Public spaces are spaces that are open and accessible to people. From city streets and public squares to pavements and parks, from places of amusement to places of worship, from places to shop to places to study, from places to eat and drink to places to get medical treatments- all of these are public spaces. Trains, subways, shopping malls, movie theatres, sports stadiums, churches, libraries, cafes, restaurants, hospitals, pharmacies, retail stores, grocery stores- these are all public spaces that you use day-to-day.
If you have been paying close attention to these public spaces, there is one major change taking place there that you couldn’t have failed to notice. One of the most visible facets of public spaces, the signs, are starting to change. For some time now, a wide variety of signs have been visible- paper posters, neon signs, vinyls, electronic billboards, and more. However, a new format has now come into the spotlight and it is taking the world of signs by storm- digital signage! So, what are they? Digital signages are a sub-segment of electronic signages that use LCD, LED, e-paper etc. to display digital images, video, web pages, graphics, text and more. While the precursor to digital signage can perhaps be traced back to the VHS tapes being played in stores in the 1970’s, the current technology that enables anyone with a device with an internet connection and a smart screen to create digital signages is only a few years old. But, as we speak, it is revolutionising and transforming not just the signage industry but all the public spaces where these signages can be used.
Digital Signages – Early Days
In its early form, digital signage required huge investments. Apart from the screen or the display, one needed to invest in a comprehensive IT infrastructure including software and hardware (servers), which had to be housed on the premises. Not only was the setup complicated and the costs high, the ongoing maintenance was also cumbersome and expensive. A specialist would have to be called for regular maintenance as well as every time a software needed to be updated or new features added. Additional servers would be required to expand storage space. Content creation and management was also under the purview of different specialists. As you can imagine, only very large corporations were able to afford digital signage to reach out to their customers in this form.
Another format of digital signage required the use of a media player where all displays were connected with HDMI cables. This had two major shortcomings- the dependence on the media player- where the same content played in an endless loop and which did not allow for live content or real-time changes to the content, and the limitations of a wired setup. Only limited spaces could be connected in this fashion, like say, platforms on a railway station. It would not be possible to easily connect two or more railway stations to the network as well.
The Digital Signage of Today
Digital Signage available today offers some far-reaching features. It is neither dependent on an IT infrastructure nor on a media player or the limits of an HDMI network. Today, digital signage solutions are stored in the cloud and are offered and used in the form of SaaS (Software as a Service). This means that the service provider sets up the entire signage software and offers it to a large number of people at a small subscription fee, whereas for the user, it is a simple plug-and-play system. All a user needs is a device with a net connection and a smart TV/display. This is a revolutionary step that has brought the power of digital signage into the hands of many small businesses around the world – the main reason behind the changing landscape of public spaces.
The content on today’s digital signage is also no longer restricted to the endless loop of the same, stale pieces. Today, apart from uploading original content, it is possible to connect your displays to local TV channels to offer current news, sports channels, weather updates, etc. to keep your audiences entertained. Additionally, it is also possible to connect displays to YouTube channels and showcase fresh, original content to pique your customers’ interest or create the right mood in your space.
The other advantage of today’s digital signage solutions is that the Content Management System (CMS) resides in the cloud as well. This means that you can make real-time changes to your content without having to change the entire loop, and without ever being anywhere close to the display. The biggest advantage of this is not just that you can now manage your content remotely, it also means that you can connect and manage multiple displays at the same time. So for example, if you are a coffee chain with a nationwide presence, you could easily ensure that all your stores have the same, consistent branding and messaging on their digital signage displays from a single account. This has had a huge impact on the adoption of this style of management of digital signages.
One other factor that has led to large scale adoption of this form of digital signage is the availability of millions of paid and free templates that a lay person without any technical background can use to create stunning visuals and eye-catching messaging for their brand. Digital signage templates are pre-formatted designs that can be easily customised by businesses for their use. Most SaaS providers who are providing the software for digital signages often also provide a large number of free templates for various messages in different industries. Using these templates to create a new design is as simple as choosing the right image, adding the right message and changing the fonts, colours, etc. to match your own brand’s style. This simplification has made today’s digital signage solutions irresistible to small and medium sized business owners wanting to reach out to their customers.
Digital Signage – A Class Apart
Digital Signage has a lot more to offer than traditional signages. Apart from everything that we have listed above that distinguishes today’s digital signage from earlier iterations, there are many other benefits to using digital signage compared to traditional options.
- Digital signage is Versatile: This is perhaps its greatest advantage. From TV channels to YouTube Videos, promotional messages to product information, way-finding signs to regulatory information- the same digital signage display can be used for any purpose you want any time you want. And changing from one type of content to another is something that can be accomplished in minutes. No other form of signage offers this level of flexibility or versatility.
- Today’s SaaS based Digital Signage is Cost Effective: As mentioned above, all you need is a device with an internet connection and a smart screen. Apart from that, you need to pay a small subscription fee to your SaaS provider for the software, CMS, free templates, storage space for your content, and everything else you need to get started and keep going. The barrier to entry is extremely low. An argument can be made that making posters is cheaper. However, print or vinyl signage requires investment in design, printing, distribution, setup and admin. Consider all the different prints a business is going to need for every different message, every season, every year, and you will see that the costs for print signage start to add up.
- Digital Signage is both Eye-Catching and Engaging: It is easy to turn a blind eye to a poster on the far wall of a store. And while it may not be so easy to ignore a Neon or an Electronic sign, neither of them are engaging. Once you have seen/read the message on it once, they have nothing new to offer. On the other hand, digital signages not only emit light, but also contain constantly changing screens, and are typically placed in the line of sight of the target audience. This typically results in them faring much better in getting and keeping the target audiences’ attention. The more engaged your customers are with your display, the more likely they are to view and respond to your offers, discounts and other promotional messages.
- Digital Signages can be more Eco-Friendly: Neon and Electronic signs tend to consume a very large amount of electricity for the amount of output they provide. From printing to delivery to disposal, print signage ends up using large quantities of chemicals, solvents and toxic substances that pollute the environment. As mentioned earlier, a business would need a large number of posters, brochures, pamphlets over a period of a few years and that would make this damage exponential. On the other hand, digital signage is far more energy efficient and can be made to run on clean energy to decrease its environmental impact. Amongst the choices available, digital signage is definitely the most eco-friendly form of signage.
Digital Signage – It is Everywhere
Given that digital signages are versatile, cost effective and have the ability to attract and maintain a person’s attention, more and more industries have started adopting them for their own purposes. Here are but a few examples:
Cafes and Restaurants: Cafes and restaurants are using digital signages to digitise their menus, to promote offers and discounts, to upsell high margin or specialty products. They also use digital signages to create the right mood in their space, and create a better user experience by ensuring shorter order times.
Shopping Malls and Retail Stores: Digital Signage is a big hit in the retail industry. In shopping malls, it has been used for way-finding purposes, public health and safety measures display, announcements of sales and discounts in various stores as well as to provide entertainment to weary shoppers by displaying locals TV channels, YouTube videos, sports, news and more. Retail stores, on the other hand, have been using digital signage in their window displays, to announce impromptu sales of overstocked products, promote loyalty programs, and more.
Educational Institutions: Schools and colleges are increasingly adopting digital signages for their notice boards, cafeteria menus, showcase reels, navigation, and more.
Hospitals: Hospitals have found innovative uses of digital signage. Apart from way-finding, they use digital signages to showcase their doctors, specialists and their cutting edge facilities, to market products and services like health check-ups, eye-testing, age-related screenings, etc., to build their brand, and to enhance their waiting room experience.
Corporate Workplaces: Corporate workplaces have adopted digital signage in a bid to empower their employees. Signages are being used to celebrate personal milestones and work-related achievements, to make internal announcements, to help corporate brand building, to gamify employee goals and more.
Churches: Even churches have joined the digital signage revolution.
They use these signs to attract new visitors by attracting attention to themselves, to enhance the worshipping experience by showcasing the relevant imagery or bible verses at the time of the sermon, to help create community engagement and increase participation, and more.
Grocery Stores, Bakeries, Barbers & Salons, etc.: Apart from showcasing their own products and services, promoting loyalty programs, etc. many local stores are also using digital signages to generate additional revenue by selling ad space to local businesses who would like to get some exposure amongst their target audience.
These are just a few examples, but as you can see, digital signages have been put to a variety of different uses across various industries. It is a testament to their versatility that they can be used for such innovative purposes. But as businesses, institutions, corporations, and others around the world start to see the huge return on their investment that digital signages provide, their use is only going to get more and more popular.
If you too are interested in investing in digital signage for your business, look at what Liqvid can offer you. Take a look at our subscription plans and find one that suits you best. We also offer a Forever Free plan with full functionality and 20MB storage space for your content. There is no hidden catch here- just a truly free digital signage solution.
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