No longer the domain solely of retail, digital signage is spreading its wings, creating a market with plenty to offer the reseller.
Heather Wright gets some industry insiders views on the growing market and the role of resellers.
Enter the reseller...
Once the domain of specialist AV resellers, experts agree there's now plenty of scope for general IT resellers.
“Absolutely,” says Varun Dhani, New Zealand sales manager for point of sales distributor Sektor. “The backbone of any digital signage solution is the content delivery software, a network to go with it and possibly a small dedicated server – albeit, this is just a grunty PC.”
Adds Rick Haywood, MD, Pro Video Systems: “We're definitely seeing a broadening of the horizon.
“While traditional AV resellers are still at the forefront of this business, we have seen the emergence of other players such as IT companies, security resellers, signage companies and even printers. I think some of these industries can see the writing on the wall for their traditional business.”
He says there are some 'great' products now available, which make a reseller's job easier. “The monitors and hardware to run them have become very affordable, so the main barrier to purchase tends to be a perception that this is going to be complex. It doesn't have to be. Like all good design, software is no exception and it should start with simplicity and ease of use.
It is all about how the software manufacturers are able to deliver the power in an elegant, simple way.”
Dhani says education is a key vertical attracting a lot of attention at the moment. “Delivery of content in a digital form from a school event, an assembly or the school's motto across multiple screens in every classroom, all controlled by an office administrator's fingertips, has a lot of people excited.”
Meanwhile Haywood says while it's hard to pinpoint a key vertical for digital signage at the moment, 'if I had to isolate one it would probably be manufacturing'.
Medical centres are also a key target, with their legal obligation to display certain signs.
The retail space, however, still has plenty to offer digital signage resellers, with companies introducing new uses for digital signage on the retail front.
Frost & Sullivan digital media program manager, Aravindh Vanchesan says when properly executed, in-store digital signage reinforces purchase behaviour or creates the impulse to make incremental purchases, and is therefore 'rapidly gaining acceptance'.
“Content can be highly targeted and, since the merchandise is close to the message, the call to action is clearly communicated to accomplish the desired objectives.”
Dhani says he's seeing trends like way finders within buildings and large malls, digital dynamic window displays instead of posters, and product showcases in small footprint stores, and digital mannequins.
“I've also seen digital signage used with a smart shelf for product displays, where when an item is picked up a sensor triggers an ad to play – in this case it was a perfume stand,” Dhani adds. He also cites the example of a digital wall of shoes, allowing the user to interact and customise things such as colourand style.
In the Yealands example – courtesy of Pro Video Systems – the vineyard is using three edge blended projectors to create a seamless panormaic image which can display images and promotions.
Haywood says Pro Video Systems is also starting to investigate PADS digital signage application integration with Intel's AIM software.
“Using anonymous sensors and highly sophisticated computer algorithms, AIM Suite accurately counts the potential and actual audiences for visual messages and merchandising. It profiles viewers by variables as broad as gender and age-range, to as specfici as viewing times and duration,” he says.
“PADS can then use this data in real-time to target the message to the viewer.”
However, Haywood acknowledges that there can be user resistance to learning something new.
“So if we can ease that pain by providing a familiar interface and even just linking into data or imagery and automating the presentation of those messages and delivering them in a timely, consistent manner, then it quickly breaks down the barriers customers may feel are in their way.
“Digital signage is not just TVs stuck to a wall playing a Powerpoint presentation,” says Dhani.
“The best way to get maximum value out of this field is to lean on someone like Sektor to understand the solution, the software and the benefits of proper hardware. Listen to customers when talking about digital signage.
“This technology not only involves IT teams, it also starts moving sideways into the marketing team's domain. Engage bothy by keeping the marketing gurus happy with advertising benefits while keeping the IT teams happy around how to roll and manage digital signage without creating too many headaches around support.”
Adds Haywood: “The conversation starts with consistency of the message and reliability of delivery. One of the challenges for many businesses is knowing that the message is where it should be when it should be.
“Obviously there are long-term cost savings as we move away from printed messaging towards digital, but frequently one of the biggest challenges is delivery.
Has that store or branch put the poster up? Have they taken that promotion down? Wouldn't it be great if we could change the message with the time of day or day of the week, or the weather?
“These are the true benefits of digital signage.”