If you’re new to the world of digital signage, you have a lot of questions:

  • What exactly is digital signage?
  • Why do I need to use digital signage?
  • Where do I begin?
  • What kind of software do I need?
  • What kind of hardware do I need?
  • What type of content should I display?

Finding the answers to these questions can help you understand the basics of digital signage so you can make an educated decision before diving in.

None of this has to be complicated.

And we don’t want it to be.

That’s our goal. To make the process of implementing digital signage cost-effective, flexible, and easy to manage, while maintaining the comprehensive technical requirements.

You and your company may be interested in the concept of digital signage, but if you don’t understand how to align the hardware with the software, what kind of content you need to create, or how and where to begin, you may resist moving forward.

In this post, we’re going to take you through the basics of digital signage so that by the time you’re done reading it, you’ll know what to do and where to begin.

1. What is a Digital Signage Campaign?

A digital signage campaign is a marketing campaign that is completely paperless. It is innovative, savvy, and driven by powerful images and video.

In other words, it’s strictly digital.

Digital signage first appeared in the retail industry as a means of sharing basic information. As the price points of digital signage shifted for the better, so did the usage of the signs.

Retailers began to see the benefits of using the signs for something bigger and better: Something that could reach thousands, even millions of people at a time.

By creating marketing campaigns that are interactive and fun, retailers were able to create a whole new shopping experience.

As more and more retailers began to see the benefits of creating such an experience, new ideas and concepts were integrated:

  • Live social media feeds
  • Social shares of images related to the brand
  • Live, virtual experiencesBefore long, other industries like the banking industry and the healthcare sector, began to use digital signage to educate patients, attract new customers, engage employees, and increase brand loyalty.

The way each industry uses digital signs and kiosks are endless.

New ideas are showing up every day, blowing consumers away with really interesting marketing strategies.  

2. Why do I Need to Integrate Digital Signage?  

Companies need to display their messages where their audience’s attention is.

And whether it’s HR updating their internal workforce or a marketing campaign at bus stops, each campaign will vary drastically.

The restaurant industry is a prime example.

This industry has seen an explosion of digital menu boards and kiosks as more and more QSR/Fast Casual eateries incorporate them into their customer engagement plan.

Customer engagement strategies in this vertical are used primarily to:

a. Replace standard wall menus. With digital, a fast casual restaurant can show a video of a delicious, sizzling burger to entice customers to upgrade a meal.
b. Reduce payroll. By using self-serve kiosks, an establishment can give customers the opportunity to order a meal without waiting for a busy server to come by and scrawl it on a notepad.
c. Replace drive-through menus. The requirements for outdoor signage is much different from indoor signage. You have to take into consideration things like temperature, water, and light glare.

If you’ve ever stepped foot in a Panera, you’ve likely seen stand-alone self-service kiosks.

At these trendy digital mechanisms, you can order your meal without waiting for an actual human.

Because really, who wants that?

It’s a little different down the road at Applebee’s, where tabletop devices assist servers by encouraging patrons to order appetizers or a second round of drinks via the device

If that’s not enough, you can pay your bill right there while your server picks up the broken glass on the floor because a customer got all excited about the games he can play on the same kind of table-top device you just paid your bill on.

It’s a crazy, digital world out there. But to keep up with the Joneses, you’ve got to know what’s working and what isn’t.

Digital signage is working, and it’s where your customer’s attention is.

3. Why Do I Need Software?

If you want to wow the world with a killer digital signage campaign (one with really cool images and videos that evoke emotion, or one that allows your customers to interact), you’re going to need a special kind of software to do it.

Using a software solution that keeps your marketing content neat, clean, and organized is the simplest way to share various messages and sales promotions with your customers.

Lots of companies offer a cloud based content management software (CMS). Here’s a list of different features you should look for when finding a CMS that will work with your campaign:

  • Flexible templates (usually small companies prefer templates, while large companies prefer blank canvases so they can create without restrictions)
  • Ability to scale (and maintain ease of use) from a small number to many displays
  • Security – ensure that the content I am posting on my displays is secure from illicit access
  • Ability to cache content at the player so the signs continue to play content even if the network connection drops
  • Easy method of scheduling content to play at a future time/date
  • Support for content creation tools the users already know how to use
  • Ease of use

The idea is to use a software that will help you create content that is powerful and effective, based on the needs of your business.

Once you find the right content management software solution, you’re going to need the right kind of media players, screens or kiosks to show your wares to the world.

Of course, you’ll need an Internet connection, too, but you already knew that.

4. What kind of hardware do I need? 

This is a loaded question, and depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, you may need more toys than the guy next door.

For the purpose of this post and to keep things simple, we’ll use a basic digital signage campaign as an example.

For starters, you should know that the most commonly used hardware items are:

  • Digital Display Screen
  • Media Player
  • Network
  • Somewhere to “run the core services” (on-premise server/ computer or cloud-based service)

Let’s say you want to put up a digital sign in your clothing store to showcase new items and clearance promotions. For this, you’ll need a media player and display screen.

Media players are the “magic box” that talk to the software. If you have a smart TV and you watch Netflix or YouTube on it, you’re using a media player to stream the video.

Some media players are tall, some are flat, and some are the size of an old VCR. But in this instance, size doesn’t matter.

Quality does.

Before purchasing a media player, talk to a customer service rep so they can help you determine which one you should invest in, based on your needs.

Ask questions. Lots of questions.

If digital signage is a new territory for you, understanding how it works is the most important factor above anything else.

Digital display screens are a must. They are the icing on the cake. The sugar in your cereal. The honey in your tea.

Without a digital screen display (or kiosk or touch screen or insert desired visual medium here: _________), your digital campaign will never, ever be seen.

And that would be a shame.

Using the example of our clothing store, you may decide on a simple, high-definition flat screen to display this seasons goods.

You set it up in the middle of the store, above a display of colorful shirts and matching shorts. Passer-byers on the street peek through the window and stop to look at the colorful screen boasting sales and promotions.

They like what they see so they come in. They think your sassy and innovative, which is exactly what you want.

The customers already in the store have seen the display and are excited about the content.

Speaking of which…what kind of content will you need to create, anyway?

5. How do I determine the content I will use?

The best way to determine what kind of content you should use it to do your homework.

Read case studies to determine what other retailers like you are using as far as software and hardware.

Visit other stores and take notes on what they’re doing to attract attention. Do they have one display? Two? How many stores are they digital in? Are their signs interactive?

If you’re a high-end clothing store, look at how other high-end clothing stores are using digital signage to wow their customers.

Case in point (and I’ve used this example before, but it’s one of my favorites because it tops so many other digital campaigns):

Apolosophy Shampoo chose to create a campaign that made a woman on their digital sign “come to life” when a subway train rolled in, blowing her hair all over the place at the right time. The sign attracted many and got great reaction.

The “come to life” technique was accomplished by incorporating a sensor within the hardware of the sign.

This campaign stands out from so many others because somebody somewhere chose to think outside of the box. This is what you need to do.

If content like this resonates with you, how can you do something similar to attract customers?

Conclusion

There are lots of different facets involved when preparing for your first digital signage campaign.

Understanding the basics can help you determine what you need for a successful launch.

Integrating digital signage in your business puts you above the rest and in line with a technological revolution that will only get better with time.

Look at the various aspects of content marketing software and hardware to determine what you need to pump out content that matters.

If you need help determining what your content should look like, do your homework. Study similar businesses and read case studies. Don’t shoot from the hip. Creating a winning campaign takes time and research.

What kind of campaign do you think your business needs?