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Digital Signage: A Complete Guide

Published: 2023-02-12

(Editor’s Note: This Digital Signage Complete Guide is part of Commercial Integrator’s ongoing series of informational guides of topics relevant to integrators. This page was originally published on May 12, 2023. It has been updated as of Feb. 12, 2024.)

No mater the size or shape, digital signage has revolutionized the way businesses communicate with their audience. It can span from the glitzy DVLED displays in high-end retail, huge-scale projection mapping to showcase artists’ work or eye-popping tiled-LCD videowalls that decorate walls in corporate lobbies. But digital signage and videowalls are about more than just wow! factor; much more importantly, they’re about measurable ROI and concrete results.

According to AVIXA research, digital signage is expected to produce $35 billion in global revenue and achieve a 7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2021 to 2026. The LED marketplace, in the U.S. alone, is $1.08 billion dollar, with a projected 20.5% rate of year-over-year growth. Thus, it presents a lucrative opportunity for audiovisual integrators. Keith Yandell, AV practice director, AVI Systems, attests that AVI Systems completed more than 150 videowall projects in 2022. “Our videowall business more than doubled from the previous year,” he says. “This is due in part to DVLED price reductions, but manufacturers have also simplified the process through all-in-one/kitted solutions.” 

This complete guide will cover:

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What is Digital Signage?

Digital signage is a term used to describe electronic displays that are used to broadcast multimedia content that can be composed of stunning images, vivid videos and informative text messages. These digital displays can be found in numerous public places that include but are not limited to restaurants, airports, hospitals and corporate offices.

The primary purpose of a digital sign is to communicate information, promote products and enhance communication. With features like real-time updates, engaging content and incredible attention-grabbing capabilities, digital signage has transformed the way businesses communicate with the public and continues to be an innovative way to draw in and retain customers.

For AV integrators, these solutions are no longer standalone projects. Jason Ault, co-founder and COO, Coffman Media, says, “Now, [it’s] an integral part of a company’s DNA for how it communicates, collaborates, connects, engages, educates, promotes and entertains their target audiences across the entire organization.”

Benefits of Digital Signs

Digital signs are rapidly gaining popularity due to their numerous benefits. Here are some of the advantages of using digital signs are as follows:

  • Increases brand awareness
  • Grabs customers, employees, company stakeholders’ attention
  • Offers a dynamic, engaging visual experience
  • Helps improve sales. Commercial Integrator’s sister-site Retail Touchpoints reports that, “When Nielsen tracked 120 grocers that use digital signage in their stores, it found that 80% of them saw up to a 33% boost in sales compared to print signs. A comparison in Walmart Supercenters found that motion displays installed versus traditional printed signage saw a 66% unit sales increase.”
  • Enables easy modifications of content
  • Saves time and money

Types of Digital Signage

  • Amala utilizing the touch screen kiosk solution while at ACE in Portland, OR

    Amala Reddie, associate editor of Commercial Integrator demos the touch screen kiosk solution from CloudTouch at Emerald’s annual employee ACE event in
    Portland, OR. Photo by Alyssa Borelli.

    Standalone displays used for advertising

  • Videowalls in corporate lobbies
  • Interactive and wayfinding displays found in large campuses or shopping malls
  • Immersive displays for extended (XR) or virtual reality (VR) productions
  • Digital menu boards in quick-service restaurants
  • Digital Out-of-home (DOOH) displays — outdoor kiosks that are billboards that rent advertising space.
  • …anywhere you can place digital media with a power source —  grocery store endcap, top of taxi, mobile phone, etc.

Types of Display Technology

  • Direct-view light-emitting diode (DVLED)
  • Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)
  • Projection displays — a cost-effective tool for integrators to immerse audiences in large-format visuals, especially when non-conventional surfaces and/or materials are involved.

Alan Brawn, renowned AV industry legend and columnist for CI, explains how DVLED is quite different from flatpanel LCD displays and projection, and it’s critical for AV professionals to identify and understand the divergences in this article.

Emerging Technologies in Large-Format Displays

LG OLED Touch

LG’s transparent OLED touch display in museum. 

Organic light-emiting diode (OLED) and MicroLED are two emerging technologies whose benefits and limitations might shape the large-format display landscape. Eran Sharon, creative technology director/associate at Gensler, describes these emerging technologies as “…a fantastic technology, which offers form-factor flexibility and excellent color/image quality.” He adds, “In fact, we are developing transparent OLED solutions — both physical and content — to seamlessly expand the digital canvas into the built environment, supporting some of the new demands of hybrid experience.” Thus, Sharon predicts OLED will gain momentum, particularly as larger formats and bezel-free, tile-able OLED products come to market. 

Digital Signage Content

Content is the foundation of any successful campaign involving digital signs. Dalton Parker, chief technology officer, TVS Pro, says, “A truly great signage experience has both [content and environment] in mind. The content matches the physical environment, and the environment complements the content on display.” Only when these elements align with and amplify each other, he declares, can a truly memorable and impactful experience emerge. The content should be visually appealing, engaging and provide clear communication.

Here are some tips for creating effective digital signage content:

  • Use high-quality images and videos – Avoid low-quality images or videos as they can negatively impact your brand image.
  • Keep it simple – Avoid cluttered and complicated displays. Keep the message simple and easy to understand.
  • Use correct font sizes and contrast – Ensure that the font size and contrast are readable from afar.
  • Call to action – Include a strong call to action to encourage the audience to take action.

Most commercial integrators fall on the side of partnership, rather than building out new core competencies in content. The costs of the displays have dropped dramatically, but content has grown to be quite expensive. According to Jeff Vinklarek, senior vice president, i.e. Smart Systems, “We did a corporate headquarters in 2016 that had $3 million in signage displays and $5 million in content creation.” This means that, even as hardware costs come down, the barrier to entry can remain somewhat high for clients who want to create truly impactful display experiences.

Digital Signage Placement

Placing your digital signs in the right location is crucial to success. Here are some tips for effectively placing digital signs:

  • Analyze foot traffic – Identify the areas with high foot traffic to place your signage.
  • Eye level display – Place digital signage at eye level for maximum visibility.
  • Avoid clutter – Ensure that there are no obstructions or distractions that may hinder visibility.

Digital Signage Management

Management can be challenging without the right tools. Here are some tools that can help you manage your digital signs:

  • Content management system (CMS) – A CMS allows you to manage and schedule your content remotely.
  • Cloud-based content – Cloud-based content enables you to access your content from anywhere and update it in real-time.
  • Remote device management – Allows you to manage your displays remotely.
  • A digital signage player is a computer attached to or embedded within a display

Software/Platforms to Know

Brands To Know

Absen Ken Kalish Exponential Growth in DVLED usage

Ken Kalish, sales director, key accounts, with Absen, chats with Commercial Integrator’s editor-in-chief, Dan Ferrisi, about the emerging trends in large-format displays. Watch the complete interview here, on check out other digital signage related videos on CI’s YouTube Channel.

Additional Resources

Conclusion

Digital signage is a powerful tool that can help clients engage with their audience, increase brand awareness and improve sales. Large-format displays represent the ideal category for integrators not merely to be resellers but, rather, to focus on selling knowledge, consultation, expertise and value. Nobody wants to buy just a screen, they want to buy a business result.

By following the tips outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to executing your next successful digital signage project.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide. If you have any feedback, please share it with Alyssa Borelli, web editor, at [email protected].

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