Cloud technology is helping to make digital signs a far more attractive proposition for a wider range of businesses than ever before. Cloud-based solutions mean that digital signage can be offered as a managed service with a modest upfront payment and subsequent monthly fee, rather than needing a huge one-off investment. Businesses can easily scale up their use of the signs as their strategy evolves.
However, as digital signage become increasingly popular, one fact becomes clear. Unless a digital signage campaign shows compelling content which is also relevant and timely, the technology itself will be ineffective.
It is easy for a business – especially an SME – to fall into the trap of being seduced by the technology and ignore the skills and time needed to keep creating new, relevant content. The many digital screen vendors who use hardware specifications and software capabilities to sell the technology, but then don't provide any guidance as to how to use it to its full potential, encourage this oversight.
Small businesses often don't have the time or the right in-house skills to develop and manage high quality content. Even large multi-location businesses can struggle to find the right combination of creativity, technical knowledge and market awareness. To make things worse, it's sometimes not even clear which department – IT, marketing or facilities management – has overall responsibility. It takes a broad span of different skills to create, co-ordinate, schedule and then measure content effectively.
As consumers, we have all become used to the immediacy of the internet and the growing capabilities of mobile apps. Consequently we expect content which is nothing less than fresh, topical and interactive. However, the messages being communicated must also fit in with wider business goals and brand values. Like any typical marketing programme, a digital signage campaign must grab an audience's attention, keep its viewers engrossed, transfer easy-to-understand knowledge and then, ultimately, convert interest into a sale.
There has always been the option of working with a creative agency to develop professional content that hits the spot with an audience. However, the emergence of cloud-based managed digital signage services has brought another, more cohesive, option. Managed service providers are now combining on-going support for hardware and software with creation, management and measurement of content.
This combination of creative and technological support gives business the opportunity to be more ambitious and sophisticated in their approach and so gain competitive advantage. The use of cameras to alter content in response to shifting audience demographics, and social media integration can increase customer interaction and boost online traffic. Furthermore, RSS feeds or other live, online data can allow content to respond to topical events.
All kinds of businesses are recognising that printed marketing and sales collateral can no longer be produced quickly enough to keep up with today's accelerated product lifecycles and rapidly evolving trends. In line with this, digital signage is reaching a new and exciting maturity. However, on-going expert guidance is needed to realise its true potential, to achieve early return on investment and to convert viewers into sales leads.