Quality in digital signage.
I’ve been involved in digital signage for over 15 years. As CEO of AlivePromo, Inc. I’ve seen the heartbreak of the early days and the fruits of sticking it out. It was very expensive in those early days. A 40″ plasma based sign system was close to $20,000. You would pray for a profit when you did it. You would hope it would actually work since there was not a lot of history to rely on. Overall, it seemed we spent the first 5 years providing a free education to clients because they couldn’t really afford roll outs (when CFO’s got wind of what marketing wanted to do). Most clients, and even their IT departments, had no clue how to do digital signage on their own. The early pioneering vendors had the vision and the spirit to make it work. Not many survived those early days. The market being chased was mostly retail or advertising network startups.
Suppliers were fighting over the few that were actually buying. The dreaded RFP’s would come in and you’d be fighting over a huge roll out with little margin. Yuck. Oh how time changes everything….and it was just a matter of how much time. Fast forward to 2015. Dozens of good vendors and hundreds that aren’t so great. And lots of buyers in all kinds of markets. Really good technology and really bad technology is available from a wide variety of sources. The big clients in retail and elsewhere discovered how to do it on their own. Client IT hot shots would take what you gave them and reengineer.
Now you can by a Chinese made screen for $200, a usb chip for a few bucks, do a little series of PDF’s or jpgs…and poof!…you have a digital sign. Not much of a sign, but enough for a lot of small end users looking to be like a big one…and there is nothing wrong with that. Now the challenge is not cost.The challenge for end users of any type of digital signage is weighing the value of quality, both short term and long term. When you design a new house, you can hire a friend that knows how to hammer a nail and sketch something out, or you can hire an architect that looks at form, function, purpose, taste, trends, …quality, etc.
All depends what you expect on the back end of the process. We’ve entered a new era of digital signage. It’s one I call QT (quality tier). You have a quick, low budget tier, a high end, high expectation tier (and high budget)…and all the possibilities in between. As a buyer, you need to be very sure what it is you want at the end. As a supplier you need to be sure you understand what tier you are playing in and pick your niche. The two must meet to ensure expectations are met. There is nothing wrong with buying or selling a $300 system or a $10,000 system. Buyers get what they pay for. That is what matters in the end.In furniture, there’s Herman Miller and there is IKEA. Both very different, both very good at what they do. So, digital signage is becoming a very traditional marketplace after all the early battles. Buyers need to decide on quality expectations and sellers need to decide what tier to provide.