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Digital Signage: Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

You can certainly scrimp and save on your digital signs. But in the longer term, you'll find you're losing more than just money.

By Glen Young

Digital signage is nothing new for savvy retailers, hotel chains, quick service restaurants (QSRs), and a host of other users.

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  • The technology has been around for several years, and digital signage users on top of their game have effectively utilized it to its fullest, not only to achieve the most customer satisfaction and sales from their strategies, but also to continue escalating their return-on-investment or ROI.

    Another sub-category of acceptance are those users who definitely like the idea of using digital signage to further advance their information to customers. However, these commercial companies are the careful, cautious, and highly frugal types who carefully evaluate their dollar outlays. As far as digital signage, their focus is on spending as little as possible to achieve the results they want. However, while they're getting the initial results they seek, there are hidden and latent costly issues that eventually surface when those cheaper solutions are selected. Put another way, these individuals avoid selecting the right commercial digital signage solution to try to save money.

    In this scenario, they buy a consumer TV and probably use their own home PC to play the content for their TV display. Although a TV display's lifespan was not designed for longer playtime in the commercial field, these frugal retailers feel they can buy a new one when the other breaks down since TVs are relatively inexpensive. They also go with home-based office software package for content preparation. Generally, this arrangement should be fine for the short-term, if owners think it is the right investment.

    There may be four or five screens operating concurrently side-by-side in the store. However, due the short period of TVs life span, the exact model won't be available when one or more needs to be replaced. And, warranty might be expired. In this instance, all TV sets have to match. The question is: Will this user replace all five TVs when one goes out so they can all match together?

    Another thing to consider is this user is using a regular PC to drive the TV display. For five displays or panels, multiple PCs are required. New graphic cards that support two or three display ports are being used in these PCs. However, these high-end graphics cards can easily burn out. When they are replaced, it becomes a large expense.

    A third point to think about is the fact a TV's portrait mode can reduce its life span and at worst, malfunction. For example, let's take a restaurant with this kind of set up. As shown at right, this restaurant has an obviously blank and embarrassing display because it is no longer properly functioning. Consequently, one display of three is out, and in this case, the menu of several popular items is missing. Customers are left unhappy, grumbling, and wondering what happened.

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    Also, it's worth noting that consumer TV displays can incur what's known as "image retention" after long hours of daily operation. That's when an image appearing as a shadow object is impregnated on the screen for a period of time. TV displays usually don't support the prevention mechanism for image retention like commercial digital signage does.

    Image retention is an annoying and disruptive object to view when customers are trying to read or view a sales message. Customers can easily be turned off when they're kept from completely viewing an important sales message when these annoying images appear.

    Conversely, in the digital signage world, most content shown on the screen contains a static image zone for promotion messages and even for logos. However, users who opt to go with TV displays for their signage face significant challenges as far as the image retention issue. On the other hand, commercial signage displays include a prevention mechanism for image retention to effectively avoid those costly issues.

    Given these adverse conditions, our frugal users initially think they can cleverly come up with a cheap solution. Unfortunately, like the ageless saying goes, "penny wise and pound foolish." In this case, these frugal users can spend a lot of money fixing and maintaining their homegrown displays.

    The answer to these issues is to select a commercial grade display, like the one shown above. It's more expensive than a TV screen approach. A commercial system is about twice the cost of setting up the cheap TV and PC arrangement. In the long run, however, it is more business prudent and smart to go with a commercial system. Cost amortization is at a steady pace and return-on-investment or ROI increases in a wide variety of ways, most importantly customer satisfaction.

    It provides users a longer life span, plus all commercial display vendors provide three-year warranties. This means within those three years, retailers can have the same system either fixed or replaced for free or at minimum expense.

    Glen Young, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Envision Peripherals, Inc. for Philips Digital Signage North America Business, Fremont, CA, (510-770-9988 x360)

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