By Erica Schroeder
Cisco Systems Inc.
It's no secret that today's marketplace is rapidly evolving. With these changes, customers are expecting more, challenging you to look for new ways to reach and engage with them. It's this expectation that is moving digital signage beyond advertisement to a highly interactive and personalized experience, making the network and a robust digital signage platform more important than ever.
Here are five tips to make sure you are always prepared for changing customer behavior patterns and the digital signage evolution:
1. Plan for the customer of today and tomorrow
Determine what customer needs your signage solution should meet. Is it entertainment? Information? Awareness? You may need a digital sign to serve multiple purposes during a day, or over time. It's important to keep in mind how you may use your digital signage technology in the future. For example, start with promotional content over digital signage, and over time, invest in increasingly interactive and customized content for your viewers. Think about a digital sign as a complement to other forms of communications — the Web and mobile devices. You may even consider eventually delivering live interactions such as "remote expert" customer service to a digital display, improving customer service and setting yourself apart from the competition.
2. Think multipurpose
To get the most value out of your investment, think beyond the traditional use cases of advertising and information sharing for digital signage. You can use your signage for employee communication and training before the opening hours of your store. You could integrate signage with your emergency communications system, using a digital sign as another endpoint to alert your organization to emergencies and other important communications. Thinking broadly about digital signage will help you get a strong return on investment.
3. Optimize your network bandwidth
With the recent spike in video growth, many networks are already over-burdened with traffic. High-resolution digital media must compete for bandwidth with other applications that IT must deliver. Partnering between the business and IT is critical for success. With content delivery solutions, you can optimize your network — and in particular your WAN — to deliver the highest quality live and on-demand video content to end-users anywhere, anytime without affecting your other business-critical data applications.
4. Prepare your smart network
It's important to think about ways to automate the process — and reduce costs. Can you have endpoints that automatically install themselves? How do you reduce costs for deployment? With "smart" digital signage players, the element of human error is dramatically reduced, and so is the cost of the installation and maintenance. When digital signs are deployed on an intelligent network, you can reduce operational costs because you can monitor and manage the signs centrally. That means reduced TCO and better ROI, and ensures that signage can co-exist with transactional applications and other data on an already crowded network.
5. Content matters
With the plan, purpose and technology in place, the last component comes down to content. As we all say, content is king. But that content now has to be more than just digitized replacement for posters and standard marketing materials. Increasingly, there is a need for more customized, engaging and relevant content for your audience. This is where understanding the role a particular sign plays, relative to other signs, is critical. Consider physical location and purpose: Is the content to inform or guide? Is it interactive — on its own or with a customer's mobile device? Signage content requirements are best considered as a unique platform — and the industry is still going through that transition, much in the same way the early Web developed from static marketing sites to transactions and ultimately to e-commerce. Know and listen to your audience to ensure you are planning for today's content needs and how those needs will evolve.
Schroeder is the director of marketing, Enterprise Video Group, Cisco.
Read more about digital signage trends.