Digital Signage – an overview

Introduction

Let's be honest: screen advertising – or better known as: digital signage - is one of those fields that still shows growth rates in German-speaking countries in 2022 that make our hearts beat faster. One would like to assume that digital billboard advertising has now even arrived at the small bakery around the corner. What can be simpler than hanging a screen in the corner and streaming some content?

Admittedly, this works quite well from a purely technical point of view. But we are all merchants and should – nay, must – therefore ask ourselves: and what is the point? What is my return on investment if I have to laboriously climb the ladder to screw a heavy, black box to the wall?

The moment you clicked on this blog article, you must have realized that digital signage has to offer far more than the home TV from the electronics retailer plus any random web stream.
So let's go into detail and look at the advantages of digital signage and what should be considered:

The Classic: Signage solo

The simplest form of digital advertising in retail is classic DS screens. These can either be LCDs (liquid crystal displays), LEDs (light-emitting diodes) or, more recently, OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes). There is still a lot going on in the LED area in particular, as the pixels that make up the screens are getting smaller and smaller, resulting in a high-resolution image even from an increasingly small viewing distance.

LEDs are characterized by high brightness, so they are ideal for use in shop windows. They display more intensive colors than LCDs and can be brought into very flexible forms thanks to their modular structure.

LCDs, on the other hand, are usually easier to install, have (still) the better resolution, are usually available on the market more quickly and are cheaper than LEDs.

However, what all screen types have in common is that they can only display content. What is fed into the backend is displayed on the screen, and that’s it. There are few, and if so rather cumbersome, options for customers to interact with the screen (e.g. via QR codes) or to directly influence what is displayed.

Nevertheless, this type of display solution is still the most popular, since in combination with the right software (see below) an impressive amount of dynamic and data-based content display can still be achieved.

In addition, creative screen formats are already an eye-catcher in themselves; paired with breathtaking media, which catches the desired target group’s attention.

Why you should consider digital signage displays:

  • Posters no longer have to be printed. Material and printing costs are eliminated, as is the installation of the new advertising media in the branches
  • Screens are installed once and can then be serviced remotely
  • If desired, the retailer does not have to worry about maintenance or content.
  • Up-to-date every second: digital content adapts immediately to volume availability and trends; the lead time that applies to analog advertising vanishes.

More about LED, LCD und OLEDs: https://www.buetema-ag.de/led-vs-lcd-oled/

Come a little closer: Digital Signage & touch-sensitive displays

The next "level" of digital screen advertising now speaks to the end customer much more directly. We all learned how to confidently handle touch-enabled screens since our last visit to the fast-food chain with the golden M. New forms of touch-sensitive displays prove that a similar principle can also be implemented in retail.

It all started with the classic self-service terminal. Customers can use a display to find out about the goods available in the branch, apply for customer cards, jump to the online shop, call on shop assistants for help or have outfits suggested to them. A bonus is the barcode scanner at the bottom, which can be used to capture a product's label and display additional information about the item.

Payment, too, was already possible in principle. However, since no payment terminals were attached to the first displays, check-out was cumbersome and restricted. This changed with the integration of a card terminal and the alliance with a payment service provider. Self checkout registers, such as those known from the yellow and blue furniture stores, have also found their way into retail.

Software and how content is displayed are just as important here as with classic signage: service (payment) terminals should always be self-explanatory; Customers need to know at a glance what they can discover here and how to operate the screen. Processes should be fast, smooth and informing the person in front of it of what’s happening and what they have to do next.

Why you should consider Self Service & Self Checkout:

  • Self-service terminals offer a variety of possibilities: they can be digital info points, call a salesperson, but also provide customers with exactly the information they are looking for without having to first look for a salesperson
  • All information is up-to-date
  • Self-service checkouts are trendy; Customers want to be able to pay for their goods themselves
  • The self-checkouts save time, personnel and space.
  • When the terminal is not in use, it plays classic digital signage content

Hybrids: A second Life

Especially during the Corona crisis, retailers were repeatedly faced with rapidly changing requirements and were obliged to develop hygiene concepts. Among other things, there was a temporary restriction of customers per square meter. Many retailers solved this with automatic, sensor-controlled admission controls: Sensor on the ceiling, screen at the entrance - done. But what happened to the expensive screen when the restrictions were lifted? Couldn't it be integrated into the store concept as a beautiful digital signage concept? And voilà - killing two birds with one stone: the regulations for admission control were met, and the new DS system was installed almost immediately.

Why you should consider hybrid systems:

  • The initial investment is not lost if requirements change
  • Sustainable concept
  • If you already have a screen plus computer, you only need to install the sensor
Digital Signage LCD Screen mit angebundenem Sensor zum Zählen von Kunden vor dem Eingang einer BabyOne Filiale

Software: the invisible foundation

As already teased in the intro, digital signage is possible without software, but pretty much pointless. Today's modern DS systems can do much, much more than just create a playlist, which then plays back the videos and images in a predetermined order.

The absolute basis is that different media types can be recognized and played back in the mix. These are different image files, videos, music, PDFs, but also template mixes that contain prices, product descriptions and product images.

Like any modern application these days, operating a signage system shouldn't be rocket science. Intuitive access is just as important as availability that is unlimited in terms of time and location. For example, a browser-based application is ideal.

The core and heart of good DS software are the design options. Not every company can and wants to buy the entire Adobe software family or hire an external content agency for just three 60-inch devices. Effects such as slow zoom, fade transitions or dividing the screen into several zones help present the content in an appealing way.

When the number of media, locations and screens seems to explode, sorting, monitoring and statistics are the be-all and end-all. Even if advertising time is sold on to brand partners, all parties want to know how often the brand’s ad spot is played in order to be able to bill accordingly.

By integrating rules, content can be planned far in advance. These can be simple date rules, but also ones that depend on the weather.

Last but not least, it can be extremely helpful if the colleague from Berlin can look at the screen in Passau without having to get on the next train. Remote maintenance is useful for running content tests or tracking down small problems.

However, the prerequisite for this cornucopia of features is that the DS software is connected to your own ERP system.

Why you should consider a solid Digital Signage software:

  • Provides design options
  • Adaptable and customizable to your requirements
  • Accessible from anywhere
  • Allows content to be planned far ahead
  • AI-supported rules make work easier ("Only play this product if it is warmer than 25°C. "Don't play this product if it is no longer available", ...)
  • Provides remote maintenance/remote control
  • Detailed statistics, e.g. for accounting for advertising time sold
  • Has a connection to your own ERP system

Content: the supreme discipline

Now that we have ticked off the screens and software – “only” the right content is missing. However, content creation for digital signage systems should always be viewed as a discipline in its own right. As mentioned above, good software can provide a lot of support here. But a few basic rules should be observed from the start.

Not every display comes in the practical 16:9 format. If media content is created, the end format of the screen must always be taken into account. It is also essential where the screen stands/hangs and from what distance the customer sees the content. Fonts must therefore be neither too big nor too small.

A promotion loop (i.e. the length of all media together) should not exceed 2 minutes. Very few customers will stay in front of the screen the entire time. Clear messages, strong contrasts and statements that can be understood in seconds are therefore important.

What you should consider when creating Digital Signage content:

  • Customers are informed quickly and easily
  • The important messages get through
  • Creative, attention-grabbing content makes viewers linger and entertain
  • Special formats can be used creatively and generate an additional "Aha!" effect

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