By Richard Hutton
It’s a hot time for digital signage in the channel, with signage technologies ubiquitous and the use of rich media content seen as a competitive differentiator for even the smallest businesses. And the great news is that the market is continuously growing. Industry tracker IHS iSuppli projects worldwide shipments of signage and professional displays to top 17.2 million for 2012, up from 15.4 million in 2011 and 13.5 million in 2010.
Overall shipments are expected to hit 26 million by 2016. Demand for digital signs is growing everywhere from large public spaces to small and medium businesses as LCD panels’ prices rapidly decline at the same time as their functionalities increase. IHS iSuppli and other researchers’ projections put retail, hospitality, health care, government, corporate campuses and education as the fastest-growing markets, but solution providers only have to look around to see the pervading influence of digital signage and rich-media content displays everywhere from airports and schools to restaurants and houses of worship.
The reason: Digital signage is a powerful targeting technology, and targeted advertising makes a customer more likely to buy. Businesses can not only reach customers on-the-go with specific, tailored messaging, but can put their signs in spaces they’ve identified as frequently visited by their core audience, highlight their uniqueness and change/adjust the content frequently with little-to-no expense. Increasingly digital signage is also being used to create environments that otherwise would have been impossible in the past. Walk into any hotel, airports, entertainment complexes to see examples of what some are calling “Techorating.”
Digital signage solutions used to mean combining displays, media players and content management and creation software with display mounts, video switches, projectors, kiosk housings and add-ons such as storage systems or automation control products. The complexity of these solutions are part of the reason why this is a perfect opportunity for solution providers and the channel in general. For solution providers to be truly competitive, their signage solutions must include the resale, integration and maintenance of hardware, plus content creation and management – a higher-touch sale that leverages software expertise and content-provider partnering.
What to Look for in Digital Signage Partners
Providing value for digital signage customers at the content level can be done through custom development of specific applications, or working with vendor APIs and SDKs to layer custom content to already-existing platforms.
Another frequent solution-provider engagement is the notion of partnering with digital content development and marketing companies slowly evolving their third-party partner programs to be more appealing to IT and A/V-focused VARs, MSPs and integrators.
Digital content creation specialists work with IT solution providers in the following areas:
- Content definition: Message objectives and information, such as text, Web addresses, logos, technical display details and deadlines
- Content design: Which developers will handle which content, and when and how will it integrate
- Content revision: A schedule for previewing, adjusting and revising content according to the customer’s needs
- Content delivery: Approval processes, service agreements, payment and deadlines
Several distributors, such as Almo, Ingram Micro, Stampede Synnex and Tech Data have content creation programs through which solution providers are matched with vendors and third-party content specialists.
Expanding the Digital Signage Sale
A hot market means popularity and commoditization. It isn’t enough for solution providers to sell and integrate digital signage technologies; forward-thinking partners are looking at content management and other deal-expanders such as Wi-Fi solution designs and recurring services to stay ahead.
Years ago, Wi-Fi technologies were seen as unreliable, unpredictable and not robust enough for bandwidth-intensive environments. The commercial adoption of 802.11ac-enabled Wi-Fi means there will be products that can leverage the 5 Ghz band to hit speeds of 1.3 Gbps – all the wireless firepower needed for public safety, military, heavy industrial, utility/smart grid and rich media-driven digital signage applications.
Overall recurring revenue-based services remain an under-realized channel opportunity in the digital signage and A/V integration segments. A 2011 survey by industry association InfoComm found only 3 percent of U.S.-based A/V integrators were deriving at least a third of their revenue from services opportunities. A/V integrators, MSPs and VARs have plenty of runway for services add-ons.
Solution providers should look today at how customers can benefit from design, discovery and assessment services to optimize their signage technology investments.
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Richard Hutton is the director channel marketing for the Enterprise Business Division of Samsung Electronics America, Inc., where he is responsible for driving strategic direction across all channels for printer, monitor, mobile PC and commercial display product lines.
The views and opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of Samsung Electronics America Inc., or any of its parents/affiliates as well as any other individual employee thereof.
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