Introduction The importance of strategy
Chapter 1 Best practices
Types of content
Chapter 2 Choosing and installing the right technology
Hardware and software
Chapter 3 Automating ad placement
Chapter 4 Interactivity
Environment and inventory
Merging physical items with interactivity
Conclusion What the future holds
When a new and innovative technology hits the market, many people get swept up in the excitment and want to immediately hop on the bandwagon. People don't necessarily think about the implications of the technology and how to properly harness its potential — they just want it. This phenomenon can be seen in the excitement surrounding digital signage. In the beginning of the digital signage industry, many businesses wanted the technology, seeing it as a way of attracting customers and generating more revenue.
While digital signage, when used properly, is certainly capable of attracting new customers, digital signage alone cannot necessarily make existing customers spend more money or increase a business' profits. Businesses that install a digital signage network but skip the crucial step of developing a strategy are significantly reducing the chances of success.
"I've seen a lot of projects fail and primarily the reason is a lack of planning," said Tom Westerberg, chief executive officer of Largo, Fla.-based Inspire Digital Signage, a company that specializes in digital signage solutions. "Usually, [businesses] have no idea of what they want to show and don't know how to implement it on a network within their current infrastructure."
Many companies employ a copycat approach — they see others implementing digital signage, and so they too deploy it, so as not to seem behind the times. Unfortunately, without thoughtfully determining how to utilize the signage, its full potential is wasted.
"It's something companies feel like they have to do because they see others doing it," said Mike Zmuda, director of business development for Itasca, Ill.-based NEC Display Solutions, a company that designs and produces cutting-edge visual display technology for a wide variety of markets.
Brian Hirsch, senior vice president of media services for Redmond, Wash.-based PlayNetwork Inc., a media services provider, says that most companies, if asked for their digital signage strategy, would simply say that installing screens is enough of a strategy for a successful digital signage network. But nothing could be further from the truth.
"[Strategy] is probably the single most important thing that needs to be done. It needs to be figured out first because it sets the framework for everything you do, [but] strategy is the weakest link in many cases," said Tim Tang, marketing director for Hughes Network Systems of Germantown, Md., a company that provides broadband solutions.
"At the end of teh day, the screen you put up is just an empty canvas," Zmuda said. "You not only need to have a good technology strategy, but a good content strategy as well."
Before starting a digital signage network, a company should ask itself a number of questions, such as the goal of the content and how frequently the information should be changed.
The answers to these kinds of questions can strongly influence the proper strategy for a business' digital signage network. Craig Martin, chief executive officer of Middletown, Conn.-based Reality Interactive, an integrator of digital signage kiosks and merchandising programs, uses the analogy of buying a car. It's not one-size-fits-all. A person looking only for a car to commute from home to work has different needs than a person looking for a vehicle to haul heavy equipment or drive on rough country roads. Similarly, digital signage is not one-size-fits-all. What one business wants or needs may be different from the wants and needs of another business. Therefore, it is vitally important that companies sit down and determine exactly what they want their digital signage to achieve before installing it.
"It's all about strategy first and foremost," Hirsch said.