By Lyle Bunn
Digital signage hit a new high in profile and interest among static sign and digital graphics providers during the 2014 International Sign Association Expo held in Orlando, Florida, April 23-26, 2014. Sign providers account for 250,000 direct jobs and represent over $49 billion in annual revenues in America, and in providing signage across the economy are becoming an important addition to digital signage supply.
Static sign and digital graphics providers are well suited to providing end-users with dynamic digital signage. These companies intrinsically understand short-form messaging and the location-based sign requirements of end-users. Many of these firms have been providing outdoor electronic message boards and integrating dynamic signage into their proposals for campuses, health care and consumer service establishments for many years. They are aware that end-users are increasing their use of dynamic signage, in part due to its use by their competitors.
ISA first began offering educational opportunities related to digital signage six years ago, and this has grown to more than 42 separate educational sessions over the three-day conference, including the ISA EXPO "Dynamic Signage Education Day," a showfloor stage and sessions offered in a co-located showcase offered by Almo Pro A/V. A Dynamic Digital Park on the show floor was 38-percent larger than in 2013, and included the range of hardware, software and services required by static sign companies to offer digital signage.
Research findings released by ISA in advance of the Expo noted that the No. 1 issue impacting sign companies offering digital signage is "technology selection," reflecting that 63 percent of sign companies are confused about technology selection. Education to demystify technology selection, content creation and selling the medium profitably was provided while exhibitors such as Capital Networks, Insteo, Kramer and many others were ready with products and answers to fuel sign company success. The technology supply theme was reflected by Mark O'Connor of Roland during an in-booth session, reflecting that "Sign shops should not have to go back to school or get a degree to make digital signage available."
As the ISA Expo was in process, FASTSIGNS International, franchisor to 545 sign shops internationally, released an expanded section of their website focused on digital signage (www.fastsigns.com/digital-signs).
Buffalo, N.Y.-based impulseGUIDE used ISA Expo 2014 to unveil its digital signage offering for static sign providers, which includes several patent-pending innovations related to content management approaches. Frank C. Pusateri of the sign provider which serves the food services, retail, hospitality and consumer services sectors said, "the impulseGuide system is content focused and has been specifically designed for sign providers looking for profitability through system sales, ongoing content creation, customer retention/upsell and improved prospecting for other lines of print and graphics. Digital signage makes a high-value addition to the sign shop portfolio."
Sign companies depend heavily on and tend to be very loyal to their preferred distributor of consumable supplies. ISA EXPO included many of the names familiar to the digital signage sector including Synnex, (which distributes static sign, digital graphics and dynamic signage products) and well as Almo, N. Glantz, Ingram Micro or others.
The recurring advice offered in many ISA Expo presentations can be summarized with these three points:
- Start by learning what digital signage can deliver for end-users. Use digital signage as an extension of your current portfolio of offerings to serve existing customers and prospect for new ones, since many of these may already be investigating or shopping for this medium. Offer a system that is suited to ongoing and growing needs. Note that every dynamic signage installation requires content.
- Focus on providing "content creation" services, since, once the technology system is in place, it is "content" that delivers the communications value. The need for content is ongoing. "Think of the system as the razor and the content as the blades," Pusateri said.
- "Partner with or sub-contract to an experienced audio/visual or information technology integrator if you are not comfortable with the technology element," advised Mike White of Multi-media Solutions, which has delivered digital signage for more than 10 years to a wide range of end-users.
Static sign and digital graphics providers are growing in importance as a channel for digital signage technologies to end-users, with the added bonus that they are able to produce content that can assure the success and growth of installations.
Lyle Bunn is an analyst, advisor and educator in North America's digital signage industry. He was named one of the 50 innovators and influencers by Sign and Digital graphics magazine, and one of 2013's 11 Most Influential People by DigitalSignageToday.com. He has published over 280 articles ands whitepapers, assisted over 300 end user organizations and helped to train over 10,000 professionals to benefit from digital signage. Lyle@LyleBunn.com