The adage, “don’t judge a book by its cover” rings true when determining software, hardware, content, and connectivity solutions for your digital signage installation. Think for a minute how much better you’ll feel once you’ve educated yourself and done your homework. There’s a phenomenal difference between the person who knows what they’re getting into, including the nuances, abilities, and weaknesses of various software and hardware solutions and the individual or company who does not.
In short, do your homework. Know what platform would best suit what you may be looking to accomplish. In some cases, due diligence in regard to the discovery stage is an extremely time consuming task, especially with the multiplicity of choices currently available in the marketplace. Making sure time is spent here is necessary, however. Trade shows, Internet resources, and books can help connect you with the information and people needed to get your project off on the right foot. If time IS an issue, talking to a digital signage consultant may be the best option. Consultants who have been in the industry can offer candid advice about which software packages may best suit the needs for a favorable deployment. This will ensure you get the functionality you want at the price point that is favorable for a faster return.
Sometimes goals are nice and fluffy, but do not reflect the hard numbers required to woo. Benchmark goals help to alleviate this issue. Appropriate short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals are necessary to accomplish the overall objective of your digital signage network.
Return on Investment (ROI)
There has been much discussion about digital signage ROI. Prior to any successful deployment you must set realistic expectations and goals regarding your deployment. Whether you’re installing one screen or ten thousand screens, it is important to remember that you’re not doing this just so it will look “cool.” There must be a monetary flow that makes deploying thousands of dollars worth of equipment worth the hassle and headache.
More often we can pin down a cost for digital signage quite well. There are plenty of signage vendors who can tell you precisely what you’re deployment will cost. Determining a relative return is somewhat more difficult. The following may be beneficial in determining where you will gain relevant income:
2. Location rentals and/or leases
3. Advertising sales
4. Sales lift and/or commissions
To be more specific, it is vital a predetermined time is set for break-even on the project. To determine this, it is important to dive into how it will be accomplished. Several qualifying questions be of assistance:
Do you want to increase product/service sales?
Do you want to increase employee/customer goodwill or satisfaction?
Are you looking to lower costs of current information dissemination?
These questions can help determine whether you’ll be looking to increase revenues or decrease costs with your network. The following points will help you determine if deploying a new network can decrease the costs of your current method:
1. Reduction of employees (this is especially helpful in the area of self-service kiosks)
2. Reduction of waste and time of creation for printed signage
3. Better utilization of already created content
4. Training/education reduction costs
Remember, time is a cost that must be included in the overall analysis. Often in our rush to speak about revenues and associated costs, we forget the time involved in educating, planning, and deploying needs to be included in the overall goals.
Return on Objectives (ROO)
Putting the cash aside, networks can have a much broader goal that may involve goodwill not necessarily seen in balance sheet or income statement. These objectives can sometimes be as important as ROI determinants. For instance, a vision of what the network intends to accomplish may put much more emphasis on a ROO than an ROI. And, although seemingly obvious, it is important to keep in mind that the goals of a businesses’ digital signage network is aligned with the goals of the business itself.
ROO objective may include the following:
1. Branding and improved customer perceptions
2. Increased awareness of products and services
3. Perceived reduction in customer wait times
4. Speed of information exchange
Scott Stanton says, “what is needed is a balance between the initial cost of the system, the long-term operational costs, and the ability of the system to deliver the right message.” Keeping these key factors in mind, will help you determine the right projections.
Now that you’ve fully determined what your costs are and how you plan to recover them with conceivable revenues, it’s now time to plan the project itself. This can be a time consuming task addressing budgeting for hardware, software, content, etc. Full and complete development and financial budget and plan will be necessary to get the project off the ground. The adage “proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance” (perhaps I should change this post to “The Seven ‘P’s”) comes to mind. In planning out a digital signage deployment, remember: numbers, numbers, numbers.
Two things always throw up a red flag with me when we receive an RFP for digital signage. First, there usually is no current budget for the project. In this instance we can usually assume they’re just sticking their feelers out there and doing some research into capabilities and costs of various vendors. Or, they are not serious at all, which is an even greater annoyance. The second “red flag” that surfaces is when they do not know the precise scale of the project they are looking to pursue. Seriously? The difference in one screen could mean the cost of an employee for you for a month or two and you don’t know how many screens you want to put up?
The conclusion: make sure you’re planning every step of the project with viable numbers. The numbers include but are not limited to the following:
- Media Player
- Connectivity (often a recurring fee)
- Mounting equipment (for the media player and display)
- Content creation
- Installation costs
- Consulting costs
- Maintenance and support
- Software and hardware with its associated ongoing update fees
- Recurring SaaS fees
And, do not forget to multiply these numbers by the corresponding scale of your project once your digital signage pilot is off the ground. Remember, the pilot may be the most expensive, but better to have a sunk cost that was more expensive than expected than an entire deployment where the numbers were not properly “crunched” at the outset.
Creating a successful plan, requires building a favourable team with strength complements that will aid in overall success. Digital signage is no exception. First, we will talk about who needs to be in discussion at the beginning and final stages of a digital signage project.
Signage guru, Lyle Bunn says minimum management is best for initial talks on network planning:
“Keep out all the various department directors with their own agendas, and keep the chief financial officer out at the beginning because he will slow down the process by saying you can’t afford it – although you’ll have to eventually bring him into the process so that he can see the savings. Further, align with people who know digital signage Build a team and take a strategic step-by-step approach because the client has to learn.”
Pilot deployments often work best with the installation of anywhere between one and ten digital sign displays. The pilot testing period should be run for no less than one month to determine appropriate assessment data. Longer is preferable, but keep in mind that a pilot of a deployment is your chance to see how your plan works on a micro scale before it goes live in a much bigger way. As the numbers for brand awareness, sales-lift, and audience measurement are gleaned from the initial pilot, the team should be assessing the prospect of further expansion upon pilot completion. This will ensure that when the numbers show an effective ROI, that time is not wasted in setting up a means to bring the plan into action. The pilot project must be managed closely by both IT and finance departments to determine whether the numbers gleaned match initial projections and extrapolations.
If this is your first time, this will be an extremely educational process. It will become clearly evident how each player, both human and otherwise, has worked together and how efficiently they have done so. The pilot is of utmost importance in this regard: ensure mistakes made during a pilot stage are not repeated. Jot them down and learn to eliminate them. This will ensure the bulk of the project is performed without too many unforeseeable hiccups. Pilots are beneficial for employees, including network managers, who’ll need sufficient exposure to the new software system. As the pilot comes to a close, hopefully the bugs, kinks, and foibles will have worked their way out and the network plan will be ready for full execution.
The pilot’s success is most often determined by appropriate audience measurement and metrics reporting. Reporting is important in all stages of network management, but nowhere is it more vital than during the initial pilot test. The numbers gleaned here will give appropriate credence to initial planning estimates of sales lift etc. Testing can be performed through various methods including cameras, surveys, web-integrated software, and audience measurement devices. The data gained through utilization of such devices will be essential, especially for network investors and accompanying advertisers.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. And, in this space, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to practice, but it will usually happen during actual work. But, make sure you do as much work as possible before you go setting up your network “from the hip.” Find some digital signage homies, network, get connected, and share ideas and experiences. We have more to learn and we all have something we can share.