What Is Digital Signage?
Your ultimate guide to digital signage solutions.
What do people mean by digital signage?
What is digital signage? Sometimes called electronic or dynamic signage, we effectively mean ‘digital signs’. That’s digital screens used like traditional signs to convey information to an audience at a particular location. The category of digital signage extends past typical LED displays to include video walls, touch screens, kiosks and even large tablets.
Unlike conventional signage, the digital variety can display multimedia content from images and video to streamed media, web pages, social media and animated text. This capability makes digital signage more engaging and eye-catching than its counter-part.
The popularity of digital signage springs partly from its scheduling functionality. Users can group content into playlists and allocate different times of the day, week or month for it to play. This makes the technology a widely useful marketing and communication tool.
What is a digital signage solution?
A digital signage ‘solution’ broadly refers to three combined components: software, hardware and content. We talk you through each of these elements in greater depth below.
Firstly, you need a signage platform. That’s the software that allows you to design your screen presentations (we call these ‘creatives’) and manage your network of screens. Digital signage software needs to be easy to use when designing content so that your ideas can be realised. It also needs to be straightforward when it comes to programming your content to show on certain screens and at certain times. With this in mind, TrouDigital have designed a cloud-based, drag-and-drop platform that you don’t need to be an IT specialist to use!
The second component in a digital signage ‘solution’ is the hardware. You’ll need a screen to display your content on and a media player to enable your software.
While it is possible to buy a digital signage screen with a media player built-in, at TrouDigital we tend to avoid this approach to save hardware costs. These displays are significantly more expensive and tie you into a media player that can quickly become outdated. Opting instead for an external media player, you are free to use any TV screen or monitor, connecting via HMDI or VGA. This allows users to even repurpose old equipment. Media players come in all shapes and sizes, available on Android, Windows and Chrome OS. We typically use Android Micro PCs as they have no moving parts, proving powerful, reliable and energy-efficient.
The final and most important ingredient in a digital signage ‘solution’ is the content. A digital signage display is only as effective as the content it presents. When designing content, there are a few things you should bear in mind: Where is your screen going to be positioned? Who is your target audience? What message are you trying to convey? Keeping these questions in the front of your mind will ensure you create engaging content that is well worth the investment. Check out our guide covering best practices for digital signage content creation.
Who can benefit from digital signage?
Almost anyone can benefit from digital signage. A wide range of industries use the technology, whether it’s to communicate with staff, market to customers or generate advertising revenue. Below are just some of the sectors we already work with and how signage is used.
Digital signage for retail is popular with independent shops and shopping centres alike. Studies have shown they can increase sales by as much as 29.5%.
Digital signage is ideal for corporate internal communication. Popular in offices and other premises, it can be a great way to promote company values or display meeting room timetables.
Out of all the industries, real estate perhaps benefits the most from digital signage. Installing screens in a window allows agents to automate the way they promote properties, avoiding a lot of manual work.
You don’t have to be an advertising agency to benefit from digital signage. Anyone can generate a second source of income with a signage network.
Digital signage solutions support a wide range of media including images, video, social media, embedded web pages, scrolling tickers, RSS feeds, countdown timers, weather, time and date. We can also integrate with many external forms of software such as timetables for schools and meeting rooms, or property feeds for estate agents.
Traditional digital signage solutions are ‘native’ rather than web or cloud-based. This tends to mean that content management is assigned to a specialist individual or team in-house. Native solutions are often more technically demanding and require skill to manage a network of screens. This raises a significant problem should your in-house expert be off sick or actually leave their job. Your whole network of screens could be jeopardised. At the most primitive level, a native solution might use simple PowerPoint. More sophisticated signage might utilise content creation applications like Photoshop. A downside to this is of course cost.
Web or ‘cloud-based’ platforms are increasingly popular. Their greatest asset is the ability to remotely manage a network of screens from any PC with an internet connection. With all your content hosted in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about losing your work or your network going down in the event of a power-cut. What’s put people off web-based platforms in the past is usability. Many solutions remain clunky and get in the way of content creation. Our drag-and-drop solutions seek to resolve this problem, creating them with a non-technical end-user in mind. Don’t take our word for preferring cloud-based software, book an online demo to see our solution for yourself.
One of the greatest anxieties surrounding the transition to digital signage is the perception of high maintenance. It is assumed that content creation is an ongoing requirement and that managing a large network is complicated.
In reality, digital signage when optimised with the right solution is relatively minimal hassle. Especially when compared to creating, distributing and replacing the alternatives like posters. On the TrouDigital platform, engaging screens can be knocked up quickly in our drag-and-drop studio. Most importantly, digital signage can be fully automated. Maintenance is alleviated by the fact that screens can be programmed long in advance to loop content on different screens. Integrating content like social media streams and RSS feeds through our simplified widget menu is a great way of letting your screens ‘update themselves’. See for yourself in an online demo.
While not every provider supports advertising, at TrouDigital we positively encourage it with specialist advertising packages. This is because we believe digital signage can generate any business a side income stream.
We also set ourselves apart from the few providers who do offer advertising. Often they try to dictate the sponsored content that goes on your screens, only to then take a significant cut – often a majority – of the ad revenue. We are completely against this approach and believe in giving you complete control over your network.
You can either opt for our standard digital signage package at £25/month per screen, organise sponsorship and content scheduling yourself, still having access to our support, and claim 100% of the profit. Or we can take a more hands-on role, creating sponsorship documentation for you to present to advertisers and taking care of all scheduling too. Effectively our advertising team becomes your team for just £45/month per screen. The only instance in which a profit-share might be agreed is if you wanted us to actively go out, pursue and sign sponsors on your behalf. In these arrangements, you would still receive the vast majority of all revenue.
At TrouDigital we are always refining our software and adding new functionality. Unlike other providers, however, we promise our customers free updates and upgrades for life. We want you to benefit from software that is always getting better. Upgrades to our CMS are carried out automatically so the only updates you might need to do yourself are to our media player app which is less regular. If we have you on TeamViewer support, we can do this for you.
Our digital signage solutions are compatible with touch screens including kiosks using the same media players (more powerful are available if required). We recently added a widget that allows users to click an area of the screen to trigger different content, for example, a video. Going interactive can be a great asset for environments like education and retail. Another interactive feature we offer is called ‘lift and learn’. This is where users trigger content by lifting a physical item up in a store. For more information, ask us about touch screens.
A digital signage solution requires two hardware components: a screen and a media player. In some cases, these are combined in a ‘signage display’ but these monitors can be extremely expensive. In-built media players also run the risk of becoming outdated as the technology improves. That’s why TrouDigital prefer to use external media players, usually an Android Micro PC, and provide these as part of our package. They are worth around £150 each but we save you this cost through a device loan throughout the duration of your software contract. Other media players are available powered by Windows or Chrome OS if you have a particular requirement.
When it comes to the screens, any monitor with a HDMI or even VGA port can be transformed into a digital sign through a media player. If you are looking to save money, using an existing flatscreen TV can be a great way to cut costs. Should you require new screens, a kiosk or perhaps a video wall, TrouDigital has long-standing AV partners and are therefore able to get you the best prices. It is important to note that in deployments with high exposure to sun-light, for instance, a south-facing window, a high bright display would be required for optimum results. These are more expensive but worth the investment when it comes to quality. For a hardware quote, please get in touch.
Installing a digital display is a fairly straightforward process that any AV installer would be able to manage. Depending on your location, we can install screens for you, recommend an AV partner or leave you to fit it yourself. If you wanted to use a wired internet connection, this would need to be considered but can be put in for you. Alternatively, WiFi is usually more than adequate. Media players require no additional installation as they are simply ‘plug and play’ with a provided HDMI cable. They will just need access to mains power.
This can be a difficult question. While many signage providers are elusive on this, we’ll give you the numbers straight. Digital signage used to be the reserve of large companies with bottomless budgets. While some companies still charge thousands for overly complicated hardware, on the whole digital signage has become a lot more affordable.
The largest cost involved – the price of the screens – has plummeted. You can now pick up a high quality LED for around £250, depending on the size. When using an external media player, typical consumer-grade displays will often do the job, with the exception of deployments where a high-bright screen is necessary and more expensive. There are many different types of digital signage package out there. Many companies want a large sum up-front, while others charge you hundreds of pounds for media players, and then an additional monthly software fee.
We have tried to simplify things. Our standard packages start at £25/month per screen and include a media player, training and support. For more information, please refer to our pricing page.
The main advantage of choosing a digital display is versatility. Screens can be segmented into individual areas serving different functions. Content can be scheduled in playlists for different times of the day, month or year. This is great for space-saving as a whole variety of information can be conveyed with a single screen.
Going digital opens up engaging media options such as video, embedded webpages and animated text. These are proven to be more effective than simply delivering information through static text.
From an administrative perspective, a digital display is less hassle than a traditional noticeboard as updates can be made from any PC and put live instantly. There’s no need to physically dismantle anything. Users can swap content out with a few clicks or make changes. This makes digital signage ideal for busy environments. From an environmental perspective too, it can really help cut down on paper usage, replacing old-fashioned posters.
At the earliest stage of a potential project, we recommend asking yourself the following questions:
- How many screens are you looking to deploy?
- Do you intend to install at multiple sites or in complicated locations?
- What kind of content would you like to show?
- Are you working towards a set timeline?
- Will you need to purchase the screens themselves?
- Do you have a budget in mind?
- Would you be interested in generating ad revenue?