ROI Essentials: Digital Signage in the Enterprise

ROI Essentials: Digital Signage in the Enterprise

Practical & creative advice on how to demonstrate a positive return on your digital signage investment.

Ask a project or marketing manager how they plan to measure a return on investment (ROI) on a digital signage rollout within the enterprise, and you’ll hear such things as branding, messaging, or the most nebulous of measurements, “awareness.” Then ask any CFO, and the equation becomes very black and red: How much is it going to cost, exactly how much money will this add to the bottom-line, and how quickly? R over I equals: you better have a better answer.

Joy Mining Machinery, a worldwide manufacturing company headquartered near Pittsburgh, PA, uses digital signage to post safety information reminders as well as statistics on safety. They have found that there has been a huge return on investment from the standpoint of less accidents happening within the facility. Unlike the retail or fast food industries where there can be a direct correlation from the customer to a sale, digital signage in an enterprise environment takes a deeper level of planning to get to the bottom line.


“One of the keys things that I always tell people is, that you have to set clear goals and objectives for your signage project before you start,” said Gina Dickson, director, global product management, technology product solutions at Black Box Network Services. “When you are in the enterprise, in some cases it is the Return On Objectives, not necessarily Return On Investment.” Having a full understanding of what you want to achieve is critical, and this should be done well before considering what system to purchase.


“What is key, is having the right people involved,” Dickson continued. Digital signage projects are often championed from internal marketing departments. “At the end of the day, signage ends up impacting multiple departments within the enterprise: There’s IT, maybe HR because you are trying to get general messaging out there, and you need senior leadership buy-in.”

Dickson added: “The projects that tend to be most successful are the ones that have the CFO involved from the very beginning.”


With getting a CFO involved early, “A lot of it is going to come down to the application,” Dickson shared, citing BlackBox customer Joy Mining Machinery, a worldwide manufacturing company headquartered near Pittsburgh, PA. Branding and messaging were the initial objectives at Joy Mining, however as more departments realized its reach, the signage system was expanded to other areas of the company to improve manufacturing quality and efficiency. The company’s engineering staff wanted the ability to provide engineering metrics to staff, and HR wanted an easier, faster way to announce job bids and awards in its many facilities.

Dickson explained a particularly remarkable outcome of Joy Mining’s digital signage effort: “They’ll put safety information reminders up as well as statistics on safety, ‘It’s been 43 days since the last incidence,’ and they have found that there has been a huge return on investment from the standpoint of less accidents happening within the facility.”

Safety information reminders are surrounded by plant safety statics, best practices, and safety tips. “There’s a very easy ROI for them, because that’s extremely measurable,” Dickson said. “They also use their digital signage for presenting inventory statics out onto the floor and have integrated it with SAP system on the backend.”


To help ensure an ROI, Dickson suggests the need to have a platform that can easily scale, and to start with a pilot project. “If it’s a large corporation, maybe you start with one building, with just a couple of screens.” Make sure all expectations are met: from installation of the hardware and software, functionality and content delivery to the content messaging. “I look at scalability from two perspectives: One is physical scalability that goes from five screens to five hundred screens, and being able to do that in a meaningful way without having to reinvest in anything,” Dickson said. “The other piece of it is scalability in your content and what you try to do with your signage.”

Protecting your initial investment is one of the strongest cases for choosing a scalable system. “Maybe on day one, you only need your signage system to inform people,” Dickson said. “What we tend to see with signage is, once a customer starts down that path they start to get more ideas of what they can do with their signage within their enterprise.” Adding touchscreens, or interactive devices that provide feedback are some of the common evolutions of an initial investment.


Beyond the initial investment, it is important to think of the total cost of ownership.

“Every digital signage vendor does things a little bit differently: some are selling software, some like us are doing an appliance-based sale, some are doing a SasS-based offering,” Dickson said. “You probably want to look at it over a three-year time period. The cost day one is one thing, but when you think about ongoing maintenance and contracts that could be involved, and then keeping content up to date, you’ll want to understand all of those pieces in order to figure out what your real investment is.”


“What’s nice about a good, scalable platform is that you can start with one objective and turn that into others in different areas of the business,” Dickson confirmed.

BlackBox has customers that have used their platform to work with sales gamification programs to create competition among their sales teams. While gamification might not be the appropriate tool outside of sales, most departments within an organization has goals and milestones that can be positively communicated to help increase productivity and boost teamwork.


With all of that planning and purchasing, “When you are measuring ROI, you want to ask yourself if the screens are in the right location, and is the content good enough,” Dickson added. “You can spend a million dollars on [it]…but if your content stinks, your signage installation stinks.”




Cindy Davis
Brand and content director of AV Technology

Cindy Davis is the brand and content director of AV Technology (AVT). She was a critical member of the AVT editorial team when the title won the “Best Media Brand” laurel in the 2018 SIIA Jesse H. Neal Awards. Davis moderates several monthly AV/IT roundtables and enjoys facilitating and engaging in deeper conversations about the complex topics shaping the ever-evolving AV/IT industry. She explores the ethos of collaboration, hybrid workplaces, experiential spaces, and artificial intelligence to share with readers. Previously, she developed the TechDecisions brand of content sites for EH Publishing, named one of the “10 Great Business Media Websites” by B2B Media Business magazine. For more than 25 years, Davis has developed and delivered multiplatform content for AV/IT B2B and consumer electronics B2C publications, associations, and companies. A lifelong New Englander, Davis makes time for coastal hikes with her husband, Gary, and their Vizsla rescue, Dixie, sailing on one of Gloucester’s great schooners and sampling local IPAs. Connect with her on LinkedIn