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A Guide on Digital Signage: What It Is and How It Works

Businesses have used signage as a branding and advertising tactic for centuries. Over the past few decades, though, many businesses have added digital signage to their marketing arsenal. Digital signage comes in many forms and serves an array of purposes when leveraged strategically. Advancements in technology fuel innovations in digital signage, particularly among digital signage networks. Keep reading to learn more about digital signage, including the different types, how to use it, and how digital signage networks work. 

History of Digital Signage

The birth of digital signage dates back to the 1970s when VCRs and TVs were linked throughout electronics stores to playback prerecorded messages, advertisements, and announcements. The information shared via the digital signage enhanced the customer experience and quickly became a popular marketing and branding strategy. Fast-forward to the 1980s and you’ll find the beginnings of interactive digital signage in the form of the automated teller machine. Not only did this type of digital signage transform the customer experience at banks but it revolutionized the entire banking industry. By the 1990s, it’s clear that digital signage is sticking around for good and the first multimedia platform for out-of-home networks is created by Scala; this made it conducive for businesses to exert greater control over the development, management, and logistics of digital signage. 

Since its beginning days as adverts in electronics stores, digital signage has helped businesses attract and retain customers. As of 2020, it’s an industry standard for most brands to invest in digital signage rather than advertising content on billboards.

But what exactly caused such an explosion in the popularity of digital signage? 

For starters, digital signage became much more feasible for small businesses to take advantage of when LED display screens became more affordable. Secondly, it was also around this same time that computer hardware and software became more accessible, both of which are necessary to operate as part of a digital signage network.  

What Are the Different Types of Digital Signage?

No matter the industry, no matter the location, it’s imperative for businesses to combine innovative advertising with memorable marketing messages. This is why digital signage has such a high value for marketing. It’s available in multiple formats and serves as a go-to solution for combining these elements. 

Choosing the right type of digital signage depends on its intended use. Some of the most common applications for digital signage are:

  • For advertising
  • Display menu items
  • Display public information like the weather
  • Enhance the customer experience
  • Promote brand awareness
  • Display internal information to employees 
  • Create an interactive atmosphere with interactive screens

Most digital signage will fall into one of two categories: indoor or outdoor. Both forms have their own pros and cons, such as outdoor digital signage’s expensive cost being a major con. 

Digital posters

Digital posters are the most common type of digital signage. A digital poster generally consists of an LCD screen enclosed inside a see-through protective case. The media player that streams the content shown on the LCD screen is usually inside the enclosure with the screen. Digital posters are available in both horizontal and vertical form, and being that they can be attached to the wall, they are an excellent form of signage for saving space. This form of digital signage is often used to display menu items, such as at a restaurant, movie theater, or marijuana dispensary. 

Freestanding displays

Freestanding displays are not good for saving space, but they are extremely ideal for serving as a centerpiece. The displays attach directly to the floor and easily catch the attention of passersby. Many freestanding displays provide interactive functionality, making them useful in areas where people spend more than a few minutes at a time, such as healthcare offices. 

Ceiling-mounted digital signs

Just as the name implies, this form of digital signage hangs from the ceiling. Most types are mounted in the ceiling, and while they are less obstructive and are great for saving space, they are also less likely to catch the attention of customers and passersby. This is why it’s so important to ensure the content displayed on ceiling-mounted digital signage is flashy and attention-grabbing. There isn’t a high demand for ceiling-mounted digital signage, most likely because it tends to be the least effective. 

Outdoor digital signage

Outdoor digital signage is much like any of the indoor digital signage discussed above except all outdoor signage must be protected by waterproof casing. Not only does the casing have to be waterproof but it must also have good ventilation. In most instances, outdoor signage is used in the same way as billboards. Because of their similar purpose, outdoor signage is most times referred to as digital billboards. It’s important to note that outdoor digital signage most typically is very expensive and this is why it’s usually used by big businesses with massive marketing budgets.

What Is Digital Signage Software?

Businesses need digital signage software to manage the content displayed on their digital screens. With the right software, it becomes simple to diagnose playback issues, create and deploy content schedules, build playlists, and even organize the digital screens into groups. 

Before digital signage software was created, employees would have to go to each digital screen to update its content. As one can imagine, this was a time-consuming and tedious process. It required walking up to a screen, connecting it to a keyboard and media device, and then standing there while the content transfer took place. It could sometimes take up to 30 minutes or longer to update a single screen. This is why a lot of businesses avoided anything to do with digital signage back before the turn of the century. 

But digital signage software changed all of that. Now users can manage all of their digital signage content remotely. This means users can update content on one or more screens simultaneously and instantly from the comfort of a laptop or desktop computer. Some digital signage software even lets users update content via their smartphones. As a result, content management for digital signage becomes less labor-intensive and more cost-efficient. 

What Are the Important Features of Digital Signage Software?

When shopping for digital signage software, there are several pertinent features to look for. First and foremost, it’s vital to choose software that allows users to remotely manage the content displayed on the digital signs. Without this feature, digital signage once again becomes time-consuming and tedious. Instead of helping a brand expand, a lack of this feature will hinder growth. 

Another important feature to look for is the ability to create playlists. This feature enables users to schedule multiple pieces of content to display back to back and according to a sequence the user prefers. Without the ability to create and show playlists, the main benefits of digital signage are void, but with robust scheduling abilities, it becomes possible to automate much of the content management process. 

Businesses will also find it beneficial to choose software that supports the ability to manage more than one screen at a time. Without multi-screen management, a worker will have to update each screen one by one, which once again, makes digital signage time-consuming and not worth the investment. However, with multi-screen management capabilities, businesses can group screens into categories and easily update each group category as needed. 

What Are the Top 4 Benefits of Digital Signage? 

Commercial environments come to life with digital signage. As more digital signs integrate their way into commercial and retail settings, static signs and the messages they share continue to become less relevant and impactful. There are many reasons as to why digital signage is so effective. Here’s a look at its top four benefits. 

Simple to customize 

Businesses like digital signage because thanks to advancements in software, it’s possible to perform all content management from a desk. This means the signs are extremely easy to customize with marketing messages and graphics. By being able to customize the signs so easily, it becomes possible to update and share marketing messages in real-time. 

Promotes customer self-help 

With interactive digital kiosks, brands can promote customer self-help. Instead of keeping employees busy answering customer questions, digital signage interacts with customers to answer their questions. 

Supports automation 

Digital signage software makes it easy to automate the content management process by simplifying the creation of playlists and making it possible to deploy content schedules that fit a business’s unique needs. 

Grabs attention of passersby 

Digital signage is flashy and relevant to the people walking by it; this is why it works. 

How Does Digital Signage Advertising Work? 

When a company decides it wants to partake in digital signage advertising, it must first ask itself which side of the fence it wants to play on. Fortunately, brands can play on one side or both. On one side of the digital signage advertising fence is the advertiser and on the other side is the advertisee. A business must ask itself whether it wants to use digital signage merely to advertise to its customers while inside the store or if it wants its brand advertised to customers outside the store. It must also ask itself whether it wants to advertise any other brands on the digital signage it uses inside the store. 

If a business wants to have its brand advertised on digital signage outside the store, it will need to join an advertising network. In doing so, other brands will likely be advertised on the company’s digital signage that is inside its store; this is part of being a digital signage advertising partner. If a business only wants to advertise its own brand, then it shouldn’t feel the need to join a digital signage advertising network. 

One of the main benefits of joining a digital signage advertising network is that a brand doesn’t manage any of its content. Instead, the network provider handles all the content development and maintenance. This in itself is worth a lot and is a primary reason as to why a lot of brands choose to join a network. All a brand has to do is have the hardware — digital signs — installed and the rest is left in the hands of the network provider, and much of the time, the network provider will take care of all installation processes. In some instances, the network provider even covers the cost of the digital signage, including its installation and maintenance. 

What Are the Different Uses of Digital Signage? 

When it comes to leveraging digital signage to its fullest potential, businesses must recognize all the ways to use it. Here’s a look at the top ways businesses of all types can use digital signage. 

Explain product value

When selling a product that’s sold by several competitors, it’s essential to make customers aware of unique product features. Digital signage makes this possible. Even small digital posters can explain product value and help customers understand why they should purchase a certain brand’s product rather than buying it from a competitor. 

Feature an item

Have a certain item that needs to be sold quickly? With digital signage, it’s easy to feature an item along with a promotional offer, which is crucial to moving inventory on an as-needed basis and works well in shops that frequently need to move certain products. Even better is that digital signage seamlessly integrates with inventory management software making it easy to automate the choosing of “featured items” and promotional offers. 

Entertain customers

Digital signage works exceptionally well in waiting rooms, especially when used to entertain customers. The signage can be used to create family-friendly zones as well as to provide custom messages. A lot of businesses use digital signage to display live scrolling feeds of sports events, weather updates, and more. That’s the beauty of digital signage. Brands can customize it to their unique needs and preferences to provide the ultimate entertainment experiences to customers. 

Initiate urgency

Upselling at the point of purchase becomes a standard way of business with digital signage. Whether the signage is being used to advertise a sale or promotion, placing it near a point of purchase creates a sense of urgency that captures the customer’s attention and makes them think twice about what’s being advertised. 

Provide customer updates

There’s no easier way to provide customer updates than to remotely adjust content to display on digital signage. A custom message can quickly be added to the content queue and displayed as frequently as needed. And thanks to the ability to add graphics along with the content, the updates are more likely to resonate with customers. 

Communicate with employees

Not only does digital signage provide a great way to deliver customer updates, but it also is effective for communicating with employees. Digital kiosks and posters found throughout employee check-in and rest areas can display messages and company-wide updates to workers. Custom messages can even be added to content queues to display to certain groups of employees on certain screens.  

Share brand mission and values

Since digital signage can be customized with any type of content and graphics, it serves as an efficacious way to share brand mission and values. Short videos and adverts encompassing a brand’s mission and values are excellent content formats to use with digital signage to accomplish this goal. 

Welcome and introduce new employees

There’s no better way to make new employees feel at home than to thank them for becoming a part of the team. Digital signage gives brands a way to not only welcome new employees but to introduce them to customers at the same time. 

Establish new revenue source

When businesses let other businesses advertise on their digital screens, this translates into a way to make money as part of an advertising network. Becoming advertising partners and partaking in a digital signage network has helped many businesses add a new revenue source to their current agendas. 

Showcase reviews

Digital posters showcasing reviews from existing customers is a smart way to use digital signage. 

The Takeaway

Digital signage is here to stay. One of the smartest moves any business can make is to see how digital signage can integrate with its current marketing tactics. Deploying a digital signage marketing plan today is the best way to hop aboard the digital signage bandwagon without losing a competitive edge. As more businesses join digital signage advertising networks, the competitive advantage of doing so becomes more important than ever before.  

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