Unraveling the Myths of Digital Signage Bundles

Digital Signage Federation chairman Richard Ventura joins two integrators to answer questions about what a digital signage bundle includes, when to offer it and why it’s becoming more popular.

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Unraveling the Myths of Digital Signage Bundles

Diversified's office is a shining example of a digital signage bundle in action.

When most people hear the word “bundle” attached to something they want, they have one of two reactions. Those who are looking to solve their problems quickly and easily embrace the idea because they know it means they won’t have to shop for long to find their solution.

But those who are interested in customization and having a solution that can truly make them stand out from the crowd cringe a little bit at the idea of bundles, even though they probably shouldn’t.

Richard Ventura, VP of business development and solutions at NEC Display Solutions and chairman of the Digital Signage Federation, clarified the difference between solving a clients’ problems and bundling together digital signage equipment for them.

“A solution is not a bundle,” says Ventura.  “A bundle is exactly that: bundling equipment together.  A solution is something created to solve a pain.”

Jeff Grandell, president of LPS Output Technologies, takes that concept a step further.

“When using the term ‘bundled solution,’ the customer or end user will tend to think of a boxed type solution consisting of the hardware and software necessary to complete a solution,” says Grandell. “In reality, they need to understand the bundled items are ALL of the services (i.e., hardware, software, installation, infrastructure upgrades, service, content management, content creation and training) you as the integrator are able to provide to complete their objectives. The components of the bundle for the customer will be determined in your pre-project questionnaire.”

Jay Leedy, director of Diversified’s digital media group, says there are advantages for customers who choose bundles solutions over going with an a la carter solution. Bundles simplify the buying process, he says, and allow for peace of mind by being turnkey. Having a bundled solution ensures all hardware and software is compatible, says Grandell, and takes into consideration things like budgetary structures and tax considerations.

Remember the 80/20 Rule

Ventura outlines a few more tips for integrators to consider when trying to sell digital signage bundles:

  1. When dealing with bundles always think of the 80/20 rule: How can I get 80 percent of my profits from 20 percent of my solutions?
  2. Simple solutions can have multiple parts, while complex solutions can have few moving parts.
  3. When designing a solution and making it repeatable, make sure all equipment is tested and certified to work together.
  4. Work to your strengths and outsource your weaknesses.  If you are an amazing content creation company, work with a partner to develop solutions that they can build and deliver with or for you.
  5. Always diagnose before you prescribe. Do a needs analysis and understand the customer and pain before you prescribe a solution.

Bundled Doesn’t Mean Complete

Here are a few more pearls of wisdom from Grandell on digital signage bundles:

  1. When looking at using a bundled vision to a project, it’s easy to get lost in “feature creep,” or over-customization. Maintaining your margins is best accomplished by bundling the hardware, software and services you are proficient with. Remember: proficiency creates efficiency, which maintains or increases margins.
  1. When creating a bundled solution, don’t always think of the solution as “complete.” When meeting your client’s current objective for the solution, don’t miss the opportunity to create a scalable solution—one that can be expanded both in content or locations—or the opportunity to create dual purposes (presentation, touch, videoconferencing, entertainment) to the existing solution. This is especially true in corporate environments.
  1. When working with the client on designing their bundled solutions, recognize your limitations. Be ready to bring in a partner on a project that is beyond your ability to maintain competitive price points and margins due to your skill level. This can include complex content, higher end software and media players, video-walls, or very large project budgets.
  1. When creating a bundled solution, be prepared to create the perceived boxed solution. Having a solution that is easily replicated, with little to no variables or customizations, can fill a broad spectrum of opportunities of quick-turn applications. Examples of this are QSR menu boards for small chains or individual restaurants. Corporate offices are always looking for front office digital signage as well as back office training displays or conference room presentation displays. Convenience stores are implementing more single-promotion displays as well as menu board arrays. All of these solutions can contain the same display, mount, player, software and installation requirements. The only variable may be the location of the mount (ceiling or wall) and content. Content can be preset templates created by you or by the software manufacturer.

Bundles Have Many Pieces

Leedy answered several other key questions integrators should discuss in regards to digital signage bundles:

Which types of customers are best suited to bundled solutions?  Clients managing OpEx budgets such as marketing, IT or operations; consumer packaged goods or product brands placing solutions independent of retail environment networks; clients interested in plug-and-play installs, requiring little install support; and franchises, co-ops, dealers, etc.

Aside from equipment, software and installation, what other services should be considered critical for bundled solutions? Support packages, including remote monitoring, help desk, network operations centers, tech dispatch, and maintenance and break/fix spares pools; content management, including asset tagging, programming, scheduling, trafficking, proof-of-play reporting, template design and dynamic feed integrations; and network connectivity including cellular networks to support plug-and-play installations.

What are the main drivers in determining an appropriate bundled solution? Use case details including budget, digital signage application and content strategy; environmental and ambient conditions and immediate vs. future requirements.

With upwards of 3200 content management system platforms available globally, how does an integrator determine the best software? Ask questions, such as what operating system restrictions exist within your IT environment? What is the media strategy? What existing content is planned for use, and is it optimized for use in a digital signage application? What is the budget to support new and ongoing content production? What degree of multi-touch interactive will be required? What dynamic content feeds from RSS, XML, or other data sources will be used?

How should manufacturer warranties for equipment and software licensing agreements be structured for bundles? We typically recommend clients purchase software licenses in increments that coincide with hardware warranties. Most manufacturers offer warranties on commercial displays ranging from three to five years when factoring in extended and white-glove service warranties. Financing of the bundle should be structured to coincide with the warranties and software licensing. When bundling support services, base the cost for tech dispatches on a number of expected visits per year and consider how harsh the environment and ambient conditions are.