February 18, 2013 By Mark Coxon
As integrators exploring digital signage, you have all heard that “content is king.” It has been commonly accepted as truth, because intuitively we know how hard it is to get and to keep someone’s attention in today’s world.
Creating an effective piece of content can be a challenge in itself. There are a growing number of companies dedicated to nothing but this purpose, but adapting that content over time can be even more of a challenge without the right approach.
In order to provide your clients with digital signage that will continue to be relevant, engaging, and profitable over time, integrators should be delivering content in a way that is easy to update and manage, that is interactive, and that provides feedback.
If you have been in the digital signage arena for any amount of time, you are aware that there are many ways to deliver content to the screen. As integrators, you have seen everything from stand alone solid state media players, to webbased HTML pages, to dedicated PCs, to cloud-based streaming and everything in between. The challenge for many integrators is that there is not one de facto standard to learn and train technicians on. Many integrators have not yet developed the IT skillsets to manage remote PCs or server/client networks and many are still uncomfortable with solutions that rely on internet connectivity for real time streaming of the content.
For this reason, I argue that integrators should be looking for content management systems that utilize dedicated hardware at each screen that plays the content locally to avoid potential issues with web-based page loading or cloud-based video streams. The hardware should have the ability to be updated over the web or via the cloud periodically to adjust and update the messaging as needed. Choosing a system with an intuitive portal that manages the screens and content deployment is ideal if you wish to avoid managing an FTP site and a list of Mac and IP addresses. Finally, integrators should be looking for systems that actively manage the addresses of the player devices in dynamic IP environments, to avoid having to set up static IP addresses or web server protocols for each device.
If we accept that “Content is King”, then “Context” is definitely its Queen. Content can be developed in a way that it provides both a breadth and depth of knowledge or information. However, we all know that some of that content will be more relevant to one person than to another. The days of looping content in a constant playback reel are fading fast. Most people will not stand and watch a content reel waiting to see if there is something relevant that they need to consume. If they catch a portion of content they deem relevant they may stop, but odds are they will not linger while the digital signage makes a lap through the reel to get back to the information that they want.
To truly be a useful tool, digital signage has to be interactive. Interactive digital signage allows the viewer to select the content they wish to consume, and by doing so, to create more engagement and a higher chance that the call to action will be responded to. Interactivity is another reason that dedicated hardware at the screen is a must, as each screen will be interacted with simultaneously in a different way. Providing headroom for new applications, by including multi-touch hardware upfront can also be valuable, as it provides future opportunities for a more engaging interface and to allow multiple users to work in tandem, creating a community around the client’s brand.
Implementing an interactive digital signage solution that provides feedback can take the clients’ investment from a leap of faith to a proven return on investment. Integrators should be looking for systems that can gather metrics remotely, showing what content users interact with (another reason interactivity is a must). This allows the integrator to provide continual information to their clients that is invaluable in tailoring their message and updating content over time. It provides confirmation of what content is relevant to the audience at each screen, and allows the client to address each screen’s audience in a different way to maximize the return on investment in the system. Providing feedback on how people utilize the screen and what content they consume makes you, as the integrator, a true partner in your client’s business and helps them drive revenues.