Is it time for a digital signage health check?

So often I hear stories about black screens, boring static content and reflective comments about the effectiveness of digital signage such as “why aren’t my screens bright enough”? To me, it’s a bit like a car, it’s not set and forget, every now and then you need to evaluate your car’s performance and do some tuning, or maybe repairs. If you do this, you can expect years of trouble free operation and you will always get where you need to go.

It’s really frustrating to me when I see digital signage not being used properly because for so many businesses that I work with, it is driving more sales, higher value sales and creating a more engaging environment for customers.

Here’s a list of questions I recommend businesses ask when they have a digital media solution in place but they’re not sure if they are maximising its value. I call it a digital signage health check.

Do you know the amount of time that your screens are live, ie, fully working and playing the content you want played? Or the reverse question is probably more interesting – do you know if your screens are ever down and if so, how often and for how long?

If your screens are down, there could be any number of reasons – network, media player, screen, etc, but credible service providers will commit to an uptime performance SLA (normally 99%+) and will provide regular performance reporting which highlights any problems and how they were solved. In fact, an experienced provider will be doing proactive monitoring and fixing problems before you’re even aware of them.

Are you actively managing your content?

Digital signage is not actually about the technology, it’s about the content and the impact this has on your target audience. Some organisations just loop their content and keep it unchanged for long time periods of time. It goes without saying that the effectiveness of content diminishes over time. Effective digital signage solutions use a content management system to schedule and distribute content. The simplest method is to create a ‘content timetable’ but there are more sophisticated approaches like tailoring the content according to a site, geographical area, weather or end device type. Or the next level is tailoring content according to the age and gender of people near the screens.

It can also be helpful to mix different types of content, eg, entertainment and information and intermittently intersperse promotions or special offers.

Are your screens bright enough?

This is probably the most common complaint I hear. There are two main considerations – the ambient light conditions (which is impacted by screen location and orientation) and the brightness of the screen or display, measured in ‘nits’. Getting the brightness level correct, will also depend on the type of content and the viewing distance but here are some general guidelines to help you optimise the impact of your screens.

For an in-store, inward facing screen, 350 – 500 nits is normally sufficient. If the screen is facing outwards, but into an internal, covered space such as a shopping centre or an arcade, the brightness should be increased to 700 – 1,000 nits. For screens facing outwards, outdoor, eg, into a street, the brightness should be increased to around 1,000 to 1,500 nits. For outward facing screens where there is direct sunlight the brightness should be 1,500+ nits. For outdoor screens, the recommended solution is an LED display because of a range of factors including contrast ratio and lifespan.. 3,000+ nits is the best option.

Of course to be totally confident, you can do a light test – and best to do this at different times of the day. You can also go to this useful link that shows the sun impact at specified locations at different times of the day.

Are you managing your power costs?

Some systems run 24/7, even if nobody is around. This is obviously consuming power – and money – for no good reason. But what’s worse is where a screen is turned black but the screen is still active. A smart CMS (content management system) can actually power off your screens at a set time which is an easy way to manage costs. And this can have a significant impact on your bottom line where there is a large fleet of screens, plus there’s the environment impact.

Are you capturing valuable data and creating engagement?

Digital signage is not a one way street. Look at ways you can capture data, for example, by adding a camera – engagement levels can be captured, ie, who is looking at your screens and for how long. And this can be further broken down with reasonable accuracy by age and gender. QR codes and NFC can be used to continue the customer journey in a different way (eg, online) as well as capture additional data.

Is your content optimised for your screen set up?

There are a few considerations here, the most obvious is that content created for a landscape screen should be displayed on a landscape screen and content designed for a portrait orientation should be shown on a portrait screen. One way to solve this problem is to rotate the screen from, say, landscape to portrait, but not all screens can do this. You will need to check first.
The content management system (CMS) can re-scale content to optimise it for a specific screen, but ideally, the content creation process takes into account the orientation of the screens.
Something else to be aware if is where you have a video wall or matrix of screens: I’ve seen businesses that have important messages appearing on the horizon line, which means they actually appear along the bezel line, or the frame of the screens that are creating the matrix. Very important messages get partly obscured Again, the content should be created with an understanding of the screen formation and orientation. In the case of the video call, key messages should be set above the horizon.

Is your signage performing as expected?

The worst answer to this question is “I don’t know”. But with no tangible objectives and/or no process to measure, this is the most likely answer.

Ideally, the objectives for the digital signage solution should be determined during the business case stage, and this could be increased store traffic, increased sales, sales volume change during particular promotions, store dwell time, average deal size, other changes of behaviour impacted by particular messaging, customer satisfaction during queuing or waiting, brand recall, etc.

Equally important as agreeing the objectives, is designing the process to capture the data that supports each objective – and this normally required some planning and may require the installation of physical or peripheral devices in a particular location.

Your digital signage network is a significant asset and requires some loving to give you back what you are expecting from it. A digital signage health check will help you identify any gaps and make the required adjustments.