|| Blog: Lyle Bunn
Wednesday, 25 June 2014
InfoComm is all about the selection and development of media and the June 14-20, 2014 annual conference was inspiring. More than 37,000 delegates from 114 countries attended. 5700 education seats were filled and 947 exhibits presented a wide range of innovations.
Early in the week the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reported on its study of roadside dynamic display safety, declaring that "Commercial Electronic Variable Message Signs" do not impact driver safety.
Is this a new descriptor (?) I wondered. Surely not for wide use, but it did point to an ongoing concern about what to name the media. "Digital Signage" seems dated, "Screenmedia" though increasingly used is commonly too broad a descriptor and terms such as "Dynamic Place-Based", "Enterprise Media" and others are applied. As the media applications broaden, we can assume that a wider range of names for this media application will emerge and be used.
"Who are these people(?)" I asked myself while touring the digital signage area of the show floor, as there were many new exhibitors.
For your consideration: The digital signage supply base continues to grow with providers of technology elements as well as supply partnerships and consortium. Numerous new patents have been filed and granted over the past few months including iSign for its ecosystem linking place-based display and mobile devices for commerce, impulseGuide for content management approaches and multi-choice/trivia authoring, VertiGo Digital Displays for outdoor displays for outdoor display/kiosk and Digital Factory for convection cooling. The fact that most of these suppliers did not exhibit, and nor did any of the larger digital signage providers such as Scala, Stratacache among other suggests that these providers are moving forward with day-to-day relationships and projects without the need for trade show floor exhibit presence.
Further, it would appear that the majority of AV/IT integrators that will add digital signage to their portfolio have already done so. As they have selected core products and continously scan for new and better products as needed, one could believe it is less important to await the InfoComm show floor while attending Digital Signage Expo or distributor events to gain the greatest benefit in supplier connection.
But, many of the top 25 AV/IT integrators do not yet have a corporate-wide offering as many branches depend upon their search/learn/apply approaches. These firms are encouraged to get their offerings to the next level if they wish to enjoy supply to larger deployments or be part of taking existing networks to the next level of value.
Digital signage education sessions delivered some of the best value that I've seen to date. Most went far beyond the "101" level as delegates were typically in the situation where they had already deployed and were looking to move the value and benefit from their installations to new levels.
For your consideration: Place-based message display and engagement media has been embraced by organizations in virtually every sector and use for patron, shopper, traveler, staff and student communications. The medium has proven its merits and end-users, as well as suppliers, are realizing that objectives, processes and the technology that served them at the initial levels of operation typically require refinement and change if improved economies of scale are to be realized.
Some other insights offered during InfoComm14 related to digital signage include:
- Statistics about the digital signage sector that would describe its proliferation or growth are not easy to come by. NPD Displaysearch analysis based on the flat panel supply chain do not consider display size of less than 26 inches, which discounts the deployment of service counter, shelf level, elevator or other smaller form factor displays. Intelligence on the installed base of DS, the number of users, total sector employment, etc. can only be achieved by extrapolating or calculating based on the available data.
- Typical display size for deployment in increasing and is now generally 52 inch or greater based on the price performance. The narrowing of display bezel is enabling more visually effective video wall use.
- 4K displays do present stunning imagery when the content and the media fueling approach support 4K resolution. The uptake of 4K in digital signage is expected to be slow as these elements develop further with the most immediate term applications being fashion display, museum and attraction exhibit.
- Laser-based projection, with its 20,000-hour lamp life (versus about 600 hours on projectors currently), offers significant potential for large space dynamic media projection, which has so far been cost prohibitive due to mounting and maintenance needs.
- Content drives business value. Never has this been so broadly understood and taken as a "given" in a large conference setting.
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator in North America's Digital Signage - Place Based Media Sector. He has assisted more than 300 enterprises and helped to train more than 10,000 professionals to benefit from the media. He has published over 280 articles and whitepapers and has been named among the 111 Most Influential People in the industry by DigitalSignageToday.com
Tuesday, 06 May 2014
The presence of dynamic digital media hit its highest point among static sign and digital graphics providers during the 2014 International Sign Association (ISA) Expo held in Orlando April 23-26, 2014. The ISA is a 2,300-member trade association of sign providers that employs or directly impacts over 250,000 American workers and represent over $49 billion in annual revenues. The ISA Expo is the largest gathering of sign providers with over 17,000 delegates and about 500 exhibitors.
Since first offering education related to digital signage six years ago, the event this year offered more than 42 separate educational sessions in the ISA EXPO “Dynamic Signage Education Day,” on a show floor stage and in sessions offered in a co-located showcase offered by Almo. The Dynamic Digital Park on the show floor was 38% larger than in 2013, and included the range of hardware, software and services required by static sign companies to offer digital signage.
Research findings released by ISA in advance of the Expo noted that the number one issue impacting sign companies offering digital signage is "technology selection,” reflecting that 63% of sign companies are confused about technology selection. “How to” education related to technology configuration, content creation and selling the medium profitably were aimed at de-mystifying digital signage while exhibitors such as Capital Networks, Insteo, Kramer and many others were ready with products and answers to fuel sign company success.
Mark O’Connor of Roland said it well during an in-booth session, reflecting that “Sign shops should not have to go back to school or get a degree to make digital signage available.”
impulseGUIDE used ISA Expo 2014 to unveil its digital signage offering for static sign providers, which includes several patent pending innovations related to content management approaches. As a Buffalo, NY sign provider serving the food services, retail, hospitality and consumer services sectors, the impulseGuide system is “content-focused” which offers recurring, high margin revenues to sign providers wishing to offer dynamic signage while leveraging and advancing their capabilities in this additional area of their services portfolio.
Frank C. Pusateri said “The impulseGUIDE solution has been designed for sign providers looking for profitability through system sales, ongoing content creation, customer retention/upsell and improved prospecting for other lines of print and graphics. Digital signage makes a value addition to the sign shop portfolio” while cautioning sign shops to offer a solution that can be easily scaled in terms of network size and the addition of content that improves customer outcomes through better audience targeting, dayparting, templates and infotainment.
“Gamification” is growing as an everyday promotional approach and the digital signage system must be able to use this methodology.”
As the ISA Expo was in process, FASTSIGNS® International released an expanded section of their website focused on digital signage www.fastsigns.com/digital-signs). Drue Townsend, Senior Vice President of Marketing said, “This content is very educational for prospective digital sign buyers, and it shows our capabilities regarding planning programs, developing and managing content and integrating digital signage into an overall mix of other marketing materials, décor and general marketing programs. As the franchisor,we provide internal training and marketing support to prepare our 545 locations in 8 countries to be able to offer a wide range of solutions to meet the needs of businesses and organizations of all sizes”.
Distributors can play a valuable role in the sourcing of dynamic signage by sign providers since they are one point of supply for flat panels, hardware, software and other services, many of which appear to be quite similar in function and value.
Synnex, a distributor of static sign, digital graphics and dynamic signage products has suggested that sign shops should be looking at providing a complete solution that includes the display, content management software, media player, mount and in particular initial and ongoing content. Each of Synnex, Almo, N. Glantz, ND Graphics, Ingram Micro or other sign and digital graphics distributors have in-house staff that can assist sign providers with configuring solutions that can meet end user requirements, or they can connect sign companies with representatives of companies whose products and services they distribute.
Static sign and digital graphics providers are well suited to providing end users with dynamic digital signage, as has been reflected in numerous articles by Sign and Digital Graphics magazine in the past six years. These companies intrinsically understand short form messaging and the location-based sign requirements of end-users. Many of these firms have been providing outdoor electronic message boards and integrating dynamic signage into their proposals for campuses, healthcare and consumer service establishments for many years. They are aware that end-users are increasing their use of dynamic signage, in part due to its use by their competitors.
The recurring advice offered in many ISA Expo presentations can be summarized with these 3 points:
- START, by learning what digital signage can deliver for end users. Use digital signage as an extension of your current portfolio of offerings to serve existing customers and prospect for new ones, since many of these may already be investigating or shopping for this medium. Offer a system that is suited to ongoing and growing needs. Note that every dynamic signage installation requires content.
- Focus on providing “content creation” services since, once the technology system is in place, it is “content” that delivers the communications value. The need for content is ongoing “Think of the system as the razor and the content as the blades” said Pusateri.
- “Partner with or sub-contract to an experienced audio/visual or information technology integrator if you are not comfortable with the technology element” advised Mike White of Multi-media Solutions, which has delivered digital signage for more than 10 years to a wide range of end users.
Sign providers that are considering their offer of digital signage systems and/or services commonly ask some questions. The following offer insights by Lyle Bunn, reflecting and adding to an ISA Expo session titled “How to Sell Dynamic Digital Signage.”
Where is the profit in projects?
Profit always comes from serving needs. Where digital signage is concerned profitable revenues are primarily derived from technologies (i.e. supply of hardware, software, installation and operational services) and content. Since content requirements are ongoing, content services such as playlist strategy and administration, and the composition of individual message spots offers the largest and ongoing profits.
Are there areas of supply not currently well served or that are emerging?
Many small and medium-size businesses do not know who to go to for digital signage, yet this investment can offer high value in terms of sales lift, business branding, improved ambiance at the location and the reduction of perceived waiting times by patrons. Food services, consumer services and staff/visitor communication are under-served by larger digital signage suppliers and trusted sign providers are well suited to offering digital signage as a part of their portfolio. Dynamic signage for staff or visitor communications, which can include video walls in lobby or storefront are increasingly popular because they communicate while adding to the vitality and positive energy of a location, even to the point of enabling artistic expression of a brand.
How much preparing is needed to get to revenues?
Two elements are necessary. Every supplier needs to know what it is supplying and for digital signage, they need to recommend technologies that are suited to the requirement. There is plenty of information available for the” how to” elements. Examples include websites such as www.LyleBunn.com/RESOURCES and the FASTSIGNS and impulseGuide sites noted in this article.
The technology element is easily satisfied in sourcing from a distributor such as Synnex, N. Glantz, Almo, Ingram Micro, ND Graphics or others, which have assessed available technology elements and can offer a specific all-inclusive proposal that can best suit the end-user requirements.
When would partnering make sense and get me there faster?
Partnering or subcontracting makes sense when additional required skills are required. The sign shop may wish to partner, for example, with an audiovisual or technology integrator to provide hardware, software and installation or with media composers such as Web design freelancers or companies related to content elements. The key is that the sign shop be positioned as the primary an ongoing provider.
Where would revenues be exposed to unworthy effort i.e. What is not worth doing?
Sign companies should be cautious in investing undo amounts of time in training a customer or prospect about the benefits and processes related to digital signage. During the process they should reasonably expect that the end-user will answer key questions such as what benefits do you want to realize, how might it physically be placed within the environment and who, if anyone might be involved in contributing the benefits achievement. Sign companies should also be cautious about responding to Requests for Proposal unless they have unique insights and a service record to the requesting end-user. RFP evaluations can become very subjective in the complexity of comparing one solution to another on an “apples to apples” basis.
How can the risk of loosing profits best be managed?
The greater your productivity in sales and supply efforts, the greater your management of risk will be. The two go hand-in-hand. Supply processes and expectations should be defined as clearly as possible, as is the case with other communication services.
Is the effort and investment related to digital signage really worth the rewards?
In the situation where sign companies can add digital signage as an offering in an existing, trusted supply relationship, the addition of digital signage makes very good sense not just as a sales and revenue instrument, but as a way of protecting an existing account from those who may offer digital signage and leverage this into the offer of other sign and communication services.
What is the opportunity cost of waiting just a little longer for things to mature?
Digital signage has been maturing for 20 years and has really accelerated in its stability over the past 10 years. Technologies have become highly reliable and cost-effective, while at the same time end-users are seeing the use of digital signage by their competitors and many other businesses. More end-users are installing digital signage every day as a way to maximize the benefits of their communication investment. Asked yourself this… How would you feel if in going into a customer location you saw that they had installed digital signage that they had sourced from one of your competitors? Would you begrudge not having enjoyed the revenues and profit that comes with the technology supply in the ongoing licensing of digital signage software? As noted previously, a good supply opportunity still exists in providing new and fresh content, and the way in which content gets results.
How do I proceed from a technology standpoint? There are two approaches, both of which are valid and even complimentary. One approach is to use an inexpensive media player and software combination to deliver basic digital signage for an early customer with a relatively simple requirement. This will allow you, as the sign shop provider to familiarize yourself with the medium and better understand the level of supply that makes most sense for your firm. Recognize that in many cases, a more functional and cost-effective system may be required to assure the best value to the end user and supply profitability. The sign provider can start simple and “move up” to more functionality, or, as has been found by many sign shops, can start with a more enabling infrastructure and then focus on maximizing the benefits from its use. While “starting” is the key it is of greater importance at times to start with the “finish” in mind. Choose a solution that meets longer term needs because dynamic signage is typically in place for a four to seven year period once installed.
Static signs are not going away, so plan to integrate digital signage into existing communications approaches to maximize the investment and benefits in customer, patron, visitor, traveler, staff and student communications.
Lyle Bunn is an analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s digital signage industry. He was named one of the 50 innovators and influencers by Sign and Digital graphics magazine, and one of the 11 Most Influential People by DigitalSignageToday.com in 2013. He has published over 280 articles and whitepapers, assisted over 300 end user organizations and helped to train over 10,000 professionals to benefit from digital signage. [email protected]
Friday, 07 March 2014
In the 1 to 3 months it takes to successfully conduct a digital signage sourcing initiative, some aspects lead to success and the fast lane while others are the potholes that hinder progress, and more important sustainable value.
The Request For Proposal (RFP) process really tests the preparedness of an organization to benefit from location-based media. Sourcing also enables the ability to minimize costs and maximize the return on investment.
The RFP process should include stakeholders such as the end user departments, procurements, facilities, information technologies and others that may be affected by the selection decision. This can include representatives of location/branch operations, customer experience, human resources, public affairs, loyalty program, architects, designers, advertising, promotion and other professionals whose activities impact on brand equity, revenue achievements and cost containment.
The express lane is achieved when perspectives of the end-user, information technology and location operations personnel are included in defining the requirements as presented in the RFP, evaluating proposals and ranking the “short list” of possible vendors.
The sourcing process encounters “potholes” when stakeholders that will be impacted by the selection decision are not advised or included in the process.
The range of hardware, software and services that are to be contracted through the RFP process also enables vendors to make their proposals relevant.
Since digital signage is intended to provide competitive advantage, it is common to invite proposals from vendors whose capabilities aligned with the requirements. A nondisclosure agreement can be established with invited vendors to help minimize the broadcasting of the intention to apply digital media as a competitive instrument.
A framework of response should include capabilities, related experience, processes, personnel and pricing to enable vendor comparisons. Each RFP respondents is ultimately expected to answer the question “why are you the best vendor related to our requirements?”
Vendors that response positively to mandatory requirements and show innovation in answering the overarching question of “why us?” will commonly receive higher scores from evaluators toward finding themselves included on a short list.
Presentations by short list vendors will clarify proposal elements, reveal additional information and allow the organization to gain insights into subjective elements of a future possible relationship, which might contribute to ongoing project success. Culture and chemistry matter in every organization and this is particularly true where digital signage is concerned because it is not generally a commodity, but rather a solution to current or anticipated business challenges.
Through shortlisted vendor presentations, which are typically two or more hours in length, consensus can be determined on the preferred and alternate vendor.
Should reference checks, pricing, service levels, remediation and contracting not proceed in a satisfactory manner with the preferred vendor, (this is usually known within 2 to 3 weeks), the sourcing initiative can continue to advance in the fast lane with the alternate provider. This in itself, assures that potholes are addressed and avoided.
Express Lane sourcing means that:
- The business, marketing or communications requirement is clear;
- Possible vendors suitable to the requirement have been identified;
- Stakeholders are included in the sourcing initiative; and,
- A clear path to funding and contrasting are in place.
Potholes occur when:
- The need is not well articulated;
- Users or influencers to project success are not included;
- Vendors that are not suitable to meeting the requirements are invited to respond;
- The weighting of evaluation elements are not appropriately weighted; and,
- The process is not focused on establishing a contract as the core outcome.
Whether it is for digital signage hardware, software, services or any combination of these, at the beginning or expansion of media needs, a strong request for proposal process will assure the highest return on time and investment.
External resources can with in-depth, vendor-neutral experience in digital media objectives definition, system architecting, vendor identification, sourcing and contracting can help mitigate/manage risk and assure a successful procurement initiative toward ongoing, accelerating value from digital signage and enterprise media.
Lyle Bunn is an independent analyst, advisor and educator in North America’s digital signage sector who has assisted over 300 organizations to benefit from place-based media. He has been acclaimed as a leading industry figure.