, and Variable Display.