By Sheldon Silverman
CEO, SmartBomb Media Group
With the explosive growth of digital signage in all business sectors, many have embraced the mantra of Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams — “If you build it, they will come.” The bigger question in this for digital signage network owners and operators is, “Will they watch?” Content for digital signage is an often overlooked, yet key cornerstone of the success of any platform.
Audience engagement is the highest order of business for all digital signage deployments. Whether customer, employee or visitor facing, you can have the best and newest technology, but if the creative and messaging of the content is not engaging, than you miss the entire point. While this often overlooked segment of strategy planning can spell disaster for a network, it provides fertile opportunity for AV professionals and system integrators to extend their service offerings and stake a claim to ongoing support for their digital signage clients.
In building our various digital signage networks, the end game was always viewer engagement, yet when we launched the first deployment, we spent months with our various AV consultants and system integrators on technical specs, hardware testing, location analysis and network operations planning. It was not until just before launch that we began to focus on the content strategy. What we found upon launch is that a digital signage network is a beast with a voracious appetite for content. This new realization led us to place much more of a strategic emphasis on the content, which in turn made us modify some of our systems such as media players, media software and content delivery services.
So, how can our experience serve as a blueprint for you in your business?
As an integral partner for any of your clients, you have the ability to help them look downstream at their deployments and place an emphasis on the content strategy from day one. This in turn will inform you on the best digital signage ecosystem to fulfill their content strategies and achieve maximum viewer engagement.
A few of the content considerations that you can bring to the table, which need to be evaluated at the very beginning of the process in order to inform all of the system choices include:
- Will they need to be able to segment content to audience by time of day? If so, then media player software that allows day parting is mandated.
- Is the digital signage network going to have disparate content running in multiple locations? If so, then player software that can handle location content logic to automate the process will be a huge win.
- Will the system need to be able to play content based upon certain situations such as weather, inventory levels or other dynamic data? If so, then software that can handle trigger-based content is a must have.
- Will there be sound with the visual content? If so, then choosing which sound systems should not be overlooked. In a small space, can the LCD speaker system be used or do you need spatial speakers that direct sound to a specific zone.
- Will the deployment involve multiple screens in one location that all play the same content, thus allowing daisy chaining of screens, or will each screen have its own content thus mandating multiple, multi screen players and zoned sound?
Another avenue for revenue growth for AV consultants and system integrators is in the actual content strategy and creation. How do your clients choose the correct content for their networks? This is an area that is ripe for business development in the space and you can have a seat at that table. Understanding the audience is a key. In some of the deployments I have spearheaded, I found that the client does not always truly understand “who” their customer or viewer is. Through data analysis we did on their customers by store and by region, we were able to determine key demographic and psychographic attributes and that informed our creation of the content. In some cases we had a high concentration of Hispanic speaking customers so language choice was key. In others we had urban AA consumer dominant locations in which the Hispanic content was not warranted. Cultural and demographic densities of the viewership lead us to build content that was delivered on a location-based segmentation tailored to the audience. This points to the need for developing relationships with third party data firms that can assist you in this key data analysis.
As experts in the digital signage space, you and your teams are perfectly situated to assist your clients in the actual creation or acquisition of content. Because of your knowledge of the digital signage ecosystem, and hopefully of the disparate software solutions available, you can drive ongoing revenue via content creation. Either on an ad hoc basis or a subscription basis, content creation can keep you connected with your digital signage clients and keep the money rolling in. Who knew “feeding the beast” could be so good for business?
Author Sheldon Silverman will be a panelist on the Digital Signage Federation’s February “Hangout” discussion entitled, “Top Content Management Trends for 2016,” on Wednesday, February 10 at 2pm EST. More information on this and other DSF events can be found on the DSF website. Both DSF members and non-members may join this or any of the DSF’s scheduled Hangout discussions for free – but registration is required and can be accessed on the DSF website here.
Sheldon Silverman is CEO of SmartBomb Media Group/iCASHtv, the largest multicultural COOH Network in Check Cashing locations and the Chairman of the Advertising and Consulting Firm Liquid Marketing. SmartBomb Media Group is a member of the Digital Signage Federation and Sheldon is also co-Chair of the Digital Signage Federation’s Network Operators sub-committee. Sheldon can be contacted via email and online here.