To answer this, we need to look at digital signage’s origins.
We can associate digital signage’s early beginnings to what was commonly called, “Corporate TV”.
Back in the 60’s and 70’s, cable and satellite TV technologies were the technologies large organizations used to broadcast corporate communication, employee training programs, management briefings and business news. Since employees were scattered across many states, or often in different countries, management had a hard time communicating with their staff. By then, video broadcasting technologies were fully developed so they were adapted to corporate communication.
In the 80’s, it was common to see small and medium sized companies shipping VCR tapes all over the country, or all over the world. Parcels would be dispatched to branch offices, stores and other business locations so employees could view the company “news broadcast”. There were even dedicated viewing areas, essentially converted meeting rooms that were used for this purpose. These dispatches from head office were very effective in disseminating information, regardless of the staff’s location. As time went on, VCR Tapes were eventually replaced by Video CDs, DVDs, and finally the Internet.
Corporate TV’s adoption was driven by a series of technological breakthroughs, and a lowering of barriers to entry (lower costs, less complexity and easier access to the required expertise).
So in many ways, Corporate TV was the precursor to digital signage as we know it. Today, Digital signage has become an important communication medium for a wide range of applications.
- Just like Corporate TV, digital signage can be used as very effective communication and motivational tool. You can display news, weather reports, sports results, financial information, wayfinding and many other types of content.
- It’s used in business locations, government offices, retail stores, restaurants, hotel lobbies, hospital and doctor’s waiting rooms, fitness centers, sports arenas, movie theatres, and many more locations.
- It’s ideal for sending information to large groups of viewers, in private or public settings.
- Companies use digital signage to inform, motivate, train and educate staff at every level. The same can be said for all the applications listed above. Digital signage sells, gets your point across and reinforces positive messages.
- Digital signage is great for reaching audiences that are idle. Use dwell time more productively.
- It lets you target specific audiences, age groups, sex, or any demographic.
Business may have been the catalyst but anyone can install flat panel displays to share targeted content with any audience.
Digital signage can do more than publish generic content. The best example can be found in digital signage installations around schools, college and university campuses. In case of emergency, digital signage displays can deliver evacuation notices, urgent messages and alert notifications. This content can be triggered through a manual process or launched automatically when displays are interfaced with a school’s emergency communication system. This ability to switch between regular and emergency content is one of the key advantages of digital signage over other forms of communication.
Merchants know the importance of communicating time-sensitive information to shoppers. By delivering pricing updates in real-time, merchants can increase sales, and boost the bottom line. This is increasingly important in a world where brick and mortar stores compete with e-commerce sites. Digital signage can provide an important advantage that goes beyond what’s possible with traditional printed point of purchase (POP) signage. The ability to make instant price adjustments to react to competitive pressures can be extremely profitable.
But there is more. Fore example, digital signage interfaced with a store’s point of sale system can promote slow moving items at a moment’s notice. Digital signage displays can be programmed to react to local weather, when paired with external sensors. Stores can promote parkas and boots based on the temperature outside.
Digital signage can also help shoppers make educated decisions by highlighting product features and benefits right at the point of decision. This can be extremely useful for electrical appliances and other products that require a lot of specific knowledge. Think of digital signage displays installed near clothes washers and dryers, for example. In these cases, digital signage can take on the role of “silent salesperson” and provide important information until a sales associate can take over.
Retail store operators understand the value of digital signage for their organizations.
Government Offices and Banking Institutions
Digital signage displays can play an important role in queue management. These displays can provide useful information, infotainment content and redirect visitors to someone who is available to assist. We encounter these situations often in motor vehicle offices, city court and other similar venues. The trick is to provide visitors with a more pleasurable experience by reducing perceived dwell times. Digital signage based queue management can be quite useful in many other similar situations, such as redirecting shoppers to an available cashier or pointing bank customers to an available teller. Queue management content can be used on its own or mixed in with other infotainment content.
This is a growing segment of the digital signage industry. Wayfinding lets you combine many types of content and deliver the results on touch enabled displays with the sole purpose of helping visitors find their way. There are many applications for this technology such as in the educational sector (helping students and faculty navigate a campus), business and manufacturing, banks and financial institutions, museums, retail stores and shopping malls, arenas and theatres, trade shows and more.
Wayfinding content can be as simple as bringing up a directory and delivering a set of directions to a fully interactive, 3D map that shows an animated path to the visitor’s destination. More sophisticated installations can go as far as deliver instructions and maps right to each visitor’s smartphone. There are many techniques that can be involved to deliver this content, from QR codes to iBeacons.
The larger and more complex the venue, the more useful the wayfinding will be.
These are but a few examples that illustrate the importance of digital signage.
What makes Digital Signage so useful?
There are some key features that make digital signage so useful.
- Digital signage provides the right information, at the right place, at the right time. A well programmed digital signage system will deliver information that is relevant to the audience. If you’re visiting an arena, chances are you will encounter displays that point you to your seat. You will also see ads that are relevant to the venue and the event you’re attending. Athlete statistics will be displayed and you will be instantly alerted if there is an emergency.
- Digital signage delivers the information that is relevant to viewers. Here again, programming is key. Content can be adjusted based on the viewer’s sex, age or any other relevant demographic. When paired to external sensors and face detection software, digital signage can interrupt a scheduled program to deliver content that is specifically useful to the person looking at the display. This method is proven to increase sales in retail stores.
- Digital signage displays can be paired with sensors to trigger content based on movement or other external stimuli. This lets the audience interact with the display to present specific content or play interactive games. Turning a passive display into an interactive experience engages the audience and improves retention. This can lead to favorable impressions, increased brand awareness and better retention.
Digital signage is a medium that has become familiar to everyone. Audiences are now used to seeing flat screen displays and LED billboards, even in rural areas. This will eventually lead to better and more useful content for everyone.