The State of Digital Signage

Perhaps one of the reasons pro AV hasn’t settled on a more forward-thinking term for digital signage is that we’re still blinded by the sexy screens, instead of embracing the category as a holistic solution.

According to AVIXA’s Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis (IOTA) reports, digital signage is the second largest solution area in the pro AV industry. Currently generating $34.1 billion in product and service revenues, it is expected to grow an average of 5.8 percent each year for the next five years, making it the largest solution area by 2024. “This doesn’t fully describe the scope of the phenomenon,” said AVIXA’s senior director of market intelligence Sean Wargo in an article for our sister publication, Digital Signage Magazine. “It’s easy to think of signage just as an installed display, but the technology and the opportunity go way beyond this.”

[The 2020 Digital Signage Best Practices Guide]

Displays account for 35 percent of the signage revenue, and back-end support represents 37 percent. “Beyond this is another crucial component, the services to design and install the signage, capturing 21 percent,” said Wargo. “Herein is the value-add created by the channel and also the profit avenue, since margin is only improved by a service component.”

Ecosystem Partnerships

“Ecosystem partnerships are the new black,” said Laura Davis-Taylor, chief strategy officer at InReality, which provides solutions for analyzing and optimizing place-based experiences. For 25 years Davis-Taylor has worked in advertising, store design, media, retail design, and DOOH (digital out-of-home). She has seen signage installations fail because disparate teams had not worked together or did not understand all of the elements needed for a seamless integration.

Laura Davis-Taylor

Laura Davis-Taylor

“Clients want the complexity mitigated,” said Davis-Taylor. “More than ever they are saying, ‘I don’t want to manage 19 people.’ If an integrator can say, ‘Here are my people, and we’ll manage it for you,’ you’re going to have a better chance of getting a gig.”

It’s critical to know your ecosystem partners well ahead of the job bid. Know who you are partnering with for design, fabrication, and other services like content, she said. “Have your team of allies for when you need your partners to be experts.”

Nothing stays the same in the world of technology. Davis-Taylor recommends that integrators become experts so they can become solution providers. “Help lead us safely and securely into a new a world [where] the installation of digital signage is integrated in a smart way with other devices and sensors.”

A Platform

One of those ecosystem partners may be a company such as Appspace, which provides a unified software platform for signage throughout the workplace. Integrators will find Appspace already embedded in hardware devices from Crestron, Cisco, BrightSign, LG, and others.

With Appspace, an integrator can provide an enterprise client a full suite of content, workflow, and management tools without needing to install or manage software. “While digital signage may be an entry point for a lot of customers, what they’re really looking for is a modern workplace platform that offers different types of services as well as the communications on one standardized platform,” said Darren Colclough, director of marketing at Appspace.

Appspace Cards enables easy content creation and sharing of information throughout the enterprise. “You simply type in a message and maybe pick a picture from the library, hit ‘publish,’ and Appspace is able to deliver that content to kiosks, in-room collaboration units, digital signs, and video walls,” said Colclough. The HTML-based content is responsive and will adapt to the size of the display.

“The platform creates an experience that is seamless across every office,” added Colclough. “It’s simple to manage and standardize from a security and an integration standpoint.”

Signage might be the initial use case for a client. “Very quickly, if not immediately, that turns into room scheduling,” said Colclough.

A Holistic Solution

Will Amos

Will Amos

Having worked on the manufacturing and creative sides of digital signage, Will Amos joined design and integration firm Diversified five years ago as director of the company’s Digital Media Group.

“The Digital Media Group focuses on the network, experiential, and retail deployments of large networks,” said Amos. “We really look to utilize our network operation center.”

Some clients are looking for complete packages from design through support, but digital signage management is a discipline many enterprises decline to take on. “For a new company that’s looking to deploy a large network, ideally we would get in on the [early conversations] and talk through the technology and the infrastructure behind it, how to deploy—then, and most importantly, [discuss] how to help manage and monitor the solution and provide a support structure,” Amos said. Managed services become large parts of your solutions.

“I think what our industry is doing right now is trying to organize itself,” Amos said. An example is BrightSign, which is able to bring in content management software and organize and deploy it. “Media players are becoming much more cost-efficient and deployable. There’s more [technology] on a chip, and they’re getting more robust.”

Take It Outside

Outdoor digital signage shows continued growth potential, increasing in popularity in a variety of industries, especially quick-service restaurants (QSRs) and transportation. “We are seeing the largest volume of outdoor digital signage appear in the form of smaller displays, 45- to 55-inch, for QSRs and other applications such as pharmacies and car washes that incorporate a queue along with customer communication via displays,” said Brian McClimans, vice president of sales, Americas and APAC, at Peerless-AV.

Brian McClimans, Peerless-AV

Brian McClimans

Many of these applications previously relied on static signage, but digital displays have become the norm. During the last 24 months, McDonald’s rolled out over 60,000 units in drive-throughs. “This is something that brands are doing nationwide,” said McClimans.

Outdoor digital signage is enjoying growth in the transportation market, with increasing deployment in rail, light rail, and airport facilities. “More than ever, travelers are seeing outdoor digital displays that communicate important information and messaging, such as arrival/departure times, gate changes, delays, and more,” said McClimans. “This will continue to make it easier than ever to communicate with travelers.”

The decreased cost of direct view LED (dvLED) products is driving growth in digital signage for applications both inside and outside. “From billboards to video displays on buildings, dvLED will be popping up everywhere,” said McClimans. “There are endless uses for these displays.”

McClimans predicts an increase in the number of outdoor kiosks with digital displays. “The success of deployments of electric vehicle charging kiosks, such as those created by Peerless-AV for Volta, and implementing advertising into kiosks with digital displays brings value to many parties involved,” he said. It provides relevant, customized information in an efficient way. For advertisers, this is a great opportunity to quickly relay messaging to customers, thereby helping advertisers see ROI more quickly.

The Future Looks ...

If a holistic digital signage solution is not a part of your integration firm’s offering today, AVIXA’s IOTA report stating that digital signage is the second largest solution area within the pro AV industry might have you taking another look.  

Cindy Davis
Brand and content director of AV Technology

Cindy Davis is the brand and content director of AV Technology. Davis enjoys exploring the ethos of experiential spaces as well as diving deep into the complex topics that shape the AV/IT industry. In 2012, the TechDecisions brand of content sites she developed for EH Publishing was named one of “10 Great Business Media Websites” by B2B Media Business magazine. For more than 20 years, Davis has developed and delivered multiplatform content for AV/IT B2B and consumer electronics B2C publications, associations, and companies. From 2000 to 2008, Davis was the publisher and editor-in-chief of Electronic House. From 2009 to present, as the principal of CustomMedia.Co, Davis developed content plans and delivered content for associations such as IEEE Standards Association and AVIXA, content marketing for Future Plc, and numerous AV/IT companies. Davis 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. 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.