What It Takes to Be a Successful Digital Signage Integrator

Digital signage professionals weigh in on how the category will evolve in 2017 and which integration firms will evolve with it.

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The demand for digital signage is exploding as the market expands and digital signage’s capabilities evolve, but let’s be frank: Many AV integration firms are well-equipped to be digital signage solutions providers for their existing customers and beyond, but the AV integration industry hasn’t embraced digital signage as emphatically as it could have through training and certification to fully take advantage of the momentum.

“I don’t necessarily agree with that,” says Rich Ventura, the VP of business development and solutions for NEC Display Solutions of America that was recently named as Digital Signage Federation’s 2017 chairman. “Diversified has certainly embraced it.  AVI-SPL has embraced it,” Ventura points out.

Still, Ventura acknowledges that most integration firms don’t take a very wide view when it comes to digital signage. Certainly they’re embracing corporate communication and providing customers across several markets with kiosks, for instance, but he says they’re just scratching the surface when it comes to digital signage opportunities.

One of Ventura’s top priorities—one that he hopes will be part of his legacy as DSF chairman — is to work toward righting that wrong. He’s focused on getting integrators more involved in DSF and effectively closing awareness gaps.

For instance, DSF offers digital signage certification with its Digital Signage Experts Group (DSEG) program, Digital Signage Certified Expert.

“How many integrators know that?” Ventura asks. “How many are getting involved? How many end users know the importance of having a certified digital signage provider?”

A new integrator committee within DSF, Ventura hopes, will improve awareness of digital signage opportunities within the integration community. The idea is to help integration firms take their digital signage businesses to the next level, but the benefits go both ways, Ventura says

End users benefit as does the digital signage category when integration firms are involved. “I think without the integrators’ involvement the industry’s not hitting on full cylinders,” he says.

Ventura describes a great-looking display with lackluster content creation. “It’s not a good experience.”

The same logic applies to the great-looking display that lacks system integration. “Every piece has to work together,” he says, “and without the integrator you run the chance of it failing.”

Just the fact that the DSF chairman knows that is a big deal for the integration community.

NEC is firmly entrenched in the integration channel. Ventura assuming the DSF chairman role might just have a ripple effect on integrators that until now have only been dipping their toes in digital signage’s deep opportunities.

There is no doubt the ceiling is high for integration firms and consultants serving digital signage customers in 2017. We decided to check in with some leading digital signage voices to see how the technology will evolve and which integration firms will evolve with it:

What are some characteristics of an integration firm that will continue to be successful offering digital signage solutions even as the category and customers’ needs evolve?

 

Lyle Bunn, Analyst, Advisor and Educator

“Integration firms with the capability to contribute to use case and innovation planning within the end user organization will fare well into the future. While many integrators can supply technologies and install these, the needs for technology enablement are advancing so rapidly in the face of competitive pressures, that technology knowledge and expertise benefits planning at its earliest possible stages.

“Those with proven expertise in contributing to the store or branch of the future, and which respond to executive needs for business performance dashboards will be the go-to integrators moving forward.”

Erik Willey, Senior Product Marketing Director, ViewSonic Americas

Artistic Video Walls – The popularity of video walls is continuing to grow. Its flexibility, lower cost and reduced complexity of video wall content management is fueling this growth trend, which means integrators can be more creative to get their customers’ spaces noticed. Video walls are no longer limited to traditional 2×2 or 3×3 configurations. Retail spaces, malls, and even corporate lobbies are able to have “artistic” or mosaic designs with unlimited restrictions of the number of connected displays. It’s become a new way for retailers and corporations to expand their creativity and image for consumers/customers.

4K Content – Integrators should embrace 4K content. As video walls get larger, you’ll see 4K and higher resolutions required to ensure image quality. The image quality needs to be sufficient to capture the eyes of the consumer/customer. Whether the displays feature 4K resolution or traditional 1080p (FullHD) panels, having the ability to manage this content that ensure vivid, crisp and eye-catching video and graphic content and messaging.”

Lance Hutchinson, VP, Alpha Video & Audio

“Integration providers will need to continue to rapidly adopt and deploy new technology in digital signage and mobile. Content production and HTML5 app development will be drivers in creating the strategies that will delivery useful results.”

Jennifer Davis, CMO, Leyard and Planar

“We are continuing to see commercial integrators provide a broader range of solutions and services to their customers. For instance, integrators that once only provided the hardware solutions are now also providing content development services, including user experience design and mobile application development.

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“We are seeing agencies that have approached brands to do activations and campaigns, now including digital signage in the mix. This blurring of the lines between different points of view and skill sets in the industry can be achieved with partnership, expansion, or even acquisitions (and we have seen the mall). Customers are seeking sophisticated and effective digital signage deployments.

“They want to create end user experiences that are memorable, have a good return on the investment, and show the brand in the best light. That requires a more holistic approach.”

Jeff Hastings, CEO, BrightSign

“Integration firms must stay on the cutting edge of technology, but it is also imperative for them to employ professionals with the marketing chops to help their customers understand what they need and why they need it.

“Helping those customers with the information and market data to sell their ideas to upper management will be a critical success factor for integrators. After all, technology integrations are only as effective as the bottom-line sales they support.”

Brian Rhatigan, Director of Business Development, Almo Professional A/V

“In order to continue as a successful integrator of digital signage solutions, owners must continue to invest in education for their staff in order to stay on top of the latest technologies and trends.

“Additionally they must identify their strengths and weaknesses and seek out competent partners in areas that fall outside of their core competency, such as digital content creation.”


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